Summer Rerun: Sir Patrick Spence

Just because I like it…

The king sits in Dunfermline toun,
Drinkin’ the bluid red wine
‘0 whaur will I get a skeely skipper,
To sail this ship o’ mine?’

Then up and spak an eldern knicht,
Sat at the king’s richt knee,
‘Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor,
That ever sail’d the sea.’

Our king has written a braid letter,
And seal’d it wi’ his han’,
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spence,
Was walkin’ on the stran’.

‘To Noroway, to Noroway,
To Noroway owre the faim;
The king’s dochter o’ Noroway,
It’s thou maun bring her hame.’

The first line that Sir Patrick read,
Sae lond, loud laughed he;
The neist line that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his e’e.

‘O wha is this has dune this deed,
And tauld the king o’ me,
To send us oot at this time o’ the year
To sail upon the sea?


Be’t wind, be’t weet, be’t bail, be’t sleet,
Our ship maun sail the faim;
The king’s dochter o’ Noroway,
It’s we maun fetch her hame.’

They boys’d their sails on Mononday,
Wi’ a’ the speed they may;
They hae landed in Noroway
Upon a Wodnesday.

(After only a week in Norway, the local nobles accuse Sir Patrick and his men of eating and drinking too much. Sir Patrick, who has brought valuable gifts of gold and silver with him, is highly offended by these complaints)

‘Mak ready, mak ready, my merry men a’,
Our guid ship sails the morn,’
‘0 say na sae, my maister dear,
For I fear a deidly storm.

I saw the new moon late yestreen,
Wi’ the auld moon in her arm,
And I fear, I fear, my maister dear,
That we will come to harm.

They had na sail’d a league, a leagne,
A league but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind blew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.

The ankers brak, and the tapmasts lap,
‘Twas sic a deidly storm
And the waves cam owre the broken ship,
Till a’ her sides were torn.

* * * * *

Gae fetch a wab o’ the silken claith,
Anither o’ the twine,
And wap them to our guid ship’s side,
That the saut sea come na in.

They fetch’d a wab o’ the silken claith
Anither o’ the twine,
And they wapp’d them round that guid ship’s side,
But still the sea cam in!

O laith, laith were our guid Scots lords,
To weet their cork-heel’d shoon;
But lang or a’ the play was play’d,
They wat their hats aboon.

And many was the feather bed,
That flauchter’d on the faim;
And mony was the guid lord’s son,
That never mair cam hame!

The ladyes wrang their fingers white,
The maidens tore their hair,
A’ for the sake o’ their true loves,-
For them they’ll see nae mair!

O lang, lang may the ladyes sit,
Wi’ their fans into their han’,
Before they see Sir Patrick Spence
Come sailin’ to the stran’!

O lang, lang may time maidens sit,
Wi’ their gowd kaims in their hair,
A’ waiting for their ain dear loves,-
For them they’ll see nae mair!

It’s forty miles frae Aberdeen,
And fifty fathoms deep,
And there lies guid Sir Patrick Spence,
Wi’ the Sects lords at his feet!

There are many versions of this ballad; this one is from here. The earliest written version dates from 1765, but the ballad is believed to be much older. It may be based on a combination of incidents from two voyages, one in 1281 and the other in 1286.

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