The Lakes of Shillin

Sheila Stewart: On Autumn Harvest ah003: Old Songs & Bothy Ballads: For Friendship and for Harmony. Live from the Fife Traditional Singing Festival May 2005.

The song is very likely based on a real incident and is said to be from around 1800 in the Enniskillen area. There are many versions from Ireland, Scotland and North America and the name of the drowned man and the lake vary greatly. The song was printed on broadside with the name of the lake as Colfin and Shelin. This was a favourite song of Sheila's sister Cathy (Laws Q33; Roud 189).

1: It been a fine summer's morning when Willie Leonard arose,
And straight to his comrade's bed window did go;
Saying, "Arise up Willie and let nobody know,
'Tis a fine summer's morning and a-bathing we'll go".

2: So they walked and they talked till they came to a lake,
And the first man they met was a keeper of game;
Saying, "Go back fine fellows and do not venture in,
For 'tis deep and cold waters in the Lakes of Shillin."

3: So he twice swum it over and he next swum it round,
He was swimming for an island but he never reached dry ground;
His uncle came running wi a rope in his hand,
As he gazed on his nephew as he stood on the strand;
Saying, "Uncle, dearest uncle, all your ropes are in vain,
For it's twice I saw the bottom and I'm now going again."

4: So early nest morning when his mother came there,
She was wringing her fingers and a-tearing her hair;
Saying, "Where was he drownded, or did he fall in,
Oh I curse my life forever on the lakes of Shillin.
c p 2006 Autumn Harvest