Mudcat Café message #1532083 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #31375   Message #1532083
Posted By: Roberto
31-Jul-05 - 11:55 AM
Thread Name: Origins: The Great Silkie
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Great Silkie
16 recordings of The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry (#113). Recently, Aly Bain and Ale Moeller recorded an instrumental rendition, on the tune composed by James Waters (Fully Rigged, Whirlie Records 2001). The recoding by Sheena Wellington, Greentrax, is not included in this post. R

a) The Grey Silkie
John Sinclair, Flotta, Orkney Islands, in Sailormen & Servingmaids, a collection of songs about seamen and their womenfolk, recorded in the field from traditional singers in England, Scotland and Ireland, Topic 12T194 (1961)

In Norway's Land there lived a maid
"Hush ba-loo-lilly". this maid began,
"I know not where my babe's father is
Whether by land or sea does he travel in"

It happened on a certain day
When this fair lady fell fast asleep
That in came a good grey silkie
And set him down at her bed feet

Saying, "Awak', awak', my pretty fair maid,
For oh, how sound as thou dost sleep,
And I'll tell thee where thy babe's father is,
He's sitting close at thy bed feet."

"I pray thee tell to me thy name,
Oh, tell me where does thy dwelling be?"
"My name is good Hill Marliner,
And I earn my living oot o'er the sea.

I am a man upon the land,
I am a silkie in the sea,
And when I'm far from every strand
My dwelling it's in Sule Skerry"

"Alas, alas, that's woeful fate,
That's weary fate that's been laid on me,
That a man should come from the West o' Hoy
To the Norway Lands to have a bairn wi' me."

"My dear, I'll wed thee with a ring,
With a ring, my dear, will I wed with thee."
"Thee may go to thee weddings with whom thou wilt,
For I'm sure thou never will wed wi' me."

She has nursed his little wee son
For seven long years upon her knee
And at the end of seven long years
He came back with gowd and white monie

For she has got the gunner good
And a gay good gunner it was he,
He gaed oot on a May morning
And he shot the son and the grey silkie.

"Alas, alas, that's woeful fate,
That's weary fate that's been laid on me."
And eenst or twice she sobbed and sighed
And her tender hairt did break in three.

(spoken) And that's the finish.



b) The Grey Silkie of Sule Skerry
Bob Blair, Reachin' for the high, high lands, The Tradition Bearers, LTCD1001, 2000 (John Sinclair's version)

In Norway there lived a maid
Bye loo my baby - she begins
Little know I my babes father
Or if land or sea he's living in

Then there arose at her bed feet
And a grumlie guest I'm sure 'twas he
Said - Here am I thy babes father
Although I be not comely

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I'm in my own country
My dwelling is in Sule Skerry

He ha ta'en oot a purse o gold
And he has put it on her knee
Said give to me my little wee son
And take thee up thy nurses fee

It shall come to pass on a summer's day
When the sun shines hot on every stone
That you shall take my little wee son
And teach him to swim in the foam

And you shall marry a gunner good
And a proud good gunner I'm sure he'll be
And he'll go out on a May morning
And kill both my young son and me

And she did marry a gunner good
And a proud good gunner I'm sure twas he
The very first shot that he did shoot
He killed the son and the Great Silkie

In Norway there lived a maid
Bye loo my baby - she begins
Little know I my babes father
Or if land or sea he's living in



c) The Silkie of Sule Skerry
Alison McMorland (vocal and banjo), with Derek Hoy (fiddle), on Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre with Kirsty Potts, Rowan in the Rock, Songs of Love, Land and Nature, The Living Tradition, The Tradition Bearers, LTCD3002, 2001 (John Sinclair's version)

In Norway land there lived a maid
Hush, baloo lillie - this maid began
I know not whaur ma bairn's faither is
By land or sea does he traivel in

It happened on a certain day
When this fair maid lay fast asleep
That in cam a grey silkie
And sat him doon at her bed feet

Saying - Awak' awak ma fair pretty maid
For oh how sound as thou dost sleep
I'll tell thee whaur yer bairn's faither is
He's lyin' close st your bed feet

I pray come tell tae me yer name
An tell me whaur yer dwelling is?
My name it is guid Hein Mailer
I earn ma livin' oot o the sea

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
An when I'm far fae every strand
Ma dwellin t'is in Sule Skerry

Alas, alas this woeful fate
This weary fate' that's been laid on me
That a man should come frae the West o'Hoy
Tae the Noraway lands tae hae a bairn by me

He said - Ye'll nurse ma little wee son
For seiven lang years upon yer knee
An at the end o' seiven lang years
I'll come back again an pay the nouris fee

