Broom, Sweet Broom

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  • Teideal (Title): Broom, Sweet Broom.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853902.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 379.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 9/06/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

JH: The name of this song is ‘Broom, Sweet Brooms’ and I’ll be honest with you, the only thing I know about it is, a man, long ago, they sold brooms, just to make a living. This old man was always cutting brooms, but the son was thinking about different brooms, you know, having a good time. And he stayed in his bed all day. But sure, one day the father made him get out of bed and down to the woods – and what happened when he was down in the woods? He ended up a rich man and married happily – unhappily ever after.

LS: Who do you remember singing this?

JH: All the old people at home used to sing this.

LS: Nobody…

JH: Nobody in particular. No… Oh, they all sang it. Eh-

LS: Where, in the evening?

JH: At parties. Mostly at parties, you know, something like that. It’s a party song. Mostly at parties they sang it, you know. It’s a good song, you see, because, it’s a sort of- in a way it’s a sort of a bawdy song, you know. In an indirect way, you know.

There was an old man who lived in the woods
His trade it was cutting down broom, sweet broom
He had a son, his name it was John,
And he stayed in his room until noon, day noon
He stayed in his room until noon.

Early one morning the old man arose
Went into his son’s gay room, gay room
Saying, ‘You lazy old sod, get out of your bed
And go down to the woods and cut broom, sweet broom
Go down to the woods and cut broom.’

John arose and put on his clothes
He looked at his room, his room, gay room
Saying, ‘A man of me birth who got learning on earth,
Why shouldn’t1 I stoop to cut broom, sweet broom?
Why should I stoop to cut broom?’

So John went out and down to the woods
He started to cut his own broom, sweet broom
The evening came on and he lay down to rest
And forgot about broom, sweet broom, sweet broom
Forgot about broom, sweet broom.

The lady was up in her mantle so gay
She saw this young man with his broom, sweet broom
She said to her maid, ‘go down to the woods
And bring up this young man with his broom, sweet broom,
Bring up this young man with his broom.’

John went up to the mansion so gay,
Went into the lady’s gay room, gay room,
He stayed there all night til early next day
And never thought of his brooms, sweet brooms,
And never thought of his brooms.

They sent for the priest to marry them both
Inside her room, her room, gay room
They were happy and gay the rest of their days
And never had broom, sweet brooms, sweet brooms,
And never had broom, sweet brooms.

JH: What do you think of that? It’s a good lilt of a song, isn’t it?


1. Presumably this should be ‘why should I stoop…’ as in the line following.

Rustling of paper between verses four and five suggests that Joe may be reading the words of this song out of a book. He occasionally does so in private situations like this, although the context here is ambiguous.