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The Skye Boat Song

A Jacobite lament describing how Bonnie Prince Charlie, disguised as an Irish woman, was rowed over the Minch to the island of Skye to hide from the British soldiers.

This is the best-known Jacobite song but it wasn't created at the time. The words were written by an Englishman, Sir Harold Boulton, in the 1880's. He used a Gaelic song format, a rowing song called an iorram, and the tune is said to come from the Gaelic song Cuachan nan Craobh or The Cuckoo in the Grove.

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 cry, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air.
Baffled our foes stand by the shore.
Follow they will not dare

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 ere the sword cool in the sheath
Scotland will rise again!

'The Skye Boat Song', sung by Katherine Campbell From Traditional Scottish Songs and Music, Gallus recordings.

The Skye Boat Song


'The Skye Boat Song', played on the harp by Heather Yule.

Recorded for Learning and Teaching Scotland for Scotland’s Songs, Gallus Recordings.

The Skye Boat Song