Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

14 March 2010

Open 7 Days 20. The Old Tua Marina Store

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. 

Tuamarina, Marlborough.
Proprietors: John and Gabi Muir
Old New Zealand hotels have something in common with Texas courthouses - a tendency to be burned to the ground. That’s what happened to the first building on the site of the Old Tua Marina Store. The two-storey tavern went up in smoke in 1904, and the store dates from that time.

John and Gabi Muir met at a birthday party in Tuamarina in 1974, when John, an Australian, was staying briefly in the neighbourhood while on a hiking tour. Twelve years and three children later, they were visiting the old town from their home in Australia when they discovered that the store was up for sale, so they bought it there and then.

These days this obviously cherished old building trades as a gift and craft shop, serving teas and refreshments. It is also the post office, which means it continues to be a centre of community affairs. Between 1905 and 1983 it was a general store in the fullest sense, and the decision to turn it into the kind of business it is now was occasioned by extensive damage caused by major flooding of the local rivers, the Wairau and the Tuamarina.
The famous ‘Wairau Massacre’ happened here in 1843, when a posse of settlers led by Colonel Wakefield tried to arrest a Maori party, under the command of Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata, in a land dispute. The Maori won. The incident is commemorated in the hilltop cemetery and across the road from the store in a rest area by the tranquil Tuamarina stream.

The Main Trunk railway connecting Picton with the south passes the store. ‘In these more peaceful times,’ Gabi writes, ‘the train engine drivers often stop at the crossing and dash over to buy one of John’s New Zealand-famous pies - the ones with the money-back guarantee!’



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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.