Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

16 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 24. Mona Vale Lodge, Christchurch

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.


In its riverside, park~like setting this little two storeyed house has that character which, with others around the city and suburbs, gives Christchurch its ‘English’ look. Typically Victorian, with over-decoration that should make it an architectural mess, it is in fact enchanting.

I took delight in painting it because it came as quite a departure from sod cottages and wooden villas. As I worked I thought I could feel how the mysteries, hinted at beneath its Marseilles tiles and beyond its diamond-paned gothic windows, would appeal to a child with a romantic imagination. It’s a story book cottage.

The lodge is associated with the older Tudor-revival house, Mona Vale, the entrance to whose grounds it ‘guards’. On land that once belonged to the Deans family, Frederick Waymouth built the big house in 1900 and called it ‘Karewa’. In 1905 it was bought for £6000 by Annie Townend, one of the country’s wealthiest women, and she changed its name to Mona Vale after her mother’s house in Tasmania. Aged eighteen, Annie had arrived in New Zealand many years earlier with her father, George Moore. He owned the grand Glenmark house in North Canterbury which, tragically, burned down in 1891. It’s said that, for sentimental reasons, Annie later developed Mona Vale and its gardens on the banks of the Avon in the style of Glenmark, and it was probably also nostalgia that caused Annie to have the entrance lodge patterned upon the one she had known at Glenmark rather than have it complement Mona Vale house, whose architecture is quite different.

Annie Townend didn’t have long to enjoy Mona Vale; she died in 1914. Thereafter the property passed through many hands until it was bought in 1962 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints whose house of worship stands nearby. In the late ’60s the church decided to subdivide the property and demolish the house, but the people of Christchurch didn’t like that idea and Mona Vale and its picturesque entrance lodge were bought by Christchurch City Council. Since then the big house and its gardens have been used as a reception centre and the lodge as a residence.



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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.