Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

01 March 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 16.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

[From the roof of newly built  MLC Insurance, the highest building in North Sydney in 1960]

19th February

We have been in Sydney for the last two days and we shall leave tonight at 1700. Somehow Sydney seems to have left a less clear cut impression on me and I think I shall find it harder to describe than Melbourne and Perth. We only took one day and night to get from Melbourne to Sydney and we arrived at the heads outside Sydney Harbour at 0600 on 18th.

I went on deck after being woken by the engines going into reverse to stop the ship. When I looked over the side I saw that we had stopped to pick up the pilot. The sea outside the heads was very rough and the little pilot boat was rolling about quite a lot, however the pilot didn’t seem to have much trouble getting aboard and he probably didn’t consider it a bit rough!

We made our way slowly into Sydney Harbour. It must be one of the most beautiful harbours in the whole world. It is a wide, long stretch of water bounded by a sandstone, rocky coast on top of which grow lush green trees; here and there in the trees one can see little houses and they must command a beautiful view. Between the promontories of rock there are some beaches and they all seem to be protected by anti-shark nets.

We tied up at Woolloomooloo Wharf which is just to the seaward side of the famous bridge. After breakfast we went ashore and took a bus to Martins [sic] Place. Here we called at the NZ tourist office and picked up some material about NZ. We also got hold of a map of Sydney and then set off to explore the place.

We like it better than any other city we have seen in Australia and we both think we should be happy to live here for a time.

[This comment reminds me that our grand plan had been to live in New Zealand for a year or two, then to move to Australia, later to move again to Canada, enter the USA and work in Madison Avenue, New York (then considered to be the Mecca of world advertising) after which, I having developed my advertising career to its highest potential!, we would return to London to become rich and famous, I in advertising and Pat performing in radio and television . It says little for our ambition, and much for the beauty of New Zealand that we never got past the first stage of our plan!].

The shops are interesting and full of goods, the streets are wide and clean and the traffic moves fast and freely.

We bought a koala bear (toy of course) made from kangaroo skin [I didn't know then that koalas are not bears]. After a good look at the shops we walked to the Circular Quay and had a look at the harbour. We bought some sandwiches and walked across the bridge and ate them at the foot of the bridge at the north side.
 [Pat and Sgt. Meyer of the Sydney police. He invited us home for dinner and to meet his wife but we had to leave too soon for that]

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a very fine piece of civil engineering and is one of the finest bridges I’ve ever seen. Later we went to the top of a large insurance building in North Sydney and took photographs of the bridge and the harbour.

[This was from the roof of the newly built  MLC Insurance building, then the tallest structure in North Sydney.]

We took a bus to Willoughby to call on Nick Papalia whom we met on the ship. We stayed a little while at his house and later returned to the city across the bridge in the bus. A visit to the cinema gave our feet a rest and we saw ‘Libel’, a film we had missed in London when we were very broke. We then went and had coffee and walked back to the ship through Hyde Park.

Today we visited Taronga Park Zoo. We went across by ferry from the Circular Quay. Actually we did not find the zoo very inspiring, it is set in very pretty surroundings but the parts that are man-made are very poorly designed. We arrived near the middle of the day and unfortunately we found that most of the animals were asleep. One Koala Bear looked  like a parson who had just fallen asleep after a good meal, he had his claws folded across his tummy and was sitting upright with his head nodding. After leaving the zoo and returning to the other side of the harbour by ferry we walked through the botanical gardens to the quay and boarded the ship.

[I’ve always loathed zoos, and Pat doesn’t like them much, either. Why we went to Taronga Park is a mystery to this day.]

The whole ship was crowded with visitors and new pasengers this afternoon and we could not find a quiet place to be, but finally [when] it was announced that the ship was ready to sail [it] seemed to have far fewer people on board. As we steamed out of Woolloomooloo the HMAS Melbourne, an aircraft carrier dipped its ensign and all the crew lined up along the deck to wave us goodbye. We arrived off the heads at about 1745 and set course for Wellington.



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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.