Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

22 September 2010

Bruce Bay, Westland. A Picnic Stop with a Romantic Past.

The Tasman Sea rolls up the dark grey sands of Bruce Bay, relentlessly throwing back on to its beach dismembered remains of the trees that wash out of Westland’s rivers flood after flood. These days turmoil is only from the sea but there was a time when Bruce Bay was a scene of frantic ant-like activity as hundreds of gold-seekers hungrily sought the yellow metal; they were mostly condemned to disappointment.

By 1866 Albert Hunt, a successful West Coast prospector, had developed a ‘bubble reputation’ that made him into a will-o’-the-wisp figure; he was watched carefully and wherever he went an army of gold-seekers followed. Thus it was that when he started to fossick in these areas the local population burgeoned overnight to 2000 leading to the rapid establishment of a flimsy township at Bruce Bay: stores, booze outlets, pubs and the inevitable wild west bordello.

In fact, Hunt had made modest finds, but the miners didn’t believe him, nastiness broke out leading to riots and murderous threats from besieged shopkeepers. Hunt, meanwhile, took to his heels for safety’s sake and in no more than three weeks the Bruce Bay rush had fizzled out.

It’s hard to imagine such a frantic past when you stop at the bay on State Highway 6 south of Fox Glacier. There’s no gold to be picked up but all over the littered beach are beautiful quartz stones, some football-sized, white as bleached bones and smoothly abraded by the action of rivers and sea. Some old guide books suggest that they make good paper weights, and they do, but these days one is conscious of the suggestion that visitors ‘leave only footprints and take only pictures’.

This picture is at the northern end of Bruce Bay with Jacobs Bluff and Makawhio Point in the distance. The bluffs, bays and river mouths would have been familiar to the old gold miners for the beach was their highway. It’s good as a short stop for reflection and picnic but the sandflies will want to join you!




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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.