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Cod Banging

[ Roud 1747 ; Ballad Index RcCodBan ; trad.]

Bob Hart sang Cod Banging at his home in Snape, Suffolk, in July 1972 to Tony Engle. This recording was published in the following year on his Topic album Songs from Suffolk, and was included in 1993 on the Topic collection of sea songs and shanties, Blow the Man Down, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology My Ship Shall Sail the Ocean (The Voice of the People Volume 2). A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

Compared to the great treasury of songs telling the adventures of Navy Jacks and merchant seamen, the English fisherman's repertory is rather small. Such songs as survive are mostly found along the East Anglian coast, and the trawlermen who word the cod-banks off the Shetlands and beyond. Cod Banging, sometimes called The Smackman's Life, is a rather rare song. Sam Larner knew a bit of it, and doubtless at one time it had more verses than it retains now. In Bob Hart's version, a stanza—the one about the ‘big barque shop’—has wandered in from The ‘Dolphin’, a sea-battle song much favoured among oldtime fishermen of the Suffolk-Norfolk coast.

An earlier Bob Hart recording made by Bill Leader in 1969 was included in 1998 on Hart's Musical Traditions anthology A Broadside. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

A song which appears to be unique to Bob—seven of the nine instances in Roud refer to his singing; the other two cite a song of the same name by Harold Smy, a bargeman from Ipswich. Although his shares Bob's third verse, it's actually a version of the well-known Stormy Weather Boys. In his notes to Bob's 1973 LP, Bert Lloyd confirms its rarity, adding that Sam Larner knew a bit of it as The Smacksman's Life, and pointing out that, compared to the huge number of songs about naval and merchant seamen, the English fishermen's repertory is rather small and mostly limited to the East Anglian coast.

John Goodluck sang Cod Banging in 1976 on his Sweet Folk & County album of traditional songs of Suffolk, Speed the Plough.

Chris Foster sang Cod Banging in 2008 in his CD Outsiders. He commented in his liner notes:

In the 1970s I lived for a while in Suffolk on the east coast of England, where I was privileged to spend time with a number of singers and musicians of my grandparents' generation, who had learned and were still performing their music in the oral tradition. I learnt Cod Banging from a lovely singer called Bob Hart.

Lyrics

Bob Hart sings Cod Banging Chris Foster sings Cod Banging

That's rather a nice little song. That's a little bit comic, you'll see, well that sound a little bit comic …

Come, come, my lads and listen here,
A fisherman's song you soon shall hear,
What I did and undergo
When first I went on the cod banging-O.

Come, come my lads and listen here,
A fisherman’s song you soon shall hear,
What I did and undergo
When first I went a cod-banging O.

Chorus (after each verse):
To me la-fol-der-day, Riddle-ol-day,
This is a smacksman's life at sea.

Chorus (after each verse):
To my lal fol the day,
Riddle all day,
This is the smacksman’s life at sea

How well I remember on the fourteenth of May,
A big barque ship she came our way,
She came our way and did let fly
And the tops'l halyards they flew sky high.

How well I remember the fourteenth of May,
A big barque ship she came our way.
She came our way and she did let fly
And the topsail halyards they flew sky high.

And now we draw near Harwich pier,
The young and the old they both draw near,
To see us get our fish on deck
And crack their skulls with a little short stick.

And now we draw near Harwich pier,
The young and the old folks they both draw near
To see us get our fish on deck
And crack their skulls with a little short stick.

And now my song is nearly done,
I hope I've not offended one.
I don't think I've got it complete,
We've only been in the trade about a week.

And now my song it is nearly done
And I hope that I’ve offended none.
But I don’t think I’ve got it complete
‘Cos I’ve only been in the trade about a week.