Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

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.


Blog Archive

Hits Counter


Loaded Web

Blog Directory for Albany, New Zealand


Blog This Here

Blog Flux

Commentary blogs


  • <$BlogCommentAuthor$> // <$BlogCommentDateTime$>


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.