Ross the hermit?

Hermit's cave in the Silver Peaks

Hermit's cave in the Silver Peaks

Ross Collins has enlarged a natural crevasse in the rocks at Seatoun and attracted considerable media attention as a caveman. He is in good company. In the 1880s and 1890s William Pearsee lived in a cave around Wellington’s south coast and was known as ‘the Hermit of Island Bay’. He was even more famous and Wellingtonians of that time dragged visitors to the city to see him. He liked to keep up with Parliament’s dealings and welcomed newspapers.  Artist Petrus van der Velden even painted him.

What causes a man to live alone? Solitude? A beautiful environement? The reasons vary and often it is just for a part of their lives. Richard Henry lived alone on Resolution Island as a caretaker of the kākāpō – he originally chose to live on the shores of Lake Te Anau when he was jilted by a woman.  In the 1950s Ross Adamson spent three years in caves in the Silver Peaks – the hills behind Dunedin. He hid from police manhunts.  He had an unpaid debt, had stolen a rifle and was picking off sheep from the backblocks. He even had a cave-mate – a pet wild pig.  Eventually he came out, the court fined him, and he later married. Beansprout in south Westland used to live alone at the mouth of the Gorge River but has had a wife and family for over a decade. In the great depression journalist Fred Miller lived in a cave on the Clutha River mining gold from the river beaches. He got lonely and soon shipped in his wife and three-year-old daughter.
Other famous New Zealand hermits include Donald Sutherland, the ‘Hermit of Milford Sound’; and Carl Björk, the ‘Hermit of Preservation Inlet’.  They were surprisingly sociable. Sutherland married and Björk welcomed visitors lubricating them with his home made ‘parsnippy wine’.

The media loves a good recluse even if it is an animal. Shrek was beloved – he even had his own cave. Books were written about him. He was shorn on an iceberg. Hermit or feral sheep are quite common – termed ‘woollies‘, hunters target them.

Dubbing men like Ross hermits does not seem accurate – they are just living differently. But society likes labels. After the gold rushes of the 1870s diggers who lived alone in shacks were called  ‘hatters’ – if they had nothing else they would pan gold in their hats.

The hermit crab makes a home for itself out of a natural shelter – just like Ross Collins. The crab, like most of these men, knows a good place to live when they see it.

One comment added so far

  1. Comment made by jon || January 3rd, 2015

    I have met 3 of these hermits, played the role of a 4th, and walked where a 5th had been.

Leave a comment

By posting comments you signify that agree to and accept the Terms and Conditions of this Blog.