Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

27 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Commercial Stables, Murchison

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


I have no idea how old this building is but I reckon that when I drew it in 1988 it was well over 100 years old. Can't you just hear the hooves and the rumble of iron-rimmed wheels echoing through that archway to the forge beyond? 

Murchison was, is, not only an important farming area but also has a romantic gold history revolving round the powerful Buller River and its tributaries. I first went to 'Murch' in 1960 just after arrival in New Zealand and made lifelong friends who farmed on the Mangles River where brown trout haunted the stones like nuclear submarines!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

26 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: St. George's, Motupiko

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



I 'discovered' this charming little church concealed behind a screen of trees when I was travelling the road between Murchison and Tasman Bay. I'd stopped to look at the map, and there it was, hiding; nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I later included a new painting of it in my book 'Country Churches of New Zealand'; this is what I wrote about it:

'I think it among the prettier of the churches I've painted, probably because the architect, Stead Ellis, incorporated some window, bargeboard and buttress detail that takes it beyond the ordinary.

'It must have looked superb with its original shingle roof. It's Anglican despite the corbels of its window hood-mouldings bearing the St. Andrew's crosses more associated with Presbyterianism. It was consecrated on 30 September 1892.'

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

24 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Belgrove Railway Station Windmill

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



It is claimed that this is the best remaining example of a wooden railway windmill in New Zealand. Apparently it was used to pump water into locomotives about to make the steep climb to the tunnel through the Spooner Range south of Nelson. This one operated between 1898-1955 and was still standing proudly in 1988 when I drew it. 

You don't see a lot of pumps like this in New Zealand but Australia's full of them, and so is Texas (which is the only US state I've ever spent much time in).

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

21 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Wakefield Post Office

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


Wakefield is a small village south of Nelson; small, yes, but proud enough to have built this heroic post office in 1909, and what a fine building it is. I did this drawing in 1988, seventy-nine years later, when the officers at New Zealand Post were still in the habit of raising the flag each morning to signify that they were in business.

Alas, as with most New Zealand Post Offices it not only shut down but even those left don't fly the flag these days; more's the pity. The building is still there but I have no idea what it is used for.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

20 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Tophouse

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.




The Tophouse road runs between St. Arnaud and Kohatu. It used to be the main connexion between Nelson and Blenheim but now it's an interesting secondary route. Tophouse homestead started life as a hostelry in 1887 and much history took place within its walls, some of it grim. In 1894 a lodger murdered the licensee and held a woman three childen captive before doing the sensible thing and committing suicide while besieged. Exciting stuff: there are still shot marks in the cob walls.

There was a lowering sky when I painted it. I probably overdid it but there's plenty of drama in that Payne's grey sky!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

13 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Silversmith's House, Whanganui Inlet

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.




Whanganui Inlet, in the top left hand corner of the South Island, is so remote that this house came as quite a surprise high on its hill in thick bush looking towards the west, the Tasman Sea and Tasmania. Although, for some reason, I couldn't get very close to the house its design looked equally astonishing, in 1988 in a country full of mediocre architecture, this was impressive, imaginative and unique.

It was identified as 'The Silversmith's House' and when, recently, I asked around, I was told that it had probably been built by its first owner, a jeweller, Peter Meirs who now lives in Golden Bay.


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

12 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Bendix Washing Machine Mail Box, Pakawau

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



New Zealanders have a reputation for lateral thinking that requires to be exemplified in a book about the special qualities of this country. On our Odyssey we saw many varieties of mail box where the 'postie' collected and deposited letters and parcels every day. This one took my fancy. It is the internal workings of a Bendix washing machine no longer given over to churning and spinning. One imagines that the owner could not bear to throw the washer away when it could still have a useful function.

It was by a country road at Pakawau in the north-west corner of the South Island.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

11 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Rat Trap, Upper Takaka

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


This drawing was done in 1988. I've drawn the pub several times since and it appeared in my book 'The Good Old Kiwi Pub'. This is what I wrote about it then:


'The Rat Trap, built in 1903, guarded the only road exit from the Takaka Valley to Riwaka, Motueka and the market gardens of Tasman Bay. I painted it on a number of occasions because it offered such a welcoming prospect after the breathtaking descent into the valley from the limestone heights of Takaka Hill-the "Marble Mountain".


'While well-known all over Nelson Province, the pub was never more popular than in the late 1930s when more than five hundred workers were constructing the hydroelectric dam in nearby Cobb Valley. That’s when the Upper Takaka Hotel was given its nickname. Life was hard at the remote dam site and the men sometimes became ’stir crazy’, so much so that absenteeism, caused by workers not returning to camp after making supply trips, became commonplace.


'"Where are the men?" the overseer would demand.


'The answer would come, "Caught in the Rat Trap!"


'They solved the problem by buying truckloads of beer from the pub and selling it in the works canteen. They bought so much that the Rat Trap’s beer sales were greater than any other pub in Nelson Province.  


