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The Skye Boat Song is a traditional Scottish song recalling the escape of the young pretender Charles Edward Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) after his defeat at Culloden in 1746 and commemorating the many Scots who died and were exiled for the Jacobite cause.
Prince Charles escaped from Uist to the Isle of Skye in a small boat with the aid of Flora MacDonald. He was disguised as a serving maid.

The adherents of Scottish nationalism regard the event as an important national legend.

Words to the tune were written by Sir Harold Boulton to an air collected by Miss Annie MacLeod (Lady Wilson) in the 1870’s. It seems that Miss MacLeod was on a trip to the isle of Skye and was being rowed over Loch Coruisk (Coire Uisg, the "Cauldron of Waters") when the rowers broke out into the Gaelic rowing song "Cuchag nan Craobh" (The Cuckoo in the Grove). A talented composer and singer, Miss MacLeod remembered fragments of the song and fashioned them into an air which she set down in notation with the intentions of using it later in a book she was to co-author with Boulton.
Sir Harold joined Miss MacLeod at Roshven House, Invernesshire, soon after to work on their book. It was he who wrote additional lyrics in a Jacobite mold, introducing the heroic figures of Bonny Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald.

It is often sung as a lullaby, in a slow rocking 6/8 time or as a rowing song (called iorram (pronounced-irram) - The 1st beat is very pronounced and corresponds with lifting the oars out and swinging them forward as you straighten your arms and lean forward. 2 and 3 are the pulling stroke - Imagining this when you are playing will give you the right tempo).

Loch Coruisk views:


The version below is sung by The Corries, Moira Kerr, Nana Mouskouri among others.

Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing,
Onward, the sailors cry.
Carry the bairn/lad that’s born to be king,
over the sea to Skye.

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air;
Baffled, our foes stand by 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 bairn fought on that day,
Well the claymore could wield,
When the night came, silently lay
Dead in Culloden’s field.


Burned are their homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men;
Yet e’er the sword cool in the sheath
Charlie will come again.


  Vogue vite, bateau du beau Prince, tel un oiseau à tire d’aile.
  En avant ! Cris les marins.
  Emporte l’enfant/l’homme né pour être roi,
  au-delà de la mer, vers l’île de Skye.

  Forts sont les hurlements du vent et le grondement des vagues.
  Les coups de tonnerre déchirent l’air.
  Perplexes, nos ennemis sont restés sur la rive,
  le suivre ils n’ont pas osé.


  Malgré le creux des vagues, doux est votre sommeil.
  L’océan est un lit royal.
  Bousculée dans les abysses, Flora veille
  sur votre sommeil.


  Beaucoup des enfants d’Ecosse qui ont combattu ce jour-là;
  maniaient l’épée avec dextérité.
  Quand la nuit vint, silencieusement allongés,
  ils moururent sur le champ de bataille de Culloden.


  Leurs maisons brûlées, ils sont exilés ou morts.
  Les hommes loyaux sont dispersés ;
  Bien que l’épée soit paisiblement restée dans son fourreau
  Charles reviendra.

Skye boat song music has been adapted by Bear McCreary for Outlander, a British-American television drama series based on the Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon.
Here are the lyrics, an adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem "Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone":

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,         
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.



    Chante-moi une chanson sur une fille qui est partie
    Dis, est-ce qu’elle pourrait être moi ?
    Joyeuse dans l’âme, elle navigua en un jour
    Par-delà la mer vers Skye.

    Flot et vent, îles et mers,
    Montagnes de pluie et de soleil,
    Tout ce qui était bon, tout ce qui était bien,
    Tout ce qui était moi, est parti.



Outlander main theme
Where the melody is born

In this video background the loch Coruisk. Mountains bordered the acoustic is exceptional on the spot.
The Corries

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