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Broomfield Wager

Traditional. arr. Lainey Dempsey (2021)

Broomfield Wager

I’ll wager a wager wi’ you fair maid
five hundred merks and ten,
that ye winna gang tae the bonnie
broomfields and return back a maiden
Leatherum thee thou and aw
madame I’m wi’ you
and the sail o’ maybe abrachee
Fair maiden I’m fer you

I’ll wager a wager wi’ you bold laird five
hundred merks and ten,
that I will gang to the bonnie broomfields
and return back a maiden again

The maid she sat at her mithers green
bower and there she made her moan,
sayin’ should I gang tae the bonnie
broomfields or should I bide safe at
For if I gang tae the bonnie broomfields
my maidenhead is gane
But if I bide by my mithers green bower
The wager I’ll no win

Up stepped her mither a wummin wise
thrice said the young laird’s name,
saying daughter gang tae the bonnie
broomfields and bring yer winnings
For when you gang tae the bonnie
broomfields the Laird will lie asleep
with a silver belt aboot his neck and an
ither yin roon his feet

And when she gaed tae the bonnie
her mither’s words proved true,
wi’ the laird asleep an’ his head and his
feet mid the blossoms o’ the broom
She took a gold ring frae her belt an’
placed it oan his thumb
So he wid ken when he awoke that she
had been and gone.
Nine times she stepped aboot his heid.
Nine times aroon his feet,
nine times she kissed his sleeping mou’
tae mak the spell complete

The laird awoke on the bonnie
and spied his ring-ed thumb,
he kent the maid had been and gone and
the wager she had won.
Oh where were ye my grey goshawk and
where were ye my steed
and where were ye my servant lad that
didne waken me?

Oh loud I beat my wings master
and pecked yer resting hand,
crying waken waken master bold afore
this maid is gan.
Three times I stamped my hooves master
until my bridle rang,
but nothing stirred ye fae yer sleep until
the maid was gan
Three times I ca’d yer name master,
three times I blew my horn

But not a sound would waken ye until the
maid was gone

The laird he said had I been awake I
woulda had my will,
then spilled her blood upon this fields so
the birds could ha’e their fill.
Out stepped the maid fae ahind the
broom saying ‘ye black hearted ghoul!
ye ne’er shall leave these bonnie
broomfields afore my purse is full

And once she spak the laird did gasp as
the silver belts grew tight
Crying ‘maiden bold, take what you’re
owedbut let me live this night.
‘I’ll tak yer gold and yer bonnie broon
steed to carry me fastly hame
fer nae bird in the wood can fly as fleet
as I ride through the broom

Oh Greetin’ greetin’ ran she oot
but singin cam she hame,
an’ a shawl she’ll buy fer her mither wise
wi the winnins she did gain

I’ll wager a wager wi you bold laird
five hundred merks and ten,
that I have gan
tae the bonnie broomfields
and returned back a maiden again

Sometimes when a song evolves with you over time you forget where it came from. My first surprise when looking in to Broomfield Wager was that the melody I sing seems definitely to have been picked up from the Malinky version. I’m not sure whether I’d heard a recording or just someone singing that particular version. Either way, it stuck. I lived next door to a piper for many years who was a huge Malinky fan so that could be the lead. Malinky, like Euan McColl, also sing the ‘incantation’ style chorus. The other surprise was that I felt sure that the first time I heard Broomfield Wager/ Hill, the maiden was murdered and left for the crows but by far and away, in the vast number of versions across 700 years and swathes of countries, she outsmarts the fella and heads home with her virtue intact.

The song was brought back to mind when I was reading a couple of books about folklore and witchcraft in British balladry. It cropped up a few times and it was commented on that older versions had wisewomen/witches casting spells to insure the maiden’s safety. Sometimes it was the maiden herself who had the spell casting knowledge. Almost all the versions hint at the supernatural heritage of the song but the magical content seems to have become less prominent over time.

In this version I have combined the witch/wisewoman figure with the often mentioned mother figure. The mother and daughter work together to foil the plans of the knight/ kind-sir who is now referred to as the laird. Every element of this story is present in more than half a dozen other sourced versions except for the lass buying her mum the shawl as a thank you at the end. I couldn’t resist. You’ve got to respect yer mammy, especially when she’s a spell-caster! Plus, this song could really be on an album called ‘Plenty Telt’ but ye didne know about that shawl did ye?

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