“Skye Boat Song (Over the Sea to Skye)”


"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


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.

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 saang Jacobite songs, such as 'The Twenty-ninth of May' from the rising of 1715 and 'The King Shall Enjoy His Own Again....'" - RBW

Historical references

  • 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

Cross references


  • NLScotland, RB.m.143(121) "Over the Sea to Skye," Poet's Box (Dundee), c.1890


  1. Brewster 79, "Speed, Bonnie Boat" (1 fragment plus a copy of Boulton's original text)
  3. Roud #3772
  4. BI, Brew79


Author: Words: Harold Boulton / Music: Annie MacLeod
Earliest date: 1884 (sheet music)
Found in: Britain US(MW)