Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

30 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Postmaster's House, St. Bathans, Central Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



As it was in 1988 and probably still is, this imposing house was provided for the local postmaster in the heady days when St. Bathans was one of the richest gold mining areas in New Zealand. The NZ Post of the new millenium would do no such thing; these days they'd be reluctant to provide posties with a bicycle and high-viz vests let alone a house! 

St. Bathans was saved from oblivion by people who were quick enough to realize that preservation of nineteenth century history pays dividends. St. Bathans is now a tourist destination and repays a long trek through Central Otago.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

29 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Two Buildings in Clyde, Central Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


The pre-European history of New Zealand has left virtually nothing of architectural note because Maori built little in stone. Almost all indigenous structures were wood: meeting houses, huts, storage sheds and the palisades that protected hilltop defences and villages. Earthworks abound, buildings are absent.
But Europeans built using the most appropriate local material and in Central Otago that meant stone. These two buildings in Clyde, which I illustrated in 1988, could last forever (how long is that?), although their roofs, being of corrugated iron, will be replaced often. The lower drawing is of a building under restoration and I was rather saddened to see that the modern window doesn't quite keep in tune with the rest.


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

26 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Vulcan Hotel, St. Bathans, Central Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


I've drawn this pub a number of times but this rendering, from 1988, was the first. The pub looked very fresh and new then, despite its age, and has since been through a varied history until the present time when it is cherished and much sought out by tourists and goldfields historians. 

When you go through that front door you are so close to the back wall of the bar that it feels like being in a railway carriage so I can imagine that there were many times in the nineteenth century when beer-thirsty miners spilled out across the footpath and on to the narrow main street.

The 'stone' walls are made of mud and the fine lettering has been refreshed countless times with greater or lesser facility.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

24 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Old Billiards Saloon, St.Bathans, Central Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


Whether or not they were still playing on the green baize in 1988 I don't know, but this little building next door to the Vulcan Hotel looked pretty fresh and there might still have been a full-sized table behind that door. The lettering was superbly wrought.

I'm always slightly suspicious of buildings like this. One never knows when they might have been dollied up for a TV commercial but I think it was genuine; indeed it's listed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. I see pink flannel vested gold miners potting blacks in my mind's eye...

I was in St.Bathans in 2011 and the billiards hall seems to have become an extension of the hotel with 'Billiards' painted out and benches and flower pots blocking the door.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

23 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Old White Horse Hotel, Becks, Central Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


 Travelling in Central Otago in 1988 it was still possible to find historic buildings that were going to the dogs. One such was this schist stone and clapboard pub on the road from Alexandra to St.Bathans, at Becks - The White Horse Hotel. 

It was the OLD version, across the road is another, later, White Horse Hotel of good character. The barge boards and signwriting of the old inn were still intact and the building was still capable of repair but - would anybody care?

Well, yes, actually. I believe a group of enthusiasts has restored the old pub, rescued it from oblivion. And that must be a good thing.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

21 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Bellass Boxing Gym & Courthouse Door, Lawrence, Central Otago.

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


Because it benefited greatly from gold winning in the nineteenth century, Lawrence, in Central Otago, has some pretty interesting buildings. The mustard yellow one above was a Catholic Hall and turned into a boxing gymnasium. I liked its rambling clapboard and those ecclesiastical windows which feature in many buildings where it was so impossible to do a gothic curve that they took the easy way out and did a triangle! This was how it was in 1988; I'm willing to bet that it's neither this colour nor a boxing gymn in 2011.

I also liked the panelled door on the long, low Lawrence courthouse. It has an innate authority that instils respect into both plaintiff and defendant.


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

19 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Presbyterian Manse, Lawrence, Central Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


I did this drawing of the Presbyterian manse at 20 Peel Street, Lawrence in 1988. It still looked much the same in 2010. In a small town that sprang into prominence in the nineteenth century because of a hugely rich goldfield nearby the house looks indecently grand. But I guess gold and goldminers (forever short lived!) helped pay for that. It seems also that in great Anthony Trollope tradition, the clergy of those times, for all their avowed humility, made sure their living accommodation was a layer above the ordinary.

