My fascination with English traditional music and song began, oddly enough, when I was a student in London; the only time when I didn't live in the countryside. The folk revival was in full swing but even then not many people were interested in hearing the original source material. For some reason, probably just cussedness, I had to be different and I tried to find recordings of the old men who sang unaccompanied. Luckily for me I found an LP of the singing of Sam Larner. Born in 1878, a former fisherman and a real character, Sam's humour, enthusiasm and love of life shone through every song. Among his historical ballads, broadsides and music hall songs was a fisherman's song with a rousing chorus. Unfortunately it only had two verses - a serious fault in a chorus song; but the sleeve notes told some of Sam's life story. So I took the chorus and one of his verses and somehow the rest of the song sort of wrote itself....
Coil Away The Trawl Warp
Once I was a schoolboy and I lived a life of ease,
Then I was a smacksman who sailed the raging seas,
I thought I'd like sea-faring life but very soon I found
It wasn't all plain-sailing, boys, out on the fishing ground
Coil away the trawl warp, boys, lets heave on the trawl
When we get our fish on board we'll have another haul
Straightway to the capstan and merrily heave we all
That's the cry in the middle of the night
Haul on the trawl, boys, haul!
I've stood and watched the boats come in on each and every tide,
Seen the harbour so choc-full you could walk from side to side
All the lads of Winterton would run to lend a hand
And when we'd got them fish on shore there was nowhere left to stand!
Like my old Dad before me I worked beneath the sail
'Cos lads who never went to sea they mostly went to jail,
But then in Nineteen-twenty-nine the fishing grew so poor
That many an honest fisherman was cast up on the shore.
We did a bit of this and that to earn a couple of bob,
Planting trees and mending roads but not a proper job,
In the evenings we'd go down to have a couple of beers
To sing the old sea-faring songs and talk of former years.
The fishing days have gone away, there's no more to be said,
We might as well drink up our beer and all go home to bed,
But when I'm dead and in my grave I know you're going to see
A great big ghost that'll haunt this coast - singing just like me!