Posted by John Beks
by John Beks
Presentation to Rotary Club of Warrnambool – 29/1/2019
Goeden avonddames en heren, Welkom tot een historische vertelling van de aankomst en successvolle streven van de duizenden Hollandse immigranten, veel van hun die kozen om in deze part van Australie to wonen.
Are you with me???  After 65 years in Australia, it took me more than 20 minutes to translate that short greeting from my well-worn Dutch dictionnairy. At least that will give you some idea about just one of the problems facing migrants to a foreign country.
(An advance apology: this will take a little longer than our weekly presentations.
But no longer if you take into account your travelling time to get here!)
About 11 years ago, in The Standard, Warrnambool physiotherapist, Dutchman Bore Hoekstra, expressed the sentiment, that there was a need for recording the local history of the early Dutch immigrants some 60 or so years ago : and to do it, before the original settlers fall off their respective perches, without leaving a record of their life-changing stories, recalling their arrivals, their hardships and their distinct experiences in this foreign part of the world.
Overcoming language and cultural barriers and, in some cases, prejudice, they worked diligently to build new lives and forge a place in their local communities, for themselves and their offspring.
This could not have been done without the ready acceptance and co-operation of well-meaning Aussies. Bore's publication is entitled : "CLOG WOGS"- STORIES OF THE DUTCH IN SOUTH-WEST VICTORIA.
Southern European immigrants, by appearance, used to be readily recognized, and quickly tagged as dagoes or wogs.  The Dutch, however, were less readily identified as such, and tended to be more easily merged and blended into their newly chosen Aussie society.
As such, they got involved in their community, be it socially, or in sport or church groups, with most marrying Aussie partners.  
The CLOG WOGS pays tribute to a selection of  7 Dutch settlers, willing to proudly tell their stories, having made their mark and achieved success in a range of endeavours , from business, sport and even politics.  All of their names are still familiar today in their respective local business pursuits.
More than half a century after making the courageous decision to start a new life in south-west Victoria, these 7 families and subsequent generations have become an intrinsic and familiar part of the fabric of our region.
“CLOG WOGS” covers the following 7 families:
 Frank Vogels, who operated one of Western Victoria’s largest dairy-farms, near The Twelve Apostles, with John Vogels to become a Victorian Liberal Party politician.
The van Kempen brothers, who, after building Commission homes in Crawley Street, proceeded to construct bridges, incl. Hexham, Tyrendarra, Port Campbell, Stawell, Geelong etc.
The van de Camps, (properly pronunciated :van de Camp !!!!) with 12 children, went their various ways from Noorat; they branched out into the areas of nursing, dairying, accounting, and religious life .
Henk Droste consolidated his reputation as a carpenter-joiner of quality craftmanship, and his skills have been passed on to his sons, the third generation and dozens of other young tradesmen.
John Snaauw  ( SNAAUW, NOT SNOW!!) graduated from building Commission homes, bridges, service stations and the water towers at Victoria Park and Tower Square: he also had a go at extending the Flume. He then started Snaauw’s Kitchens, presently operated by his son.  How's that for versatility!?
John & Adrian van Meggelen, (I won't ask you to pronounce that properly either!)  were mostly house builders and renovators, and at one stage went in partnership as “Snow & Meggelen”.
…. and last – but not least – dare I say! -  the Beks Clan.
Tonight, I will take you on a journey, covering the story of my parents, Antonius (Tony) and Maria Beks, and their 8 children: on their life-changing endeavour from Geldrop, in the south of Holland, to eventually settle in Port Fairy, via Killarney and Purnim.
And also how their progeny has spread all over their new country:  I am proud to be able to say, that we are just one of the thousands of immigrant families, who have made a worthwhile contribution to making Australia a better place than they found it nearly 60-70  years ago, both for themselves and their adopted country..
Those of you, who are old enough and have been locals for that long, can probably relate more readily to most of the details of my story, from the beginning.
Up to four years after the conclusion of World war II, the system of meat ration coupons introduced during World War II still had a stranglehold on the small butcher shop, owned by our Dad,  (Antonius) "Tony" Beks, of Parallelweg No.1, Geldrop. It was a typical “Catch 22” situation: the number of coupons received by the butcher during the previous sales week, would determine the quantity of meat he would be entitled to buy from the appointed wholesaler. There just was no legitimate way for a butcher with a family to support to increase his turnover, and sell more than the quantity he had bought and sold the week before. The black market was a risky option!
