Ernie Bond (bushman)
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Ernie Bond, an osmoridium miner and bushman who was sometimes called the Prince of Rasselas in reference to Samuel Johnson's book Rasselas, lived for 17 years at Gordonvale, his home in the Vale of Rasselas, Tasmania.
Ernest (Ernie) Bond was born in Hobart, Tasmania, 26 July 1891 to Frank Bond and his wife Sarah Emma Cowburn. His father (1856–1931) was a bark-mill owner, property developer, and a politician, first in the House of Assembly (1903–1906) and the Legislative Council (1909–1921).
Adamsfield and the beginnings of Gordonvale
In September 1927 Ernie began working a mining lease at Adamsfield where he sought osmoridium. After seven years as a miner, in March 1934 he ventured into the Vale of Rasselas accompanied by Paddy Hartnett and eventually purchased 81 hectares of land at a place he named Gordonvale, 14 km north of Adamsfield. A homestead was built and part of the land was cleared for fruit and vegetable gardens. He grazed sheep (unsuccessfully), had cows for milk and butter, and kept bees for honey. In 1937 he began selling vegetables and jars of preserved fruit to the shops at Adamsfield. At times, he employed as many as six men to help with the work.
- Dad had a Vacola bottling outfit, and would preserve hundreds of bottles of raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants. Then he’d carry them over to Adamsfield to sell, and he’d also make wonderful pies.
With the help of Paddy Hartnett and Bill Powell, Ernie erected the homestead at Gordonvale in two months, practically all the timber being split from one big tree. The building consisted of two bedrooms and a living room. The other two huts (“Office” and “Love Nest”) were built by Ernie as time permitted, sometime after 1940.
Access across the Gordon River
Until a footbridge was built over the Gordon River in 1936, all food and gear had to be man-packed in from Fitzgerald via the Adamsfield Track. The bridge was destroyed by fire in February 1950, and was subsequently replaced by a flying fox. The flying fox is no longer operational, though its remains are still on the southern bank of the Gordon River.
Visits by bushwalkers
Bushwalkers were rare visitors to Gordonvale until after World War 2. Keith Lancester describes one such visit at Christmas, 1947:
- The route varied little until Gordonvale came in sight with its… subsidiary huts and cultivation. The couple of fences were soon left behind and, with a feeling of hope and interest at my reception, I was rapping on the door intent upon making the hermit’s acquaintance.
- Any doubts as to the outcome of my intrusion were soon dispelled as this hefty, bearded six-footer welcomed me inside and poured forth his unstinted hospitality. Imagine my delight at being pressed to the table for the evening meal in company with his other guests, the Steane family, and how I responded to the tasty mutton and vegetables he packed before me… Sensing my delight and amazement at the excellence of the fare, Ern Bond’s grey eyes twinkled and his face wreathed under the pointed beard as he remarked, "Yes, we do ourselves fairly well here”.
The loss of the bridge over the Gordon effectively severed Ernie’s access to supplies, and because of his age (Ernie was now in his sixties), carrying in supplies was no longer an option. He left Gordonvale in February 1952 with all his livestock – except for a bull which refused to cross the Gordon River.
After leaving Gordonvale, Ernie conducted a fruit stall at Austins Ferry (a suburb of Hobart), and died at St. John’s Park, an aged-care facility, on 1 May 1962, aged 70. His diaries are held by LINC Tasmania.
Gordonvale was purchased by the Tasmanian Land Conservancy in 2013 as a permanent nature reserve.
- Launceston Walking Club, Skyline No. 2, 1952, Our Hostel, Gordonvale, Keith Lancaster, p42
- The South West Book, 1978, Ernie Bond of Rasselas, H.M. Gee, p55
- "With the Hermit of Gordon Vale 1947". Dveltkamp.customer.netspace.net.au. 1947-12-24. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
- Launceston Walking Club, Langana, 40th Anniversary edition, 1986, The legacy of Gordonvale, Brian O’Byrne
- "Gordonvale | a World Heritage story". Tasland.org.au. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
- Tasmania 40º South, Issue No. 18: The Prince of the Rasselas, Ken McKracken; Ernie Bond, legendary bushman of the South-West.