Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

20 September 2009

A Day in the Death of T.E.Lawrence

It was all a bit breathless but I had to visit three T.E.Lawrence destinations before leaving Dorset and England for New Zealand. Lawrence has fascinated me since I was a small boy and read bits of Seven Pillars of Wisdom in the reference library in Norbury. Latterly I amassed a large collection of Lawrenciana including some quite valuable Golden Cockerel editions and a copy of Seven Pillars with four of the 1925 subscriber’s edition colour plates in it. 

Over many years I developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with T.E. because although he was undoubtedly heroic, he was also a liar and a bit of a prat!

With time running out fast I wanted to see: 1. Cloud’s Hill, 2. T.E’s gravestone, 3. His effigy.

Cloud’s Hill, Lawrence’s cottage that he bought in 1925 having rented it from 1923 when he was grudgingly serving in the Tank Regiment at Bovington is delightful, peaceful, well preserved and redolent of the man and his solitary, simple milieu. We were the only visitors that day. I picked up a flint from the garden and some fresh oak leaves and brought them back to New Zealand as non-politically-correct keepsakes.

The grave in nearby Moreton churchyard is impressively ordinary and T.E. now finds himself in more company than he would have liked in life. Its headstone bears an inscription that he wouldn’t have cared for (dictated by his mother) and the motto of Oxford University which he would. There were floral tributes some fresh, some wilting.

A few miles east is Wareham where in St. Martin’s church is a reclining sandstone effigy of T.E.L as Lawrence of Arabia carved by Eric Kennington, the illustrator of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. It’s very, very good. Apparently the vicar of Moreton church wouldn’t have the effigy because he didn’t want his church over-run by tourists but St. Martins needed funds for restoration so gladly allowed Lawrence’s effigy an alcove to itself. I had it to myself for a brief, silent moment.

Those three pilgrimages completed we departed with indecent haste but with actual been-there memories of Lawrence’s last days.

A strange man. An enigma. Born 1888 died 1935. Still alive in myth and mystery.



Blog Archive

Hits Counter


Loaded Web

Blog Directory for Albany, New Zealand


Blog This Here

Blog Flux

Commentary blogs


  • <$BlogCommentAuthor$> // <$BlogCommentDateTime$>


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.