Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

31 July 2009

Country Churches of NZ 39. St. John's, Rangitukia, East Cape

I wrote and illustrated Country Churches of New Zealand. It was published in 2002 by New Holland, Publishers and is still on sale in bookshops. The publishers have kindly agreed to me re-publishing some of the book’s images and descriptions in this blog.


The angel points at St John's, Rangitukia, as if to say, 'Care for that church.'

I certainly found it in need of repair. A simple structure, built in 1900, the inside was lined with tired particle board but its ceiling is original white wood and rafters. The windows all have striking colour panels: vivid reds, duck egg blues, pale peach, orange, light blue, acid lemon-green and dark blue - Mondrian rectangles!

A local couple told me that the community was about to have a meeting to decide whether to keep it and do it up or demolish and replace it - I hope they have saved it.

I was intrigued by an eroded tombstone that lies half hidden in bushes beside the sanctuary. It honours a ‘missionary’ who started his New Zealand ministry in Nelson Province but who was sent to the East Coast in 1847 only to die in harness a year later.

The stone was commissioned by his widow and sent from England to the colony where it disappeared, only to turn up in an Auckland garden 50 years later. Thereafter it found its way to Rangitukia.
'Here lies all that could die of
The Reverend Charles Lucas Reay
Formerly of Queen's College, Oxford, B.A.
and Vicar of Swanbourne Bucks
in England
He was an Israelite indeed in whom
there was no guile
Learned and brave yet mild as a child
a fond husband and tender parent
A faithful friend.
In obedience to the commands of
His great master
To go forth and preach the Gospel among all nations
He left
A Christian home and Christian friends
And here borne down by the weight of his labour
In the Lord's Vineyard,
He sunk to rest March 31st 1848. Aged 38.
In the hope and faith of a joyful resurrection.
A volume would not tell his many virtues,
But this stone
Is erected to his memory
By his widow.'



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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:
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘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.