Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

24 October 2009

The Dudley Arms, Mangatainoka

I wrote and illustrated ‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’. It was published in 1995 and was a snapshot of some New Zealand pubs as they were at the end of the 20th century. I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.

Closing the bar in any pub, especially at times when the conversation is coming thick and fast and the world’s troubles are on the point of solution, is a delicate moment. The time-honoured words used to be ‘Time, gentlemen, please!’, other stratagems being a rapid flicking on and off of the lights or the harsh rasp of an electric buzzer. Perhaps one of the most original, though, is attributed to Mrs Connell, the diminutive but dominant wife of Wally, proprietor of the ‘Dudley’ before and after the second world war, who, at 6.00 p.m., would cast her eye sternly around the patrons and announce: ‘Mr Connell’s tea is ready.’

Most historic country pubs that have been brewery-owned have been spoiled by ‘improvements’ but the Dudley Arms, probably because of its simple, unpretentious shape, looks original. It was owned by Dominion Breweries for a few years before reverting to private, independent ownership in the 1980s. It’s of no great age, having been built in 1920 to replace the even squarer (and much more forbidding) 1888 ‘Dudley’, a plain, mainly corrugated iron affair, nicknamed ‘The Tin House’, which had joined the long list of fire-razed New Zealand pubs.

The first Dudley Arms was established one year before its neighbouring Wagstaff’s North Island Brewery, later to become better known as the Tui Brewery, the distinctive tower of which dominates the landscape beside the Mangatainoka River.

One of Tui’s notable achievements was the licence to brew Guinness stout, which it did for seven years from 1960. The complex was taken over by Dominion Breweries in 1969 and is now the DB Central Brewery.



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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.