Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

05 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 12. Dudley’s Cottage, Arrowtown

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.


Noelene Dudley-Garbutt lives in the little white cottage that stands near the remains of Arrowtown’s Chinese settlement; it has been in her family since the early 1900s. These are her words:

‘The cottage was built in 1862 by the Sillifant Bros (Frenchmen) for the Butler brothers (Irish). My grandfather, George Dudley, purchased the cottage from the Butlers … There have always been Dudleys in residence since then.

‘It’s built of river stones, 2 ft thick [600mm] and bonded together with river sand and lime. The whitewash that kept the sand and lime in place was made from shell lime, mutton fat and cream! This mixture was put into a forty gallon drum and left for twelve hours or so until a beautiful, thick creamy solution had finished “working” and was ready to be painted on with brooms.

‘I remember my grandparents and father, plus aunts and uncles, all being involved in re-painting during my childhood.

‘My grandfather came from Ireland in the late 1800s and married Catherine Austin who was born “just over the hill in Cardrona” … they had eight children, and two daughters are still living.

‘Grandma and grandad were the buffer between the Chinese and miners in Arrowtown. Neither group mixed with the other and if the Chinese needed either the doctor or the police or even groceries from the township grandma would always see that they got help. The Chinese were always very appreciative of anything done for them and were very good to my grandparents . . .’

I’ve drawn and painted lots of cottages in Arrowtown, some of them long before it became the tourist trap it is today. The best known are in Buckingham Street which so far survives creeping commercialism as a pretty, tree-lined road. Somehow, though, despite the hoards of visitors that pass its doors and trespass in its little garden, Dudley’s Cottage gives me a more genuine feel for the old goldmining town than most. Perhaps it’s because the river is close by and if you listen carefully you can hear, through the golden dapple of autumn sunlight, the shuffle of gravel in riffle boxes and the sounds of miners cursing and laughing…



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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.