Skye Boat Song

In Year 4 we have been singing some Sea Shanties and learning how to play “Drunken Sailor” and “Blow the Man Down” on the keyboards. We talked about the strict rules on ships and the diseases such as scurvy and rickets if you don’t get enough fruit and vegetables. But the highlight so far was when we learned the “Skye Boat Song”.

Although it is over 250 years old, the children loved the story about Bonnie Prince Charlie and his escape to the Isle of Skye. You can really ham it up and act it out to make it memorable. Charlie bringing his army over to Scotland; his epic defeat; running away as fast as he could pursued by his enemies; meeting Flora McDonald and disguising himself as “Betty the Maid” so he could escape in a boat on a dramatic stormy night across the sea to Skye while his foes desperately looked for him everywhere. It was great to be able to sing the song and learn so many new words such as “baffled” and “foes”. I gave the children a listening exercise using an instrumental track you can find Here, which was very good for learning the names of instruments. I also asked why some people thought this song was a good lullaby and there were some interesting and insightful answers to that question.

We then played some other simple boat songs on recorders as a warm up (“Little Silver Moon” and “Lightly Row”) before learning to play “The Skye Boat Song“. This piece is on the Step 2 repertoire of the LCM recorder syllabus. Our plan is to voluntarily enter children for Step 1 or 2 in October so we are trying to incorporate the examination pieces into our repertoire. They played this pretty well for a first go this week. I then gave them the recorder music to take home and practice and a piano version if they wanted to play it two hands on the piano.

I really feel the children learned a lot from this lesson; we had history, English, listening, singing and performing and it’s simply a great story that needs to be retold. Let’s keep the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora McDonald going and keep this beautiful melody in the repertoire of every young child.