Rantin' Roarin' Willie (1)

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X:135 T:Ranting Roaring Willie T:Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willie M:9/4 L:1/4 S:Henry Atkinson’s original MS, Hartburn, N’umberland, 1694, no. HA.134 O:England A:Hartburn, Northumberland N:“Unedited”. Many inconsistencies in the MS, but I have refrained from editing N:as it is a tune commonly found elsewhere. CGP N:See Matt Seattle's reconstruction http://www.folknortheast.com/learn/core-tunes/rattlin-roarin-willie H:1/4 Z:vmp.Chris Partington, Jan. 2004 K:D (B/c/)|A2D F2D (FA)B|\ cdc (cG)EG(AB)|A2D F2D (F/A/) | (B/c/) (d/c/)(d/c/)(d/c/)”^sic barlines”|(d/c/)(B/A/)(G/F/) A2(B/c/)| (d/c/)(d/c/)(d/c/) (d/c/)(B/A/) (G/F/) A2B| cdc (c/G/)E GAB|A2F B2A d2(c/B/)| ADF ECE D2|| D|DA,D DA,D DA,D|EDE CEC (E/F/G)E| EA,D DA,D DA,D|FEF CFC F/G/AF| EDE CEC (E/F/)GE|A2F B2A d2(c/B/)| ADF ECE D2|| A|d>ef f>ef d2A|c>de e>de c2A| cAB Adc/B/|A/D/F E/C/ED2|| A|AFD AFD AFD|cGE cGE cGE|AFD AFD| dAF dAF dAF|dAF dAF dAF|cGE cGE G>AB| A2F B2A dc/B/| ADF FCE D3-|D2|] W:See notes re editing



RANTIN', ROARIN' WILLIE [1]. AKA – “Am Porst Crom” (The Curved Harbour), "Rattlin Roarin Willie." AKA and see "Circle (9) (The)," “Roaring Willie (1),” "Mr. Robertson of Ladykirk's Delight," "Mitford Galloway (The)." Scottish, English; Slip Jig (9/8 time). England, Northumberland. A Mixolydian (Gow, Hunter, Kerr): D Mixolydian (Alburger, Kennedy, Riddell, Vickers): G Mixolydian (Martin, Neil, Stokoe & Bruce). Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Alburger, Martin, Neil): AB (Stokoe): AABB (Gow, Hunter, Kennedy, Kerr): AABBCC (Vickers). The tune is old, appearing in the Scottish Blakie Manuscript (1692) and Northumbrian musician Henry Atkinson's 1694-95 music manuscript collection. The composition was attributed to John Cowan, according to Robert Riddell (d. 1794), who was: "a very noted performer on the Fiddle, at Newton Stewart in Galloway. He died (as I have been informed,) before the middle of the present Century, having obtained longevity in its plentitude. Old Peter MacNaughtan Fiddler at Monniehive [Moniave] told me he was taught by John Cowan about the year 1725, and he was then an old man" (Alburger, 1983). A version with numerous variation sets was included the Scottish MacFarlene Manuscript (c. 1740), inscribed "A Collection of Scotch Airs with the latest Variations. Written for the use of Walter Mcfarlan of that ilk by David Young." Directions for the dance to this tune were written down by John McGill in 1752, dancing master in Girvan, for his students. Matt Seattle also gives the alternate title "Bobby Shaftoe."

Robert Burns wrote the words for the tune which appear in Johnson's Scots Musical Museum and tell the tale of a protagonist who is claimed to be the same character who is the subject of the Border ballad entitled "Rattlin' Willie". The air he collected is from Henry Atkinson’s 1694 manuscript (although Atkinson's notation is somewhat garbled, as if he had trouble transcribing it; see Matt Seattle's reconstruction of Atkinson's notation [1]).

Rattlin' Roarin' Willie
O he held tae the fair
An for tae sell his fiddle
And buy some other ware
But partin wi' his fiddle
The salt tear blin't hie e'e
And rattlin roarin Willie
Ye're welcome hame tae me.

