Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

30 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Postmaster's House, St. Bathans, Central Otago

'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.



As it was in 1988 and probably still is, this imposing house was provided for the local postmaster in the heady days when St. Bathans was one of the richest gold mining areas in New Zealand. The NZ Post of the new millenium would do no such thing; these days they'd be reluctant to provide posties with a bicycle and high-viz vests let alone a house! 

St. Bathans was saved from oblivion by people who were quick enough to realize that preservation of nineteenth century history pays dividends. St. Bathans is now a tourist destination and repays a long trek through Central Otago.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

29 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Two Buildings in Clyde, Central Otago

'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 pre-European history of New Zealand has left virtually nothing of architectural note because Maori built little in stone. Almost all indigenous structures were wood: meeting houses, huts, storage sheds and the palisades that protected hilltop defences and villages. Earthworks abound, buildings are absent.
But Europeans built using the most appropriate local material and in Central Otago that meant stone. These two buildings in Clyde, which I illustrated in 1988, could last forever (how long is that?), although their roofs, being of corrugated iron, will be replaced often. The lower drawing is of a building under restoration and I was rather saddened to see that the modern window doesn't quite keep in tune with the rest.


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

26 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Vulcan Hotel, St. Bathans, Central Otago

'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 drawn this pub a number of times but this rendering, from 1988, was the first. The pub looked very fresh and new then, despite its age, and has since been through a varied history until the present time when it is cherished and much sought out by tourists and goldfields historians. 

When you go through that front door you are so close to the back wall of the bar that it feels like being in a railway carriage so I can imagine that there were many times in the nineteenth century when beer-thirsty miners spilled out across the footpath and on to the narrow main street.

The 'stone' walls are made of mud and the fine lettering has been refreshed countless times with greater or lesser facility.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

24 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Old Billiards Saloon, St.Bathans, Central Otago

'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.


Whether or not they were still playing on the green baize in 1988 I don't know, but this little building next door to the Vulcan Hotel looked pretty fresh and there might still have been a full-sized table behind that door. The lettering was superbly wrought.

I'm always slightly suspicious of buildings like this. One never knows when they might have been dollied up for a TV commercial but I think it was genuine; indeed it's listed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. I see pink flannel vested gold miners potting blacks in my mind's eye...

I was in St.Bathans in 2011 and the billiards hall seems to have become an extension of the hotel with 'Billiards' painted out and benches and flower pots blocking the door.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

23 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Old White Horse Hotel, Becks, Central Otago

'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.


 Travelling in Central Otago in 1988 it was still possible to find historic buildings that were going to the dogs. One such was this schist stone and clapboard pub on the road from Alexandra to St.Bathans, at Becks - The White Horse Hotel. 

It was the OLD version, across the road is another, later, White Horse Hotel of good character. The barge boards and signwriting of the old inn were still intact and the building was still capable of repair but - would anybody care?

Well, yes, actually. I believe a group of enthusiasts has restored the old pub, rescued it from oblivion. And that must be a good thing.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

21 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Bellass Boxing Gym & Courthouse Door, Lawrence, Central Otago.

'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.


Because it benefited greatly from gold winning in the nineteenth century, Lawrence, in Central Otago, has some pretty interesting buildings. The mustard yellow one above was a Catholic Hall and turned into a boxing gymnasium. I liked its rambling clapboard and those ecclesiastical windows which feature in many buildings where it was so impossible to do a gothic curve that they took the easy way out and did a triangle! This was how it was in 1988; I'm willing to bet that it's neither this colour nor a boxing gymn in 2011.

I also liked the panelled door on the long, low Lawrence courthouse. It has an innate authority that instils respect into both plaintiff and defendant.


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

19 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Presbyterian Manse, Lawrence, Central Otago

'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 did this drawing of the Presbyterian manse at 20 Peel Street, Lawrence in 1988. It still looked much the same in 2010. In a small town that sprang into prominence in the nineteenth century because of a hugely rich goldfield nearby the house looks indecently grand. But I guess gold and goldminers (forever short lived!) helped pay for that. It seems also that in great Anthony Trollope tradition, the clergy of those times, for all their avowed humility, made sure their living accommodation was a layer above the ordinary.

There's been a bit of a revival in Lawrence in recent years brought about by people who want to exploit the town's history. That's no bad idea as long as they can keep McDonalds and KFC off the main street!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

18 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Fruit Stall, Roxburgh, Central Otago

'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.


 On a certain day in 1988, I was taken by the simple boldness of this wayside fruit shop at Roxburgh. A typographer and lettering artist from way back, I was greatly impressed by the amateur signwriting which looked to me as if it had been done by a professional who'd deliberately tried to make it look naive.
There's a special climate in Roxburgh that particularly favours cherries and apricots.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

11 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Stone Hut, Shingle Creek, Central Otago

'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.

 There's nothing particularly special about this illustration of an abandoned stone hut in Central Otago but it's one of my favourites. The thing is: I did it in no time at all - just a few minutes - but it came out just right and the soft wash behind the building showed the rising mist perfectly. The reckless landscape in this area is dotted with remains like this. They mostly date back to gold mining days of the nineteenth century and, while re-roofed by local farmers, their walls and chimneys are as everlasting as stone can ever be.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.


05 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: D.S.Sinclair - Generalists, Nightcaps, Southland

'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 small country towns all over the world, specialization is rare for it is a luxury of big cities. It therefore came as no surprise to find, in 1988, in Nightcaps, that D.S. Sinclair and sons were not only builders and joiners but also funeral directors. 

I guess it's not beyond reason to imagine that they could have built the house in which one of their corpses had lived after which they might have fashioned his coffin and laid him to rest. Literally a lifetime 'one-stop-shop'. It seemed a pity, as they were Dulux Paints stockists, that they could not brighten up their premises but I guess battleship grey is an acceptable compromise between the joy of building and the sadness of passing.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

04 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Nightcaps Museum and Medical Centre, Southland

'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.


  
Delightfully named Nightcaps is a small Southland town that grew up on coal but exhausted its resource. There is a number of interesting buildings - leftovers from a more prosperous time - dotting its precincts. These two fascinated me in 1988: the Museum with a suspiciously closed look and with epiphytic growth appearing on its roof as if to suggest that Nature will take over; and the Medical Association centre, an even more modest one-roomed lock up. I wonder what the group shareholding doctors of the grand amalgamated practices of the big cities would think of such simplicity?

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

03 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Greenhills Church, Southland

'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.



Apart from Bluff Harbour there's nothing much between Greenhills Union Church and McMurdo Sound and when the biting south wind comes its old rusticated weatherboard timbers groan like a wooden ship, as they have no doubt groaned since 1886. But it's sound and unaltered inside and out.

I've painted it three times (this one in 1988) with great enthusiasm.

A Roman Catholic, Mr. S. Sullivan, both gave the land and built the church. It was de-commissioned in March 2001 and handed over to The Greenhills Church Charitable Trust who, I hope, will continue to love it like an old teddy bear.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

01 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Signal Station, Bluff, Southland

'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 can't remember why I bothered to illustrate this ugly building. It was probably because it's historic, and at the very bottom of New Zealand's South Island. Farther south is Stewart Island which, I'm ashamed to confess, I have never visited. Beyond that it's Antarctica. On the day I did this illustration it was so cold and windy that tears were making snails' trails across my temples.

© 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]