1 The old custom of indicating that a ship was for sale was to hoist a besom—a broom made of sticks—at the masthead. Some have held that the old, and unsubstantiated, story of the Dutch admiral Marten Tromp (1597–1653) hoisting a broom at his masthead during the First Anglo-Dutch War (1552–4), ‘to sweep the English from the seas’, really arose from an earlier derisory English statement that he had the broom at his masthead to denote that his fleet was for sale as it was so inefficient. There would however appear to be very little truth in either version of the story.
2 The shrub of that name was cut and used widely for the purpose of breaming a ship. Brooming was often used as a synonym for breaming.