> Louis Killen > Songs > Buy Broom Besoms

Buy Broom Besoms / I Maun Hae a Wife

[ Roud 1623 ; G/D 3:489 ; Henry H17a ; Ballad Index DTbroomb , HHH017a ; DT BROMBES2 ; Mudcat 18830 ; trad.]

Folk Songs and Ballads of Scotland Northumbrian Minstrelsy Sam Henry’s Songs of the People Songs From North-East Scotland

Ewan MacColl sang I Maun Hae a Wife on his 1959 Folkways album Songs of Robert Burns.

Buy Broom Besoms, obviously having it origin as a broom-hawker’s song, was a well-known tune in Burns’s time. Apparently Burns did little more with the words than report them.

Isla Cameron sang Buy Broom Besoms in 1960 on her and Ewan MacColl’s Topic album of traditional love songs, Still I Love Him. A.L. Lloyd noted:

The moorlands behind the lively black town of Newcastle are covered in broom, and broom-cutting has been an important occupation thereabouts for centuries. Once the broom was used for sweeping floors (the name of the household implement comes from the name of the shrub) but nowadays it has special uses in steel tolling mills. This song derives from the old street cry of the Newcastle broom sellers. It was a favourite piece of the notorious street fiddler of a hundred and fifty years ago, Blind Willie Purvis. Some believe that Blind Willie made the song.

Louis Killen sang Buy Broom Buzzems in 1961 on his and Isla Cameron’s Prestige album The Waters of Tyne. Ewan MacColl noted:

Stokoe attributed the authorship of this song to Blind Willy Purvis, Newcastle fiddler and street-singer (1752-1832). It is more likely, however that ‘Blind Willy’ merely made an innocuous version of an older song, Green Broom Besoms.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Buy Broom Besoms at an evening at the Jug of Punch folk club at the Crown, Station Street, Birmingham, which was recorded and released on their 1962 Topic EP Ceilidh at the Crown.

Sarah Makem sang Castleblaney Besoms in two recording made by Diane Hamilton in 1962 that ware included in 2011 on her Musical Traditions anthology As I Roved Out. Rod Stradling noted in the accompanying booklet:

A northern Irish version of Buy Broom Besoms, of which Roud has 16 versions, mainly from England and Scotland. Sarah’s is the only sound recording, though two other Irish instances are noted—in Sam Henry and the John McCall MS songbook—neither give a source singer.

Bob Davenport sang Buy Broom Besoms in 1964 on his, Isla Cameron and Jack Armstrong’ album Northumbrian Minstrelsy.

The High Level Ranters sang Buy Broom Besoms in 1969 on their Trailer album The Lads of Northumbria.

Jon Rennard sang Broom Besoms on his 1970 Traditional Sound album Brimbledon Fair.

Davy Steele sang I Maun Hae a Wife on the 1998 Linn anthology The Complete Songs of Robert Burns Volume 4.

Ushna sang Buy Broom Besoms on their 1998 Fellside CD of music and song from Northumbria, Twice Brewed. They noted:

Buy Broom Besoms was written by Newcastle’s William Purvis, a genuine character also known as Blind Willie. He was born—sightless—around 1752 (for records show that he was baptised in that year). Often referred to as ‘The Minstrel’ by his contemporaries, though he was an accomplished fiddle player too, perhaps Willie’s best known composition today is Besoms, which he would often sing in the city’s alehouses and hostelries, constantly adding new verses when it suited him.

The melody has bee attributed to him though there is no evidence to support this, and Robert Burns wrote an election song, Wha’ll Buy Toggans? which also relied upon the same tune. A besom (sometimes spelled buzzem) was a brush, of the kind used for sweeping.

Sandra Kerr, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan sang Buy Broom Besoms in 1999 on their Fellside CD Scalene. They noted:

The oft-mentioned Minstrelsy attributes this song to ‘Blind Willie’ Purvis, a Newcastle character famous for not wearing a hat. “His voice and fiddle in harmony, singing some quaint local ditty, gave never-failing delight to his appreciative audiences.” Fiddlers, eh?

Broom Bezzums sang Buy Broom Besoms on their 2012 CD Winterman.

Jez Lowe sang Broom Besoms on his 2018 CD The Dillen Doll.


Ewan MacColl sings I Maun Hae a Wife

I maun hae a wife, whatsoe’er she be;
An she be a woman, that’s enough for me.

Chorus (after each verse):
Buy broom besoms! What will nuy them now?
Fine heather ringers, better never grew.

O, an she be young, how happy shall I be?
If that she be auld, the sooner she will die.

If that she be fruitfu’, O! what joy is there!
If she should be barren, lass will be my care.

Be she green or gray; be she black or fair;
Let her be a woman, I shall seek nae mair.

If she like a drappie, she and I’ll agree;
If she dinnae like it, there’s the mair for me

Sarah Makem sings Castleblaney Besoms

Castleblayney besoms,
Besoms fine and new
Fine heather besoms,
Better never grew.
Tie them up in bundles
Swing them on your car
Sell them three a penny
Around the man o’ war.

Sandra Kerr, Nancy Kerr and James Fagan sing Buy Broom Besoms

If you want a besom for to sweep your hoose
Come to me my hinny, you may hae your choose

Chorus (after each verse):
Buy broom besoms
Buy them when they’re new
Fine heather bred’uns
Better never grew

Besoms for a penny, rangers for a plack
If you will not buy I’ll tie them on my back

If I had a horse then I would have a cart
If I had a wife then she would take my part

If you like a droppie you and I’ll agree
If you do not like it there’s the mair for me.