The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes reel

Also known as Bonny Bonny Broom.

There are 4 recordings of a tune by this name.

The Broom O' The Cowdenknowes has been added to 4 tunebooks.

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Two settings

X: 1
T: The Broom O' The Cowdenknowes
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
D |D3 F A3 B | AF E>D D2 d>A | B2 d>e {de}f2 e>d | B6 d2 |
A>B d>e {de}f2 e>d | d2 D>E F2 ED | G>A B>c dF | E6 z2 |
D3 F A3 B | AF E>F D2 d>c | B2 d>e d>e fA | B6 d2 |
A>B d>e f2 e>d | dc BA {G}F2 ED | G3 B A>B dF | E6 z2 |
D3 F A3 B A<F E>A D2 z |]
X: 2
T: The Broom O' The Cowdenknowes
R: reel
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
A3B A3B|AGFE D3A|d2de (fe) (dc) |(B4 A4) |
zd de f2ef|d2FG A4|GG2G (GA) (BG) |E8||

Twenty-two comments

The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

An old song from the Scottish Borders that is very popular still.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

It appeared in the first edition of Playford’s Dancing Master in 1651 as " Bonny Bonny Broom"

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

Thanks, will list Bonny Bonny Broom as alternative title.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

How’s that bar at the end of the second line? Is it really meant to be 7/4?

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

A Chisholm - you’re right to point out, 2nd line lacked a bar line which I’ve edited in!

The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes, X:2

It is indeed quite commonly sung in The Borders (I have even sung it at a wedding breakfast at Cowdenknowes House) but usually to the tune in the second setting (X: 2).

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

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

"faither’s yowes"

Bl***y spellcheck.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

Was going to say that Susan’s tune had quite a few differences from the one I know and sing it to: Donald’s is the one I know, except that I have to sing it down in G or even F for my alto voice! Recently enjoyed hearing Archie Fisher do it live.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

(And of course, it’s never a reel, more like a slow air - OK, I know they don’t exist on here!)

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

Taken from songoftheisles website:- (refers to Archie Fisher singing this song)

The song comes from Berwickshire and a place called Cowdenknowes. It’s one of the many Scottish songs recorded in the Child Ballads compiled by Francis James Child in the 18th century. Cowdenknowes means “Hazel Hill.” “Broom” refers to the yellow blooming flower found in the countryside. There are many variations, but the plot remains consistent in all. The shepherdess and stranger fall in love and have an affair. When she becomes pregnant, she is banished from her country. She seeks out her lover, finding him now to be a wealthy lord. They marry, but she is never truly happy away from her own country, and she pines for “the bonnie bonnie broom”.

The Broom o’ the Cowdenknowes

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

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

We neither herded ewes nor lamb
While the flock near us lay
She gathered in the sheep at night
And cheered me all the day

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

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

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

Was it not the man who was banished, at least according to the words of the song? It all seems to be from the man’s point of view.
Have heard it both as "ain" and "north" in different versions.
And "going down to the broom" is a euphemism for what brings about pregnancy!

And who could forget Andy M’s wonderful singing? Thanks for the link, Kenny.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

There was a short version of this song (apparently from the woman’s standpoint) on an early Watersons recording, which included the wonderful verse:
All the maids that ever were deceived
Are part of these my woes
Fain would I be in my ain country
Tending my faither’s yowes.

Posted by .

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

The Cowdenknowes I know is just outside Earlston and dates from the 16th century. The "broom" is probably gorse which blankets the Black Hill, above the town.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

And I would agree with Trish that nowadays it is sung from a man’s perspective. He was banished because he and the landowner’s daughter fell in love with each other.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

But she is a shepherdess and he turns out to be a wealthy lord …. though perhaps thee shepherdess had a landowner father, it gets complicated!

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

That’s not how the versions that are sung today read, though, Susan. Cowdenknowes isn’t (and never has been) , as far as I know, in Berwickshire. If the songoftheisles website can’t get its geography right then some of the other "facts" given there might be suspect.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

Showing my ignorance about the Scottish Borders, and I see what you mean about the possible unreliability of the songoftheisles website. I should think that - as for the words - there’d be numerous versions and they could all be appreciated as worth something?

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

There are indeed numerous versions of the song which isn’t surprising given its age.
The line, "gone way o’er hill and moor" is often sung as "gang wearily and mourn", which I have always felt was a bit clumsy, but it does rhyme better with "that ever yet was born".

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

Interesting to note that the Wikipedia entry for "Broom o’ the Cowdenknowes" says the place is in Berwickshire 32 miles southeast of Edinburgh. songoftheisles website also echoes a part of what’s on Wikipedia re this song : you can’t trust these websites can you?

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

Golly. I’ve lived all my life in the Borders and never knew Earlston was in Berwickshire. There you go.

Re: The Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes

But I would still contend that most people who are singing this song nowadays are singing it from the male perspective.