There's been a bit of a revival in Lawrence in recent years brought about by people who want to exploit the town's history. That's no bad idea as long as they can keep McDonalds and KFC off the main street!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

18 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Fruit Stall, Roxburgh, Central Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


 On a certain day in 1988, I was taken by the simple boldness of this wayside fruit shop at Roxburgh. A typographer and lettering artist from way back, I was greatly impressed by the amateur signwriting which looked to me as if it had been done by a professional who'd deliberately tried to make it look naive.
There's a special climate in Roxburgh that particularly favours cherries and apricots.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

11 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Stone Hut, Shingle Creek, Central Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.

 There's nothing particularly special about this illustration of an abandoned stone hut in Central Otago but it's one of my favourites. The thing is: I did it in no time at all - just a few minutes - but it came out just right and the soft wash behind the building showed the rising mist perfectly. The reckless landscape in this area is dotted with remains like this. They mostly date back to gold mining days of the nineteenth century and, while re-roofed by local farmers, their walls and chimneys are as everlasting as stone can ever be.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.


05 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: D.S.Sinclair - Generalists, Nightcaps, Southland

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


In small country towns all over the world, specialization is rare for it is a luxury of big cities. It therefore came as no surprise to find, in 1988, in Nightcaps, that D.S. Sinclair and sons were not only builders and joiners but also funeral directors. 

I guess it's not beyond reason to imagine that they could have built the house in which one of their corpses had lived after which they might have fashioned his coffin and laid him to rest. Literally a lifetime 'one-stop-shop'. It seemed a pity, as they were Dulux Paints stockists, that they could not brighten up their premises but I guess battleship grey is an acceptable compromise between the joy of building and the sadness of passing.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

04 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Nightcaps Museum and Medical Centre, Southland

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


  
Delightfully named Nightcaps is a small Southland town that grew up on coal but exhausted its resource. There is a number of interesting buildings - leftovers from a more prosperous time - dotting its precincts. These two fascinated me in 1988: the Museum with a suspiciously closed look and with epiphytic growth appearing on its roof as if to suggest that Nature will take over; and the Medical Association centre, an even more modest one-roomed lock up. I wonder what the group shareholding doctors of the grand amalgamated practices of the big cities would think of such simplicity?

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

03 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Greenhills Church, Southland

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



Apart from Bluff Harbour there's nothing much between Greenhills Union Church and McMurdo Sound and when the biting south wind comes its old rusticated weatherboard timbers groan like a wooden ship, as they have no doubt groaned since 1886. But it's sound and unaltered inside and out.

I've painted it three times (this one in 1988) with great enthusiasm.

A Roman Catholic, Mr. S. Sullivan, both gave the land and built the church. It was de-commissioned in March 2001 and handed over to The Greenhills Church Charitable Trust who, I hope, will continue to love it like an old teddy bear.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

01 December 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Signal Station, Bluff, Southland

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


I can't remember why I bothered to illustrate this ugly building. It was probably because it's historic, and at the very bottom of New Zealand's South Island. Farther south is Stewart Island which, I'm ashamed to confess, I have never visited. Beyond that it's Antarctica. On the day I did this illustration it was so cold and windy that tears were making snails' trails across my temples.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

29 November 2011

The Twenty-nine.

From Kahurangi to South Westland
There’s a rolling wave of grief
You can feel it in the birdsong
In the flax spear and fern leaf
And it echoes in the depths of
The great Pike River mine
As it mourns the poignant loss of

        New Zealand’s Twenty-nine.


They were undistinguished toilers
In Man’s caverns; places strange
To us who’ve never quarried
In The Paparoa Range
Where the cryptic seams of black gold
Rise on high, and deep decline
Ever luring brave men onwards, men like

        Westland’s Twenty-nine.


