Jock Wilson O’ Fenton reel

Also known as Jock Wilson O’Fenton, Jock Wilson Of Fenton.

There are 5 recordings of this tune.

Jock Wilson O’ Fenton has been added to 1 tune set.

Jock Wilson O' Fenton has been added to 34 tunebooks.

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One setting

X: 1
T: Jock Wilson O' Fenton
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
|:AG|FAd2 d2ed|cdef g2ag|fedc dfaf|gfed cBAG|
FAd2 d2ed|cdef g2ag|fadf efge|f2d2 d2:|
|:dc|Bcde fedc|fedc B2cB|ABcd edcd|edcB ABAG|
FAd2 d2ed|cdef g2ag|fadf efge|f2d2 d2:|

Fifteen comments

Jock Wilson O’ Fenton

This is not a reel, but a typical rant, posted because the issue of rants cropped up in a recent thread on tune genres

If you know the Morpeth Rant, this is an ideal tune to play after it, as played by Willy Taylor, Joe Hutton and Will Atkinson (this was transcribed direct from their recording). This tune is actually a modern composition by Bryce Anderson of the Cheviot Ranters, but it has entered the tradition now.

On paper, rants look a bit like Scottish-style reels, or perhaps hornpipes without the complex triplet passages, but they are neither. I’m listening right now to the recording, and the speed is a steady 100bpm - slower than your average Scottish reel, but quicker than most people would play a hornpipe. There is also a degree of swing; for every heavy-light pair of eighth notes the ratio is about 2:1. Even though they’re not played at breakneck speed, the phrasing of a rant has a peculiar kind of momentum, which is very different to the laid-back spikeyness of hornpipes.

I can’t say I’m that keen on Scottish-style reels, but I like to play a set of rants. There’s something mesmeric/hypnotic about the repetitiveness of them that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’ll post the 3rd and final tune in the set at a later date.

Many Thanks

Until you explained the Complexities of “Rants”, I just thought it was something which occurred in a runaway craic session.

My (former) ignorance is enlightened (hopefully). I’ll try putting together set with this one and Morpeth. I was trying to play this too fast and they do make much more melodic sense at 100bpm. As you mentioned, there is a wonderful, hypnotic, melodic bounce at that tempo.

I seem to recall a series of Rants listed and transcribed in the Skye Collection …

To be honest, I’m not really sure of the exact definition of a rant, but I know how they should sound from hearing them lots. To a dancer, the distinctions would be obvious. There’s this thing with “back-bowing” on the fiddle as well, where the first note in the bar is played on the upstroke. This does weird things to the phrasing. I don’t play the fiddle so someone else would be able to explain it better.


I wonder … as you play either Cittern or Mandola, would you, or do you start each bar with an upstroke? You mentioned this as a bowing technique but do you also do this with a flat pick?

It definately is shifting my gears when I tried this on my CGDa mandolas or O/M. I can sort of do it on a mandolin but …

No, I do my normal DUDU like for a reel. I might try it out though - thanks for the idea 🙂

Bands that do it

By the way, FolkeSTRA north do this tune on their CD

Jock Wilson

Another piece of NE hardcore. This one is an older tune that is always played as a rant up here. I suspect it would be reeled further North into Scotland.

As for flat picking, I play this on all sorts of plucked instruments and I would never, ever consider starting on an upstroke. The key with rants is the short,short LONG for bars which have it contrasting with the LONG LONG of the bars which have eight quavers. Listen to Alastair Anderson playing with Willy Taylor and Willy Atkinson on the Good Old BOys CD from Whitby. Most of the CD is pants but their rant set is phenomenal. It goes like a train.

Someone mentioned English Polkas - they are similar and take over from rants in the South (which starts somewhere in Yorkshire, musically speaking)

This tune is very familiar but I didn’t know its name until now. Thanks, Dow.
It would sound quite good played as a “German” too.


Whilst websurfing I found this quite detailed explanation from Johnny Adams of the University of Salford as to what a rant is. I think he explains it really clearly, and it tallies with Noel Jackson’s explanations on this site as well, so I decided to post it here as a reference. I think knowing a bit about the dance helps you interpret the rhythm of the tunes. I hope the author wouldn’t mind…

“Phew! How do I put a rant into words? Yes, it’s a dance *step* that is used extensively in the North of England, where people do whole dances to it, fast and low to conserve energy. It is used more sparingly elsewhere as a short interlude in a dance and the step can be danced higher and more energetically to show off the athleticism of the dancer.

The step is difficult for a new dancer to learn but once mastered is never forgotten. The left foot hops on the last quaver of the 4/4 as an introduction for the right foot to hit the 1 and 3 of the next 4/4 while the left foot taps or hops the intervening second note. The 4th note is still until the last quaver introduces the next bar, this time led by the right foot.

The sound of the movement is:

pa| dump dum dump stop pa | dump dum dump stop pa|…….


&| 1 & 3 stop &| 1 & 3 stop &|………..

Given that this is the rhythm that the dancers impose on the whole process, there is a certain style of 4/4 tune which works. Many 4/4 tunes can be pressed into service but the best ones support this rhythm without necessarily copying it slavishly. The tunes that suit are similar to polkas but are in 4/4 so we could possibly consider them to be ‘double polkas’ (to invent a term!) My totally unbiased opinion is that rants are best played on the fiddle(s), where the subtle nuances of the rhythm can be best exploited and give the dancers maximum support“.

Ranting Fiddles

I have been discussing rant bowing with the Angels lead fiddle and he said “one has to remember that the bars in rants are asymetrical,so you bow the two halves differently. If you take it as eight quavers, 1&2 are tied, 3&4 are tied, 5 is a separate bow and 6, 7 & 8 are tied.” It ties in with what Johnny Adams has saidand with what I have suggested earlier.

Jock Wilson

Jock Wilson was the drummer with the Cheviot Ranters - the band led by the accordianist Bryce Anderson. I heard them play many times in the ’70s.

Re: Jock Wilson O’ Fenton

Robert Whitehead & The Danelaw Country Dance Band play the tune identical to X1, with the exception of one note in the first bar of the B Part (i.e., “Bcde fedc” vs. “Bcde fede”).

The seventh bars of the A & B Parts also work, to a slightly lesser degree, as “fAdf efge” (instead of “fadf efge”).