Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

24 March 2012

Roman Catholics Have Long Memories

My late father-in-law lived in this circa 1740 house in a village in Kent. It was next to St. Mary's, a 13th century church that, at the time I took this photograph, was shared by both Anglicans and Roman Catholics, each having their separate services.

To make ends meet (it was an expensive house to run) father-in-law took in paying guests, typically old gentlefolk. One such was a retired Roman Catholic canon who was both unsteady in his mind and his body (but he still drove a Volkswagen beetle whose mudguards were so smashed up that they looked like moulded papier maché).

I asked him if he still performed any duties as a cleric and he told me that he heard the confessions of the nuns in a nearby convent. He confided in me that hearing their confessions was like being pecked to death by penguins.

My most memorable of his bon mots was when an ecumenical garden fête was held in the churchyard. I came across the canon chatting with the C. of E. sexton by a pillar upon which was posted a list of incumbent priests dating back to the early 14th century. Coming from a young New Zealand I said I was impressed that such a long historical record had been preserved, at which point the canon jabbed a bony finger at a name somewhere about 1530 and said, rather angrily, I thought, 'Yes, and what's more this church was ours until then!'

Long memory; Henry the Eighth's theft of St. Mary's from its Roman owners was still fresh in the canon's mind four and a half centuries after the event!



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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.