Founding Mother    (Updated December 2012)  

Mangaturuturu Hut

Four Friends:

Tragedy strikes     Four Friends Trust    Objectives of Trust

Fenella Druce Memorial


‘Mother of the Wanganui Tramping Club’

Our Founding Father!


margaret mcg

m mcgLate in August 1952, sixteen years old Margaret Murch (now McGuire) was a member of a party made up of people from the Aramoho Methodist Bible Class which travelled up to the mountain for an outing

So taken with this experience was Margaret that she placed an advertisement soliciting interest in the formation of a tramping club in the personal column of the Wanganui Herald on Friday 5th September 1952 .

Margaret received a good response to her advertisement and Arthur Bates quickly organised her to hold an inaugural meeting, this being held in the Jockey Club rooms. She was overwhelmed with the number of people who turned up. The meeting formed the Wanganui Tramping Club and Margaret was elected Secretary/Treasurer and Ron Wilson President. The meeting also decided that the minimum age to join the Tramping Club would be nineteen. She kept very quiet about her age!

Foundation members she can recall include Colin Watson, Hugh Clapham, Helen Liddel (later Mrs Clapham) and her sister Ada as well as Fred and Mary Johnston.

Margaret recalls that the club’s first tramp was from around Papaiti to the Blueskin Road followed by a tramp in the Tokomaru East area and then one from Parihauhau, overnighting at Firmins’ and coming out somewhere near opposite Upokongaro.

Marriage at nineteen saw Margaret being presented with a cup, saucer and plate (which she still has) by the Club. She then left the Club because of her shift into the back of Hunterville to live.  Margaret McGuire was chuffed to have been asked, as ‘Mother of the Tramping Club’, to cut the Club’s 25th cake as well as being special guest at the Golden Jubilee Weekend held over Labour Week-end 2002.

Margaret had Honorary Life membership of the Wanganui Tramping Club conferred on her on the occasion of the Club's 60th Anniversary, December 2012.



Wanganui Tramping Club's Mt Ruapehu Hut


  Mangaturuturu Hut


mangaturuturu hut site aMid-1954, the fledging Club had a set-back when the Waitotara County Council asked for their Kauarapoa Hut back as 'someone wanted to live out there truck and sledgeapermanently' resulting in all the club's contents to be stored back in town.

This reversal eventually led to the Club's President, in Oct 1955, posing the question 'that seeing the Club is firmly established, it was time for the club to consider doing larger or more difficult jobs' with building a hut being one of several suggestions he advanced. The AGM of that year passed a resolution 'That we work towards building our own hut in the Mangaturuturu Valley on Mount Ruapehu. The Committee, working on the resolution, eventually got Park Board approval for the site but the 'Board did not like the look of the suggested 'rather rustic' style of construction.

An important person in the first two years of the saga of the hut was an English immigrant called Brian Carter, a quantity surveyor at the old Ministry of Works. It was Brian’s suggestion to put a hut here on the terrace on the Ohakune side of the Mangaturuturu Stream. After further exploration Brian decided the hut would be better sited where it now resides because of better shelter and views. Brian sowed the seeds of a hut idea, did the planning and, when the foundations were down, disappeared in the direction of Canada in pursuit of a Canadian girl he met down Mt Cook way!


Mrs Heather Oliver (nee Hall) recalls the enthusiasm of Club members being tremendous.hut 3

“As I remember, there were working bees to raise money such as hedge cutting, baby sitting, building a concrete garage, mowing lawns etc. The first working party was m hut 3cscheduled for 11-12 February 1956. Then the endless trips up the mountain to cut a track along the bush ridge and down into the Mangaturuturu Valley. The many weekends to carry timber and building materials to the hut site. The route was by way of Horopito through a short stretch of bush, then across the swampy flats up to the ridge bush line. Here was a timber dump. One or two planks were carried on our padded shoulders but they still hurt. The next timber dump was halfway along the bush ridge. We camped there sometimes in a very shady damp area.

The Club was lucky to have the help of Alf Timmo who owned a sawmill in Raetihi. He bulldozed a track through a piece of bush to Thoroson's Flat. Thoroson lived on the Horopito Road and also had a small hut near the bush edge.

Les Frederickson, who farmed at Horopito, lent the Club two horses and sledges to load timber onto. Carl Gedye and Kenny Hawkins who were in charge of the horses drove them and their load across Thoroson's Flat to the edge of the bush near the main ridge. Timber was off-loaded and a fast trip was made back for the next load.

