Nic was 14 jaar toen zijn ouders in 1952 naar AustraliŽ emigreerden. Het was zijn tweede bezoek aan Nederland toen hij in 1997 familie en nostalgische plekken in de Schermer en de Bloothoofd’s molen bezocht met vrouw en kinderen.

Zijn vrouw Penelope doet op internet verslag.

The Bloothoofd Polder Mill in the Schermer

In the beginning there was water: the former Schermer Lake near Alkmaar in North Holland. Today it is a fertile polder. This was due to the hard work of the tough early watermillers (poldermolenaars) and the rows of 52 windmills which drained the land of water, their giant sails driven by wind to turn the Archimedian screw to pump the water from the land into the polders' ditches. The work was hard and long "Dag in, dag uit, jaar in, jaar uit", a relentless rage against rising water, the drudgery of keeping the waterweeds out of the canals and waterways and maintaining the dikes.


The polder mill K in the 'Zuid Schermer' was worked by the Bloothoofd water millers for five generations from 1672 until 1862, that is 190 years! There are certainly windmills in the hearts of the Bloothoofd family. When my late father-in-law, Nick Bloothoofd, was in hospital, he told me he had the sounds of windmills in his head. Eventually we realised that he had a ringing sound in his ears due to slight industrial deafness from working for years at Ford's.

In 1680 Dirk Bloothooft, the son of Claes Dircxs, shouted to his three sons, "Kom, Simon, Claas, Jacob! Soep's klaar." He was a man of few words with a large frame and a rugged face and a distinctive nose with a crease on the end. His piercing blue eyes and thick dark eyebrows disguised a dry sense of humour. Dirk's forefathers were all similar, and so were the generations that followed. Dirk stood by the green door of de mill K and waited for the children. He cast a knowing eye towards the sky, the mare's tail clouds indicated strong gusty winds. He knew he would be using the internal winder several times in the night to turn the cap of the windmill so that the cross of the sails was facing the wind. He cleaned out his pipe, and idly watched the sheep grazing on the side of the dike. The polder windmills stood in rows like ancient sentries; the turning sails were silhouetted against the evening sky. The children's clogs crunched on the gravel as they raced along the Blokker's Weg towards the Mill K. The East wind blew coldly from the Zuider Zee. In the nearby village of Driehuijsen (now called de Rijp) lights appeared in cosy windows.

[mooie foto, maar een buitenkruier, dus niet poldermolen K, GB]

Simon, Claas and little Jacob kicked off their clogs and tumbled inside to be greeted by the aroma of hot peasoup, rich rookworst and mother's crusty homemade bread.

In 1862 Jan Bloothoofd sat on the steps of the mill K, a cigar clenched between his lips, a blue cap pulled down over his shaggy eyebrows. He was sad and lonely and 71 years old. He had been working the poldermill K alone for 56 years, for he had no sons. The poldermill had been struck by lightning and damaged. He could no longer set the sails or work the brake rope. They had complained about him. The burgomaster had tried to help by sending a younger man to help. He was still unable to cope and he was given a few days to get out of the windmill. It was no consolation to him that the mill had been named 'De Poldermolen Van Bloothoofd' and the road off the end of the Blokkers Weg was now called Bloothoofdswegje. He did not cry when they took him away to Akersloot, but he died there 18 days later, probably from a broken heart. He was the last of the Bloothoofd poldermillers.

In September 1996, 324 years after the first known Bloothoofd stepped on the Schermer polder, my husband Nico Bloothoofd and our two eldest children, Mark and Amanda walked briskly along the Blokker's Weg. Ria Boekel, the wife of Nico's first cousin Wim, had kindly driven them to Schermerland where the last of the Schermer-windmills can be seen. Only eleven of the 52 are left. There is a museum there as well. They pulled their jackets around themselves; the wind was icy cold from the IJssel Meer. Sheep grazed on the sides of the dike. The windmills which seemed enormous to Mark and Amanda were reflected in the ditch. They explored the inside of a restored windmill and marvelled at the small living quarters and cramped sleeping space. Amanda wondered how the women coped.

They asked if the mill K in Zuid Schermer still existed. The guide directed them to an old man who was sitting with some others drinking coffee, smoking the inevitable cigars. His faded eyes swept over their faces, "Jullie zijn Bloothoofds", he grunted towards Nico, "Ja..., de poldermolen van Bloothoofd staat op de hoek... Ga links bij de ringvaart, en Blokkers Weg en Bloothoofdwegje, en daar staat zij". ("Yes..., the poldermill of Bloothoofd stands on the corner... Go left at the canal, and Blokkers Weg and Bloothoofdwegje, and there it is" Ed.) It was only a few minutes' drive. Ria seemed to know where she was going. They all saw the mill at once silhouetted against the September sky. A grand old lady with a freshly painted green door and people living in her. They jumped out of the car and ran towards the windmill sitting solid, steady and dependable as in the days of old, and they loved her. They caressed her thick reeded thatched sides and smelt the fresh tar on the baseboards. Nico had to walk away from the others as he felt the presence of his forefathers and emotion rose up in his throat like a tide. Mark and Amanda were thrilled. It was like discovering a great secret about their heritage and explained the toughness and determination of their own father. They felt proud to be descended from the hard working watermillers.

As they turned to walk away, the wind was cold against their backs. Mark was sure that he heard a voice whispering through the water reeds: the names of the Bloothoofd molenaars, Claes, Dirk, Sijmen, Cornelis, Trijntje, Dirk and Jan.

(c) Penny Bloothoofd 1997 Geelong

Postscript Nico's parents migrated to Australia in 1952. Nico was 14 years old. The trip to Alkmaar was his second in 45 years. He loved it. He found his dreamtime and the mill. Our children know their Australian dreamtime from my side of the family and now they have found their Nederland connection and walked where their ancestors walked. May the hardy Dutch spirit of the watermillers live on in the lives of the Australian Bloothoofds in future generations, forever keeping the "waterwolf" at bay.If the stories are not told, they will be lost in the mists of time.
Penny B.