What are the lyrics to ‘The Skye Boat Song’?

Bonnie Prince Charlie's dramatic escape to the Isle of Skye inspired one of Britain's most famous folk songs, and opening song lines, 'Speed bonnie boat'. Here are song's lyrics in full

what are the lyrics to 'The Skye Boat Song'?

Who wrote ‘The Skye Boat Song’?

Sir Harold Edwin Boulton wrote the celebrated lyrics, which starts with the famous line; ‘Speed bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing’, in the 1870s after becoming interested in Scottish folk songs at Oxford University.

Advertisement

What is the story behind the ‘The Skye Boat Song’?

The song tells the tale of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart and grandson of James II and VII of Scotland) and his flight from Benbecula to the Isle of Skye, following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. It was the final attempt by the Stuarts to reclaim the throne after their last monarch Queen Anne died, at which point the crown was then passed to George I from Hanover. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s supporters, however, believed he was the rightful heir to the throne.

What are the lyrics to the ‘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,
Thunderclaps rend the air;
Baffled, our foes stand by the shore,
Follow they will not dare.

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.

Many’s the lad, fought on that day
Well the claymore did wield;
When the night came, silently lay
Dead on Culloden’s field.

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.

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.

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.

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

Advertisement

You can find more lyrics to famous songs here