string quartet arrangement of the skye boat song



An arrangement of a Traditional song, for String Quartet


Standard: Advanced


Running time: 1 min 50



“Speed bonny boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward the sailor’s cry,
Carry the lad that’s born to be King,
Over the sea to Skye.”

  • What you will receive....

    Your download will contain a PDF of the score and parts, and an MP3 audio file of the piece to aid familiarity and rehearsal. See our 'How it Works' page for more information.

  • About the piece

    The words to this well-known traditional Scottish song describe how Bonnie Prince Charlie, after his defeat in battle at Culloden in1746, was taken by rowing boat from Uist to Skye, with the help of Flora MacDonald, to escape British soldiers. The tune was collected by Miss Annie Macleod in the 1870s.


    It is a ‘rowing song’ called “iorram”, (pronounced ‘irram’). The tempo can be set by imagining the three beats in the bar corresponding with the action of lifting the oars out of the water, dipping them back in and pulling the stroke.


    I think this arrangement should be played by players of a higher standard, perhaps Grade 5/6. The first violin and cello parts do go into 6th position at one point but they are the most advanced parts. The other two parts are technically simpler so they could be more suitable for players of Grade 4-5. The cello pizzicato in the final section needs to be played with good intonation and confidence to give a full, harmonic bass line to the upper strings.