'It’s still possible to get trapped in Golden Bay if the hill is closed by snow and ice but, sadly, you won’t find comfort at the Rat Trap; it burned to the ground on 19 May 1994. It’s a tragic story; a husband and wife were proprietors and she, with tortured mind, fired the place which had trapped her and turned her into what her defence counsel at her arson trial described as ‘a lonely and terrified woman’. With heartening compassion the jury found her not guilty.


'I grieve for her, her husband and the old Rat Trap.' 


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

08 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Rangimarie Worm Farm, Brooklyn Valley

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



I think that it was probably in my ignorance that I found this worm farm interesting. I'd never seen one before, didn't know that they existed and wondered whether you could get milk, fleece or steaks off a well bred worm? Here it was in the middle of farmland nowhere; was it a joke? 

No, of course not. Like bees, worms do a lot more for us than we ever realize, and the people who owned the worm farm knew what a contribution they make to soil improvement.

I called my drawing 'Helminthic husbandry in the Brooklyn Valley'. It fits.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

03 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey; Tobacco Crop, Brooklyn Farm, Motueka

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



The Motueka area in 1988 had an abundance of hop and tobacco farms. The hops go on today, but tobacco has become a no-no, having killed generations of smokers. It's still legal to grow the crop, but under very strict regulations, and if there are any tobacco farmers left they will have little to hand over to their heirs.

The crop was picturesque and the aroma inside that drying kiln was seductive. So, within a short lifetime this has become an historic picture and a once proud occupation 'Tobacco Farmer' as desirable as a kiss with hepatitis. 

Interestingly, Keith Holyoake, a prime minister of New Zealand, who died five years before I did this drawing, was once a tobacco farmer in Motueka; nothing to be ashamed of then.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

02 June 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Inglis Hops, Riwaka

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



The architecture of this hop drying kiln at Riwaka in the west of Nelson province derives from its function, nothing else; and like so many functional buildings it has its own, unique charm. There were others like it in the area (whose climate favours both hops and the now pariah tobacco) but I haven't seen anything in the rest of New Zealand that looks quite the same. I did this painting in 1988 but I imagine that the kiln still exists. 

I'm not the only artist to be attracted to this subject, Rita Angus did a superb painting, 'Hop Kilns, Motueka' in 1941, have a look at it, just put the title in the Google search box.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.


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Blurb

RANDOM SAMPLINGS F...
By Don Donovan

About Me

My photo

Don Donovan: Biography

I was born on 20 January 1933, nine days before Hitler came to power in Germany, I grew up in south London. Although evacuated during the phoney war and the quieter times I lived in and out of air raid shelters during the blitz and experienced both V1 and V2 attacks on London. Left grammar school in 1948 aged 15 substantially undereducated. I wanted to go to art school but because of family ‘poverty’ joined a commercial art studio in the West End. I was, thereafter, variously a messenger boy, commercial artist and typographer. I was in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 when the only useful thing I did was to take part in King George VI’s funeral parade.

In 1955 I married Patricia O’Donnell, a RADA graduate, at that time playing opposite Derek Nimmo, they were juvenile leads in a touring repertory company. He went on to great success because he had a funny voice.

We came to New Zealand in 1960 where I worked in advertising. At length I became managing director of one of the companies of whose holding company (the largest domestic advertising complex in New Zealand) I was also a proprietor and shareholder. I left the industry in 1990 when my company was bought out by American interests. My timing was brilliant, at that point my first book had been published and the next was on its way.

We have two daughters and four grand-children.

Now, apart from writing, I function as a self-educated grumpy old man.

Books & Writings

‘New Zealand Odyssey’, with Euan Sarginson, Heinemann-Reed, 1989.

‘One Man’s Heart Attack’, New House, 1990. (A special edition of this book was purchased by CIBA-Geigy for distribution to NZ doctors).

‘Open 7 Days’, Random Century, October 1991.

‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’ by Saint Publishing in 1995 followed by:
‘New Zealand House & Cottage’ in 1997. (Saint Publishing have also published calendars for the years 1994 to 2004 using my watercolour illustrations).

‘The Wastings’, my first novel was published in July 1999 by Hazard Press. Although an international subject it had very limited distribution, only in New Zealand, and the rights have reverted to me. (Colin Dexter read 'The Wastings' and wrote to me: 'I enjoyed and admired "The Wastings"... a beautifully written work... a splendid debut in crime fiction... More please!'.)

Also the texts of photographic books:
‘Auckland’
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Aoraki-Mt.Cook’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Otago’
‘Bay of Plenty’
and a compilation of photographs and quotations titled ‘Anzac Memories’ 2004 all published by New Holland.

My written and illustrated book, ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ was published in October 2002 by New Holland, who also published ‘Rural New Zealand’ 2004 (photographs and text), and a series of four humorous books of photographs and quotations in 2004 and 2005 titled ‘Woolly Wisdom’, ‘Chewing the Cud’, ‘Fowl Play’, and ‘Pig Tales’. My most recent book was published in August 2006 by New Holland, titled ‘Political Animals’.

Over the years I have written for NZ Herald, Heritage Magazine, Next Magazine and various local and overseas travel and general interest media.

[ENDS]