#02208
The Black Fly Song (Wade Hemsworth) video
Video courtesy of NFB Canada
Making their films accessible to all Canadians
#1110: YouTube video by holtyre
©2009 ~ Used with permission ~

'Twas early in the spring
when I decide to go
For to work up in the woods
in North Ontar-i-o;
And the unemployment office
said they'd send me through
To the Little Abitibi
with the survey crew

And the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.

And the man Black Tobey
was the captain of the crew
And he said, I'm gonna tell you,
boys, what we're gonna do:
They want to build a power dam;
we must find a way
For to make the Little Ab
flow around the other way

With the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.

So we survey to the east,
survey to the west,
Couldn't make our minds up
how to do it best;
Little Ab, Little Ab,
what shall I do?
I'm all but goin' crazy
with the survey crew

And the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.

It was blackfly, blackfly, everywhere,
A-crawlin' in your whiskers,
crawlin' in your hair;
Swimmin' in the soup,
swimmin' in the tea,
And the devil take the blackfly,
let me be.

Black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.

Black Tobey fell to swearin';
the work went slow,
The state of our morale
was a-gettin' pretty low;
The flies swarmed heavy;
hard to catch your breath,
As you staggered up and down the trail
a-talkin' to yourself

With the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.

Well now, the bull cook's name
was Blind River Joe,
If it hadn't been for him
we'd 've never pulled through;
'Cause he bound up our bruises
and he kidded us for fun,
And he lathered us with
bacon grease and balsam gum.

And the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.

And at last the job was over;
Black Tobey said we're through
With the Little Abitibi
and the survey crew!
'Twas a wonderful experience
and this I know:
I'll never go again
to North Ontar-i-o

With the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.

And the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.

####.... Wade Hemsworth, 1949 ....####
Recorded by Wade Hemsworth (Folk Songs Of The Canadian North Woods, trk#12, ©1955 Folkways Records & Service Corp, New York, NY, FW 6821, Library of Congress Catalogue Card No. R 55-370). Also recorded by Wade Hemsworth as Blackfly Song (The Songs Of Wade Hemsworth, trk#3, 1995, CD produced by Penny Rose and edited by Simon Pressey for Good Noise).

The video above was produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1991, music composed and sung by Wade Hemsworth, arranged by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, with musicians Wade Hemsworth, Anna McGarrigle, Kate McGarrigle, Gilles Losier, Pat Donaldson, Dane Lankin, and Peter Weldon, with direction and animation by Christopher Hinton.


See more songs by Wade Hemsworth.

Liner notes: Anyone who spends a summer in the northern bush country will sympathize with the sentiment Wade Hemsworth has expressed in this song, which tells the tribulations of a survey trip on the Little Abitibi, a tributary of the more famous Abitibi River which flows into James Bay. Wade says: "We were on a survey for the Ontario Hydro Electric Commission when this song was born. The flies affected some of the boys so badly that they had to stop work 'til the swelling of their faces subsided so that they could see. Incidentally, Tobey Colpitts, who is the 'Black Tobay' of the song is still surveying for the Ontario Hydro [1955].


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