Bonnie Prince Charlie

My informant has a very interesting story. She is Scottish, but grew up primarily in England, near London. Informant’s parents were both very Scottish and so much of who she is surrounds this Scottish heritage. In this particular piece, she outlines much of her story as she is flipping through an old Scottish book of songs that she is showing me. When I asked her about folklore from her past, what comes to mind the most is folk music — as she is a singer. The book is old and falling apart. We are looking at it together. It was printed in 1884… She is gazing lovingly at the book, gingerly flipping the pages. My informant loves music. Everything in her life has to do with singing. She has been a singer her entire life and even now continues to sing in the church choir. Ever since I was little, we have always sung together; it has always been our special bond. She says that I got my singing skills from her. It makes sense then, that we now sit down and for the next 5 hours, go through this book. Before we start looking at the book she says:

Informant: “You might have to turn the music down, Roger. There is always, Bonnie Prince Charlie. For some reason, he captured everyone’s imagination…even though he was a bit of a coward, he ran to France…but in Scotland, they still make songs about him! He fought the English. He was a pretender to the throne of Scotland. He said it should be his, the throne, I mean. Speed Bonnie Boat is a song about him, for example, that I absolutely love.”


[She sings]

“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 skye.


[Grandfather joins in]

Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,

Thunder clouds rend the air;

Baffled our foes stand by the shore,

Follow they will not dare.


Informant: “We sang that in school. I remember.”

Me: “You both did?”

Informant: “I’m not sure if Papa did, but we both know it. It’s a song you just know.”


There is a lot of folklore, many songs, surrounding Bonnie Prince Charlie. In her book alone, my informant pointed out many other ones after she sang this song to me. It says a lot about the way in which people practiced Patriotism in Scotland. Through writing songs and music — that was the form of patriotic propaganda back then. Many of these songs are battle, supporter cries.