The Blackfly Song was written by Wade Hemsworth, of Morin Heights, Québec, who worked the bushlands of Northern Ontario and Quebec in the 1940s and 50s. He recorded his ode to Northern Ontario, The Black Fly Song, on the New York based Folkways Records label in 1955. This song has been recorded by dozens of artists including The Scotians, and The Travellers. It tells of the trials and tribulations of working on the Little Abitibi survey crew, of having to cover yourself in bacon fat and balsam gum to keep the bugs away. It speaks of a raw country unfit for human beings and the desire to never return to that God forsaken place again! For an Ottawa Citizen article on Wade Hemsworth, click here.
Listen to the children of Abitibi Canyon sing the Blackfly Song. From the 1960's film Call of the Canyon. The speaker is school principal Gladys Ramsbottom. The children's choir is led by Margaret Glendinning. Click to download (File size: 1.15 MB) and listen. Requires RealAudio or RealPlayer.
'Twas early in the spring when I decide to go
And the black flies, the little black flies
The man Black Tobey was the captain of the crew
So we survey the east, survey to the west.
'Twas blackfly, blackfly, everywhere
Black Tobey fell to swearin'; the work went slow
The bull cook's name was Blind River Joe
At last the job was over, Black Tobey said, we're through
© 1957 Southern Publishing Co. Ltd.
Although this is the best known of the "Canyon" songs, several more were written over the years. Check out some more lighthearted looks at Canyon life under "Other Canyon Hits."