Major Logan's Frolic
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MAJOR LOGAN'S FROLIC, A STRATHSPEY. Scottish, Strathspey. This strathspey was composed by fiddler-composer John French (1752-1803). It appears in his A Collection of New Strathspeys, Reels &c. (c. 1801), dedicated to Mrs. Boswell of Auchinleck, and published by Gow & Shepherd, “for behoof of Mr. French’s widow and children.” The phrase may indicate that French was incapacitated, or perhaps dead, in which case either the dates of publication of the dates of his death are faulty. The first strain is similar to the second half of the well-known "Mrs. MacLeod's Reel/Miss McLeod's Reel (1)."
Major William Logan, who lived at Camlarg, near Ayr, was a gentleman-fiddler who had several of his pieces published in Gow family collections (see "Mrs. Couts Trotter’s Favorite" and "Mrs. Adie"; see also his composition "Sir Alexander Don (1)"), his "Colonel Nicholson" in John Hall's collection (c. 1818) and one in Fraser's (1816) collection. He was also a convivial companion of poet Robert Burns, who wrote his "Epistle to Major W. Logan" in 1786, when Logan was living with his mother and sister at Parkhouse, near Ayr. The Major was described as a very good musician, a joyous companion, and something of a wit; Niel Gow is said to "have entertained a high opinion of the Major's musical skill" (Robert Burns, The Works of Robert Burns, 1840, p. 128). Burns' poem begins:
Hail, thairm-inspirin', rattlin' Willie!
Though fortune's road be rough an' hilly
To every fiddling, rhyming billie,
We never heed,
But tak' it like the unback'd filly,
Proud o' her speed.
When idly goavan whyles we saunter
Yirr, fancy barks, awa' we canter
Uphill, down brae, till some mishanter,
Some black bog-hole,
Arrests us, then the scathe an' banter
We're forced to thole.
Hale be your heart! Hale be your fiddle!
Lang may your elbuck (elbow) jink and diddle
To cheer you through the weary widdle
O' this wild warl',
Until you on a crummock driddle
A gray-hair'd carl.
Some anecdotes about Logan remain in local lore. James T. Gray, writing in his book Maybole, Carrick's Capital Facts, Fiction & Folks (1972) relates that the Major on one occasion quarreled with a local dignitary over a bargain that had been verbally agreed to, but not reduced to writing. The other party had second thoughts, and protested that the agreement was not binding for it had not been written on stamped paper, and therefore was null and void. A short time later they found themselves together in a company of others at a local establishment, the Kings Arms Hotel. At one point the 'dignitary' complained to all assembled the he had trouble with dysentery and did not know how to remedy it, to which Logan quickly prescribed 'stamped paper' reminding him that he himself knew there was nothing more binding! Logan also commanded one of the companies of the local militia, known as the West Lowland Fencibles, which initials-W.L.F-were embroidered on his uniform. An acquaintance chagrined the Major by asking if they stood for 'William Logan, Fiddler'. Logan died, unmarried, in 1819. (Alburger, Scottish Fiddlers and Their Music, 1983).
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: French (A Collection of New Strathspey Reels &c.), 1801.