Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

31 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: St. Patrick's Church, Akaroa

'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.

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There's a lot of joy in the design of this church by Maxwell Bury, architect. I mean, just look at those barge boards, they're an inspiration and almost a promise that religious observance doesn't have to be solemn. I did this painting in 1987 but I know that the building hasn't changed since then. It was built in 1865 and added to in 1886 and 1893 when the tower was built.
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30 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Onuku Church At 'The Kaik' (Kainga=Village) Akaroa

'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've visited Onuku Marae near Akaroa on a number of occasions and have drawn this exquisite church more than once. On every occasion I've sought to find somebody who would not only give me permission to photograph and enter the church but also who might tell me something of its history, but Onuku village has always appeared deserted. 

It's a delightful spot, somewhat remote at the end of a winding shoreline road but not far from the tourists' mecca of Akaroa. I guess the local Maori, though not unwelcoming, prefer their seclusion and lie incommunicado until visitors have left.

The church is a simple porch and nave; it's the Maori embellishments that give it its charm.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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29 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Little Red School Bus

'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 illustration establishes a point in New Zealand's history when some school buses were still run by the Department of Education (which is now a Ministry). I drew this little red Bedford in 1987, at Allendale, when it carried children to school in the Lyttelton harbour area. It may bring tears to some eyes because it was quintessentially rural New Zealand.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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28 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Okains Bay Library, Banks Peninsula

'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.


In 1987, this charming little hut was (and may still be) the Okains Bay Library. From the size of it I think I have more books than it does. I've often wondered about this sort of community library - how long would it be before a reader had exhausted its offering of books that might appeal to him or her? Perhaps it was topped up or stock-turned by a mobile library service, who knows?

Its real appeal is in the fact that a small community such as Okains Bay, quietly enjoying the peace of Banks Peninsula, had the cultural wit to set it up in the first place.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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24 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Brookshaw Woolshed, Pigeon Bay, Banks Peninsula

'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 particularly remember that day in 1987 when I painted the woolshed. It was warm and dry and the heavy scent of lanolin sat on the still air like an exotic perfume. As the day warmed the timbers of the old building creaked a little as they moved in a continuum of movement that had gone on for many decades leaving the clapboards uneven, distorted and a delight for the artist.

Pigeon Bay was named for the abundant flocks of native birds - kereru - found there by European sailors in the mid-nineteenth century. The sailors killed them for food remorselessly; these days, thank heaven, the birds are protected.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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21 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey, Okains Bay Store

'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.


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Okains Bay, one of the many identations that form the periphery of Banks Peninsula, is relatively remote. Which explains why, in an age of 'samey' supermarkets the local general store breathes tradition and history. 

When I drew it in 1987 it had just been taken over by a male solo parent who'd gone there for a quiet life and who could keep an eye on his two sons who were at the school directly oppostite the store.

It was a community gossip hub and nothing much had changed, including the two solid kauri counters, since the store was built. 

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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19 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Banks Peninsula Cruising Club, Lyttleton

'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.



While it's true that we mostly found older architecture to express 'our New Zealand' there were occasions when we were impressed by the new. In a country of generally bad architecture the odd gem stands out and this was one of them.

I'm not sure which Canterbury architect designed it but it was an inspiration. I believe the cruising club later amalgamated with another and so lost its identity. As for the building: I don't know whether or not it still exists.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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18 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Captain Simeon's House, Lyttelton

'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 picture postcard cottage on Godley Quay cried out for inclusion in New Zealand Odyssey - not only that, I also put it into a book I wrote and illustrated titled New Zealand House and Cottage

The house was built between 1853 and 1860 by a Lyttleton businesman, Henry Le Cren.
-->But mystery surrounds Captain Charles Simeon; he's hard to pin down. He came from a wealthy English family and arrived at Lyttelton in October 1851 complete with a pregnant wife, five children, a governess, cook, housemaid, footman, lady’s maid and housekeeper - a retinue described by Charlotte Godley, who accommodated them upon their arrival, as ‘alarming’!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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17 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Shands Emporium, 88 Hereford Street, Christchurch

'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 building was put up in 1860. I did this painting in about 1987. In among its later multi-storey (though not high) neighbours it looked defiant, like an old man wearing a stiff, detachable collar long after the fashions changed. It had a wild west look about it and instead of seeing buses pass in the street one could have imagined tumbling sagebrush on a bed of dust and horse manure.

