Morgan Rattler

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X:1 T:Morgan Ratler C:Aylmore MS M:6/8 L:1/8 K:D d|: AGF EFG | FEF D2d | AGF EFG | B2c Bcd | AGF EFG | FEF D2A | def edc | B2A Bcd:| |: d2e fdB | c2d ecA | d2e fdB | g2e fga | d2e fdB | c2d ecA | def ecA | B2A Bcd :| |: D2d dcd | E2e ede | D2d dcd | B2A Bcd| D2d dcd | E2e efg | agf edc | B2A Bcd :|]

MORGAN RATTLER (Murcada Rocalloir). AKA and see "Cordal Jig," "Five Hundred a Year," "Idle Road (The)," "If I Had in the Clear," "Jackson's Bouner Bougher," "Land of Potatoes," "Marsden Rattler." Scottish, English, Irish, American; Double Jig (6/8 time). England, North-West. D Major (most versions): C Major (O'Neill/1850 & 1001): G Major (Clinton, Haverty, Kerr): F Major (Galwey, Harding, O'Flannagan). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Galwey): AABB (Clinton, Cole, Haverty, Kerr): AABBCC (Hardings, Kennedy, Knowles, O'Farrell, Doyle): ABC (O'Flannagan): ABCD (Manson): AABBCCDD (Gow): AABBCCDDEE (O'Neill/Krassen): AABBCCDEEFFGGHHIIJJ (O'Neill/1850 & 1001). "Morgan Rattler" was one of the most popular dance tunes of the 19th century, judging from the number of appearances in both published and musicians' manuscript collections throughout Britain, Ireland and North America.

Partridge's Dictionary of the Underworld defines a 'morgan-rattler' as a loaded club, stick or cane. The phallic association was made clear in a bawdy once-popular 18th century song called "Morgan Rattler" about a virile weaver. Although only fragments of the song survive, the refrain goes:

I lathered her up with my Morgan Rattler,

The reference and song were well-known enough to be referenced in other songs. One was printed in a chapbook by W. Goggin in Limerick about 1785:

Great boasting of late we have heard of the fates,
Of the comical rake called Morgan Rattler,
But now we have found one will cut him down
Well known by the name of young Darby O'Gallagher.

The verses become rather crude. The fourth goes:

If you would see him dandle that yellow sledge handle,
As stiff as the leg of a stool in a wallet, sir,
Each maid with surprise does twinkle their eyes,
At the wonderful size of his D. O'Gallagher.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Morgan Rattler was the name attached to several racehorses. Seán Donnelly notes that "The services of a bull named (very appropriately) Morgan Rattler were advertised in the Dublin Evening Post, 12 July 1788"[1].

O'Neill (Irish Minstrels and Musicians, 1913) states the original of "Morgan Rattler" (before the embellishments) is a two-strain melody called "Jackson's Bouner Bougher" (found in Jackson's Celebrated Irish Tunes, Dublin, c. `1774, and in James Aird's Selection of Scotch, Irish, English and Foreign Airs, vol. 3, 1788) which carries the name of the Irish composer, uilleann piper and fiddler Walker "Piper" Jackson. Brendan Breathnach suggests that the title "Bouner Bougher" may be a corruption of the Irish Bonn ar bóthar meaning "A step in the road". The jig was entered into the mid-19th century music manuscript collection of uilleann piper and Church of Ireland cleric James Goodman [1], and it can also be found in Book 3 of County Leitrim fiddler and piper Stephen Grier's (c. 1824-1894) large c. 1883 music manuscript collection (in three parts). Francis O'Neill's version (obtained from James O'Neill's father's manuscripts, but also played often by James himself) runs ten parts:

Sergeant O'Neill's setting, copied from his father's music books, is much superior to all, having been embellished by a skillful hand, according to the custom prevailing a century ago, until a total of ten strains display his versatility[2].

Paul de Grae notes that modern Irish version are played in two parts, corresponding to the first two parts of O'Neill's setting, but is more commonly known as "Cordal Jig[3].