And she has nursed her little wee son
For seiven lang years upon her knee
An at the end of seiven lang years
He's cam back again wi' white monie

He said - I'll pit a chain roon his neck
An a gey gowd chain o it will be
An if ever he comes tae the Noraway lands
Ye'll hae a guid guess on who is he

An he said - Ye'll wed a gunner guid
An a gay guid gunner it will be
An he'll gae oot on a May mornin
He'll shoot your son and the grey silkie

Oh she has wed a gunner guid
An a gay guid gunner it was he
An he gaed oot on a May mornin
He shot the son and the grey selchie

Alas, alas this woefu late
This weary fate that's been laid on me -
She sobbed and sighed and bitter cried
Her tender hert did brak in three



d) The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
Paul Clayton, Folk Ballads of the English-Speaking World, Folkways Records FA 2310, 1956. Tune: the one used by John Sinclair.

In Norway lands there lived a maid
Balloo my babe - this maid began
I know not where your father is
Or if land or sea he travels in

It happened on a certain day
When this fair lady fell fast asleep
That in came a good grey silkie
And set him down at her bed feet

Saying - Awake, awake my pretty fair maid
For oh! how sound as thou dost sleep!
And I'll tell thee where they baby's father is
He's sitting close at thy bed feet

I pray, come tell to me thy name
Oh! tell me where does thy dwelling be? -
My name it is good Hein Miller
And I earn my living out of the sea

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I'm far from every strand
My dwelling is in Shule Skerry

Alas! alas! this woeful fate!
This weary fate that's been laid for me!
That a man should come from the West of Hoy
To the Norway lands to have a bairn with me

My dear, I'll wed thee with a ring
With a ring, my dear, I'll wed with thee
Thou may wed thee weddens with whom thou wilt
For I'm sure thou'll never wed none with me

Thou will nurse my little wee son
For seven long years upon thy knee
And at the end of seven long years
I'll come back and pay the norish fee

She has nursed her little wee son
For seven long years upon her knee
And at the end of seven long years
He came back with gold and white money

She says - My dear, I'll wed thee with a ring
With a ring, my dear, I'll wed with thee
Thou may wed thee weddens with whom thou wilt
For I'm sure thou'll never wed none with me

But I'll put a gold chain around his neck
And a gey good gold chain it'll be
That if ever he comes to the Norway lands
Thou may have a gey good guess on him

And thou will get a gunner good
And a gey good gunner it will be
And he'll go out on a May morning
And shoot the son and the grey silkie

Oh! she has got a gunner good
And a gey good gunner it was he
And he went out on a May morning
And he shot the son and the grey silkie

Alas! Alas! this woeful fate!
This weary fate that's been laid for me!
And once or twice she sobbed and sighed
And her tender heart did break in three



e) Great Selchie of Shule Skerry
Cynthia Gooding, Faithful Lovers and other phenomena, Elektra 107. Tune: the one used by John Sinclair.

In Norway lands there lived a maid
Balloo my babe - this maid began
I know not where your father is
Or if land or sea he travels in

It happened on a certain day
When this fair lady fell fast asleep
That in came a good grey selchie
And set him dowo at her bed feet

Saying Awak', awak' my pretty fair maid
For oh! how sound as thou dost sleep!
And I'll tell thee where they baby's father is
He's sitting close at thy bed feet

I pray, come tell to me thy name
Oh! tell me where does thy dwelling be? -
My name it is good Hein Miller
And I earn my living out of the sea

I am a man upon the land
I am a selchie in the sea
And when I'm far from every strand
My dwelling is in Shule Skerry

Alas! alas! this woeful fate!
This weary fate that's been laid for me!
That a man should come from the West o' Hoy
To the Norway lands to have a bairn with me

My dear, I'll wed thee with a ring
With a ring, my dear, I'll wed with thee
Thou may go wed thee weddings with whom thou wilt
I'm sure thou'll never wed none with me

Thou will nurse my little wee son
For seven long years upon thy knee
And at the end of seven long years
I'll come back and pay the norish fee

She's nursed her little wee son
For seven long years upon her knee
And at the end of seven long years
He came back with gold and white money

She says - My dear, I'll wed thee with a ring
With a ring, my dear, I'll wed with thee
Thou may go wed thee weddings with whom thou wilt
For I'm sure thou'll never wed none with me

But I'll put a gold chain around his neck
And a gey good gold chain it'll be
And if ever he comes to the Norway lands
Thou may have a gay good guess on him

And thou will get a gunner good
And a gay good gunner it will be
And he'll gae out on a May morning
And he'll shoot the son and the grey selchie

Oh! she has got a gunner good
And a gay good gunner it was he
And he gaed out on a May morning
And he shot the son and the grey selchie

Alas! Alas! this woeful fate!
This weary fate that's been laid for me!
And once or twice she sobbed and sighed
And her tender heart did break in three



f) The Great Silkie
Nancy Kerr, on Sandra and Nancy Kerr, Neat and Complete, Fellside FECD107, 1996. Tune: the one used by John Sinclair.

