Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

10 November 2009

West Oxford 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.

The first licence in Oxford was granted to William Satchell in 1859. His ‘pub’ was a four-roomed accommodation house. It was taken over by Salathiel Redfern who promptly put up the two-storeyed Oxford Hotel. Next came David Fisher’s Forest Inn of 1863, which was later named the Terminus Hotel (historical clues are in both names for there was a large forest near Oxford and there were two railway lines with stations at East and West Oxford). Pub number three, the Harewood Arms, built by a sawmiller named Luers, went up in 1864. They’ve all gone.

In July 1878 William Paget raised the Commercial Hotel. The licence had been granted on the condition that the pub was up within a month - imagine that happening nowadays! Designed by architect Jacobson of Christchurch, it was declared ‘one of the finest country hotels in the province’, and is now the West Oxford Hotel, the survivor of Oxford’s first four pubs. Paget owned livery stables opposite his hotel and every Saturday he’d hitch up a brougham and collect thirty thirsty sawmillers from Coopers Creek in Oxford Forest and bring them to the pub. (In so doing he anticipated ‘Dial-a-Driver’ service by over a hundred years!).

‘The West’, its solid walls a tribute to the craftsmen who built it, still offers accommodation and good service - although the ornate bells in the passageways no longer ring to summon chambermaids.

Under some straggly old pines in the adjacent paddock is a classical old two-door lock-up, looking a bit the worse for wear. It was brought there from the Heathcote Valley in 1869. No notable criminals languished in its darkness but it’s said that Michael Leahy, constable, locked-up a miscreant one night for being drunk in charge of a horse and dray. Leahy, next day unlocked the gaol door to find an even drunker drunk: he had forgotten that the cells contained a considerable amount of confiscated liquor!



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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.