Monday, August 16, 2010

The Silver Whistle

Whilst waiting for my own tin whistle to arrive, this song, which I've loved since I heard The Silly Sisters at The Tavern in South Shields in 1976, came back this week into my head and wouldn't go away.  I learned to sing it really quickly.  It's said to be one of Flora McDonald's songs, translated from Gaelic of course, but with a fairly modern tune composed by Johnny Moynihan. There are words, here, but I prefer the slightly different version that Maddy and June did, thirty odd years ago:


O who will play the silver whistle
When my king's son to sea is going?
To Scotland prepares, prepares his coming
Upon a large ship o'er the ocean

The ship it has three masts of silver
With ropes so light of french silk woven
Upon each end are fixed golden pulleys
To bring my king's son ashore and landed.

When my king's son he comes back home
No girdle scones will food be for him
But loaves of bread, bread will be baking
For Charles with blue eyes so enticing.

O welcome to you, fame and honour
Fiddles and choice tunes attend you
I will be dancing, I will be singing
And I will play the silver whistle.

And I will play the silver whistle.


Though, mind, that line about enticing blue eyes doesn't seem t go too well, especially for a male voice.

There's another version here, but I don't like it, all those silly flute and choral harmonies, which have somehow come to be obligatory  whenever the Gaels in any form are referred to in the ersatz popular culture we get from Hollywood and even the BBC.  Ffs.