The Skye Boat Song
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.]