Algy sailed his sky boat back to his home in the Sea of the Hebrides. As they sped across the water like a bird on the wing, he sang of another Skye Boat which crossed the same sea.
Algy first learned this song many years ago, when he was just a tiny wee chick. The magical names of the islands remained forever linked in his mind with the haunting Gaelic melody. Little did he realise that one day he would live among those very islands…
As he was so very young at the time, it was the gentler lyrics by Robert Louis Stevenson which he was taught to sing to this famous lament:
Mull was astern, Rùm on the port,
Eigg on the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul;
Where is that glory now?
Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.
Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.
[Algy is singing Robert Louis Stevenson’s (Scottish) version of the Skye Boat Song: Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone. The more familiar lyrics of this song were written by an Englishman, Sir Harold Boulton. Both versions were composed in the late 19th century, long after the Jacobite Rising which they commemorate, and were set to the tune of a much older Gaelic song. Sometimes the two sets of lyrics are combined.
Listen to a traditional folk version of the Skye Boat Song performed live by The McCalmans at Arisaig, close to Algy’s home, or to a version played on the bagpipes.]