Turn Left at the Devil Tree A Memoir with a foreword by Ted Egan AO
Accompanied by Turkey, his little ‘hunting’ dog, Derek Pugh founded several outstation schools in the most remote parts of Arnhem Land and gained a rare insight into a traditional way of life which has been witnessed by only a few outsiders.
By turns reflective, tragic and hilarious, Turn Left at the Devil Tree is a memoir of a visiting teacher among the Indigenous people and wildlife of the Top End of Australia. It is also a history - revealing some little known and disturbing events that were sanctioned from the highest levels of government.
Life there was “frustrating at times, but always a challenge and Derek has recorded his experiences beautifully in this delightful book”. Ted Egan AO
REVIEWS: TURN LEFT AT THE DEVIL TREE 1. Courtney Todd of the Sunday Territorian in Darwin review (19/01/2014)
2. “A great yarn!” Paperback edition
by The Great MephistoEveryone has a story to tell, and Derek Pugh’s new book about life as a ‘visiting teacher’ in Arnhem Land in the remote north of Australia is packed full of great stories. I had tears in my eyes as I read Derek’s story about the class of teenage Aboriginal girls he taught, and how he worked with them to write a novel. He writes movingly about an ancient japi ceremony he attended, in which boys (the boys he was teaching) were initiated into their tribe, the old way.
Derek writes about the country, the culture, the art and the music of the people he lived with. He tells stories of secret 20,000 year old rock art galleries and of modern Aboriginal art. He writes about the difficult history of white settlement. But while Derek’s book paints a wonderful picture of Aboriginal culture and the people he lived with, he doesn’t romanticise the place or the people, or politicize race relations. He tells of the wonderful characters, the friendships he made with both Balanda (European Australians) and Aboriginals, and the great kids, who may have been grubby, snotty, and no doubt confused like all kids, but were often keen students. He tells stories about nights under the stars, about bush tucker, about teaching, hunting, fishing, and journeys in the bush. He tells funny stories. He tells sad stories.
And best of all, Derek writes like he is telling you these stories over a beer at the bar, or sitting by a campfire on a beach, or perhaps talking to a group of kids in a classroom somewhere. Its a great book. A great yarn. A great read.