Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

02 March 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 17. The Last Page.

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).

23rd February 1960

The crossing from Sydney was the roughest we have had since we left the Mediterranean and the ship pitched quite violently straight into the waves. We spent our time packing and sleeping.

This morning we were up at 0530 to see Wellington come into view. It is a most beautiful harbour surrounded by hills and looks rather like a Cornish fishing village only on a much larger scale. We seem to have docked at the quay farthest from the city. [Aotea Quay] After having our passports and other documents scrutinized we passed through the customs and were met by Bob James, the Christchurch office man who has come to Wellington to meet us and see us to Christchurch.

After introductions he ‘phoned Mr Dobbs the managing director who came along in his car and took us for a run up the hills to the highest part overlooking the city. After taking some photographs we returned to the city where we left Mr. Dobbs and went for a short walk and some coffee with Mr. James. We have been booked in at the Royal Oak Hotel for one night by the firm and we are travelling down to Christchurch tomorrow on the evening ferry - also on the firm.

[The diary ends abruptly at this point. In retrospect the formality of ‘Mr. Dobbs’ and ‘Mr James’ is amusing. They must have found us both a bit of a laugh with our English stiffness. Over the succeeding years they became ‘Freddie', or Fred  Dobbs and Bob James.

I am also touched at how grateful we were that Goldbergs paid for our night at the Royal Oak and our overnight ferry fare to Christchurch; especially in view of what was said at our first interview with Fred Dobbs. He asked me if I had any colleagues in London who might also like to come to New Zealand ‘Of course we’d pay their fares and all expenses.’ he added. We had paid one fare, and taken a loan from Goldbergs to be repayed over two years for the other! Fred’s  lack of tact dismayed me to say the least but we were young and not much good at standing up for ourselves then. I would have given him a real ear-bashing now!

Bob James and I worked together in Christchurch until 1964, he was manager and I started the creative side of the branch which grew reasonably well before I was invited to go to Wellington to become chief copywriter. Pat and I were not happy in Wellington and seriously contemplated returning to England but I was offered another job in 1964 with Carlton-Carruthers du Chateau Limited, returned with them to run their Christchurch branch, and later returned again  to Wellington to become a director, and later a substantial shareholder. Our last move (by which time we had daughters Philippa and Susannah aged  4 and 2) was to Auckland in 1972 where I became Managing Director of Carlton-Carruthers du Chateau.

The final move with that company came when, it having merged with Charles Haines Limited under the aegis of Fancourt Holdings of which I was a director and substantial shareholder, we - rather elegantly as far as I was concerned - sold the whole company in 1990 to FCB Chicago - the company I’d last worked for in England .

From 1990 to this day I’ve worked at home as a writer/illustrator while Pat has continued to do voice work for media.

One odd twist of history was that among a number of companies that our Fancourt Holdings owned was one called ‘James-Kirk Advertising’. Its principal was Bob James. Bob died in about 1999.

Freddie Dobbs is comfortably retired; I occasionally see him - at the odd funeral! We became good friends over the years.

Fifty-two years, in fact, as at 2012, during which Pat and I became New Zealand citizens (very early on) learned to speak ‘the language’, learned to become New Zealanders, came to view England as a place which, since 1960, became increasingly a foreign land to us. Looking back, as we occasionally do, we always agree that coming to New Zealand on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt to make a new life was the best thing we ever did.]



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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.