Back to Ferguson's Rant
FERGUSON'S RANT. Scottish (originally), Irish; Hornpipe. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. O'Neill does not list a source for the tune. The tune was first printed by Glasgow publisher James Aird in his Selection, vol. 3 (1788), and evidently has a Scottish provenance. O'Neill picked up the tune for his O'Neill's Irish Music (1915), although the melody has no apparent Irish musical character. Anne Gilchrist ["Old Fiddlers' Tune Books of the Georgian Period", JEFDSS, vol. 4, No. 1, Dec. 1940, p. 18] noted that, in her experience, the Rant was a name rather loosely applied of various lively dance-tunes, but properly seemed to her to have belonged to a quick 2/4 time melody. However, as this hornpipe suggests, it was applied to a variety of meters.
Perhaps O'Neill associated the title with a man named Ferguson whom he honored with a sketch in Irish Minstrels and Musicians (1913). Great Piper Charles Ferguson, a blind musician "said to have been a native of Limerick," who played "in and out" of the large hotels in Dublin in the early 19th century, toured America and Canada in 1851 as an accompanist to the singer Catherin Hayes. Ferguson stayed on afterwards and settled in New York, where he acquired a handsome set of pipes made by Michael Egan. The Great-piper was said to have learned most of his music from a cleric named Dr. Tuohy (Bishop of Limerick, 1814-1828), who himself was a piper, and Ferguson's forte was airs and slow music. O'Neill records that an aging Ferguson eventually married a widow from Brooklyn, and dropped out of sight of the Irish music community soon afterwards.
Source for notated version: O'Neill's version is note-for-note that of Aird, who must have been O'Neill's source.
Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 3), 1788; No. 468, p. 181. O'Neill (O'Neill's Irish Music), 1915; No. 370, p. 178.