Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

14 October 2009

Puhoi Tavern

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.

Captain Krippner, a Bohemian who owned property near Orewa, hit on the idea of getting the government to offer parcels of land to some of his countrymen back in Staab, south-west of Prague, with the view to expanding the slowly growing European population with some much needed new settlers.

The result was that in February 1863, about fifty families variously composed of farm labourers, shepherds, miners, dairy maids and domestics, sick of the feudal miseries of a care-worn continent and filled with seductive tales of a golden land over the seas, set sail for New Zealand. They arrived in Auckland in June of that year and were promptly transferred north to the mouth of the Puhoi River and then upstream, in small Maori-propelled craft, to their new home.

They arrived to find their 40 acre sections overgrown with the primaeval bush and almost impenetrable vine that clothed the precipitous hillsides and razor backed ridges. There was hardly a flat piece of land anywhere. But over many years those hardy and resolute settlers carved out, from a jungle of dismay, the charming, leafy township that stands today on the banks of the river. In its lower reaches the sluggish, meandering stream was once navigable to steam boats which were by no means rare in the early days for Puhoi was remote and the best access for trading goods was by sea.

Despite its having been ‘discovered’ by city folk looking for alternatives over the last few years Puhoi’s origins still figure strongly in the town; I have been told that even now it is possible to detect a slight German accent in some older residents. To the casual visitor, the first clue to its beginnings is the wayside calvary shrine that stands on the hill overlooking the village. Beyond is the tavern, classically colonial.

The first pub, ‘The Baby Saloon’ was set up in 1873. It closed when, in 1879, both John Schollum’s ‘German Hotel’ and Vincent Schishka’s ‘Puhoi Hotel’ were opened. Then, when Schishka’s enterprise failed, Schollum took over the name ‘Puhoi Hotel’ which has remained, except that the pub now has just a tavern licence and the old accommodation rooms form part of a museum.

Puhoi, and its welcoming tavern, are at just that critical a distance from Auckland to make it mecca for weekend drivers, bikies and family picnickers all of whom, on most occasions when they find themselves together, seem to benefit from a certain local air of tranquility.



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.