Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

12 October 2009

Hukerenui Hotel

I wrote and illustrated ‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’. It was published in 1995. It 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.

Kauri gum dominated the economy of Northland in the latter years of the nineteenth century and it was to serve an army of gum diggers that the ‘Huka’, at first a single storey inn, came into existence. Unlike most old pubs, its birth can be dated precisely. At noon on 4 June 1890 a Whangarei lawyer, appearing on behalf of Carl Jorgen Rasmussen, appeared before the Hikurangi Licensing Committee to apply for an accommodation licence. It was granted forthwith but subject to a list of conditions proscribing drunkenness, profiteering and discourtesy and prescribing liquor of good quality, proper maintenance of drains, an abundant supply of pure water and stabling for horses.

Rasmussen and his wife Sarah ran the hotel, which they combined with a store, butchery and post office, until she died in 1894 whereupon he sold out to William and Catherine Woods. During the next eight years they expanded the accommodation and stabling and gained a reputation for honest dealing in the community. They moved on in 1902 and for the next 70 years the Hukerenui Hotel was owned by the Keatley family.

Meanwhile the railway was creeping north from Auckland and Hukerenui became its latest terminus, changing the focus of the town so dramatically that the pub had to be moved from up the hill beside the highway down to the railhead. At a cost of £500 ($1000) using screw jacks and bullock teams, it took some weeks to shift it, during which time the pub was open every day for fear of losing the licence! In the move, the building was turned 180 degrees so that the front faced the railway; that means that today what you might think is the front is really the back but you wouldn’t know unless somebody told you. It’s still a fine looking tavern run by Dennis and Colleen Clark who, with a well developed sense of history, mean to keep it that way.
One of the pub’s nicknames is ‘The Picket Fence’ and while it’s true that little fences now adorn the entrance, I’m inclined to believe the name goes back to days when you could walk out of the public bar through a turnstile and on to the station platform. A photograph taken in 1912 shows a splendid two storey building from the railway side (the front, remember?) with a handsome balustrade along the first storey and, below, the neatest picket fence you ever did see in the whole of Northland.



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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.