FILMMAKER STORIES

Margaret McHugh, Director of The Drover's Boy

The Drover's Boy is a famous ballad by Australian folksinging legend Ted Egan that retells a story of forbidden love between a white drover and his Aboriginal wife, who travelled on cattle drives disguised as a drover’s boy in 1920s outback Australia. Like most kids in Australia, I had grown up listening to the ballad, but it wasn't until I went to an Amanda Palmer concert in 2014 and she performed a rendition of the song that I really understood the lyrics. I was so moved (and shocked) by the story, I decided to find out more and to see if I could make a short film about it.

Around the same time, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (where I studied in 2012) got in touch and asked me to come back to direct another film. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity!

Many people said I would never get the rights to the song ... but when I was in a secondhand bookstore looking for a copy of the book about the drover's boy, I asked the woman at the desk for help. She said, "Ah yeah ... What do you want that book for?" I told her about my film idea and she said, "Well you’re in luck, I know Ted and here's his number. Tell him that Natalie Gould sent you."

This rather surprising and fabulous news gave me the courage to call Ted and, after I babbled on for a minute or two, he said, "You know what honey, I don’t own history ... go for it."

Two weeks later I flew up to Alice Springs to begin shooting. And well ... the rest is history!

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