The amazing thing is that now, in 2011, the internet has images of Shands emporium that are almost identical. It was damaged in the earthquakes but was classified 'make safe'.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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16 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Dowson's Shoes, Riccarton Road, Christchurch

'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.



You'd only see a thing like this in New Zealand; an old building with nowhere to go, its life extended by being turned into some sort of warehouse depĂ´t for shoes. Somebody had hopes for it once; look at those quoins up the corner walls and the decorated pediments over door and windows.

Its brick construction suggests to me that if it hadn't already gone by then, the earthquakes would have demolished it. Good idea, really. So dreary.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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15 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Signal Box, Heathcote 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.


Railway buildings have a charm unique - especially those belonging to New Zealand Rail. Busy, self-important, functional and sturdy. I guess that like most small boys who never get the chance, I should like to have pulled some of those levers and set off some warning bells and lights in my time. Too late now. 

This signal box was, is? at Heathcote in a valley that leads through rock portals to a tunnel to Lyttelton. The valley took a pounding in the Canterbury earthquakes but I'm sure the signal box is still there.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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12 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Christchurch Boys' High School

'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 cannot for the life of me remember what this building at Christchurch Boys' High School was for. It might have been an old gymnasium. I was intrigued by it because despite it being a gloomy looking thing, somebody went to the trouble of designing it - even to the curlicued lightning conductor on the pyramidal roof. It must have resonated with some old boys because one of them bought the original off me for a decent sum!

It's all brick and such structures did not survive too well in the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. I wonder...

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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11 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Pegasus Press, 14 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch

'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've known this beautifully proportioned place for fifty-one years. It was the home of Pegasus Press and was the fiefdom of Albion Wright a rascal who lived and breathed publishing. His office was the two windows on the right of the entrance, a dark, cosy room lit by a table lamp, reeking of cigar smoke and whose coffee table was a pattern of rings left by beer and whisky glasses. 

A printing office was at the back, run by Peter Low, where I used to go to buy printing for my company and take the opportunity to linger with the compositors and machinists - I've always loved printing works and publishers.

This watercolour was done in about 1987. The company was later sold. I don't know what happened to Pegasus or the building.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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10 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Synagogue, Gloucester Street, Christchurch

'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 wrote and illustrated a book 'Country Churches of New Zealand' and being so irreligious that I could be labelled atheistic-ecumenical, I wanted to put all denominations' churches into it. 

But the title excluded town churches and so, regrettably, I couldn't feature this synagogue. It's four square and proud and that star window is bold as any rose window in any Christian cathedral, I'll bet it looks great from the inside. 

I believe the temple survived all the Canterbury earthquakes.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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03 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Rural Barn, Leithfield, North Canterbury

'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 is so typically rural New Zealand that it might pass unnoticed. It's a barn/garage/shed or what you will at Leithfield, North Canterbury. It looked to me, in 1987, as if it hadn't been opened for many years, its timbers warped and the grass grown long. It reminded me of an old, forgotten garage in Governors Bay in which I glimpsed, through a crack, a Model T Ford. Who knows what might lie concealed within this country barn?

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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01 August 2011

New Zealand Odysey: Kaiapoi Community Centre

'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.



All over the world in the 1930s, the magic of Hollywood was stimulating a cult of cinema art deco architecture not only in the great metropolises but in tiny, insignificant communities like Kaiapoi, north of Christchurch. 

This building, a community centre when I painted it in 1987, started life as The Rialto Movie Theatre in 1935 designed by Colin Lamb, who had only recently returned to New Zealand from studying in England and America. 

Apparently it was going to be demolished in 1995 but was saved by a Christian fellowship organization who subsequently ran it as a church. Whether it suffered in the 2011 earthquake I don't know.

© 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]