The Everyday Lore Project

14 May 2020 – Pag Rag Day

14 May 2020 – Pag Rag Day

Today I learnt never to put ‘Cod Banging Song’ into a search engine. It’s Pag Rag Day, but given that flitting has only just been allowed again, I thought I’d go with cod banging and smacksmen. And no, I’m not going to explain that sentence. Well, not all of it.

The fourteenth of May is the date mentioned in the traditional sea shanty, Cod-Banging Song, number 1747 in the Roud Folk Song Index. A cod-banger however, is not some nefarious bloke with a predilection for parsley sauce sex play. It is, in fact, a type of trawler. And a smacksman is a fisherman. 

With a lot of la-fol-der-day, riddle-ol-days, the song tells the story of a novice smacksman cracking fish skulls on deck near Harwich pier. I’m not sure why 14 May was important, but it’s there, and that’s tenuous enough for me. 

I have been neglecting any kind of piano playing recently in favour of making wickermen and offering gruel to the Sea Gods. And if you’ve listened to my less than stellar rendition of The Fox and the Goose, you’ll know that I was no great shakes to begin with. I managed to pick out the notes easily enough but to paraphrase Gloria Estefan, the rhythm went and got me. So I did what I always do when I can’t work out a piece of music, I found someone else doing it on YouTube and copied them. 

I didn’t have time to work out the chords, or indeed the rhythm, but here is my own painful assault on the Cod-Banging Song:

And here’s my inspiration, Bob Hart, taken from his album Songs from Suffolk recorded in 1972:

I shan’t be in the least put out if you prefer Bob’s version. I certainly do. Happy Cod-Banging Day!


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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