Now their names will live forever
In the light of unsought fame
And they’ll join the ranks of heroes
Lost in Westland’s deadly game
They’ll meet the men of Dobson,
Brunner and the Strongman mine
And in history they’ll be known as

        The Pike River Twenty-nine.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

New Zealand Odyssey: Flemings' Creamota Factory, Gore

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.




In 1988, when I did this illustration, the Flemings Creamota factory still produced the oatmeal porridge that had fortified New Zealanders at breakfast since 1919. Later, the factory closed down in 2001 - another 'icon' (how I hate that word) gone. 

The weird cartoon character on the left of the building is 'Sergeant Dan', the grotesque figure that gave as much symbolic recognition to Creamota as that ghastly Four Square man did to the eponymous grocery chain.

The factory is still there and is listed with the NZ Historic Places Trust as a category one  building.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

28 November 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Alliance Textiles, Milton

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


I did this drawing in 1988. I felt then that in a little town like nineteenth century Milton it expressed the pride and good intentions of local industry to do something worthwhile in New Zealand.

But right now, in November 2011, its life has finally ended. These dates are from Internet news:

1897: Bruce Woollen Mill established to scour, card and spin and weave wool into yarn, blankets, rugs and clothing fabric.
1901: Mill destroyed by fire.
1902: Rebuilt mill opens with latest imported machinery.
1962: Business taken over by Alliance Textiles.
1992: Forty-nine workers locked out for refusing to sign new employment contract agreements. A group of 13 protest outside the mill gates for the next six years - longest industrial action in New Zealand trade union history.
1999: Alliance Textiles closes mill, 54 jobs lost.
1999: Mill reopens after QualitYarns New Zealand Ltd buys mill and equipment, 11 staff, growing to 35 by end of first year.
2000: QualitYarns buys worsted spinning line, creates another 13 jobs. 2008: Fifteen staff made redundant. Mill continues to employ 27 staff.
2011: Mill to close.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

25 November 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: 'The Poplars', Taieri Plain, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


Woodside Manor or 'The Poplars', on the Taieri Plain south of Dunedin, is rather grander than the stately colonial villas that I've earlier posted. It was built in 1876 by a Scot, Francis MacDiarmid, and hints at those serious piles built by landed clansmen that one sees in 'Country Life'.

Using a more considered drawing than this sketch, I featured the mansion in my book New Zealand House and Cottage after I'd had the honour of meeting the owners who were bravely restoring it from severe malnourishment.

This watercolour was done in 1988, before I met the owners. I couldn't get near the house on that occasion but as I said then, 'distance lent enchantment' for, like Katisha, it wasn't too glamorous close up.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

21 November 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Girl Guide Hall, Mosgiel

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


 The little town of Mosgiel, south of Dunedin, was, in 1988, almost village-like and still showed signs of an earlier community. I'm not sure how old the Girl Guides' hall was but it seemed a luxury to be dedicated to one organization only, and rather suggested that there was probably a Boy Scouts' hall somewhere nearby.

The blank door aperture under that earnest keystone fascinated me. Had there ever been a door there, or was it just a matter of good intentions? On that score, why is the entrance where it is? Was the adjacent block an afterthought? An architectural oddity.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

16 November 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: 'Clairinch', Taieri Plain, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


This is another of those gracious old houses on the Taieri Plain south of Dunedin. 'Clairinch' was built in 1878 and embodies those qualities that typify most buildings whose form comes from function rather than 'design'. 

I didn't go inside when I drew the house in 1988 but suspect that the stairs to the dormer storeys are narrow and possibly have a rope rather than a wooden banister rail.

Somebody still loved 'Clairinch' a quarter of a century ago. I hope it's still cherished today.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

14 November 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: 'Duddingstone', Taieri Plain, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


'Duddingstone' built in 1864 is one of a number of fine houses on the Taieri Plain south of Dunedin. It's a large, flat area laced by the meandering Taieri River and was probably attractive to early European settlers (many of Scots origin) as ideal grazing farmland. 

Architecturally, the settlers seemed to compete with each other somewhat but the results of their up-with-the-Joneses efforts remain today in larger numbers than one might expect.