In Noroway there lived a maid
Bye-loo my baby she begins
Oh know not I my babes father
Or if land or sea he's living in

Then there arose at her bedfeet
And a grummlie guest I'm sure was he
Saying - Here am I thy babe's father
Although I be not comely

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
But when I'm in my own countrie
My dwelling is in Sule Skerry

Then he has taken a purse of gold
And he has put it upon her knee
Saying - Give to me my little wee son
And take thee up thy nurse's fee

And it shall pass on a summer's day
When the sun shines hot on every stone
That I shall take my little wee son
And teach him for to swim in the foam

And you shall marry a gunner good
And a proud good gunner I'm sure he'll be
And he'll go out on a May morning
And kill both my young son and me

And she did marry a gunner good
And a proud good gunner I'm sure twas he
And the very first shot he ever did shoot
He killed the son and the great silkie

In Noroway there lives a maid
Bye-loo my baby she begins
Oh know not I my babe's father
Or if land or sea he's living in

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I'm in my own countrie
My dwelling is in Sule Skerry



g) The Grey Selchie
John G. Halcro, on Orkney, Land, Sea & Community, Scottish Tradition 21, School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, Greentrax CDTRAX 9021 (fragment recorded in 1973).

For I'm a man upon the land
I'm a selkie in the sea
And I do come from the west o' the Hoy
Which wise men do call Sule Skerry

My name it is good Hein Miller
I earn my living by the sea
And when I'm far from every shore
It's then I am in Sule Skerry



h) The Grey Selchie of Sule Skerry
The Gaugers, Awa Wi The Rovin Sailor, Traditional Scots folk songs and music of the sea, Sleepytown Records, SLPYCD003, 1994. Tune: the one used by John G. Halcro.

There lived a maid in the Norway lands
Hush be loo lily this maid began
I know not far by babe's father is
Whether on land or sea he does travel in

Well, it happened on a certain day
Fan this fair maid fell fast asleep
That in there come a good grey selchie
And sat him doon at her bed feet

Sayin' Awake, awake, my pretty fair maid
For oh, how sound as you doth sleep!
And I'll tell you far your babe's father is
Oh, he's sittin' close at your bed feet

For I am a man upon the land
Ay, I am a selchie on the sea
And fan I'm far frae every strand
My dwelling is in Sule Skerry

Oh alas, alas, this woeful fate
This weary fate that's been laid for me
That a man should come fae the West o' Hoy
Tae the Norway lands tae get a bairn wi' me

But my dear, I'll wed thee wi' a ring
Wi' a ring, my dear, I will wed wi' thee
You may go wed your weddings wi' whom you will
For I'm sure I'll never wed nane wi' thee

Then you will nurse my little wee son
For seven long years upon your knee
And at the end o' seven long years
I'll come back and pay thee nurse's fee

So she has nursed his little wee son
For scven long years upon her knee
And at the end o' seven long years
He's come back wi' gold and wi' white monie

Oh I will pit a gold chain aroond his neck
Ay, a gay good gold chain it will be
And if ever he comes tae the Norway land
You can hae a gay good guess on him

Oh - says she I'll wed thee wi' a ring
Wi' a ring, my dear, I will wed wi' thee
You may go wed your weddings wi' whom you will
For I'm sure I'll never wed nane wi' thee

For you will get a gunner good
Ay, a gay good gunner then he will be
And he'll gae oot on a May morning
And he'll shoot the son and the grey selchie

Ay, and she has got a gunner good
Ay, a gay good gunner then it was he
And he's gaed oot on a May morning
And he's shot the son and the grey selchie

Oh, alas, alas, this woeful fate
This weary fate that's been laid for me
And aince or twice she's sobbed and sighed
And her tender heart it did brak' in three



i) The Silkie of Sul Skerry
Ray Fisher, The Bonny Birdy, Leader LERCD2028 (2000), LP originale: 1972. Tune: the one composed by James Waters in the late 1950s.

An earthly nourice sits and sings
And aye she sings, Ba-ba, lily wean,
For little ken I my bairnie's father,
Far less the land that he dwells in.

