“Fine Broom Besoms (When I Was wi' Barney)”


After singing the besom-selling chorus, the singer recalls wandering far from the home where "my mother's spinnin', Barney at the loom." She dreams of her youth when she danced with Barney. "Now the summer's over... I am tired at last."


The besom-seller's cry, "Buy broom besoms, wha will buy them noo? (Fine heather ringers), better never grew" is obviously very old, and inspired Burns in 1796 to write "Wha will buy my troggin."

The street call isn't really a song, though, and it evidently invited completion, as I am aware of at least three texts with this burden:

* I Maun Hae a Wife, probably Scottish, in which the old besom-maker desperately seeks a companion.

* The Sam Henry text "Fine Broom Besoms," in which the singer misses Barney. This looks to me to be a composite of two pieces; I wish we could isolate the Barney text. It looks very beautiful in the nostalgic Irish sort of way.

* The Besom Maker, a song of seduction, printed as a broadside. - RBW

Cross references


  1. SHenry H17a, p. 60, "Fine Broom Besoms" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #1623
  3. BI, HHH017a


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1924 (Sam Henry collection)
Keywords: work home separation
Found in: Ireland