I was working on the computer this morning trying to finish doing the draft pattern for the final instalment of the Embroidery Sampler Book and I got distracted ….. After losing myself for a hour or more going through some forgotten photos on the computer. I went down a complete rabbit hole and the memories came flooding back …. Both happy and sad memories…. I felt it would be good to actually write a blog and share some of my family background with you all. I am sure you know that I am a kiwi (New Zealander) and have made my home here in Northern Ireland since 2005. But not many know that my family heritage is from Holland. My parents were Dutch and immigrated to New Zealand in the mid/late fifties. I say were …. as both my parents have since died. Dad died far too young from a lung tumour, he was 66 years and had only retired from his job as a Horticultural Scientist and was planning a new venture of being a Horticultural Consultant. He had been advising several countries on growing vegetables in the last few years of his life and made quite a few discoveries in developing better growing vegetables such as sweetcorn. My mother lost all heart after Dad died and she died a few years later, never truly recovering from Dad’s passing. I think it is even more special as Dad would have been 87 years old in a couple of days if he was still alive.
They left Holland to start a new life in New Zealand under the £5 scheme, encouraging people to come to a ‘new’ country leaving their home country which was devastated from the effects of WWII. I remember the stories Dad would tell me about being a young boy growing up in a war torn and occupied country. I am amazed that he survived with all the things he got up to. War had torn his family apart and the scars remained long after the war and occupation had finished.
Looking back over the photos, brought back a rush of emotions and memories of growing up. The photos had been scanned onto a CD by my sister after Mum and Dad died, so we could all have copies of the family photos. There were scanned photo album pages of both sides of their families, photos dating back to the mid 1800’s. I then recognised my own handwriting as a 14 year old girl. The memories came rushing back of the evenings and days I had spent with Dad doing the family history and tracking down all of the family that came before us, those that have enabled us to be here today. He tracked our family tree right back to the mid 1500’s and we all come from proud fishing folk from a seaside town in Holland. I got to know my ancestors through these photos and got a glimpse into what their lives were like and who they were by the facts that Dad had discovered by searching through church and court records. Back then, there was no internet or google, everything was searched through newspaper cuttings, museum records and writing to the different sources. He sourced the original photos from family members and we compiled everything into a photo album.
I then came across the photos of when they arrived in New Zealand, in their early twenties and having to adjust to a far different culture and a different language. Coming from Europe, even though it was damaged by the war, New Zealand was not as modern as Holland. I remember my mother saying that it was like going back in time. They moved from a fishing town that was just outside The Hague to a small rural settlement, where they had to live in two army huts joined together, in the middle of a huge pine forest, with the closest neighbours being 5 miles away and only being able to come into the village once a week. It was a time when females were not allowed to frequent pubs, there was no the entertainment/cafes that they had been used to in Holland post war. The condition of the cheap passage to New Zealand, was that Dad was employed by the New Zealand Government to work in the State Forests for a minimum of 2 years.
I remembered the stories that they would tell me about their life in New Zealand before I was born. When I was about 10 years old, we went on a drive to that forest to find their first home in a new country, but the army hut had long since been pulled down. They often talked about living in the small hut with no electricity or inside toilet. Far different from what they were used to in Holland. Their lighting was a tilly lamp and the heating from a wood stove, where they used to do all the cooking. Dad told us stories how they had a pet goat that used to love sitting on his lap by the wood stove. I guess many of us would not be prepared to live this way now, but they were young and it was an adventure. They even brought themselves a car after a few years. They no longer had to walk into the village or rely on others for transportation. Their pride and joy was a 1929 Ford Model T that they brought for £50. How I wish it was still around.
So, when I should have been working on pattern writing, I got lost in looking at photos, long since forgotten and recalling times long since gone. I became saddened seeing my parents looking back at me from photos taken so long ago, smiling at the camera. It was if they were smiling at me, reminding me of the good times and when they were young. I feel so blessed that I have all these photos, though only copies on the computer, but still, they are treasured windows into the lives of family who lived a full life long before myself and my daughters. A treasure that will be cherished and passed down to the next generation of the family, so they have knowledge and a record of where we have come from and can add to the record of who we are.
On searching further through the folders, I found more photos of when I was young (60’s) which brought back so many memories. I was the tomboy and spent most of my time with Dad in his workshop. He was experimenting with resin and putting objects into the resin, from insects, small animals, flowers, watches and other bits. It was still a new technique and not well known. But he did this in his spare time and was selling resin ‘fish tanks’ that were put into caravans. Some of the resins didnt work. I remember once he tried to put a dead mouse into resin but he hadn’t prepared the mouse correctly. After a while, the resin exploded and mouse ‘bits’ went everywhere! We had moved into a new house in a town as Dad had got a job working as a horticultural scientist for MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) where he worked with developing tomato varieties. There were so many photos of that house when I was so young and of my older sister. We then moved again in 1970 to another part of the country, where we remained.
So, even though I am a kiwi, born and bred in New Zealand, my roots stem far back in Holland where my father’s side of the family owned the fishing boats and my Mother’s side of the family worked on the fishing boats. The men worked on the boats as fishermen and the women worked on the beach sewing and repairing the nets. That was their way of life for many hundred years.
Thank you for allowing me to share with you some insight into my family heritage and the ancestors that played a part in what I am today. I come from a family of strong women who lived a hard life, supporting their men to work on the fishing boats, family that lived through a war torn and occupied period. They were also women that crafted to support their families and I have been able to carry on that skill.
So I have spent time, going through photos of past family generations, recalled old stories of past generations and memories of spending time with my parents and understanding who they were. Having these photos and memories is truly a precious gift and something to share for the next generations…. So, now that I have reflected on the past by going through these photos , ….. I really should go and get some proper work done.