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Low Down in the Broom

[ Roud 1644 ; Ballad Index FVS234 ; VWML GB/6a/124 ; Bodleian Roud 1644 ; Mudcat 48638 ; trad.]

W.P. Merrick noted Henry Hills of Lodsworth, Sussex, singing Low Down in the Broom in January 1900 [VWML GB/6a/124] . The song was printed in The Journal of the Folk Song Society, vol. I, issue 3, 1901.

Frankie Armstrong sang Low Down in the Broom in 1972 on her Topic album Lovely on the Water and two years later on the Argo anthology The World of the Countryside. A.L. Lloyd noted on the original album:

Usually the “I” of this gentle lyric is a man, and the fuller, broadside, versions are spiced with an ingredient that's missing here, for the girl makes it clear she's at odds with her parents, father too misery: mother too bossy, and so the story goes:

I took her round the middle so small and gently laid her down.
And these were the words she said to me as she lay in the broom:
“Do what you will young man,” she said, “'tis all the same to me,
For little does my mother think that I'm in the broom with thee.”

Frankie's version is based on the set that W.P. Merrick notes from a good old Sussex singer, Henry Hills, in the opening weeks on the twentieth century. [Percy] Grainger took some of the words of this version to fill out his unique but incomplete recording of Brigg Fair.

Chris Foster sang Low Down in the Broom in 1979 on his Topic album All Things in Common.

Nancy Kerr sang Low Down in the Broom in 1995 on her and Eliza Carthy's second album, Shape of Scrape. On the following reel The Sukebind both are joined by Ian Carr playing guitar. Nancy Kerr noted:

This meeting song actually comprises various “floating” verses from other, larger songs such as Brigg Fair [but see above]. It makes a change to sing a love song in which nothing awful happens. Unless it just hasn't happened yet. I learned this version from Sandra Kerr.

I named this reel [The Sukebind] after Stella Gibbons' mythical plant, whose annual blossoming signifies fertility, passion and much budding fruitfulness.

Liliana Bertolo, Evelyne Girardon and Sandra Kerr sang Low Down in the Broom in 1997 on their Fellside CD Voice Union. Sandra Kerr returned to it on her 2019 CD Rebel with Her Chords where she noted:

This fragment, with its three short ‘floater’ verses and its haunting melody, is much recorded by other singers, but I sing it for its joyful meeting, its setting in the natural world, and its hope that love will last.

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang Low Down in the Broom in 1998 on their CD Hindsight; this track was also included in 2001 on the Fellside anthology Voices in Harmony: English Traditional Songs.

Shona Donaldson sang Low Down in the Broom on her 2009 CD Short Nichts and Lang Kisses. She also sang it at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2008. The festival's CD Grand to Be a Working Man (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Vol. 5) was published in 2009.

Bella Hardy sang Low Down in the Broom in 2009 on her CD In the Shadow of Mountains.

Maggie Sand and Sandragon sang Low Down in the Broom in 2009 on their WildGoose CD Susie Fair. She noted:

The lyrics of this version of the song came from a Sussex singer, Henry Hills, and were found by W. P. Merrick in January 1900. The tune was discovered by Percy Grainger, though at the time it had an altogether different set of lyrics and went by the name of Brigg Fair. It was Percy who first set the words to this tune. There is a Scottish song My Daddy Is a Canker'd Carle which bears a close resemblance, and it is believed that the English version was derived from that. In some versions of the song the sex of the participants changes—it is the man who is going to meet the woman, “down in the broom”—a Victorian euphemism for having a carnal encounter. The mediaeval estampie that lurks between the verse was written by us especially for this song.

James Yorkston sang Low Down in the Broom in 2009 on his CD Folk Songs.

Nick Dow sang Low Down into the Broom on his 2011 CD My Love You’ve Won to Keep. He commented:

This song is a few verses taken from two versions in the Hammond manuscripts. Other folklorists have seen fit to fill out the words from a broadsheet, which I find unnecessary. The song works quite well with the verses from oral tradition.

The Shee sang Down in the Broom in 2012 on their third album, Murmurations. They noted:

The album opens with this beautiful, sparsely arranged traditional song featuring Olivia Ross on vocals and viola with harmonies from Rachel [Newton] and Laura-Beth [Salter] and fiddle played by Shona [Mooney]. We wanted to move away from the more obvious “all guns blazing” first track and felt this would be a brave way to start the album.

Ron Taylor and Jeff Gillett sang Low Down in the Broom in 2013 on their WildGoose CD Buy It, Try It (and Never Repent You). Jeff Gillett noted:

Maddy [Taylor] heard Sarah Morgan sing this at Sidmouth Folk Festival some years back and knew Ron would love it. Sarah most generously passed the song on to Ron. She had made some alterations to it from the version in Frank Purslow’s The Wanton Seed, thus removing the elements that had deterred him from singing it before!

Lyrics

Henry Hills sings Low Down in the Broom

'Twas on last Monday's morning, the day appointed was
To walk out into a meadow-green field to meet a bonny lass.
To meet a bonny lassie, to bear her company,
For she's low down, she's in the broom, a-waiting there for me.

I look'd over my left shoulder, to see whom I could see,
There I spied my own true love, come tripping down to me;
Her heart being brisk and bonny, to bear me company,
For she's low down, she's in the broom, she's a-waiting there for me.

I took hold of her lily-white hand, and merrily was her heart,
“And now we're met together, I hope we ne'er shall part.”
“Oh part, my dear? no never, until the day we die.”
For she's low down, she's in the broom, she's a-waiting there for me.

Frankie Armstrong sings Low Down in the Broom

It was last Monday morning, the day appointed was
For me to go down to the broom, to meet my bonny lad.
How sweet and pleasant was the day, I kept him company,
For he's low, low down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

I looked over my left shoulder, to see whom I could see
There I saw my own true love, come running down to me;
His heart so brisk and bonny, To bear me company,
For he's low, low down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

I took hold of his hand, and gaily sang my heart,
“As long as we're together, I hope we ne'er shall part.”
“Oh part my dear? No never, Such a thing can never be.”
For he's low, low down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me,
For he's low, low down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

Nancy Kerr sings Low Down in the Broom

It was last Monday morning, the day appointed was
For me to go down to the broom to meet my own true love,
My heart so brisk and bonny, to pay him company
For he's lower down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

I looked over my left shoulder to see whom I could see,
And there I saw my own true love come tripping down to me.
His heart so brisk and bonny to pay me company
For he's lower down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

I took hold of his hand and gaily sang my heart,
“And now that we're together I hope we ne'er shall part.”
“Oh part, my dear, no never, such a thing can never be.”
For he's lower down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

The Shee sing Low Down in the Broom

It was last Monday morning, the day appointed was
For me to go down to the broom tae meet my own true love.
My heart's so brisk and bonny, for to bear him company,
For he's low, low down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

I looked over my left shoulder, to see whom I could see,
And there I spied my own true love, come tripping down to me;
His heart so brisk and bonny, for to bear me company,
For he's low, low down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

I took hold of his hand, and gaily sang my heart,
“And now we are together, I hope we ne'er shall part.”
“No part, my dear, no never, such a thing will never be.”
For he's low, low down in the broom, waiting in the broom for me.

Acknowledgements

Nancy Kerr's version transcribed by Kira White. Thanks to Di Plumb for correcting the verse's origins.