Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

16 June 2010

Akaroa: Langlois-Etevenaux House

Lured by the treasures of tourism Akaroa becomes Frencher by the day, and it is with relish that the richly Gallic syllables of ‘Langlois-Etevenaux’ are rolled out in the town.

Quite right, too; Akaroa has a unique place in the history of New Zealand and whether or not it is for commercial reasons its French colonial origins should never be forgotten.

Jean Langlois was skipper of the whaler Cachalot from Normandy who, having visited Akaroa Harbour, felt that it would be a good base from which France might colonize the South Island of New Zealand. He negotiated a doubtful deed of purchase with some Ngai Tahu chiefs in Port Cooper and then sailed for France where his enthusiasm infectiously encouraged formation of the colonizing Nanto-Bordelaise Company, and despatch of sixty-three migrants to Akaroa in 1840.

The rest is history: there was to be no French colony; intention was scotched by the pre-emptive establishment of British sovereignty at Waitangi. Notwithstanding, the immigrants came, and stayed. Jean Langlois’s brother, Aimable was among them. He opened the town store – the French Magasin – and he built the dolls house cottage on the corner of Rue Lavaud and Rue Balguerie that is now part of the Akaroa Museum, administered by the Department of Conservation.

It is said to date between 1841 and 1845 and could compete with Deans’s Cottage as the oldest house in Canterbury. There is speculation that it may have been partially pre-fabricated in France, and my instincts – having seen nothing else quite like it – support the probability that it was at least French-designed for it is wonderfully well proportioned, and its fine, inward opening, casement windows with their flanking shutters have an old world elegance.
By 1845 Langlois had left New Zealand for Honolulu. He died about 1857 near San Francisco and the following year his brother, Jean, sold the house to Jean Pierre Etevenaux, one of the original settlers from France. He, his wife Jeanne Fran├žoise and family owned it from 1858 to 1906. Thus Langlois-Etevenaux’ House.


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By Don Donovan

About Me

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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.