And he was there at her bed-foot
And a grumlie guest I am sure twas he
Saying, Here am I, thy bairnie's father
Altho' I be not comely

I wasna weel, quo' the maiden fair,
I wasna weel, indeed, quo' she
When the grey silkie o' Sul Skerry
Did cam and brocht a bairn tae me

But I'm a man upon the land
And I am a silkie in the sea
But when I'm far and far frae land
My home is in the Sul Skerry

Then he's ta'en oot a purse o' gowd
And he has thrown it upon her knee
Saying, Gie tae me my bonny wee son
And tak thee up thy nourice fee

For it will come tae pass on a simmer's day
When the sun shines hot upon every stane
That I will tak my bonny wee son
And I'll teach him for tae swim the faem

And thou shalt marry a proud gunner
And a proud gunner I'm sure he'll be
But the very first shot that ever he shoots
He'll kill baith your young son and me



j) Silkie
Joan Baez, on Joan Baez Vol.2, Vanguard 79595-2 and on The Joan Baez Ballad Book, Vanguard ed. Italiana Orizzonte, Ricordi, AORL 28344, first released on Joan Baez Vol.2, Vanguard VSD-2097, 1961. Tune: the one composed by James Waters in the late 1950s.

Chords (from the Joan Baez Songbook)
      G(D)    F(C)               G(D)
An earthly nurse sits and sings
                      F(C)             G(D)
And aye, she sings by lily wean -
       C(G)      G(D) F(C)         G(D)
And little ken I my bairn's father
      F(C) Am(Em)         Dm(Am) G(D)
Far less the land where he dwells in

An earthly nurse sits and sings
And aye, she sings by lily wean -
And little ken I my bairn's father
Far less the land where he dwells in

For he came on night to her bed feet
And a grumbly guest, I'm sure was he
Saying - Here am I, thy bairn's father
Although I be not comely

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie on the sea
And when I'm far and far frae land
My home it is in Sule Skerrie

And he had ta'en a purse of gold
And he had placed it upon her knee
Saying - Give to me my little young son
And take thee up thy nurse's fee

And it shall come to pass on a summer's day
When the sun shines bright on every stane
I'll come and fetch my little young son
And teach him how to swim the faem

And ye shall marry a gunner good
And a right fine gunner I'm sure he'll be
And the very first shot that e'er he shoots
Will kill both my young son and me



k) Great Selchie of Shule Skerry
Judy Collins, A Maid of Constant Sorrow and Golden Apples of the Sun, Elektra Records 8122 73560-2; ballad originally released in 1962 (Golden Apples of the Sun). Tune: the one composed by James Waters in the late 1950s.

In Norway, there sits a maid
By lou, my baby - she begins
Little know I my child's father
Or if land or sea he's livin' in

Then there arose at her bed feet
And a grumbly guest I'm sure it was he
Saying - Here am I thy child's father
Although that I am not comely

I am a man upon the land
I am a selchie in the sea
And when I am in my own country
My dwellin' is in Shule Skerry

And he hath taken a purse of gold
He hath put it upon her knee
Saying - Give to me my little wee son
And take thee up thy nurse's fee

And it shall come to pass on a summer day
When the sun shines hot on every stone
That I shall take my little wee son
And I'll teach him for to swim in the foam

And you will marry a gunner good
And a proud good gunner I'm sure he'll be
And he'll go out on a May morning
And he'll kill both my wee son and me

And lo, she did marry a gunner good
And a proud good gunner I'm sure it was he
And the very first shot that ere he did shoot
He killed the son and the great selchie



l) The Silkie Of Sule Skerry
The McCalmans, on The Best of Scottish Folk, 2CD, Castle MusicESDCD 769 (song recorded in 1975). Tune: the one composed by James Waters in the late 1950s.

An earthly nourice sits and sings
And aye she sings - Ba, lily wean
Little ken I my bairn's faither
Far less the land that he lives in

It happened on a summer's day
When this faur maid fell fast asleep
That in there cam a grey silkie
And sat him doon at her bed feet

I pray, come tell to me thy name
Or tell me where thy dwelling be
My name it is good Hein Miller
An' I earn my livin' oot o'er the sea

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie on the sea
And when I'm far and far frae land
My home it is in Sule Skerry

Thoo will nurse my little wee son
For seven long years upon thy knee
And at the end of seven long years
I'll come back and pay thy nurse's fee

An' you will get a gunner good
And a gey good gunner he's sure to be
And the very first shot that e'er he fires
Will kill both my young son and me

For she has gotten a gunner good
And a gey god gunner sure was he
And he gaed oot on a May morning
And shot her son and the grey silkie



m) The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
Art Thieme, The Older I Get, The Better I Was, Waterbug WBG 0045, 1998; ballad recorded in 1978. Tune: the one composed by James Waters in the late 1950s.

