A girl called Neeltje

Drie Gebroeders (Three Brothers) is a common name for a Dutch vessel, often the result of several brothers co-owning her, or as in the case of my 121-year-old lady, the original skipper having that many sons. A quick look through the Dutch registers shows similar names denoting differing numbers of siblings.

In the case of my traditional sailing barge, built in 1898, skipper Dirk Pols had three sons with his wife Christina, named Dirk, Hendrik and Pieter. Hendrik was to go on to skipper the family barge into the second world war when she was requisitioned by the Pontonniers and later by the German military.

However, there was also a daughter in the family named Neeltje. Born the second child on the 5th of December in 1882, in Gouderak, she would have been 15 when DG was launched in January 1898. Obviously, in the late 1800s, a woman’s place would have been in the very cramped living quarters of the barge, caring for her man and the family but not being commemorated on the vessel’s naming!

Records show that Neeltje, which is a diminutive of the name Cornelia, went on to marry Cornelis Ruijtenberg in Rotterdam in 1905. They had one child in 1909, back in her home town of Gouderak, named Christina after Neeltje’s mother and the rest of her story we may only guess.

It has always been my aim to commemorate this little girl in some way, as she was excluded from the family barge’s name. The world is a very different place for modern women and “Herstory” is now increasingly being told. Now that I have brought DG to sail in the calm waters of Strangford Lough I am hunting for a suitable little tender to enable access to and from shore, towing along behind her big sister. So, as you may have guessed by now, when I find her she shall be named Neeltje!

6 thoughts on “A girl called Neeltje

  1. A lovely story, Hilary, and very fitting that you should call your tender Neeltje! You probably already know that Drie Gebroeders was a popular name. My Koos grew up on a barge called DG too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Val, yes there are lots of DGs and other numbers of brothers around! Interesting Koos grew up on one. A friend is the son of the last son to be born on the family barge! Great histories 🙂


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