I did this watercolour in 1988.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

10 November 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Manor Place, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


Dunedin is a hilly city and must have caused headaches for all of its builders. Two things fascinated me about Manor Place: firstly the urge to colour each component of the terrace differently - an impulse towards individuality, I suppose. The second was that in accommodating the horizontal boundary of the roofline and the slope of the street the segment on the left is one storey shorter than that on the right (while the two in the middle have trouble deciding whether to be two or three storeys). Most other structures residing in the same topography would be the same height but stepped up (see Stuart Street Terrace). Fascinating.

This drawing was done in 1988 so the colours may have changed by now but I think the shape will still be the same,

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

06 November 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Post Office, Mornington, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


The building that I drew in 1988 is still there but it's no longer a post office. They hide post offices (which they now call 'shops') in grotty little buildings in shopping malls these days and the wonderful old tradition of fine, dignified buildings designed to reassure the public has now been killed. It's a sign of the times: email murdered snail mail!

I must have been feeling jolly when I did this illustration because it's all loose and wriggly. Happy days!

 DON DONOVAN
donovn@ihug.co.nz
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01 November 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: 'Waiata', 24 Duke Street, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


This Victorian house with its studied windows, self-important door lintel and stone quoins reminded me of Mr Pooter of 'The Diary Of  Nobody' by George and Weedon Grossmith. I'm sure the first owner must have been just like him and would probably have painted his bathtub scarlet with the latest scientifically formulated enamel paint from the local hardware store.

One suspects that in 1988, when I did this illustration, it was yet another accommodation house for Otago University students. If it was, it stood up to them rather well.

©  DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

29 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: 1014/1008 George Street, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



1988 was the first time I painted these mirror-image cottages in upper George Street, but not the last. They also feature in my book: New Zealand House and Cottage. They fascinated me. They shared the busy street with brick terraces and old villas with tiny gardens of high trees and enough vintage roses to grace all the cups and saucers ever created.


Nobody takes this much trouble when they design and build houses these days.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.


28 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Houses, Dundas Street, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


I have no doubt that this row of houses accommodated mainly students from Otago University who, as is the way of students, are often noisy, intrusive, badly behaved and impossible to live with - so why would any ordinary citizen want to be among their neighbours?

I don't know whether it was the landlords or the students who splashed paint around to try to disguise the fact that all the houses in the row are the same, but wheover it was was inspired. If the terrace hadn't been so polychromatic I should never have illustrated it. The drawing dates to about 1988, I expect they have been repainted many times since.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

24 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Otago Early Settlers Association Museum, Dunedin

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


Somebody decided to be outrageously adventurous - either that or there was a collection of half-used pots of various coloured paints languishing in a council garage. 

Fortunately paint can't actually destroy the underlying architecture and so, when I last looked at an image of the building on the Internet, they'd scrubbed it all off and it no longer looked as hideous as it did that day in 1987 when I did this illustration.

One good thing about this rainbow effect was that you could distinguish each architectural feature: portico, pediment, entablature, spandrels, pilasters, balustrades, columns and Corinthian capitals. Yay!

© DON DONOVAN
donovn@ihug.co.nz
.

22 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Larnach's Castle, Otago Peninsula

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



To my mind Larnach's Castle is a folly and was built by a man whose capacity for self-aggrandisement knew no bounds. Larnach was an Aussie of Scots descent who made lots of money from trading, gold exploitation and other speculative enterprises. How much of a hand he had in designing his folly I don't know but I get the impression that his architect was taking the piss out of him!

For all that, the putative castle is an attraction and sits in a most wonderful position on Otago Peninsula. It's so bad that it's good - like the Albert Memorial in London, William Randolph Hearst's pile in California or any of Saddam Hussein's palaces. I had great fun with all that cast iron 'lace'; it's drawn with a pen nib full of liquid rubber solution, allowed to dry, then washed over and peeled off. Hey Presto!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

19 October 2011

Cobb & Co's Stagecoach



I did this drawing of the ‘Burton’ coach some years ago. It is in the collection of New Zealand’s Canterbury Museum who also supplied some of the information below:
This Cobb & Co ‘Telegraph Line’ coach went into service on the Hokitika-Christchurch route in about 1865, taking gold miners and other hopefuls to the new goldfields of West Canterbury (later the Province of Westland).

