Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

04 November 2009

Revington’s, Greymouth

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

I have a confession to make: back in 1961, long before the present proprietors owned Revingtons, my wife and I stayed there one freezing winter weekend, having foolhardedly crossed the mountains from Christchurch in deteriorating weather. We were dismayed to find that the tap on the gas fire in our bedroom was padlocked. A notice advised that the lock would be undone upon payment of half-a-crown (25 cents). I was affronted at such parsimony and promptly picked the lock with a hairpin. I have felt vaguely guilty ever since; but I feel better now that I have told you.

It’s a splendid pub and I thoroughly enjoyed drawing it in its new livery; it is much cherished by its present owners, the Dalzells.

Its ancestry is traced to a hotel built opposite the Greymouth post office by John William Oliver in 1876 which, predictably, he called the Post Office Hotel. Twenty years later - by which time Greymouth had become respectable and was known more for its coal than the rough and tumble of its goldfields - it was purchased by Captain W. D. Revington who added his name to its title.

But ‘Revington’s Post Office Hotel’ must have been such a mouthful, and West Coasters are generally people of few words (well chosen, usually) inevitably it became ‘Revington’s’ which, I think, has quite a ring to it. I’m told that the locals shorten it even further, to ‘Revvies’, which tends to knock the top off any attempt at grandeur.

The first Revingtons was a fine looking hotel but it was replaced in 1938 by this art deco style building with its Spanish tiles, built by the owners of the day, Allan and Margaret Marshall. They must have had a presentiment that, one day, Royalty would grace the pub for they incorporated that fine balcony. From its double doors, below the flagstaff, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh waved to the loyal Greymouth crowd when they paid a visit on 18 January 1954.



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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.