History of Mac's Hut

The original Mac’s Hut was a basic hut built from beech poles and flattened benzine tins. The hut was completed in 1922 by friends Sam McIntosh and Bill Gibbs.


Historian Chris Maclean wrote about the pair in his book Tararua:


“From the early 1920s, enterprising groups also began to build huts in the valley, adding

to those built by hunters. The first of these, Mac’s Hut, resulted from the energy and

enthusiasm of two young civil servants in the Customs Department, Bill Gibbs and Sam

McIntosh.


At the time, the public service recruited school leavers from throughout the country and

brought them to Wellington. Many of these young people came from country areas and

at first found the city a strange, sometimes lonely place. Some stayed at St John’s Hostel

in Willis Street, where they formed enduring friendships. Others met through their work

in various government departments. Bill Gibbs, from Sumner, who had spent his youth

chasing rabbits on the Port Hills behind Christchurch, found himself opening mail at

the Census and Statistics Department. As a result of reading circulars from the Tararua

Tramping Club to senior staff such as K.S. Bargh, J.W. Butcher and D.J. Cruickshank

(all foundation members of the club) he became interested in tramping. He and Sam

McIntosh, another recent recruit to the department, began by exploring the Orongorongo

Valley, which was easy to reach and a cheap way to spend the weekend. All that was needed was the price of a return ticket on the harbour ferry, the Cobar, and ‘a loaf of bread, some

butter and a pound of sausages’.


The trip to the popular valley soon became a regular ritual and the pair decided to build a

hut there. They collected used benzene tins from the Public Service garage in Wellington,

flattened them, then nailed them to a beech pole frame. Mac’s Hut, as it became known

on its completion in 1922, soon became a meeting place for many young people keen

to escape their sedentary life during the week in government departments. Sited on a

high point above the Orongorongo River at the end of the Five Mile Track, Mac’s Hut also

provided an ideal base for those keen to explore the valley and beyond.”


The hut became a popular stop over and was regularly used by the Tararua Tramping Club until their club hut, Waerenga, was built in 1933 .


During World War II, Mac’s Hut fell into disrepair. Tararua Tramping Club member and Forest Service Biologist, Mavis Davidson took over the hut in the 1950s to maintain as an emergency shelter.


A regular Orongorongo tramper Don Bruce remembered a night he spent at Mac’s in 1962:


“The sky opened up when we reached Jacksons and we crossed the Catchpole with real difficulty. Then it got worse. Frank was washed off his feet while crossing at those small creeks along the Five Mile and we elected to look in at Mac’s. At this time Ranger…Ray McIntyre kept Mac’s as an emergency lean to – [with] a notice advertising the fact along the track. We were soon joined by two lads on way out who had to return – no sleeping bags nor food. But [in] good old bush style we were able to share with them – a night of yarn[ing] even if cold .”


In 1971 the hut was transferred to Lynn Harris who erected a new hut loosely based on the Forest Service 4-bunk design.


"The present Mac’s Hut was erected over two weekends during November 1972. To reduce the torture of carrying all building materials from the river bed up to the site, all timber, plywood and iron was cut to size before being transported up the river by trailer. Without the assistance of three or four of my fitter Forestry colleagues and friends construction would have taken months instead of days. During the two weekends of feverish carrying and construction we all stayed down river at Peak Stream hut which was owned by one of the party...The ashes of S.G. McIntosh were scattered at the site on 23 March 1966. Mine will follow in due course.”





Sources:


Mclean, Chris. Tararua: the Story of a Mountain Range, 1994. Whitcomb Press.


Lynn H. Harris, A Park for the People 1920-2001: Rimutaka Forest Park Archive #68A


Letter from Don Bruce to Ross Kerr, 28th June 1987, Kerr Ross, Papers relating to the Orongorongo and Rimutaka Forest Park areas. MS-Papers-4572-1


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