Old and New Edinburgh, vol. 2 (p. 55) gives that Burns’ poem was inspired by a member of the Crochallan Fencibles, a convivial society in Edinburgh that met at Dawney Douglas’s tavern, to which Burns was introduced in 1787. The member’s name was Wiliam Dunbar, W.S., and he was the “Colonel” of the club and a predominant wit. A different tale has it that Rattlin' Willie was a wandering fiddler famous as both a musician and as a brawler in the Jedburgh (Jeddart) area, whose "sword-hand was dreaded as much as his bowing arm was admired". He fell out with another fiddler named Robin Rool (Robin of Rule Water) after an argument over their respective musical abilities and in the fight that ensued Robin was killed. His death was avenged at the hands of two of the Elliots, who in turn slew Willie. Scott alludes to Rattlin' Roarin' Willie (described as “the jovial harper”) in his The Lay of the Last Minstrel, noting that he was a real person. Other accounts say that Willie, still a ‘rantin’, roarin’ lad, lived in the 17th century and did business in the Hawick and Langholm districts, until, having had the misfortune to murder a brother in trade who passed by the name of 'Sweet Milk', he was executed at Jedburgh. Neil (1991) quotes the following verse:

The Lasses of Ousenam Water
Are rugging and riving their hair,
And a' for the sake O' Willie—
They'll hear his sangs nae mair,
Nae mair to his merry fiddle
Dance Teviot's maidens free;
My curses on their cunning
That gar'd sweet Willie dee!

The title ("Ranting Roaring Willie") appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800, though Stokoe & Bruce (1882) say that the tune is better known to Northumbrian pipers as "Mitford Galloway (The)". They continue: "(The melody) is of English parentage, as it can be traced to the year 1669, where it appears in the first edition of Apollo's Banquet as "Tom Noke's Jig". Afterwards, it is to be found in the ballad operas of Flora, 1729; The Cobbler's Opera, 1729; and Achilles, 1733, in each of which works it is called 'Come Open the Door, Sweet Betty'. Under this title many popular ballads were written to it. The time, indeed, is different--it is in 6/8 time; but it is virtually the same tune. The writer of the ballad, 'The Mitford Galloway', was Thomas Whittle, an eccentric and ingenious poet, who lived at Cambo in the beginning of last century [i.e. 18th]. The song is a description of the adventures of a whirligig maker or wood turner in the pursuit of a runaway galloway or pony, and the ingenious way in which the names of the different localities are interwoven with the story reveal a marvelous command of the rhyming faculty. Whittle died in indigent circumstances at East Shaftoe, and was buried at Hartburn on the 19th April, 1731. His poetical works were published in 1815 by William Robson, schoolmaster, Cambo" (Bruce & Stokoe). Northumbrian piper and researcher Matt Seattle finds Bruce and Stoke's assertion that there is a connection between "Tom Noke's Jig" and "Rantin' Roarin' Willie" to be "imaginary"[2], and also states there is no evidence for an English provenance for the melody.

Gow gives the alternated title “Mr. Robertson of Ladykirk's Delight” referencing William Robertson of Ladykirk, Berwickshire, a gentleman farmer and livestock breeder.


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Alburger (Scottish Fiddlers and Their Music), 1983; Ex. 86, p. 139. Bruce & Stokoe (Northumbrian Minstrelsy), 1882; pp. 189-190 (appears as "Rantin' Roarin' Willie"). Carlin (Gow Collection), 1986; No. 371. Gow (Third Collection of Niel Gow’s Reels), 3rd ed., originally 1792; p. 36. Hunter (Fiddle Music of Scotland), 1988; No. 302. Jones [Ed.] (Complete Tutor Violin), c. 1815; p. 3. Kennedy (Fiddler’s Tune-Book: Slip Jigs and Waltzes), 1999; No. 65, p. 15. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 3), c. 1880’s; No. 216, p. 25. Martin (Traditional Scottish Fiddling), 2002; p. 109. Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 29, p. 37. Robert Riddell (Collection of Scotch Galwegian Border Tunes), 1794; p . 3. Seattle/Vickers (Great Northern Tune Book, part 2), 1987; No. 286 (appears as "Rantin Roaring Willy").

Recorded sources : - Sargasso Sounds EELCD03, David Faulkner and Steve Turner – "English and Border music for Pipes" (Mitford Galloway) (2004). Criona – “The Old Man’s Teeth.”

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]
Alan Ng’s Irishtune.info [4]
See Matt Seattle's comprehensive article on the tune, stressing Northumbrian versions [5]
See the standard notation transcription of the version in David Young's MacFarlane Manuscript (c. 1740) [6]



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