Log Driver’s Waltz

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The ‘Log Driver’s Waltz’ is a delightful Canadian folk song, written by Wade Hemsworth. Animation and Illustration is by John Weldon, who in my opinion, is one ‘heap skookum’ animator!

The Log Driver’s Waltz provides the musical backdrop for the Canadian animated film produced by the National Film Board of Canada, which was released in 1979 as part of its Canada Vignettes series.

The tune and the animated vignette is delightful! Every time I watch it, I smile. I especially like the amazing transition from film to animation!

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The song celebrates the profession of log driving, a practice in the lumber industry (especially here in the Ottawa Valley) which involved transporting felled timber by having workers walk or run on the logs as they floated down rivers.

This occupation required a great deal of strength and physical agility, and Hemsworth was struck by how much the sight of log drivers at work resembled dancing.

The song’s chorus is:

For he goes birling down a-down the white water
That’s where the log driver learns to step lightly
It’s birling down, a-down white water
A log driver’s waltz pleases girls completely.

The lyrics are often misheard as “whirling” or “twirling” instead of “birling”. “Birl” is an old Scots verb meaning “to revolve or cause to revolve”, and in modern English means “to cause a floating log to rotate by treading”. Today, birling survives as a competitive sport.

The song also contains considerable double-entendre, beginning with the sentiments of the opening stanza:

If you ask any girl from the parish around,
What pleases her most from her head to her toes;
She’ll say, “I’m not sure that it’s business of yours,
But I do like to waltz with a log driver.”

Many artists have recorded renditions of the song, which is an enduring classic of Canadian music.

The most famous version, by Kate and Anna McGarrigle and the Mountain City Four, was the soundtrack for a 1979 animated short film by the National Film Board. The National Film Board of Canada also produced a French version of the animated vignette. Source: Wikipedia.

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The following is an incredible early film of the log-drivers at work. Watching this video certainly gives me a deeper appreciation for the forestry and lumbering heritage of this lovely area I call home. Note the Pointer Boat, the flat bottomed batteau shown in this film. These boats were were manufactured in Pembroke, Ontario.

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The National Film Board’s Gift to You:

12 SITES TO WATCH FILMS ONLINE FOR FREE

“Because we, at the NFB, feel confident you would never abandon us for another streaming site (I mean, how could you), we decided to put together and share with you a list of destinations for watching films online. All sites in the following list are free; only one requires you become a member.”

National Film Board of Canada – Watch Films Online for Free!

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