Site Map

Site Search

News

FIND OUT MORE

Morpeth Rant


The tune Morpeth Rant is well known and has many other names, including Morpeth's Hornpipe, Ivy Leaf Hornpipe, Jim Clark's Hornpipe, Clark's Hornpipe and The New Sailor's Hornpipe. This English tune is also well known in the Scottish, Irish and New England repertoires. The melody was composed by William Shield, a Northumbrian musician of the 18th century (the town of Morpeth has long been an important market town in Northumberland). The dance associated with this tune, which shares the same name, has been performed for over almost two centuries. One version is also used as a morris dance tune. The title appears in Henry Robson's list of popular Northumbrian song and dance tunes ("The Northern Minstrel's Budget"), which he published c. 1800. Older versions of the tune are generally in B Flat, sometimes G, and have a wider range in the 'B' part than the version usually played nowadays.

Melody - Morpeth rant
Melody - Morpeth Rant, Anonymous manuscript tune book, Cocks Collection, 19thC.
click here to see full size image.

The FARNE database features many instances of the tune covering a period of nearly 200 years. One of the earliest instances is found in an anonymous early nineteenth century manuscript tune book. The book is part of the Cocks Collection and is now in the Northumberland Record Office at Gosforth, with photocopies at the Black Gate and Morpeth Chantry. It is signed C J Surtees and dated 1819, but is the work of many different hands. The tune is written in Bb, this is the old version of the tune, in the original key, although this particular version has a few quirks of its own. Other 19thC instances of the tune include the version found in another anonymous manuscript taken from the Cock's collection, the version found in John Bell's 'Collection of the local tunes as played in Northumberland' (1812) and the John Robson tune book, dated Feb 8 1874, which all have the tune written in the key of G.

Melody - Morpeth rant
Melody - Morpeth Rant, manuscript tune book, John Robson, 1874.
click here to see full size image.

The main distinguishing feature between what have become known as the 'old' and 'new' versions of the tune are in the second part. Where the first part remains constant, there appear to be two distinct second parts to the tune. Although the 19thC Manuscript tune book of William Thomas Green and the slightly earlier John Baty manuscript tune book both feature the melody in different keys (C and G respectively) the two melodies are clearly versions of the 'old' tune.

Melody - Morpeth rant
Melody - Morpeth Rant, Manuscript tune book of William Thomas Green, 1831.
click here to see full size image.

It seems, however, that the 'old' and 'new' versions existed, contemporary to one another, for some considerable time. Certainly the 'old' version of the tune was being played by musicians well into the 20thC, whilst the 'new' version is still not the only version known.

We can hear the 'new' tune played by Jack Armstrong's band in this version recorded in 1950.

This short audio clip is available in Mp3 or Real Audio format.

play real audio

If you select the RealAudio option the clip will play in your RealOne Player (If you do not have RealOne Player, follow the link below to download).

play mp3

If you select the Mp3 option playback will be through Windows Media Player or any other Mp3 player that you have set as default.

Download RealOne Player
To download free RealPlayer click here.


Contrast this with the version played by John Armstrong of Carrick some 20 years later. John Armstrong’s version is clearly of the 'old' school, a fact that is reinforced through his naming the tune 'Shield's Hornpipe'.

This short audio clip is available in Mp3 or Real Audio format.

play real audio

If you select the RealAudio option the clip will play in your RealOne Player (If you do not have RealOne Player, follow the link below to download).

play mp3

If you select the Mp3 option playback will be through Windows Media Player or any other Mp3 player that you have set as default.

Download RealOne Player
To download free RealPlayer click here.


Similarly, the version featured on this rumbustious bar room recording made by Billy Miller and Jimmy Pallister, in Middleton-In-Teesdale in 1971, is another version of the 'old' tune.

This short audio clip is available in Mp3 or Real Audio format.

play real audio

If you select the RealAudio option the clip will play in your RealOne Player (If you do not have RealOne Player, follow the link below to download).

play mp3

If you select the Mp3 option playback will be through Windows Media Player or any other Mp3 player that you have set as default.

Download RealOne Player
To download free RealPlayer click here.


One of the most enduring features of traditional music is its ability to constantly re-invent itself. Although themes and stylistic concerns may pre-date the contemporary era, each instance of a tune, dance or song is created anew in the context of the present. Whilst the contents of the FARNE archive can reveal many untold histories, its truth worth is in the inspiration and guidance which it can offer the musicians of today and tomorrow.







USEFUL LINKS








TUNE HISTORIES IN DETAIL



Morpeth Rant
Morpeth Rant
Core Tunes - article 4

Introduction
Introduction
Core Tunes - Introduction

Rattlin Roarin Willie
Rattlin Roarin Willie
Core Tunes - article 1

Sir John Fenwick
Sir John Fenwick
Core tunes - article 2

Bobby Shaftoe
Bobby Shaftoe
Core Tunes - article 3


libraries@gateshead.gov.uk

Gateshead Central Library
Prince Consort Road, Gateshead, NE8 4LN
Tel: 0191 433 8430