Prior to restarting his business after the war in the late 1940’s, Dad was forced to take up a slaughterman’s job at the local abattoirs.
The eldest two BEKS sons, Sjaak and Ad, having missed out on the excitement of active involvement in the World War, did not hesitate to volunteer for military service with the Dutch Army, in the futile attempt to stop the Dutch East Indies from becoming independent Indonesia. Once their mission was unsuccessfully completed,  i.o.w. was a failure! - they returned  to an economically-challenged Dutch labour market, swamped with returned soldiers.  There were attractive  alternatives offered in local papers by overseas countries, such as Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, all promising “the world”. 
So, our “family council” decided that Australia won the toss, because we had become aware of a Dutch family of a nearby township, by the name of de Vries, who recently had migrated to Port Fairy, somewhere on the south coast of Australia.
Correspondence with John de Vries followed, and the exact location (“up the road a bit” – only 3cm on the available map!) was pinpointed more accurately to be some 300 kilometres along the coast west of Melbourne! One of the many surprises : considering that from north to south Holland also measures only 300km!
The advance party of Sjaak, Ad and Henk (due to become  Aussies “Jack”, “Adrian” and “Henry”) paid their own way to fly out of Amsterdam on 5th August, 1950, with a suitcase and ten pounds sterling each, to prepare the way for the rest of the family. The family history records that after the three young men flew into Sydney their first impression of Australia was discouraging: the airport bus took them through industrial suburbs lined with drab and neglected buildings, capped by rusty iron roofs.  Not a great first impression!
I quote from the family history, put together in the mid-1990s, mostly written by my oldest brother, Jack:
“Most of the fellow passengers were headed for a migrant camp (formerly prisoner-of-war camp) in Bathurst. We had no definite plan of action, and decided to join them, because, at least, it would provide a bed for a night and a base to start from.
We were dropped off at Sydney Central Station, where we found that Bathurst would be somewhere in the hills, around 200 kilometres west of Sydney!!!.  By the time we had bought our tickets and had boarded the draughty old rattler, we started to get doubts about this Bathurst. And it did not get any better during the next five hours on hard cold wooden benches, while the engine laboured to drag its load up the snow-covered hills.
“Bathurst migrant camp did not look much different from some of the displaced persons camps experienced during the war in Germany. A further drawback, was that the camp provided a surplus labour pool, and only at that stage we were told, that employment would be hard to find in that area. So, early the next morning, a Saturday, we headed for the Employment Office in town, and found everything closed. It was then, that we remembered reading about the Australian 40-hour week, and the fact, that offices did not open on Saturday mornings.     
Rather than waste two days in a camp and find on Monday, that there would not be any work locally anyway, we packed our bags and climbed back on the Sunday morning train all the 200km back to Sydney, to find on arrival that the Monday would be a public holiday (Bank Holiday) in New South Wales.  
“Bugger it!” (or words to that effect in Dutch), and we spent the last of our cash on three train tickets for the night train to Melbourne, where there was supposed to be a Dutch priest by the name of Father Leo Maas, who ran a hostel for Dutch immigrants in a place called Kew.
Our letter of introduction did wonders, and within an hour we were installed in our room and ready to tackle the Employment Office.
We should have expected it, but we learned very quickly that Australians had a unhealthy suspicion of overseas qualifications (mind you: two of us with accounting experience, and Henry as an apprentice baker!!). The three of us were offered a job as storemen at Taubman’s Paints.  This was the post-war period, when employers were desperate for staff, and would go to the wharf, offering jobs to migrants walking off the gangplank of an arriving boat.
Most of our fellow workers were a new breed, we had not seen before in Europe. They were the professional bludgers. They would arrive late, disappear to the nearest pub at lunchtime, complain about working conditions, and stay on the job long enough to steal sufficient kalsomine to paint their bedrooms. If one of them was missing, and he was not reading his copy of “The Truth” on the toilet, you would be sure to find him on the third floor, where you had a clear view of the bathroom and bedrooms of the YMCA girls hostel in Spring Street.” (end of quote)
So, a few months later, they were encouraged by a letter from the aforementioned Port Fairy’s John de Vries, telling about a vacant old house on a block of land near Port Fairy.  He somewhat understated it as run-down and neglected. Qualifying as a house with four walls, doors and a roof and costing only four-hundred pounds!  This was an offer too good to refuse and immediately they paid Danny Lane of Killarney.
