Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

14 July 2010

Hayes Historic Engineering Works, Oturehua, Central Otago

As we drove along the valley of the Ida Burn between Oturehua and Poolburn in Autumn 2010, no doubt the hills looked much the same as they did ten years after the pastoral modifications of the first runholders. This is to our benefit for had Hayes Engineering Works been sited in, say, Dunedin or Auckland, ‘progress’ would have obliterated it by now.

Instead we are treated to a late nineteenth century colonial example of the Victorian succession to Britain’s industrial revolution. It‘s in working order, preserved because of its astute acquisition by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

A corner of the workshop in 2010

Hayes Engineering Limited was established in Central Otago in 1885 by E. Ernest Hayes, recently immigrated from Warwickshire. His first building was a shed of 7.75 square metres; therein he invented and produced tools and implements to aid self-sufficiency in a remote district. As time went by demand for his inventions came from his near neighbours, then from farther afield, and subsequently from around the world.
Among the more notable of his innovations were disc-cutter tools for cutting up pollard, a bran mixture used for poisoning the rabbits who were already a pest on the pasturelands of Central Otago. By 1897 he had built a lathe out of a gate post and chaff cutter wheel and thus was able to increase production of the disc-cutter.
Hayes went into serious engineering production which was enhanced when he built a forge in 1905 to produce his standard lifter, the famous wire strainer branded ‘Monkey’, a cart jack and wire coiler. In 1906 he invented his best known gadget, the parallel wire strainer for farm fences which was patented in 1923.

The old forge in 2010

Other Hayes inventions were water wheels, pulley blocks, cattle stops and the rachet-tightened ‘Triplex’ permanent wire strainers that have been indispensable to all farmers ever since and are still seen all over New Zealand.

Ermest Hayes retired in 1926 after which his sons carried on the business; he died in 1933, aged 82.



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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.