Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

10 March 2010

Open 7 Days 19. Langfords Store, Bainham

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.

Main Road, Bainham, Collingwood.
Proprietor: Lorna May Langford

Langfords Store is the jewel in the crown of Open 7 Days.

Although not the oldest shop in the book, it’s the one with the best pedigree. With ageing dignity, it exemplifies the whole tradition of country general stores.

Its preservation is due to Lorna Langford and her sense of family history. She traces six generations to Wales and the marriage of Richard Langford to Mary Price in the first decade of the nineteenth century. One of their sons, John Alfred, born in 1815, arrived with his wife, Harriet, at Petone on 22 January 1840. She was the first settler woman ashore from Aurora, the first of the immigrant ships.
The Langfords settled in the Takaka area, from where Lorna’s grandfather Edward Bates Langford and his bride, Eleanor, moved in December 1900 to farm at Bainham. When Lorna’s father, John Edward, took over the farm in 1924, E.B.L. became Bainham’s postmaster and, largely because the government of the day was too miserable to fund a new post office (for an estimated £148/6 shillings) he founded Langfords Store in 1928.

He was, as Lorna proudly describes, a man of many parts. Deeply involved in community affairs, an unqualified part-time vet and surgeon, comforter of the sick, Sunday school teacher, amateur musician, horse trainer, cobbler and repairer of harness and canvas, he also found time to study carnivorous snails and to print invitations, labels and butter wrappers on the press he set up in the old post office, now destined to spend its remaining days as a work- and store-room.

E.B.L. died on 25 July 1959. Lorna had taken the store over from him in 1954 (she had already been postmistress for two years). Thus the store has passed through only two hands since its establishment.
Lorna has spent her whole life at Bainham and has a deep, sentimental attachment to both the shop and her neighbours.

Langfords Store supplies general goods, groceries and postal services to about thirty-eight local families and itinerant gold prospectors. In summer the tourist traffic becomes an important source of trade. Some visitors come to Bainham especially to see the store, others are passing through from the Heaphy Track, which starts a few kilometres south and connects trampers with Karamea on the West Coast. I noticed that the hikers’ bus from Collingwood more often than not passes the store without stopping. That’s a shame because the visitors are unwittingly deprived not only of a remnant of a fast dsappearing New Zealand but also of Lorna’s cat, Panda, who sleeps in her own special spot in the shop window and appears to challenge Lorna’s ownership of the store.
Langford’s Post Office



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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.