Dick Lahood was one of the Orongorongo Valley's most well known and liked residents. His hut, Black Whare still sits above the river with a view of passers-by below - an appropriate vantage point for a respected elder.
Dick bought Black Whare in 1953 from Harold Binns. The original hut was a basic affair made from Manuka and iron. Dick re-built the hut in 1967 using the old Mannor Park Golf Club house.
In 1979 Dick began work for the Forest Service. He was charged with constructing the new Orongorongo Track with a gang of 30 men who were part of the era’s work schemes. The new track replaced the old ‘Five Mile’ on the other side of the stream. The old track was famous for its muddy trenches but Dick said his kids loved it - “the track was so deep in places – you couldn’t see their heads!”
Dick went on to become an honorary ranger and kept watch over valley life. He continued to keep an eye out and command respect from the valley’s residents, including the young, delivering a sharp word or two when needed.
The valley’s residents kept an eye out on him too, dropping in for a beer or helping with firewood and whatever else needed doing around the hut. The valley has a strong community spirit and everyone pitches in when a roof needs replacing, a shed re-built or a new coalrange installed.
Black Whare has been the focal point of the community at times. It was the first location for the famous golf tournament, home to the valley’s best swing and where I experienced my first and last taste of smoked eel.
I remember staying a night at Black Whare with Dick’s Grandaughter Dawn. We attempted to create perfume from Hydrangea flowers and scared ourselves silly listening to stories of the valley ghost who lived across the river.
One of Dick's greatest pleasures was a few quiet whiskeys over a roast dinner with friends at Black Whare. The other was when his Great Grandchildren came to stay. He hoped the hut would pass to them one day to continue the families’ special connection to Black Whare and the valley.
Dick Lahood in the Orongorongo Valley, 2014
Black Whare, 2012 (Allan Sheppard)