The tune is attributed to William Shield (1748- 1829) from Swalwell, Northumberland, northern England, but in the great tradition of folk music, he probably was not the composer as it is now believed that he appropriated his tunes.1 Morpeth is a market town also in Northumberland, so we can safely assume the tune is from that general area. The Morpeth Rant is sometimes called the Morpeth Hornpipe, a hornpipe being in 4/4, played a little slower than a reel, with the last bar having a rhythm of 2 quarter notes then 1 half note (or 3 quarter notes and a pickup into the next phrase). The Morpeth Rant is also the name of a dance that uses the Morpeth Rant tune or a variant as accompaniment, one version being used as a Morris Dance tune.2 A good source for details regarding The Morpeth Rant dance and rant step can be found on Andrew Carnie’s folk music site, folkdancemusings.blogspot.com.3 The Morpeth Rant can be heard in Old Time Jams, Irish and Scottish Sessions, and Contradances.
(Morpeth Castle image by johndal at Flickr.)
- Loc. cit.
- I quickly learned that there are many (passionately opposing) opinions regarding the rant step so I chose to sidestep the argument and direct you here: https://folkdancemusings.blogspot.com/2020/01/morpeth-rant-england.html