“The Broom of Cowdenknows”


A gentleman sees a pretty (shepherdess), and lies with her (without her leave). She becomes pregnant. Some weeks or months later, the gentleman returns and claims her for his own


Note that this melody is used for two pieces, both called "Broom o' the Cowdenknow(e)s," and both Scottish: The ballad listed here, and a more lyric piece about a man who must leave home because he fell in love with a girl above his station.

Although the texts of this piece are generally quite late, the tune appears much older. BBI ZN2610, "Through Lidderdale as lately I went," registered in 1632, claims a "pleasant Scotch tune, called, The broom of Cowdenknowes" as its melody.

It's ironic to add that the tune you've almost certainly heard for this song (Bronson's #1) is from Playford, without lyrics -- and neither the Playford tune nor any of its immediate relatives in Bronson has a text (Bronson's group Aa includes six tunes; #4 has a single stanza of lyrics, the rest none -- and that stanza in #4 is the lyric version of the song, not the ballad!). - RBW

Same tune

  • The New Way of the Broom of Cowden Knowes (Broadside NLScotland, Ry.III.a.10(007), "The New Way of the Broom of Cowden Knowes" ("Hard Fate that I should banisht be, And Rebell called with Scorn, for serving of a Lovely Prince, As e'er yet was born"), unknown, prob. 1716)
  • The Glasgow Factory Lass (per broadside Murray, Mu23-y1:010, "The Glasgow Factory Lass," unknown (Glasgow), no date)

Cross references


  • Murray, Mu23-y1:041, "Ewe Buchts," James Lindsay Jr. (Glasgow), 19C
  • NLScotland, L.C.1270(004), "Ewe Buchts," unknown, n.d. (the site says 1840-1850, but a second ballad on the sheet refers to [Charles Stewart] Parnell, which puts it least thirty years after that); also L.C.Fol.70(2b), "Ewe Buchts," unknown, n.d.


  • Stanley Robertson, "The Ballad of the Ewe Buchts" (on Voice06)


  1. Child 217, "The Broom of Cowdenknows" (15 texts)
  2. Bronson 217, "The Broom of Cowdenknows" (21 versions+1 in addenda)
  3. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 293-295, "The Broom of Cowden-Knowes" (1 text plus an excerpt from "Broom (II)," 1 tune) {Bronson's #21}
  4. Roud #92
  5. BI, C217


Alternate titles: “Laird o Ociltree Wa's”; “Laird o Lochnie”; “Ewe Buchts”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1768 (Percy collection; tune mentioned 1632)
Found in: Britain(England,Scotland(Aber)) US(NE)