> Folk Music > Songs > The Smacksman

The Smacksman / Heave on the Trawl / Haul Boys Haul

[ Roud 1788 ; Ballad Index PaSe135 ; trad.]

Sam Larner sang The Smacksman in his home in Winterton, Norfolk on March 7, 1958 to Philip Donnellan. This recording was included on the anthology Sailormen and Servingmaids (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 6; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970) and on his 1974 Topic album A Garland for Sam. Another version, titled Coil Away the Trawl Warp (The Smacksman) and sung to Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger in 1958-60, was included in 2014 on Larner's Musical Tradition anthology Cruising Round Yarmouth. Rod Stradling noted in the accompanying booklet:

A song known almost exclusively in the south-eastern coastal areas of England,with one version from Yorkshire. Despite a respectable 25 Roud entries, these only account for 13 named singers of the song, and of the 17 sound recordings, only those by Johnny Doughty (VTC5CD); Dinks Cooper (VT154CD); Joe Spicer (TSCD673) and Tom Brown (Saydisc CD-SDL 405) appear to be available on CD.

Joe Spicer sang Heave on the Trawl to Peter Kennedy in Sussex on September 4, 1963. This recording was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology of songs by Southern English traditional singers, You Never Heard So Sweet (The Voice of the People Volume 21).

‘Dinks’ Cooper sang the Trawler Song to Keith Summers in between 1971 and 1977. This recording was included in 2006 on the Veteran CD of traditional folk songs, music hall songs, and tunes from Suffolk collected by Summers, Good Hearted Fellows. Mike Yates noted:

Sam Larner, the great Norfolk singer, called this The Smacksman, while Johnny Doughty of Sussex knew it as Heave on the Trawl. Almost all the known versions of the song are from the southeast corner of England, a fact which suggests that it could be a local composition, although, just to confuse matters, there is a 1943 BBC recording of the song that was made in Devon.

Tom Brown of Caistor, Norfolk, sang The Smacksman to Peter Kennedy on March 25, 1979. This recording was included in 1994 on the Saydisc anthology of traditional English sea songs and shanties from the last days of sail, Sea Songs and Shanties.

Ted Quantrill from Suffolk sang Heave on the Trawl on the Veteran Tapes cassette of bargemen, fishermen and sailors, Songs Sung in Suffolk Vol 5 (VT105, ca. 1987-93). This track was also included in 1993 on the Veteran anthology CD of traditional Folk Music, Songs and Dances from England, Stepping It Out!.

Johnny Doughty sang Heave on the Trawl to Mike Yates at at Camber Sands, Sussex, on June 8, 1979. Originally released on the Veteran Tapes cassette of English traditional singers, The Horkey Load Vol 1 (VT108) in 1987-95, this track was also included in 2001 on the Veteran anthology CD of traditional folk music from coastal England, When the Wind Blows. Mike Yates noted:

Quite a number of seafaring singers have, or had, a version of this song in their repertoire. Walter Barnes, a fisherman from Brixham in Devon, was recorded singing it for the BBC in 1943. Sam Lamer called it The Smacksman, although Charlie Gearing of Hastings, and ‘Dinks’ Cooper and Ted Quantrill, two Suffolk fishermen, all called it Heave on the Trawl.

Cyril Tawney sang Haul Boys Haul on his 1992 Neptune Tapes cassette of “songs of voyages, battles and shipwrecks”, Seamen Bold, and on his 2007 posthumous CD The Song Goes On.

Johnny Collins sang Haul Boys Haul in 1996 on his album Shanties & Songs of the Sea. This track was also included in 2004 on the Lancaster Maritime Festival CD Beware of the Press-Gang!!. He noted:

A popular and widespread sea song. Many thanks to Tony Deane for letting me have this version, for which he wrote two of the verses.

Lyrics

Sam Larner sings The Smacksman

Chorus (after each verse):
Coil away the trawl-warp, boys, let’s heave on the trawl,
When we get our fish onboard we’ll have another haul.
Straightway to the capstan and merrily heave around,
And that’s the cry in the middle of the night,
“Haul the trawl, boys, haul.”

Once I was a schoolboy, I stayed at home with ease;
Now I am a smacksman and I plough the raging seas.
I thought I’d like seafaring life but very soon I found,
It was not all plain sailing, boys, when out on the fishing ground.

Now when we get our fish onboard we have them all to gut;
We put them in baskets and down the ice-locker put.
We ice them all right safely and then wash them all quite well,
Keep them from all chafe, my boys, like an oyster in his shell.

Dinks Cooper sings the Trawler Song

Now once I was a schoolboy and I lived at home at ease,
And now I am a trawler lad and plough the raging sea.
I thought I’d like seafaring life, but very soon I found
It was not all plain sailing when we got to the fishing ground.

Chorus (after each verse):
So, heave away, grind away, heave away the trawl.
When we get the fish on board, we’ll have another haul.
So, heave away, grind away, heave away the trawl,
That’s the cry in the middle of the night, avast ye trawlboys trawl.

Now, my boys, on a wintry night as regular as a clock,
We all don boots, sou’wester likewise our oilskin frock,
And straightway to the capstan we merrily heave away.
It’s just the same in the middle of the night as it is in the middle of the day.

Now, my boys, the fish on board and have them for to gut,
And put them in their boxes
We pack them in the ice well all tied with ice as well
And there they lay all fresh all day like an oyster in a shell.

Now, my boys, I’ve sung my song and pleased you for a while,
Al though I have not sung it in a regular tip top style.
And if the company be pleased and very well satisfied,
Let’s trawl, boys, trawl and haul, boys, haul and let’s heave up the trawl.

Johnny Doughty sings Heave on the Trawl

Once I was a schoolboy, on the shores I used to roam
And watch the boats go out to sea, at the setting of the sun.
I thought I’d like the seafaring life but very soon I found
It wasn’t common sailing when we reached the fishing ground.

It was, “Heave on the trawl my boys, never mind the storm!”
When we get the fish aboard we’ll have another haul.
“Heave away the capstan, merrily heave away!”
It’s the same old cry in the middle of the night as it is in the early day.

It’s the same old cry in winter as regular as the clock,
“Go and get your sea-boots on, put on your oil frock!”
When we’ve run in Rye Harbour pull the jib sheets down
We’ll lower away the mains’l lads tie up around the thought.

Then heave…