Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

16 January 2010

How To Package A Prime Minister

Take a look at what they did to Prime Minister Helen Clark for New Zealand's 2008 election campaign!



It’s all about Trust!



04 January 2010

N.Z. House & Cottage 38. (Final). The Derelict

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 decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.
The book contained 41 houses or cottage. This is the final page.

Over many years, I saw this farmhouse crumble. It stood in a paddock some distance from the highway in that gentle country south of Nelson where the weather is fine most days. Having drawn it yet again, from earlier reference, I went looking for it in order to discover its history but although I searched beside the recently realigned highway and old side roads I could neither find it nor where it had been. I conclude that it decayed to the point where it had to be demolished and with it, no doubt, went another little history. That is the fate of all houses, rich or poor, grand or simple. I am pleased that I was able, in passing, to capture just a few. 


03 January 2010

N.Z. House & Cottage 37. Terrace Station, Hororata

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.

Memories of Terrace Station in the 1960s: dining surrounded by leather-bound volumes; sleeping in ‘Little Jericho’, one of two bedrooms at one extreme of the rambling house; skating on a farm pond wearing borrowed Victorian skates from a room full of old tennis racquets, croquet mallets and hickory skis; and riding in the 1911 Clement-Talbot that was bought new and is still at the house.
Our hosts in those days were Godfrey and Peggy Hall and I particularly remember my delight when, after I had spent some shivering time drawing the house from the same angle as in my watercolour, Peggy swapped two home-spun, hand-knitted sweaters for the sketch. I still have them; I can still smell the lanolin in them, the smell of the old sheep runs of the South Island.
Since then the Halls’ daughter, Kate, and her husband, Richard Foster have taken over and farmed the land and raised a family while labouring mightily to restore and maintain Terrace Station homestead and to document and preserve its history.
The house grew piecemeal but the earliest part, pre-fabricated in Australia, was built for the Studholmes (of Te Waimate fame) in the mid-1850s. John and Rose Hall bought Rakaia Terrace Station in 1862. A pragmatic Yorkshireman, he’d arrived in Christchurch in 1852 and became so deeply involved with local and colonial affairs that he later became prime minister - from 1879 to 1882. He and Rose extended and altered the house greatly to meet the needs of their family and by 1868 the house had doubled in size, including the distinctive three front gables.
Posterity might almost have lost the homestead but, fortunately, an economic depression dissuaded Hall from building a new house and led instead to a series of practical additions that culminated in 1890 with a superb, native timber refit of the entrance hall by Samuel Hurst Seager, the eminent Christchurch architect. John Hall was knighted in 1882 and died in 1907 whereupon Terrace Station passed to his son, Godfrey, then grandson Godfrey and, now, Kate and Richard Foster. In their hands the work goes on, while, in the entrance hall, an elegant watercolour time-table (artist unknown) reminds us that life in the home of statesmen-farmers, their families and descendants requires certain daily disciplines.


01 January 2010

N.Z. House & Cottage 36. Wyllie Cottage, Gisborne

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.

I should explain ‘Mac’ before I go any further. When planning these texts I asked owners and administrators of properties to help with information and anything quirky that might be of interest. It was Jan Colbert of the Gisborne Museum and Arts Centre who pointed out Mac’s burial plaque and told me that ‘Mac’ (Museum and Arts Centre - get it?) made the museum and adjacent Wyllie Cottage his home, having been rescued from near death as a vagrant teenager. He died, having begged snacks and lorded it over staff and visitors for some years, in his feline dotage. His kidneys had packed up; all that junk food, I guess.

One thing you can do with old cottages that you can’t do with old cats is restore them. Wyllie Cottage (strikingly similar to the one in the NZ Historic Places Trust’s logo) was the first house of European design constructed on the Whataupoko bank of the Taruheru River in Gisborne. It was built in 1872 by James Ralston Wyllie and his wife Kate. As their family grew to eight children they extended the house but, interestingly, it never had a kitchen venting chimney and it’s thought that Kate, of Maori background, did her cooking outdoors. There’s nothing outstanding about the cottage but, restored, it is a good example of kauri-shingled vertical board and batten: pleasingly simple.

To make room for a larger house the cottage was removed in 1886 to its present site by its then owner, J.C. Dunlop. His wife ran a school in the cottage and it appears to have served as a school three times, the later schoolmarms being the Misses Evans and a Miss Aylmer. A dressmaker, Miss Simeon, also occupied it (I wonder whether she was related to the transient Captain Simeon of Lyttelton?). Eventually it was bought by W.D. Lysnar whose daughter, Winifred, sold the property, in 1954, to Gisborne City Council.

Thereafter Wyllie Cottage slowly decayed until, partly as a bloody-minded response to the bruited intention of the council to demolish it, the cottage was saved by public subscriptions. Restoration began in 1970 when it was found that the sagging building was not quite as bad as had been thought. Indeed, the biggest job was the restoration of the roof, which was done with shingles supplied by the Historic Places Trust.

As for Mac, he’s buried round the back, among the bedding plants.



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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.