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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Gordon Jackson Lyr Req: Buy Broom Besons?/Besoms/Buzzems (19) RE: Broom Besoms, lyrics 04 Sep 18


Hi Robinia et al,

This is what the Northumbrian Minstrelsy has to say about Blind Willie Purvis:

'This unique little ballad, quaint and simple alike in music and words, is popularly attributed to William Purvis, commonly called “Blind Willie”, one of the most noteworthy and famous of the Newcastle eccentrics. He was the son of John Purvis, waterman, and born about the beginning of 1752, having been baptized at All Saints Church on the 16th February of that year.

This eccentric character never enjoyed the faculty of sight, and many still living remember the sonsy, contented, and sightless face of Willie as he trudged along the streets without a covering on his head. Several attempts were made by presenting him with a hat to induce him to wear one; but after having borne the affliction for a day or two, it was thrown aside, and the “Minstrel,” as he was called, again appeared uncovered, preferring the exposure of his hoary but well-thatched pate to the pelting of the pitiless storm. Blind Willie was perfectly acquainted with all the streets, lanes, and chares of his native town, and made his way everywhere without a guide, using only a long stick. His happy, contented nature made him a universal favourite with all ranks of society; and he had his regular places of call, where he was always welcome and duly served. At the inns and public houses of the town Blind Willie’s presence in the taproom was a sure attraction, and his voice and fiddle in harmony, singing some quaint and local ditty, gave never failing delight to his appreciative audiences.

“Buy Broom Buzzems” was usually considered to be Willie’s chef-d’oeuvre, and he was in the habit of adding new verses, either made by himself or made for him, having no connection with the original theme. They have, therefore, been omitted here. Blind Willie died in the All Saints’ Poorhouse on 20th July, 1832, upwards of eighty years of age.'


So, a few things come to my mind. First, Bruce and Stokoe (the authors/compilers) call the song a 'ballad', but I'm not sure I would, but that's no big deal. Second, 'popularly attributed' is not definitive. Third, Blind Willie is described as eccentric, but there is nothing in this passage that would merit this description. Perhaps Bruce and Stokoe knew more about him, and chose not to include it, perhaps being blind and/or not wearing a hat was considered eccentric in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, or perhaps describing him in this way somehow added to his mystique and attractiveness; I really don't know. Perhaps someone out there in the Mudflats has access to other info on the song and its composer?


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