SKYE BOAT SONG - chords and comments
The song is often referred to as "traditional", but this is only partially correct, neighter is it as old as many may believe: the lyrics were written by Sir Harold Boulton, 2nd Baronet in 1884, with historical background from 1746; see below.
The melody though, is ancient. It seems to be a compound of two motifs: an old sea shanty and the Gaelic rowing song "Cuachag nan Craobh" ("The Cuckoo in the Grove"), collected by composer and singer Miss Annie MacLeod (Lady Wilson) from memory after a boat trip to the Isle of Skye.
The Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson wrote alternative lyrics a couple of years afterwards, but Sir Boulton's lyrics have remained most used. The song has, despite the content, gained wide popularity as a lullaby.
Legend and terminology:
"claymore" - a double-edged sword.
"Culloden field" - The Battle of Culloden in 1746, 3 miles east of Inverness, ended the Jacobite Uprise.
"Charlie" - Prince Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788) was a claimant to the throne of Great Britain, leader of the rebellion and died in exile in France.
"Flora" - Flora MacDonald (1722-1790), from the Clan Macdonald of Sleat, assisted Stuart to evade the government troops, even though her clan never joined the rebellion.
"Skye" - an island in the Hebrides, to where Stuart fled from the island Benbecula; a narrow escape after being defeated by the Hanoverians.
Another famous song with the same historical background, is Loch Lomond