In Norway land there lived a maid
In Norway land by the mighty sea
Little know I my child's father
Whether land or sea that he dwells in

And it came to pass in Norway land
As she lay sleeping by the sea
Out of the depths crept a great silkie
And he stood him there at her bed feet

And there he watched her all the day
So soundly that you sleep cried he
If you'd know your child's father
He's standing here at your bed feet

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I'm far and far from land
My home it is in Sule Skerry

And you shall nurse our little son
For seven years upon your knee
And when I'm returned from my long swim
I will bring your nurse's fee

For I see it clear the days to come
I see it clear the times that be
That a gunner good standing on the shore
Will kill our son and the great silkie

And she has nursed their little son
For seven years upon her knee
And he's returned from his long swimming
He has brought her nurse's fee

And being glad to be near land
And being glad to be at home
He's taken his little son with him
To teach him how to swim the foam

And she had married a gunner good
And a right good gunner I guess was he
And he's stood him there upon the shore
For to kill me out of the sea

And it came to pass in Norway land
In Norway land by the mighty sea
That a gunner good standing on the shore
Killed the son and the great silkie

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I'm far and far from land
My home it is in Sule Skerry



n-1) Silkie
Dave Burland, Songs & Buttered Haycocks, Rubber Records, RUB-012, UK, 1975. Tune: the one composed by James Waters in the late 1950s.

An earthly nurse sits and sings
And aye she sings, My little wean
Saying, Little know I my bairn's father
Far less the land that he dwells in

Then one arose at her bed-foot
And a grisly guest I'm sure was he
Saying, Here am I, thy bairn's father
Although I be not comelie

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I'm far and far from land
My home it is in Sule Skerry

It was not well, said the lady fair
It was not well indeed, said she
That the Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
Should have come and got a bairn by me

And he has taken a purse of gold
And he had laid it on her knee
Sayin', Give to me my little young son
And take you up your nurse's fee

For it shall come to pass on a summer's day
When the sun shines bright on every stone
That I will take my little young son
And I'll teach him how to swim the foam

And you shall marry a gunner good
And a right fine gunner I'm sure he'll be
And the very first shot that e'er he fires
Will kill both my young son and me



n-2) Silkie
Dave Burland, (maybe on Willin'). Tune: the one composed by James Waters in the late 1950s.

An earthly nurse sits and sings
And aye she sings, My little wean
Saying, Little know I my bairn's father
Far less the land that he dwells in

Then one arose at her bed-foot
And a grisly guest I'm sure was he
Saying, Here am I, thy bairn's father
Although I be not comelie

I am a man upon the land
I am a silkie in the sea
And when I'm far and far from land
My home it is in Sule Skerry

And he has taken a purse of gold
And he had laid it on her knee
Sayin', Give to me my little young son
Take you off your nurse's fee

It shall come to pass on a summer's day
When the sun shines bright on every stone
That I will take my little young son
And teach him how to swim the foam

And you shall marry a gunner good
And a right fine gunner I'm sure he'll be
And the very first shot that e'er he fires
Will kill both my young son and me



o) The Grey Selchie
Solas, The Words That Remain, Shanachie 78023, 1998. Tune: the one composed by James Waters in the late 1950s.

In Norwa there sits a maid
"Byloo, my baby," she begins
"Little know I my child's father
For if land or sea he's living in"

Then there arose at her bed feet
A grumbly guest, I'm sure it was he
Saying, "Here am I, thy child's father
Although that I am not comely

I am a man upon the land
I am a selchie in the sea
And when I am in my own country
My dwelling is in Suleskerry"

Then he had taken a purse of gold
And he hath put it upon her knee
Saying, "Give to me my little wee son
And take thee up thy nurse's fee

It shall come to pass on a summer's day
When the sun shines hot on every stone
That I shall take my little wee son
And teach him for to swim in the foam

You will marry a gunner good
And a proud good gunner I'm sure he will be
But he'll go out on a May morning
And kill both my wee son and me"

Loath she did marry a gunner good
And a proud good gunner, I'm sure it was he
The very first shot that he did shoot
He killed the son and the gray selchie

In Norwa there sits a maid
"Byloo, my baby," she begins
"Little know I my child's father
For if land or sea he's living in"

In Norwa there sits a maid