Baby Lullaby ~ “Speed Bonnie Boat”

Beautiful Baby Lullaby – “Skye Bonnie Boat”

I learned this song as a young girl attending the “Dayspring Waldorf School” in Gainesville, Florida.  I don't remember who I heard singing it first – my mother, or perhaps another Waldorf teacher.  The melody stayed with me as one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I can remember.  I didn't, however, have a knack for listening and learning exact lyrics. So for years, I sang the song to my baby son with made up lyrics (which changed every time I sang them) and the only 3 lines I could remember (highlighted in purple below).  Tonight my laptop happened to be handy as I was singing Dantz to sleep, so I typed in “speed bonnie boat” into Google, and behold!  The full set of lyrics…

Information Lyrics
The words are by Sir Harold Boulton, Bart., 1884. The first half of the tune is said to be an old sea shanty; the other half is traditionally attributed to Miss Annie MacLeod. Charles Edward Stewart, the Young Pretender, was defeated by the Duke of Cumberland on Culloden Moor in 1746. Aided by Flora MacDonald, Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped to the island of Skye. He was later taken by a French vessel to Morlaix on the coast of Bretagne. For other Jacobite tunes go to the bottom of The Contemplator's Short History of the Jacobite Uprisings. 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 skyeLoud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunder clouds rend the air;
Baffled our foe's stand on the shore
Follow they will not dareSpeed bonnie boat….

Though the waves leap, soft shall ye sleep
Ocean's a royal bed
Rocked in the deep, Flora will keep
Watch by your weary headSpeed bonnie boat….

Many's the lad fought on that day
Well the claymore could wield
When the night came, silently lay
Dead on Culloden's fieldSpeed bonnie boat…

Burned are our homes, exile and death
Scatter the loyal men
Yet, e'er the sword cool in the sheath,
Charlie will come again.

Speed bonnie boat…

Related Links

The Fireside Book of Folk Songs
See Bibliography for full information.

If you'd like to hear the song sung, there are some beautiful renditions on

And many more!
I'll have to do my own rendition for you on my radio show sometime :-)