Ginger Ackley's Music

Lark of the Clans... Celtic with a twist!

10.  The Great Silkie - Notes and Lyrics

The Great Silkie is another traditional song and is listed as number 113 in the Child Ballads. It is a sad tale from the Orkney Islands of Scotland, where many believe they are descended from Silkie or Selkie matches with human kind. The Selkie folk live as seals in the sea, but shed their skins and walk as men on the land, often “fostering” their offspring with village girls, who would be gifted with gold when the chid was old enough to go to the sea. The Selkies were said to be gifted in knowing the future – which was not always a happy thing, indeed!



An earthly nourris sits and sings

And aye she sings, Ba lilly wean

Little ken I, my bairnie's father

Far less the land that he steps in.

Then in steps he to her bed fit

And a grumbly guest I'm sure was he

Sang Here am I, thy bairnie's father

Although I be not comely

I am a man upon the land

And 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 no' well, the maiden cried

It was no' well, alas cried she

That the Great Silkie from Sule Skerry

Should'a come and brought a bairn to me

Then he has taken a purse of gold

And he has laid it on her knee

Saying, gie to me, my little young son

And take me up thy nouriss-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 young son

And teach him for to swim the foam


And ye shalt marry a proud gunner man

And a right fine gunner I'm sure he will be

For the very first shot that e'er he shoots

Will kill both my young son and me.

Alas, Alas, the maiden cried

This weary fate's been laid for thee

And then she said and then she said

I'll bury me in Sule Skerry.


nourris = nurse or nursemaid

Ba lily wean = by a weanling baby

Bairnie – baby

comely - handsome 


 Next Song:  She Wears No Ring