It is a derivative of American-built coaches, although the design was perfected in Australia.
As New Zealand’s railway network expanded, the coaching trade declined. This coach, however, was used for a surprisingly long time. Until 1923 and the opening of the Otira Rail Tunnel, it continued to cross the Southern Alps with teams of five horses and up to 17 passengers and their luggage.

Charlie C. Cole who had been running a coach service in Victoria, Australia introduced his coach service to Canterbury in 1863. He set up stables at Christchurch in partnership with his brother Leander. In 1869 operations were taken over by W.H. Burton & Company who continued to use the established name of Cobb & Co. in association with their own. The firm was sold again in 1874 to Hugh Cassidy who ran the operation until his death in 1922. Within twelve months the operation had ceased. The opening of the Otira Rail Tunnel in 1923 was the last link in a rail system joining both coasts of the South Island. After sixty years the coaches had become redundant.

***
On a personal note: I knew Sheila Sarginson and her sister, Mona Clark, mother and aunt of my late friend, Euan Sarginson; they had the memorable experience of having travelled together in the Cobb & Co. coach to Otira before the rail tunnel was opened. I once walked the remnant of the stagecoach track that ran, south of the modern highway, from the bottom of Porters Pass to near its summit. It has probably eroded completely by now.

© DON DONOVAN. With acknowledgements to Canterbury Museum.
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12 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Fishing Boat at Port Chalmers, Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


I don't very often draw this sort of subject, preferring architectural stuff but this fishing boat, sitting propped up at Port Chalmers cried out for The Treatment. I loved its businesslike look, all that tackle: floats, winches, cranes and chains. The port is not far away from the entrance to Otago Harbour and the swells, beauties and perils of the open Pacific Ocean.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
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10 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: 31 Currie Street, Port Chalmers

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



I discovered this piece of domestic architectural jewellery as I mooched round the streets of Port Chalmers in 1987. It's a microcosm of that dour Victorian town on Otago Harbour: solid as the rocks of the peninsula and everlasting. They do say that if there was a catastrophic nuclear war only the cockroaches would survive; well, so would 31 Currie Street it is so... Permanent! And look at the detail: the quoins, the fence, the portico, door and those bi-coloured roof slates.

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has this house on its protected list but precious little information is recorded except to say that it was built 'circa 1880'. 'Circa'? There's no doubt - it's on the pediment over the front door.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

09 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Palmerston Town Hall, Otago

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


This must be one of the ugliest public buildings in New Zealand but I had to include it in the book because it's outrageously pretentious for a very small town. The town, Palmerston, is a little north of Dunedin in the South Island. 

There's another Palmerston - Palmerston North - in the north island that's about a hundred times bigger and boasts quite a good university. Hardly anybody in this country knows about the one in the south so when somebody claims to come from Palmerston most people think it's the one in the North Island. Did you get all that?

Just along the road from the town hall there's a pub that's much more handsome - and probably much more useful.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.


08 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Meldrum's Bakery, Usk Street, Oamaru

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



This shortbread edifice is in a suburban street in Oamaru and was in a pretty sad state when I painted it in 1987. I've seen it more recently and somebody has tidied it up. Mr Meldrum must have had an uncommon love both of Oamaru stone (local limestone) and architecture because it's a fine piece of work, unique, there's no other baker's shop in the world that has its chutzpah.

It dates back to about 1880 when it stood on a quarter acre section with a six-roomed house also built of Oamaru stone.

If Mr Meldrum's bread and biscuits were as good as his shop he must have been one special baker!


© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.


05 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The National Bank, Oamaru

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


For sheer pomposity this pile takes the prize! In Oamaru, quite a small city even by New Zealand standards, the National Bank, built in 1871, breathes assurance to all of the surrounding citizenry. 'Give us your wealth. We'll keep it safe within these limestone Corinthian-capitalled pillars.'

