Broomfield Hill


I think it’s fair to call this a bit of a hybrid as Jon says, “The story of the early morning tryst on top of a blossom-covered hill always seemed May morning-ish to me anyway, so when I found the ’13 months’ refrain in a fairly unremarkable Robin Hood ballad it seemed reasonable enough to marry the two together. The tune is Bogie’s Bonny Belle.”

It’s great to get the back story to this as it’s certainly one of my favourites from the current Bellowhead set and that chorus is a great one to bellow (all of the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.) I don’t know what it is that appeals exactly, but it’s quite a gentle tale apart from the horse threatening bit.  Mind you I understand there are some more would-be murderous versions, although the maid’s triumph seems the common outcome. Still there’s something about the wise and wylie old witch’s intervention that I like. It would be great to be able to summon the power of the Broom when you’re in a tight spot – a sort of herbal “beam me up Scotty.” It’s not surprising to find that Child (# 43), Sharp and Vaughan Williams all gobbled this up, with Child in particular alluding to the widespread versions of the story. The magical properties of the Broom or Gorse are a common thread in many European cultures with its flowering in May and June associated with fertility. So Jon’s right to fit this in here. As always Reinhard offers great insight into the various recordings and sleeve notes at Mainly Norfolk. There’s a wealth of material on this and it continues on this Mudcat thread as well. I love that concertina too, which makes it another in the “Vote for May” column. Brilliant!



48 Responses to “Broomfield Hill”

  1. Christian Reynolds says:

    Who is playing box on this track?

  2. Christian Reynolds says:

    Sorry my speakers were not working and it sounded more like a melodeon than a concertina first listen through, those bass notes he plays sound more box’y than usual. Please ignore the above comment.

  3. Sol says:

    Can’t believe I’ve been listening to this for seven months without realizing the tune is “Bogie’s Bonny Belle”. Sigh.

  4. Shelley says:

    I adore this song, and it’s probably my current favourite in Bellowhead’s repertoire. It’s been earworming me for over a week now, so it’s just as well I like it! Nicely done Jon.

  5. Rosie says:

    I thought it was a melodeon too and wondered who it was! Nice version.

  6. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    I’ve reached an age where virgins have somewhat lost their novelty..BUT…..
    I’d pay good money for that talking horse!

  7. Reinhard says:

    I’d guess it’s Jon himself playing the melodeon as nobody else is credited with it. He’s done it before here and on Songs from the Floodplain.

  8. John Bryson says:

    I don’t know what the rest of you think, but I feel every track so far this month of May has been a real gem

  9. LadyD says:

    ’13 months in one year’, is that like ‘8 days a week’? 😉

  10. Reinhard says:

    Yes, if you have a lunar calendar.

  11. Jane Ramsden says:

    A note on the gorse, (prickly) broom, furze or whin:

    “When gorse stops blooming, then kissing will go out of fashion” was an expression from my childhood. But two species flower at different times, so giving the impression of continuous flowering throughout the year. It has a musky fragrance, but is actually part of the pea family. The sound of the mature pod exploding and catapulting its fertilised seed to new ground can be heard in summer.

    In the past, the furze was put to many uses. As it ignites quickly, it was used for starting the fire. It was also used for cleaning the chimney and tilling the soil. At mid-summer, the blazing branches were carried round the herd to bring good health to the cows for the coming year.

    On the domestic front, it was used for dyeing wool and fabric, and as flavouring for wine and whiskey. It had medicinal powers for treating ringworm, intestinal worms and cough, and its magical powers were undisputed in preventing the fairies from stealing the butter on May day.

  12. the_otter says:

    Like Sol, I never realised till now the tune was Bogie’s Bonnie Belle. And now I can’t get the tune out of my head! Maybe it’s my punishment for obliviousness.

  13. Jon Boden says:

    Guilty as charged…

  14. Mark says:

    A sinister twin to Captain Wedderburn on Hedonism, but no less an enjoyable song, if you ask me. The initial concept of the bet is a bit… troubling. The bad old days!

    I love this version, it sounds really clean and bouncy, if that makes any sense.

  15. Diana says:

    Almost enjoyable as Bellowhead’s version – there I think the many singers on the chorus add something overall. Jon does his usual first rate job though.

  16. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    From another folk song….I note that the four and twenty virgins that went to Inverness were not quite so lucky as this fair maid.

  17. Diana says:

    That sounds very much like a rugby song Muzza. I am not so sure about it being a folk song but who am I to know. The fair maid in question did alright for herself – but it is a good job that the King’s ruling does not apply today or there would hardly be any married men left would there?

