Sir Patrick Spens

On Autumn Harvest AH 002
Old Songs & Bothy Ballads - Here's a Health to the Company

Duncan Williamson sings:

The ballad has been the subject of considerable argument over the years regarding its historical basis. Duncan is clear that the ballad relates to the Scots King Alexander III who sent Sir Patrick Spens on his ill-fated voyage to Norway to bring back his little granddaughter. Alexander’s eldest daughter Margaret had married Eric the young King of Norway (in 1281) but had died in childbirth leaving behind the little granddaughter (the Maid of Norway) as heir to the Scottish throne. The ballad (Child 58) is rare in the oral tradition with only two tunes in Greig Duncan (GD 1:17) and twelve in Bronson’s Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads.

O the king sits in Dunfermline Toun,
He's a-drinkin the blood red wine;
He said, "Whaur shall I find a skeely skipper,
To sail this fine ship o mine?"

Then up an speakes an auld eldren knight,
Wha sat by the king's right knee;
He says, "Sir Patrick Spens is the finest sailor,
That ever did sail the sea."

So the king he takes his quill in hand,
In a letter he did say,
"You maun tak this to Sir Patrick Spens,
You maun tak it right away.

c p 2005 Autumn Harvest AH002