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
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