Broom of the Cowdenknowes

TITLE: Broom of the Cowdenknowes
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: love, separation, exile, Scotland
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1725 (A Collection of Old Ballads Vol III, #69)

Broom of the CowdenknowesThis is an absolutely beautiful song and I count it one of my favorites. I first heard the Liam Clancy version and fell in love with it. There are many variations and this version is a little sanitized. In other versions the shepherdess becomes pregnant. I don’t do the song justice in my version, so take a listen to the Scottish group, The McCalmans. (sgg)

Cowdenknowes is an area in the southeast of Scotland known as The Borders. It is beautiful rolling country with ancient hills that lies a little south of Edinburgh. The folk song tells a story which occurs often in traditional ballads. It’s the tale of a young woman, in this case a shepherdess, who falls in love with a handsome local boy. He is banished for loving a girl above his station and pines daily for his homeland and the girl, represented by the “broom” which is the plant pictured above.

The story is a common theme that appears often, not just in ballads, but throughout literature. It changes with the country and the customs, but the anguish of being abandoned, of living far away from family and friends and the common things that you enjoyed, is shared by many. (from Life Is What Happens)

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Bonnie May
  • The Broom of Cowdenknows
  • The Laird of Knotington (Lochnie, Ochiltree)

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

Liam Clancy, Broom of the Cowdeknowes

Silly Wizard, Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

Watersons, The Broom of Cowdenknowes

John and Caroline Bushby, Broom of Cowdenknowes

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: The McCalmans

The Broom o’ the Cowdenknowes

How blithe was I each morn to see
My lass come o’er the hill
She skipped the burn and she ran tae me
I met her wi’ good will.

O the broom, the bonnie, bonnie broom
The broom o’ the Cowdenknowes
Fain would I be in my ain country
Herding her father’s ewes

Hard fate that I should banished be
Gone way o’er hill and moor
Because I loved the fairest lass
That ever yet was born

O the broom, the bonnie, bonnie broom
The broom o’ the Cowdenknowes
Fain would I be in my ain country
Herding her father’s ewes

Farewell, ye Cowdenknowes, farewell
Farewell all pleasures there
To wander by her side again
Is all I crave or care

O the broom, the bonnie, bonnie broom
The broom o’ the Cowdenknowes
Fain would I be in my ain country
Herding her father’s ewes

O the broom, the bonnie, bonnie broom
The broom o’ the Cowdenknowes
Fain would I be in my ain country
Herding her father’s ewes

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (Francis James Child) Loomis House Press, 2001, original 1857. & The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads (Bertrand, Harris, Bronson) Loomis House Press, 2009, original 1959.

SONGBOOKS:

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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