Log Driver’s Waltz

And he goes birling down a-down the white water; That's where the Log Driver learns to step lightly....

The Log Driver’s Waltz is a sweet short film (3 minutes) by the Canadian National Film Board, romanticizing the moves of Canada’s nimblest lumberjacks, the Log Drivers. These guys rode logs as they floated down the river from forest to lumbermill.

This film used to play often in the morning between cartoons when I was a kid. Sung by the McGarrigle Sisters, one of whom, Kate (Rufus and Martha Wainwright’s mother), died this week.

The Log Driver’s Waltz is online here in beautiful quality.

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 the Log Driver.
For he goes birlin’ down a-down the white water,
That’s where the Log Driver learns to step lightly,
It’s birlin’ down a-down the white water,
A Log Driver’s waltz pleases girls completely.”

In researching this post this morning, I learned that the Log Driver is not going “Whirling, twirling, down white water”, as I’d always thought. Instead, he’s going “birling down a-down the white water“. And it’s an actual sport. Birling, huh.

Oh hey, Peneycad just reminded me that there’s a French version, too, also sung by the McGarrigles. The harmonies are a little richer in this version, and the parish maiden tells the nosey questioner in verse one to “mind his own onions”.


5 Responses to Log Driver’s Waltz

  1. Leslie says:

    YESSSS! So Canadian! I still get this stuck in my head sometimes.

  2. Mel says:

    I noticed this post come up on Google Recent Blogs about Kate McGarrigle. She was extremely talented and she will be missed badly. Thank you for writing about Kate.

  3. Andrea says:

    noah, sam and i watched this in english and french at the nfb on friday. this is my favourite.

    thanks for posting.

  4. Andrea says:

    well, bunions are called ‘onions’ in french (well, in french translated back to english). so i’m thinking that was a play on words.
    thanks for finding the french version!

  5. HuggPress says:

    I had no idea Kate McGarrigle died. How truly sad – she has one of my favorite voices ever. :(

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