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Donkey Riding

Donkey Riding, a traditional work song, was sung by sailors of Celtic and English origin as they loaded timber on the decks of ships in the Canadian harbors of Québec and Miramichi.

When loaded, the ships sailed away to London, England; Fortune Bay in Newfoundland; or even around the Cape Horn of South America.

“Riding the Donkey” refers to sailors' work on the ship's deck using a donkey engine.

A donkey engine is a single-cylinder steam engine invented in 1881, which revolutionized logging and the loading of ships. The donkey engine was first used in the forests of California but was soon used widely in loading ships for transport.

In singing “Donkey Riding,” use a heavy, swinging beat and a natural, robust vocal sound. The whispered quarter-note rhythms imitate the sound of the steam-powered, single-cylinder donkey engine.

More videos

  • Donkey Riding

    Download: mp3(256.81KB) ogg(0 bytes)
  • Donkey Riding harmony one

    Download: mp3(206.66KB) ogg(0 bytes)
  • Donkey Riding harmony two

    Download: mp3(201.91KB) ogg(0 bytes)

Digital Archive records related to this item

Note that these links take you to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website which holds the full archival details of the material. Material on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website is not censored or expurgated and may contain material considered offensive by modern standards.

Maps on the Full English site related to this item

Note that these links take you to the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website which holds the full archival details of the material. Material on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website is not censored or expurgated and may contain material considered offensive by modern standards.