Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

17 November 2009

Goldfields Hotel, Roxburgh

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.

Yellow and square as a block of butter, it’s the brightest thing in Scotland Street, the main highway through Roxburgh. It hasn’t always been yellow and its shape has probably altered over the years: it’s certainly changed its name for when it was established around 1870, it was called the Queens Head.

It became the Goldfields Hotel thirty years later, had a ‘face-lift’ in 1912, a pool room was added in the 1960s, followed by a dining room in the ’70s but then, in August 1992, there was a serious fire which burned out the roof of the bar and damaged some of the guest rooms. Although major re-furbishment was necessary on the inside, the outside of the pub was undamaged. As a reward for its sufferings, it was given a much deserved coat of new yellow paint.

These days, Roxburgh is all about fruit orchards - particularly apricots - and the hydro-electric power station north of the town. But Roxburgh (its first name was Teviot) was born out of the Otago gold rushes. Gold was first discovered in 1862 when two young men, Andrew Young and James Woodhouse, searching with two companions for colours in the area, did a little prospecting in the river while their clothes were hanging to dry in the bushes. They found such rich deposits that they precipitated a gold rush that lasted until the later dredging boom petered out in the 1920s.

Old goldfields water wheel
Be careful where you put your car in Scotland Street: if, inadvertently, you take Geordie’s carpark outside the Goldfields Hotel (his name is painted on the kerb, he’s parked there for 42 years) it’ll cost you a fine of one jug of beer; the proceeds to St John’s Ambulance.



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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.