Major Webster’s Delight

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MAJOR WEBSTER'S DELIGHT. Scottish, Reel. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB. Attributed to fiddler-composer John French (c. 1753–1803), of Cumnock, Ayrshire. French knew Robert Burns and may have played the fiddle at the dancing school Burns attended, albeit somewhat reluctantly. The title of the reel may honor another acquaintance of Burns', Major Webster, who was one of the early members of the Alloway Club that met on each January 29th at the cottage birthplace of the poet (which was then a tavern). These convivial meetings, celebrating Burns' birthday, began in 1801, with Webster joining the group in 1802.

Webster commanded a milita unit (according to an article in the London Chronicle), the Ayr Volunteers, raised, like many such local units, when hostilities were resumed with France in the last decade of the 18th century. The following anecdote apparently predates the militia unit, quoted from The Laird of Logan (1845, p. 256):

At the time of the threatened invasion (from France), when every little hamlet in the country was furnishing its quota of volunteers, a certain warlike Bailie met Logan in Ayr, and asked him, why he was not exerting himself to rouse the people of Cumnock to become vounteers. "Ne'er fash your thumb, Bailie," said the Laird, "there will be nae scarcity o' volunteers at Cumnock, for if the French was ance landed at Ayr, we'll hae you and mae o' your volunteers up amang us than we'll ken how to gie hidings to."


Source for notated version:

Printed sources: French (Collection of New Strathspeys, Reels &c.), 1801; no. 3, p. 7.

Recorded sources:




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