  18. Diana says:

    Sorry Muzza you will not know what I am writing about – I have got another song by Fay on my mind “The Shepherd’s Daughter” whereby any married men who had their way with a young maid would be executed. Sorry the song keeps going through my head at present so one of us being confused is enough.

  19. Jane Ramsden says:

    Lovely, jolly and interesting song, especially with Jon ‘guilty as charged’ on the melodeon!

    Another soporific plant which could have been employed is Valerian. You do find it (like Passiflora) in some sedative herbal remedies. When I was a child, I was told not to fall asleep in a field full of flowering Valerian or else I might not wake up! I did find a field with some once, and the scent was headily overpowering to my child’s senses, esp as it’s very tall and I was only short! I suppose fitting ‘Valerian’ into a song is more difficult than ‘broom!’ Though Passiflora is a lyrical name.

    I could do with 13 months in this year as I have belaTedly set missen the task of copying salient parts of all the AFSAD song notes into an archive for my future edification, ‘cos I am apt to forget stuff & there has been a wealth of information, apart from what’s on Mainly Norfolk and Mudcat. As the project is approaching its second-year close, I think I am having early ‘letting go’ issues! I have sifted through 4 months so far. It is like doing it all again for a third time afore the second is concluded! I wish I could keep all the banter and Muzzannuendo, but it is Herculean just picking out the song notes and associated research. I aim to keep a bit though, for a laugh on a rainy, non-AFSAD day!

    @ Diana: Is that Fay track on her latest album ‘Orfeo?’ I am gonna have to treat missen… again… I’ve just bought 2 CDs for their ‘Reynardines’ and picked up a copy of Show of Hands’ ‘Beat About The Bush’ along the way! Wonder if that bush is broom or gorse?

  20. Reynard says:

    No Jane, “The Shepherd’s Daughter” is on Fay’s first album “Looking Glass”. You might know this song as “The Royal Forester” from Steeleye Span’s 1972 album “Below the Salt” – the album that introduced me to English Folk music way back when I was in school. I still know “King Henry” by heart…

  21. Jane Ramsden says:

    @ Reynard: Thank you! I should know that, as I have Fay’s first album, but also a memory less efficient than it used to be, and not enough time to listen to my folk collection, small though it is. I do know ‘Royal Forester,’ as I have ‘Below The Salt.’ ‘King Henry’ is an all-time fave of mine also! I think we had the same introduction via folk-rock, but you’ve done so much more with it than I! I shall be perusing Mainly Norfolk so much more once AFSAD has ended!

  22. Diana says:

    Well Jane you have your answer without any help from me. I also remembered King Henry as sson as I heard it – it is really cheerful and is a childrens’ song. Orfeo has it launch on May 28th – I am howver expecting a signed CD coming from Fay. I am really looking forward to that. As for Reynardine -it is a great song isn’t it. I can play it on MN though.

  23. Reynard says:

    Thank you four your praise, Jane.

    Diana, you may have confused two same-named songs. Steeleye Span’s “King Henry” is a grisly shape-shifting ballad, not Fay’s friendly children’s song “King Henry Was King James’s Son”.

    (And after we ordered “Orfeo”, Fay put a notice on her album page: “Pre-orders will be posted to reach you by the release date – 28th May”. We’ll habe to be patient, I fear.)

  24. Diana says:

    Thank you Reynard for pointing out my error – I really do like “King Henry was King James’s son” but I don’t know the grisly one – I shall have to go and look it up on your site and at least be able to see the words.

    Yes I know I will have to wait patiently till May 28th and I am looking forward to that date very much. Still time flies very fast, and June 24th? is approaching very rapidly. Then what will us AFSADDERS do?

  25. Diana says:

    How right you were Reynard – Steeleye Span’s rendition of King Henry is certainly a long way from r Fay’s lovely song. How prolific were Steeleye Span – the mind boggles at their repertoire.

    By the way can you answer my question at the bottom of yesterdays song – it is worrying me somewhat as after watching the documentary I still could not decide.

  26. Reynard says:

    One more of Fay’s: I’m just listening to Genevieve Tudor’s Sunday Folk (still available on her BBC website for six days) and at 10 minutes into the show she’s playing The Cuckoo from Orfeo with promises for another track later on. And right after that comes the beautiful May Song from Sharron Kraus’s 2007 CD Right Wantonly A-Mumming, which actually has Jon and Fay singing.

  27. Muzza (N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    @Reynard…Thanks for mentioning Genevieve Tudor……can’t get a folkier name than that!
    Here is the link to her site…although at the moment I can’t seem to link further to the replay…must dash..will try later.

