Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

02 November 2009

Kohatu Hotel

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.

Solitary, it stands where the winding road that follows the pretty Motueka River joins the highway from Nelson. It’s at a point where the mind of the southbound traveller prepares tor the rugged bluffs of the Buller Gorge, leaving the gentle orchards of Tasman Bay behind.

You might be tricked by those big flashy bar windows, pseudo shutters and plaster rendering into thinking that the Kohatu Hotel is a modern building but the two-storey front portion of it is over one hundred years old. What’s more, apart from the big fascia board with the name lettered on it, and the absence of one chimney, that part has not changed since 1894 when it was built by Harry Bromell. It replaced the Bromell’s Hotel which his father, Thomas, had erected in 1877 in competition, perhaps, with an older accommodation house on the other side of the river. With the opening of the road over the Hope Saddle, traffic from Nelson had increased and Thomas had wanted to take advantage of obvious commercial opportunities.

Bromell’s became even more important in 1899, when Motupiko Station (the name was changed to Kohatu Station in 1906) became the terminus of the Nelson Railway. It was here that train passengers and freight were transferred to road coaches for the onward journey to Murchison and the Buller. Around then, its name was changed to the Terminus Hotel; what a bustling place it must have been when the trains and coaches met and passengers and horses needed to be fed and watered, accommodated and stabled.

It was from outside Bromell’s, too, that Nelson sheep were taken by drovers for sale in Canterbury - a journey that could take almost a month via Tophouse and Hanmer. Drovers like legendary Ern Robinson (coincidentally a kinsman of my mate, Mac Fairweather) would have known both the old and new Bromell’s Hotels and would have witnessed the coming of the railway and Newmans transition from horse drawn transport to motor vehicles.

The railway failed to survive and you’d have to look hard to find any traces of it now, although the old Glenhope Station still stands, twenty-five kilometres south of the Kohatu Hotel. Or, by chance, you might find someone in the bar with a long memory!



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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.