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Green Broom

[ Roud 379 ; G/D 5:950 ; Henry 147 ; Ballad Index ShH49 ; Bodleian Roud 379 ; Wiltshire Roud 379 ; trad.]

Sean McDonagh of Connemara sang Green Broom, a song about a young man who has difficulties ever getting out of his bed, in 1951 to Seamus Ennis and Alan Lomax. One of these recordings was included on the anthology Jack of All Trades (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 3; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968).

Sam Larner sang Green Broom to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1958-60. This recording was included in 1961 on his Folkways album Now Is the Time for Fishing and in 2014 on his Musical Traditions anthology Cruising Round Yarmouth. Rod Stradling commented in the latter's booklet:

I hadn’t thought this song was well-enough known to account for 118 Roud entries, but it’s found all over England, from Yorkshire to Devon, and with a fair number of Irish and Scottish examples as well. Nineteen sound recordings are known, though few seem ever to have been published, and only that by Gordon Hall is on CD.

Dave and Toni Arthur sang Green Broom in 1967 on their Transatlantic album Morning Stands on Tiptoe.

Derek Sarjeant sang Green Broom on his 1970 album Derek Sarjeant Sings English Folk.

Gordon Hall sang Green Broom on a Veteran Tapes cassette releases in 1987-1995. This recording was also included in 2001 on the Veteran anthology of traditional folk music from Rural England, Down in the Fields. Mike Yates commented in the album's notes:

Green Broom may have begun life on the 18th century stage. The earliest known text appears in volume 6 of Thomas D’Urfey’s Pills to Purge Melancholy of 1720 and it was subsequently printed on a number of Victorian broadsides. According to the Norfolk fisherman and singer Sam Larner, Green Brooms’ was used by the drift-net fishermen as a work song: “When (they) were hauling in their nets they would “come in on the chorus and pull.“ ”

Martin Carthy sang Green Broom in 2004 on Waterson:Carthy's fifth album, Fishes & Fine Yellow Sand. He also sang it in December 2004 live at Ruskin Mill.

Martin Carthy commented in the former album's sleeve notes:

Green Broom comes from an early 1950s recording of the Connemara singer Sean MacDonagh. It is intriguing to hear English country songs which have found their way into the repertoire of a man such as Sean MacDonagh, who, I believe, spoke Irish as his day to day language and (apparently) hardly any English. Intriguing and a pleasant footnote to the generally noisome history of the British in Ireland. Such a cracking old fashioned tune too. The rest of the words come from Cecil Sharp who found the song several times in Somerset.

Matt Quinn sang Green Broom on his 2012 CD Broom Abundance. He commented:

This version of Green Broom comes mostly from the singing of the Norfolk Fisherman Sam Larner. A large portion come from a (significantly longer) version that was sung by Sussex singer Gordon Hall.

Lyrics

Sam Larner sings Green Broom

Oh there was an old man and he lived in the wood
And his trade was selling of brooms
He had one son and his name it was John
And he laid a-bed ‘til it was noon, bright noon
And he laid a-bed ‘til it was noon.

In come the old man and upstairs he went
And he swore he’d fire the room
If John didn’t arise and sharpen his knives
And away to the wood to cut brooms, green brooms
And away to the wood to cut brooms.

Now John he arose and he put on his clothes
And away to the wood to cut brooms
He’d bind them all round
And carried them through the town,
Crying, “Maids do you want any brooms, green brooms?”
Crying, “Maids do you want any brooms?”

Now a lady so high from her window did spy
Young Johnny a-selling of brooms.
“Now if you’ll forsake the trade and do what I persuade
And marry a maiden in bloom, green bloom
And marry a maiden in bloom.”

Now Jack gave consent and to church they went
And he married that maiden in bloom.
Now I vow and protest there’s not one in the west
Can equal the lad that sell brooms, green brooms
Can equal the lad that sell brooms.

Gordon Hall sings Green Broom

Now there was an old man and he lived in a wood
And his trade it was making of broom
And he had a naughty boy Jack to his son
Who would lay in his bed ‘till twelve noon-twelve noon
Who would lay in his bed ‘till twelve noon

The father was vexed and sore life perplexed
With passion he entered the room
“Come Sirrah,” he cried, “I’ll liquor your hide
If you will not go gather green broom, green broom
If you will not go gather green broom, green broom
And it’s broom, broom, lovely green broom
If you will not go gather green broom.”

Jack lay in his nest, still taking his rest
Nor valued he what was his doom
But now you shall hear, his mother drew near
And made him go gather green broom, green broom
And made him go gather green broom, green broom
And it’s broom, broom, lovely green broom
And made him go gather green broom.

Jack’s mother arose and fell in a rage
And swore she would fire the room
If Jack didn’t rise and go to the wood
And fetch home a bundle of broom, green broom
And fetch home a bundle of broom green broom
And it’s broom, broom, lovely green broom
And fetch home a bundle of broom.

This wakened him straight, before it was late
As fearing the terrible doom
“Dear mother,” quoth he, “”Have pity on me
I shall fetch home a bundle of broom, green broom
I’ll fetch home a bundle of broom, green broom”
And it’s broom, broom, lovely green broom
I will fetch home a bundle of broom.”

