Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

04 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 11. The Cuddy, Waimate

I wrote and illustrated ‘New Zealand House and Cottage’. It was published in 1997. It’s a snapshot of some historic New Zealand homes - both grand and modest - as they were preserved 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 Cuddy suffers somewhat from being so picturesque. It’s the stuff that calendars are made of, thatched, honeysuckled and charming in its old style garden. But its prettiness is a fortuitous side-effect and belies its pioneer beginnings when the need for shelter far outweighed artistic considerations.

The construction, typical of the period, is of the original vertical totara slab plugged with wattle and daub, but its brick chimney superseded one of clay and stake, and its roof, when I called at the end of 1996, had just been re-thatched in English style with rushes from a local swamp (in Maori, Waimate means ’stagnant water’) and was expected to last another thirty years.* Its first thatch was of snowgrass which was later replaced by others of corn straw.

The cottage was built in 1854 by the Studholme brothers, Michael, John and Paul who had arrived in Lyttelton from Cumberland three years before. It gets its name from a small cabin on a ship and probably reminded them of their voyage. Paul soon returned to England but his brothers lived in the Cuddy for six years while they developed the 98,000 acres (40,000ha) of Te Waimate Station.

When Michael first brought his wife, Effie, home she was dismayed by the accommodation and wrote:
‘We inspected the Cuddy…The floor was of beaten clay, which was worn into depressions here and there, so that in setting a chair there was trouble in arranging the legs so as to stand firmly… There were two small windows and one large sod fireplace: above the latter M’s guns, stockwhips etc. were arranged. A couple of stools cut from the round of a tree completed the furniture. Certainly there was no room for me there…’
Effie had brought a rose from Christchurch in her saddle bag and it was planted in the garden beside the Cuddy where its scions grow to this day: her side-saddle is still in the cottage in company with some contemporary pots, pans and furniture.

The one kilometre avenue from the main road to the cottage is lined with English oaks planted in 1864. It leads also to the site of the old homestead, destroyed by fire in 1928, and the five acres of gardens containing magnificent sequoias, cedars of Lebanon, red and white pines and Oregon firs.

*The Cuddy and Rhodes Cottage, both in South Canterbury, are the only two thatched buildings in the care of the Historic Places Trust.



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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.