It's glorious but I confess that I never looked beyond the façade preferring to believe that the stone goes all the way round. That was in 1987-ish. I was in Oamaru in 2010 and the building is still there and, I believe, is still the National Bank.

What has changed is that it's no longer New Zealand owned, the ANZ bank from Australia now owns it. But it still sports the prancing black horse - the Lloyds TSB Bank of England horse - go figure!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

04 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Waimate Railway Station

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



This glorious building was raised in 1900 and had been designed by Gordon Troup who certainly knew how to design a great railway station (see Dunedin's finest). If this building had been in any of the major cities of New Zealand - Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington Christchurch, Dunedin -it would have been demolished by now but because it's in Waimate nobody felt the rush of modernization and I hope nobody ever does!

My drawing does not do it justice. It requires a visit - but in this day and age don't go by train, use the car, it runs more frequently. The age of passenger rail transport is dead.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

03 October 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Evans Atlas Roller Flour Mill, Timaru

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



It's hard to conjure up a vision of dark, satanic mills in New Zealand but the 1888 Evans Atlas Flour Mill in Timaru comes close. This is how it looked ninety-nine years later, I'm not sure whether it was still grinding in 1987 but you could still read the name on the building. 

All those bricks! 

The original is about 600mm wide. People often ask me how long it took to do the painting; well, surprisingly, not long - no more than an hour. Once the bricks were drawn (very quickly) the red washes were quick and easy. This is one of my favourites and takes up two pages in New Zealand Odyssey.'

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

30 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Bank of New Zealand, Rakaia, Canterbury

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



Rakaia is a little settlement south of Christchurch just off State Highway 1 and close to the Rakaia, a whopper of a shingle river that crosses Canterbury Plains and tries to take bits of the Southern Alps with it into the Pacific Ocean.

If nothing else symbolizes the wealth of Canterbury farmers this four square pile does it nicely. According to that little box on the right hand side of the front door it dates to 1852 but I don't believe it.

In 1987 New Zealand's Bank of New Zealand owned it. I doubt if they do now; besides, it's no longer New Zealand's bank - it belongs to the Australians.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

25 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Quinn's Arcade, Waimate

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



I couldn't believe my eyes when I discovered this building in Waimate in 1987. Not only was it architecturally unique in my experience but it was astonishing in such a small town. It was built in 1906 by a man who owned a brickworks - surprise, surprise, he must have used it to display his whole catalogue!

Mr Quinn thought it would make a nice covered shopping arcade but it never really worked that way; in the end it became a cinema and other things and, clearly, by 1987 it was freight depôt. It's not just a front, it runs the width of a block from High Street to Grigson Street. Long may it last.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

24 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Geraldine Cinema, South Canterbury

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


This has got to be the most exciting piece of architecture in Geraldine - a pretty village in South Canterbury. Back in the early days of movies, in the absence of a cinema they used to show films in the local town hall - until a cinema was built. In Geraldine's case they didn't build a custom-made movie theatre - they turned the town hall into one. I was there in 2010 and it was still as it was in 1987 when I did this watercolour.

What is that architectural style? Fireside gothic? Pseudo-Tudor kitsch? I've no idea but I love it, I love it!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

19 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Holy Name Church, Ashburton

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.




No matter how hard an author tries there is bound to be at least one mistake in any book. This was the only one in 'New Zealand Odyssey'. I captioned the church 'Holy Child, Ashburton'; it should have been 'Holy Name'. 

I know how I made the mistake: my wife went to a Holy Child convent when she was a young girl. That name stuck in my mind and superseded 'Holy Name'. Simple as that. It took a reader in Ashburton to spot the mistake and tell me about it, much to my chagrin. 