Then Jack he arose and he slipped on his clothes
And away to the woods very soon
For the breezy old wife, he took a sharp knife
And he fell to the cutting of broom, lovely broom
And he fell to the cutting of broom, lovely broom
And it’s broom, broom, lovely green broom
He’s fell to the cutting of broom.

Jack followed his trade and readily made
His goods up for country grew,
This done, Honest Jack, took them up on his back
And cried, “Will you buy any broom, green broom?”
And cried, “Will you buy any broom, lovely broom?”
And its broom, broom lovely green broom
And cried, “Will you buy any broom?”

Then Jack he came by a gentleman’s house
In which was abundance of broom
Jack stood at the door and began for to roar
Crying, “Maids will you buy any broom, green broom?”
Crying, “Maids will you buy any broom?”
And its broom, broom lovely green broom,
Crying, “Maids will you buy any broom?”

“I’ll tell you they’re good, just fetched from the wood
And fitted for sweeping out rooms
Come handle my ware, for girls I declare
You never felt better green broom, green broom
You never felt better green broom,
And its broom, broom, lovely green broom
You never felt better green broom.”

Now the maid did she call, the steward of the hall
Who came in his silks and perfumes
He gave Jack his price, and up in a trice
Jack sold all his bundle of broom, green broom
Jack sold all his bundle of broom,
And its broom, broom lovely green broom
Jack sold all his bundle of broom.

Likewise to conclude, they gave him rich food
With liquor of spicy perfume
The hot boiled and roast, it caused Jack for to boast
No trade’s like the making of broom, green broom
No trade’s like the making of broom lovely broom
And its broom broom lovely green broom
No trade’s like the making of broom.

For first I am paid, and then I am made
Pray welcome my perfumed broom
Here’s money, me drink, what trade do you think
Compares with the making of broom, green broom
Compares with the making of broom, lovely broom
And its broom, broom lovely green broom
Compares with the making of broom.

Now I have a good trade, more goods must be made
For furnishing stewards and grooms,
Wherefore I shall lack, apprentice, quoth Jack
I shall teach him the selling of broom, green broom
I shall teach him the selling of broom, lovely broom
And its broom, broom lovely green broom
I shall teach him the selling of broom.

Now Jack by design, when the ‘prentice did sign
Did teach him the making of broom
And as Jack before, the lad began for to roar
Crying, “Maids will you buy any broom, green broom?”
Crying, “Maids will you buy any broom, lovely broom?”
And its broom, broom lovely green broom
Crying, “Maids will you buy any broom?”

“Now, I am a poor lad and me fortune is bad
And I’ve come from the wood to sell broom
Come handle my ware, for girls I declare
You never felt better green broom, green broom
You never felt better green broom, lovely broom
And its broom, broom lovely green broom
You never felt better green broom.”

Now a lady was sat, in her window on high
She called for her maid for to come
She said, “Go to the gate now, and let the lad in
For I fancy both him and his broom, green broom
I fancy both him and his broom, lovely broom
And its broom, broom lovely green broom
I fancy both him and his broom.”

Now the contract was made, and the money was paid
And the job it was over full soon
And then he was fed, with the best to be had,
And he sold all his bundle of broom, green broom
And he sold all his bundle of broom
And its broom, broom lovely green broom
He sold all his bundle of broom.

Now it’s victuals and drink, and what do you think
I got it for selling me broom
It’s victuals and drink, and what do you think
I got it for selling me broom, lovely broom
And me broom, broom, lovely green broom,
I got it for selling me broom.

Martin Carthy sings Green Broom

There was an old man and he lived in the west,
Traded with cutting of broom, green broom.
Had one son and his name it was John
And he'd lie in bed till 't was noonday, noon,
He'd lie in his bed till 't was noon.

His father arose and to his son goes,
Swore he would fire his room, gay room
If Jack would not rise and sharpen his knives
And go down to the woods to cut broom, green broom,
Go down to the woods to cut broom.

So John took a stroll which he knew very well.
He came to a castle of fame, great fame.
He stepped and he called and he loudly did bawl,
“Pretty maid, do you want any broom, green broom?
Pretty maid, do you want any broom?”

Oh, the lady was up in her window so high,
Spied this young man with his broom, green broom.
Called to her maid, “Get you down to the gate
And call in this man with his broom, green broom,
Call in this young man with his broom.”

It was all through the kitchen and all through the hall
Till he come to the lady's fine room, her room.
She gave him a chair and she bid him sit down,
Saying, “You're welcome, young man, with your broom, green broom,
You're welcome, young man, with your broom.”

Oh, she'd give him a chair and she bid him sit down,
“You're welcome, young man, to my room, my room.”
Now he's brandy and rum and he's wines in great sum
And he lies in bed till 'tis noonday, noon,
He lies in his bed till 'tis noon.

He has brandy and had rum and wine in great sum,
Lies in his bed till it's noonday, noon.
She vowed a protest, “Nothing is in the west,
Anything like cutting down broom, green broom,
Anything like cutting down broom.”

Acknowledgements

Transcription by Reinhard Zierke with help from Wolfgang Hell. Thank you!