  28. Reynard says:

    The second of Fay’s songs is “Pretty Nancy of Yarmouth” at 1:27 into the show.

  29. Diana says:

    Managed to get both of the songs on the radio – really looking forward even more to hear Fay’s “Orfeo”.

  30. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    Some excellent songs in May , as one would expect, and this is one of the best so far.
    What a wonderful tune !

  31. Diana says:

    Yes John you are right, after hearing this song on the Hedonism CD it was one that I played over and over again. Still one of my favourites.

  32. Reynard says:

    There are at least four more (or ist it fore mour? English is so inconsistent..) May songs to come but I too think that this is the best song in the best AFSAD month.

  33. Diana says:

    Reynard you are perfectly right with English inconsistences – there are certainly many words spelt the same with different meanings ie: vein, vane and vain, it’s confusing I know, but I see you sometimes revert to your native language ie: habe instead of have although that could be just hitting the wrong key cause they are adjacent. You probably gathered from my comment above this is definitely a song that is played repeatedly.

  34. Diana says:

    Forgive me for being rather stupid today Reynard – these words ie the examples above are not spelt the same – they are merely pronounced the same but have quite diverse meanings. Expect you will grasp whay I mean.

  35. Reynard says:

    Yup I do. There are some homonyms with quite a lot more speiling variations. According to Bill Bryson’s book “Mother Tongue”, air has 38 different spellings, amongst them aire, ayer, ayr, ayre, eyre, heir, e’er, ere, err

  36. Diana says:

    I haven’t come across “Mother Tongue” by Bill although I have read a lot o his books which are really entertaining and very often extremely funny. He lived over here for ages but I think he has returned to America now. I will look out for it in the library. His example is far superior to mine and I had not realised there were so may different spelling variations of air – I just used the words that came to mind, but here are loads of others but perhaps with not as many deviations. “Notes from a Small Island” is worth reading if you haven’t already done so – gives you an insight to us folk across the Channel.

  37. John Biggs (Welsh Marches) says:

    I have just noticed that R.V.W. collected this song in Herefordshire ! I KNEW it was a good song !

  38. Linda says:

    Still enjoy hearing this.
    @Jane have you checked out Sam Sweeney’s site for the story of his fiddle. Made in the Great War, have tickets for Bury Met .

  39. Diana says:

    Still one of my favourites.

  40. Linda says:

    twelve months on and have tickets to see Made in the Great War again later in the year at Buxton….
    Still enjoy this song it brighten a rather wet and windy day….

  41. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.UK) says:

    Thanks to Jane’s excellent advice in comment dated 7May 2011 I am pleased to inform you all that I am now cured, at last, of my ringworm, intestinal worms and cough,

  42. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey.U) says:

    Ref my comment above….I had to recheck what Jane had said ref the powers of eating Gorse….she had said ”
    On the domestic front, it was used for dyeing wool and fabric, and as flavouring for wine and whiskey. It had medicinal powers for treating ringworm, intestinal worms and cough, and its magical powers were undisputed in preventing the fairies from stealing the butter on May day.”
    PS;..I din’t really have ringworm/intest wrms/cough…….but Nobody pinched my buttocks

  43. Linda says:

    Guess where we’re going in June yep Sam Sweeney’s Made in the Great War at Leeds, if you haven’t seen it ,its really worth going to see……

  44. John Bryson says:

    My Wife Jane and I are at Derby for Made in the Great War.

    I have to confess we saw it twice when it first toured, one a freebie. Having purchased tickets for The Stables at Wavendon we then received an invitation to see the concert at Loughborough Grammar School Sam and I are Old Boys – a few years apart mind you!

    Well, that’s my name dropping for the moment! Back to this song, I love it

  45. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ref Jane’s comment 6 May 2012……I checked on that Valerian plant of which she spoke……seems that it is a ‘Cat attractant’……..similar to Catnip…….and she noted that she lurked in a field of it when young…….no wonder she developed ‘cat bothering tendencies in later life!

  46. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ref the corona virus…….if only the scientists had been reading AFSAD…..and seen Jane’s country cure comments……they would have tried Valerian and gorse before struggling to get a vaccine.
    WooHoo….polling day for local councillors today and still wet and bally chilly darn souf!…….I’m sure I remember a childhood when May was full of blossoms and warm sunshine!

  47. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Would you Adam and Eve it….May bank holiday and chucking it down with rain, yet again, down souf!…..A real damper on all the fetes and Morris men …Sod’s Law-bally sun came out, briefly, YESTERDAY!

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