Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

14 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 22. No.44 Old Slip Road, Hakataramea

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.

There’s a certain ‘Kiwiana’ house that exhibits all the art, craft and ingenuity of the home handyman, you see its exemplars at beaches and river sides from one end of the country to the other.

Typically, it has grown ad hoc, following the demands of changing lifestyles or new owners: a shower box here, an extra bedroom there; a proper hot water cylinder; a laundry. Essentially once a crib or bach it’s become a permanent home, warm, dry and reassuring.

No. 44 Old Slip Road is one of a neat row of cottages just past the Hakataramea pub. It was bought as a weekender by Ernie and Rosemary Gilchrist in 1986; now it’s their retirement home.

It started as a two-roomed hut built by two brothers in the late 1800s. I’ve not been able to discover how long they lived there but it was bought in 1943 by two hardy rabbiters, Mr and Mrs Currie. They were a tough couple, having previously lived in tents, hunting a rabbit population every bit as bad as it is in the Mackenzie Country today. Violet Currie boasted that she could skin one hundred rabbits in a hour! Her husband was a water diviner, consequently most of his neighbours, following his indications, drilled wells in their back gardens. (I like that story: virtually surrounded by the Waitaki and Hakataramea Rivers it would be difficult not to find water here!).

The Curries lived at No. 44 for forty-two years during which time they added (clearly without help from a master builder for none of the walls, ceilings or floors is square) a kitchen, bathroom, laundry and another bedroom. Despite the Curries’ ‘improvements’, when the Gilchrists bought the house there was only a dribbling cold water supply from ground level tanks, the hot water coming from a 5.6-litre Zip over the kitchen sink.

But now it’s a comfortable home with every convenience, greatly cherished and surrounded by the neatest garden. It retains its essential simplicity, though, that’s what I found so endearing.

Over coffee and scones the Gilchrists told me that after the big Hakataramea flood of 1986 the floors of the house, having been inundated, took longer than expected to dry out. The floorboards were lifted to reveal that, at some time past, rabbits had blocked the air space under the house with their diggings.
Which only goes to prove that you can’t skin ‘em all.



Blog Archive

Hits Counter


Loaded Web

Blog Directory for Albany, New Zealand


Blog This Here

Blog Flux

Commentary blogs


  • <$BlogCommentAuthor$> // <$BlogCommentDateTime$>


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.