In volume five of his Selection (Glasgow, 1797) Aird printed the same tune, in four parts, as "The Morgan Rattler" (Paul de Grae points out that the version in Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883, is the first and fourth parts of Aird's later version [4]). This same latter Aird version was reprinted in John Preston's Entire New and Compleat Instructions for the Fife (London, 1796), Petrie's Third Collection (1790), McGoun's Repository of Scots and Irish Airs, and in McFadyen's Selection (1797). A three-strain version appears in dancing master Thomas Wilson's Companion to the Ball Room (London, 1816), and Barry Callaghan (Hardcome English, 2007) notes that three strain versions are the norm for modern playing in England, "with the 'B' part showing the most variation.". English versions of "Morgan Rattler" are several, many from 19th century fiddlers' manuscripts including those of William Aylmore (West Wittering, Sussex, 1796), Joshua Gibbons (Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, 1820), Ellis Knowles, John Clare (Helpston, Northants, c. 1820), William Mittel (New Romney, Kent, 1799), Joshua Jackson (Harrogate, north Yorkshire, 1798), Yarker and John Fife (Perthshire and at sea, begun in 1780 and continuing until 1804). "Morgan Rattler" appears in many North American musicians' copybooks as well, including: William Patten (Philadelphia, 1800), Daniel Henry Huntington (Onondaga, N.Y., 1817), fluter Thomas Molyneaux (Shelburne, Nova Scotia, in a volume that indicates he was an Ensign with the 6th Regiment), and P. Van Schaack (Kinderhook, N.Y., 1820). Dance instructions for "Morgan Rattler" were published in the Phinney's Select Collection of the Newest and Most Favorite Country Dances (Ostego, N.Y., 1808) and in Henry Moore Ridgely's commonplace book of 1799.

O'Neill's "Lame Crowley" shares a version of the first strain, with a different second strain. The alternate titles "Five hundred a year" and "If I had in the clear" are lines from a song set to the melody.

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - fiddler and Chicago police Sergeant James O'Neill, originally from County Down, copied from his father's music books [O'Neill]; from a collection by the London publisher Thompson, late 18th century [Knowles].

Printed sources : - Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 5), Glasgow, 1797; No. 108, p. 41. Carlin (The Gow Collection), 1986; No. 357. Clinton (Gems of Ireland), 1841; No. 175, p. 90. Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 53. Joseph Dale (Dale’s Selection of the most favorite Country Dances, Reels &c.), London, c. 1800, p. 13. Doyle (Plain Brown Tune Book), 1997; p. 32. Gow (3rd Collection of Niel Gow's Reels), 3rd ed., 1792; p. 30. Harding's All Round Collection, 1905; No. 93, p. 29. P.M. Haverty (One Hundred Irish Airs, vol. 2), 1858; No. 114, p. 52. Kennedy (Fiddler's Tune-Book: Jigs & Quicksteps, Trips & Humours), 1997; No. 122, p. 30. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880; No. 39, p. 39. Knowles (A Northern Lass), 1995; p. 6. Levey (Dance Music of Ireland, 1st Collection), 1858; No. 17, p. 70. Farrell (Pocket Companion, vol. 2), c. 1806; p. 109. Galwey (Old Irish Croonauns), 1910; No. 11, p. 4. Manson (Hamilton's Universal Tune-Book, vol. 1), 1854; p. 145. O'Flannagan (The Hibernia Collection), Boston, 1860; p. 23. O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 60. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 1046, p. 196. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 257, p. 57. Petrie (Third Collection of Strathspey Reels and Country Dances), 1790; p. 5. Riley (Flute Melodies, vol. 3), 1820; p. 84. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 81. Loughran & Gammon (Sussex Tune Book), 1982; no. 72, p. 27. Wilson (A Companion to the Ballroom), 1816; p. 88.

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Alan Ng's [3]

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  1. Seán Donnelly, "A German Dulcimer Player in Eighteenth-Century Dublin", Dublin Historical Record Vol. 53, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), p. 83.
  2. Francis O'Neill, Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby, 1910, pp. 92-93.
  3. Paul de Grae, "Notes on Sources of Tunes in the O'Neill Collections", 2017.
  4. Paul de Grae, "Notes to Sources of Tunes in the O'Neill Collections," 2017.