Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

27 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 31. Sod Cottage, Lovells Flat, Balclutha

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.

Why would I want to draw an obviously new dunny which may or may not be a replica? Because the work of anybody who has the sense of romance to carve a heart-shaped hole in a lavatory door deserves recognition! It can only be for decoration; as a peephole it would be unthinkable. Sadly, as is also the case with most country churches these days, the dunny was padlocked: that being the case it’s hard to fathom why they’re there.

The house isn’t quite what it seems, either, having been substantially re-constructed; but it is on its original site and despite its newish roof and gable-end clapboards it’s a pleasing, rustic thing for motorists to discover on the road between Milton and Balclutha. It was a sunny day when we lunched alfresco at the picnic table provided on the daisy-lawned garden shaded by a young English oak.
Nobody knows when the sod cottage was built but it’s known that Hugh Murray constructed it for John McIntosh to use as a store. It’s also known that McIntosh was appointed postmaster of the first Lovells Flat post office on 1 February 1865. A number of owners and dwellers came and went - farming folk, a widow and her young children, a Gaelic-speaking doctor from Scotland, a pair of newly weds - but as time went by its use declined until it served only as casual accommodation for itinerant farm workers, and drovers who over-nighted there while their cattle grazed nearby. It is thought that the last occupants were some people caught in a snowstorm in 1939 while returning to Milton from a visit to Dunedin.

In 1967 restoration began to the cottage whose only occupants in thirty years had been rats, mice and nesting birds. Chimneys were re-built, the wooden floor replaced by concrete, and windows were donated by a local farmer who was demolishing a house. New fences were erected, including a gate from the Clydesdale Estate, the lawn was formed and the beds planted with flowers typical of pioneer gardens. The two rooms were furnished with period pieces and knick-knacks from around the district and finally a clay-toned wash was applied to the thick sod walls.

The front door is original.



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.