The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
Version 2
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This ballad originated in the Orkney Islands. A "silkie" is a supernatural being who lives in the sea. They wear sealskins to travel through the ocean, and take them off when they are on land.

This ballad is Child Ballad #113.

In another version of the song the silkie is vulnerable if they loose their sealskins - so the young maiden hides the sealskin and the silkie is killed.

The silkie are also called "Finns" and "Selkies."

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.

An earthly nourris sits and sings
And as she sings, Ba lilly wean
Little ken I, my bairns father
Far less the land that he steps in.

Then in steps he to her bed fit
And a gromly guest I'm sure was he
Sang Here am I, thy bairns 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

Ah, tis not well, the maiden cried
Ah, tis not well, alas cried she
That the Great Silkie from Sule Skerry
Should have come and brought a bairn to me

Then he has taken a purse of gold
And he has laid it on her knee
Saying, git 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 thou shalt marry a proud gunner
And a proud gunner I'm sure he'll be
And the very first shot that ever he'll shoot
he'll kill both my young son and me.

Alas, Alas, the maiden cried
This weary fate's been laid for me
And then she said and then she said
I'll bury me in Sule Skerry.
Related Links
Information and Lyrics From Colonial and Revolution Songbook
See Bibliography for full information.