At the Mangaturuturu hut site we pitched tents while construction was in progress. Several of the Club members were builders who kept a watchful eye over the willing worker! When the roof was on, and building paper was on the sides, we slept in the hut. Floorboards were placed over the floor joists for a sleeping area. There were so many of us we were packed like sardines. There was plenty of snow around as it was now winter – Queens Birthday weekend, the last weekend before the Winter Recess!”

Through the earnest endeavours of many club members, the hut was finished with the official opening on the 5th April 1958. Regular maintenance has the Mangaturuturu Hut in excellent condition and expect to see her still serving the public in 2058!



Tragedy Strikes:

Four Friends Killed


In 1977, a group from the Wanganui Tramping Club went South to the Lake Ohau—Hopkins River region for several days of camping and climbing. Included in that party were Tom and Betty Luff and family, Irene Back and family, Cushla McKay and Neil and Barbara Simpson.
   When the family groups were pulling out, Hollis (Bill) Bennett, Rob McLean, Fennella Druce and Craig Benge were intending to come out at the Hermitage via Hopkins & Dobson Rivers then up to Three Johns Hut and down Meuller Glacier to the Hermitage. (The Luffs had decided that son John was a little young to be part of this party)

  The Four friends reached Three Johns Hut at Barron Saddle above the Mueller Glacier, and reported in via radio at 7pm on January 30th. A severe storm hit that night, and having failed to hear from the party for the next two nights, two rangers were sent to investigate. The rangers discover that the guy wires that anchored the hut had been either torn from the ground, or sheared apart at ground level, and the hut had been lifted and blown off a 2135m saddle into Dobson Valley, killing those inside.


  Trust Formation

The Four Friends Trust


During 1977, The Four Friends Trust was brought into being to commemorate the deaths, through no fault of their own, of Fenella Druce, Craig Benge, Rob McLean and Bill Bennett at the Three Johns Hut.

   It was felt that the most suitable way of commenerating these young people was to perpetuate their memory by stimulating others in  outdoor pursuits.

   To this end the trust was suggested, the interest from which would be used to pay for, or subsidse, a person onto some outdoor pursuit course.

   The setting up and running of the Trust initially involved members drawn from the Wanganui Ski Club, (now Wanganui Ski and Snowboard Club) The Mountain Safety Committee and the Wanganui Tramping Club.

   This Trust is still functional and further details can be obtained from the Trust Secretary.



Objectives of the Trust

Extracts from the 'Wanganui Tramper' July - Sept 1978



1 This deed of trust is made on the 30th day of January 1978 by the Wanganui Tramping Club (Inc) a duly incorporated society under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908

   Whereas the club has had donated to it by the public a sum of money for the purpose of establishing a trust to be known as "The Four Friends Memorial Trust".

  Such a trust be created to record with gratitude the memory of CRAIG WILSON BENGE aged 25 years, HILLIS LEONARD DORRELL (BILL) BENNETT aged 19 years, ROBERT LACHLAN McLEAN aged 19 years and JEAN FENELLA DRUCE aged 25 years who were all killed on the night of January 30th 1977   when the Three Johns Hut (at the head of the Dobson Valley in the Mt. Cook National Park), in which they were sheltering, was destroyed by a freak accident. All four of the young people being remembered had a deep love, enjoyment and respect for New Zealand outdor life which they shared with so many others.

  The Trustees may use the net annual income to be derived from the trust Fund . . . . within New Zealand for, or towards any one or more of the following:

 1.To promote safety in the mountains.

 2.To promote safe tramping.

 3.To provide lessons in safe alpine work.

4. To provide grants to any person or persons interested in starting a career in the National Park Service or furthering such a career.

5. To promote the work of the National Park Authority or the work of the State Forest Park Authority

6. To provide grants to any person or persons wishing to extend their knowledge of any of the sciences such as botany, geology etc. associated with the outdoors.

7. To provide grants to any person or persons wishing to extend the knowledge of appreciation of photography of the outdoors or of the scientific application of photography

8. The trust shall act primarily in the Wanganui, Rangitikei, Waimarino and South Taranaki districts but the Trustees shall have power to extend beyond this area should they so desire.  . . . . .


Fenella Druce Memorial

Fenella Hut


      "Beyond Cobb Hut the track climbs about one hour up a series of glacier-worn rocky steps to Fenella Hut (20 bunks)."






Following the death in 1977 of his second daughter Fenella (One of the 'Four Friends'), Tony Druce, one of the greatest contributors to the botanical exploration and discovery of New Zealand, assisted by family and friends, organised the building of Fenella Hut in the Upper Cobb Valley as a memorial to her.





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