This is the song normally known as Sir Patrick Spens, but substantially updated and shortened, with a chorus based on one of the Walter Scott verses
Previous peak charts position #14
Previous peak charts position in subgenre #2
David Kilpatrick 2007
January 27, 2007
Story behind the song
This is one of the first Scots songs I learned to sing and play, in its original version. My daughter Ailsa, six years old in 1988, was asked if she knew any songs when she went to primary school for the first time after moving to Scotland. She knew this because I had been playing it. It haunted her entire school career, as to know anything like this was considered eccentric and unforgivable. The Scots, in general, hate old Scots songs and prefer modern American or Brit-pop (or country and western, especially); they don't identify with the songs of the Border Minstrelsy. My folk club friends are exceptions, but even then it's left to me to do this stuff. The majority is like the majority in any place!
A visitor to the Kelso club asked me for this song a couple of weeks ago, and I had not performed it for ten years. I could remember my version, which is quite a major revision compared to the 'trad' set. So, with new Lamaq GAL5190 small jumbo guitar in hand, I set about this recording to test my conversion of my Roland VS880 (1997) to record on to CompactFlash cards. It works!
The recording has been re-encoded at 320kpbs for maximum quality (Jan 27)
Recently I heard another version, with another variant of the ballad words and a much dreeched-down tune, from Kris Drever. This is well worth hunting down. 'Sir Patrick Spens' is still the song which many Scots folk-club regulars joking refer to when taking the mickey out of long ballad dirges; it doesn't deserve that reputation. I have shortened it to less than half the original number of verses and made an amended 'To Norroway, to Norroway' verse into a chorus because the words of that verse have all the hallmarks of being taken from a chorus to start with.
The king sits in Dumfermline town
drinkin' the bluid-red wine
Saying, whaur can ah get a skipper skilled
Tae sail this ship o' mine?
It's up there spake an eldern knight
Sat at the king's right knee
'Sir Patrick Spens is the bravest man
that ever sailed the sea!'
Tae Norroway, tae Norroway, tae Norroway oer the fame
The king's dochter o' Norroway, it's we must bring her hame
Be it wind or weet, be it snaw or sleet
Come weather as it may
We must now brave the North Sea* wave
For the Maid of Norroway!
(*this is an anachronism - the North Sea is what we call it now, it was called the German Ocean back then)
The king has written a broad letter
And signed it wi' his own hand
They've taken it tae where Sir Patrick Spens
Was walking on Leith strand
This royal request must be a jest,
A cruel jest, I fear!
That I should brave the North Sea wave
At sic' a time o' year!
They had not gone a league, a league, a league but barely three
When dark and stormy grew the sky
And raging grew the sea
Laith, laith were the guid Scots lairds tae wet their cork-heeled shoon
But lang ere a' the play wiz done, their hats they swam abune!
Lang, lang may the ladies wait, wi' their heads held in their hands!
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens cam sailing home tae land!
Half owr, haf owr tae Aberdour 'tis fifty fathoms deep
And there lies guid Sir Patrick Spens wi' the Scots lords at his feet...
(ch and end)
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