What appealed to me about the church was not so much its architecture - no matter how good it is - but that in a small town like Ashburton the local Roman Catholics could have had the cash and energy to build such a solid temple.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

15 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: 1878 Harbour Light, Timaru, South Canterbury

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


This harbour light was built in 1878 to guide shipping into Timaru Harbour but by the time I painted it in 1987 it had been moved to Benvenue Street, Maori Park where it stood merely as a piece of history. Typical of design that comes from function its form is pleasing and sculptural giving off an air of solid reliability. I particularly liked the red cupola - a legitimate opportunity to use a primary colour without apology!

I think it's been, or is being, moved yet again in 2011.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

10 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Mailbox, Yaldhurst Road, Christchurch

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



It's just another whacky side of the New Zealand character. We seem to need to outdo each other in various ways: some pretty weird houses (never two the same), a jumble of seaside cottages and mail boxes at the ends of drives - especially farms where the old, unused fridge  or washing machine often comes in handy. 

This adapted milk churn swayed gently in the breeze on Yaldhurst Road, an escape route from Christchurch that heads towards Porters Pass and the romantic transalpine highway to Westland. It was so open that I imagine that if the wind blew from the wrong direction all the paper mail and newspapers would have joined the escape.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

08 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Protest Graffiti, Winslow, Canterbury

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


This is an example of a political protest made mock of by a cynical rustic. Protest made by earnest do-gooders; rustic riposte by, probably, the local sheep farmers.

In about 1987 when I did this drawing there was a strong movement against the export of live sheep to Muslim countries. So the protesters went round the country painting 'Ban Live Sheep Exports' on barns, sheep sheds and so on. The locals simply changed 'Ban' to 'Baa' and that was the end of that!

This shed was at Winslow, beside the main south road in mid-Canterbury. I couldn't resist it!

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

07 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Ellesmere Brass Band Hall, Leeston, Canterbury



At Leeston, a small farming town on the Canterbury Plain near Lake Ellesmere, this proud, solid, earnest hall stood in 1987 as, to my mind, a good example of local community spirit. I daresay it was built early in the 20th century when people tended to travel less, stay in their discrete neighbourhoods and keep themselves occupied without the passive intrusion of television. 

I guess it was built with funding from local subscription. I hope the brass band still flourishes and that the hall is still used for its original purpose.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

01 September 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: The Old Shipping Office, Akaroa

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.



This was a hasty scribble in my sketch book, I had intended to make a more formal rendering later but never did. Despite its looseness I think it conveys the essence of this old shipping office in Church Street, Akaroa. It was built in 1895.

The fascinating thing about this building is that it's entirely made of wood but that the architect found it necessary to make it look like stone. Why was that? Did it lend some pomposity and bank-like authority? Funny people, the Victorians.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

31 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: St. Patrick's Church, Akaroa

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.

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There's a lot of joy in the design of this church by Maxwell Bury, architect. I mean, just look at those barge boards, they're an inspiration and almost a promise that religious observance doesn't have to be solemn. I did this painting in 1987 but I know that the building hasn't changed since then. It was built in 1865 and added to in 1886 and 1893 when the tower was built.
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30 August 2011

New Zealand Odyssey: Onuku Church At 'The Kaik' (Kainga=Village) Akaroa

'New Zealand Odyssey', published in 1989 by Heinemann, was authored by me, Don Donovan (who did the text and illustrations) and Euan Sarginson, who did the photography and design. In this series of blog posts, I will publish some of my drawings.


I've visited Onuku Marae near Akaroa on a number of occasions and have drawn this exquisite church more than once. On every occasion I've sought to find somebody who would not only give me permission to photograph and enter the church but also who might tell me something of its history, but Onuku village has always appeared deserted. 

It's a delightful spot, somewhat remote at the end of a winding shoreline road but not far from the tourists' mecca of Akaroa. I guess the local Maori, though not unwelcoming, prefer their seclusion and lie incommunicado until visitors have left.

The church is a simple porch and nave; it's the Maori embellishments that give it its charm.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

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Blurb

RANDOM SAMPLINGS F...
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:
‘Auckland’
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Aoraki-Mt.Cook’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Otago’
‘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.

[ENDS]