Tune of the Day: The Skye Boat Song
This traditional Scottish song recalls the escape of the young pretender Charles Edward Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) after his defeat at Culloden in 1746. Aided by Flora MacDonald, Prince Charles escaped to the Isle of Skye in a small boat, in the disguise of a maid-servant.
The song was first published in 1884, with lyrics written by Sir Harold Boulton to an air collected by Miss Annie MacLeod in the 1870s. It is said that Miss MacLeod was on a trip to the isle of Skye and was being rowed over Loch Coruisk when the rowers broke into a Gaelic rowing song called “Cuachag nan Craobh” (“The Cuckoo in the Grove”). She only set down what she remembered of the air when she arrived at her destination, and this is probably why, while the first half of the tune is actually believed to be an old sea shanty, the other half is traditionally attributed to Miss MacLeod.