Skye Boat Song (Over the Sea to Skye)

DESCRIPTION: "Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing... Carry the lad that's born to be king Over the sea to Skye." The singer grieves over the dead of Culloden, and wishes Bonnie Prince Charlie a safe escape
AUTHOR: Words: Harold Boulton / Music: Annie MacLeod
EARLIEST DATE: 1884 (sheet music)
KEYWORDS: Jacobites ship escape sea royalty
1720-1788 - Life of Charles Edward Stuart, "Bonnie Prince Charlie"
1722-1790 - Life of Flora MacDonald
1745-1746 - '45 Jacobite rebellion led by Bonnie Prince Charlie
Apr 16, 1746 - Battle of Culloden. The Jacobite rebellion is crushed, most of the Highlanders slain, and Charlie forced to flee for his life.
Jun 28-29, 1746 - Aided by Flora MacDonald, and dressed as her maidservant, Charles flees from North Uist to Skye in the Hebrides.
Sep 20, 1746 - Charles finally escapes to France
FOUND IN: Britain US(MW,So)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Brewster-BalladsAndSongsOfIndiana 79, "Speed, Bonnie Boat" (1 fragment plus a copy of Boulton's original text)
Moore/Moore-BalladsAndFolkSongsOfTheSouthwest 61, "Flora MacDonald and the King" (1 text, 1 tune)
Jack-PopGoesTheWeasel, p. 260, "The Skye Boat Song" (1 text)
Fireside-Book-of-Folk-Songs, p. 18, "Skye Boat Song" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #3772
NLScotland, RB.m.143(121) "Over the Sea to Skye," Poet's Box (Dundee), c.1890
cf. "Flora MacDonald's Lament" (subject)
cf. "Twa Bonnie Maidens" (subject)
NOTES [227 words]: It is ironic to note that, while this song had a certain vogue as an art piece, the only traditional collections seem to have been in North America.
Hugh Douglas, Flora MacDonald: The Most Loyal Rebel, Sutton Publishing, 1993, 2003, pp. 215-216, tells how this song came to be. "This song began from an old tune that Annie Cambell MacLeod heard sung by oarsmen as they rowed her from the island of Soay, off the south-west coast of Skye, to Loch Cornisk one day in 1879." That night, MacLeod took the tune she had heard and worked it up on the piano. MacLeod and Harold Boulton later worked on a book of songs; they came up with a sort of temporary set of words. Then the words "Over the sea to Skye" came to Boulton, and he worked up the rest so as to, in effect, justify that line.
Susan Maclean Kybett, in Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography of Charles Edward Stuart (Dodd, Mead, 1988), pp. 232-233, makes an interesting observation: Although the song says that Flora (MacDonald) will keep watch over Charlie during the passage: "It was actually the Prince who kept watch by Flora's weary head during their storm-tossed crossing of the sea of the Hebrides. Having been up the last two nights sewing, she fell asleep while Charles sang Jacobite songs, such as 'The Twenty-ninth of May' from the rising of 1715 and 'The King Shall Enjoy His Own Again....'" - RBW
Last updated in version 6.2
File: Brew79

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