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Scots Sangs An Tunes Fur Schools

Traditional and new Scots songs and tunes
for use in Scottish schools - and everywhere else

The Skye Boat Song

Speed bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,

Onward, the sailors cry

Carry the lad that's born to be king

Over the sea to Skye

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,

Thunder clouds rend the air;

Baffled our foe's stand on the shore

Follow they will not dare

Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep

Ocean's a royal bed

Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep

Watch by your weary head

Many's the lad fought on that day

Well the claymore could wield

When the night came, silently lay

Dead on Culloden's field

Burned are our homes, exile and death

Scatter the loyal men

Yet, e'er the sword cool in the sheath,

Charlie will come again.

In 1746 Bonny Prince Charlie was escaping from the English Red Soldiers after the Battle of Culloden. He was carried over the water called The Minch to shelter in Skye,  disguised as a washerwoman.

The words are by Englishman Sir Harold Boulton. The one part of the tune is a Gaelic song that was used to help row a boat. It is thought the tune was called 'The Cuckoo In The Grove'. Miss Annie Macleod in 1883 was being rowed 'on an expedition' off Sligachan on Skye, and the men sang the song while hauling up a sail. Miss Macleod 'tried to reproduce it on a little piano ... , and added out of my own head another phrase'. 

[Information from 'A Life Of Song', M Kennedy-Fraser, p85.]