On subsequent inspection,  it was discovered, that the “new home” was a weatherboard, rusty roofed dump - just four rooms, no cupboards, no floor coverings, no sink, no bath, no wash trough, no toilet - just four empty rooms - and  had been used by itinerant spud diggers, who had lit their camp fires on the concrete floor, and burnt half the outside toilet in the process.
A boxthorn hedge with huge spikes would attempt to undress anyone venturing through the narrow gap, that was once the gateway.
 Although some of the boxthorn and saltbush had been cut back, a couple of blackberry bushes were still growing through the weatherboards inside, along the bedroom walls.
There is only so much one can do with a scrubbing brush and a bucket of water. The ants and soldier beetles took some convincing that they were no longer the sole occupants, whilst for the first few weeks, mice and rats laid claim to whatever food was brought into the house.
As the first migrants in the area, the Bekses were a bit of a novelty, and in true Irish spirit, neighbours such as the Lanes and the Mugavins readily assisted.
A hole was sunk for the toilet, a sink-cupboard found somewhere, a wash trough and copper organized, a clothesline strung up between the corner of the house and a tree : in addition, someone  fixed the well-pump, fenced off the yard, slashed the weeds and establish ed a veggie-patch etc. etc.
So, about 6 months later, one evening in February, 1951, the rest of the family arrived at Essendon Airport, eventually finding affordable overnight accommodation at the YMCA.  They were physically and emotionally beggared after their 5-day flight : that was in the days before jet lag was invented !
Just to put this within context and for interest sake:  Our latest model Super Constellation (named "Connie")  had a maximum seating capacity of  90 passengers, and made numerous stop-overs for refuelling  and/ or overnight stops :  from Amsterdam  >  Rome >  Cairo >  Karachi >  Calcutta > Singapore > Darwin >  Sydney  >….  finally Melbourne!
(By comparison, 25 years ago, I made a return visit to Holland, and  it took a Boeing , with 300+ passengers on board only 21 hours, with one stop-over at Singapore.)
We were ready to leave  Melbourne next morning!  BUGGER once more!  We had  missed the then one and only train connection to the Western District.  The taxi option appeared to be a logical decision.
(I quote once more)  “The price for the four-hour trip to Killarney was outrageous, but we knew that we would be dropped off right on the front door, without any worries about luggage, and there was a real feeling of excitement in the taxi.
The anti-climax came suddenly, when the car pulled up in front of our NEW HOME!!.
Allowing for the fact that for about 30 years we had lived in a moderate, but comfortable double storey, double- brick, tiled house with 5 upstairs bedrooms, with separate living room, lounge room, kitchen and laundry, this would have to come as an absolute shock to Mum.
But, sight unseen, - having had the condition explained prior to departure, Mum said: "She'll be fine! As long as we are all together, we'll handle it. You boys have done very well, I'm proud of you!"
However, Mum burst into tears when she walked in and looked around the four small rooms, which would be her new home, cluttered up by the assorted temporary furniture, cooking utensils etc., bought or borrowed to tide us over till the huge crate with our own belongings arrived.
“Dad reacted differently and he blew up!!  He suddenly realised that he had lost control of his own life and that of his family. His standing, authority and independence were gone, and vital decisions about his future had been made without him. Without more than a very basic knowledge of English, he would also be utterly dependent on his children for any communication with people around him.”
I ask you : at age close to 60, how would any parent among you react, or for that matter, (even knowingly consider) making such a radical life change for the benefit of your children!? 
(Anyhow)“The huge furniture crate arrived a couple of months later, and cost a fortune in wharfage, handling charges and transport, before it assumed its next function, as a temporary garage for “Lizzy”, the 1928 Oakland car, used to take the working males of the family to their respective jobs.  These jobs included Nestle’s, the Warrnambool Woollen Mills, Morse’s Engineering and Rayner’s Butchery (none of which still exist in their past form).  “Lizzie” was also used for carting building materials for the bathroom, laundry, garage and other extensions to the house. The boards of the packing crate finished up as flooring during the renovations.”
In Holland it was always the commonly accepted Dutch convention for all working family members to pool all income (until marriage), thus making it possible to pay for refurbishments at a more rapid rate, and provide funding for future plans, for the family as a whole, but primarily our parents!
Meanwhile, Jack had married a local Killarney girl, and Adrian his Dutch sweet-heart, to settle in Port Fairy.
The remaining family members decided to venture into share-dairy-farming, milking some 120 cows in a four-bail dairy at Ken Robinson’s “Woodlawn”, in Purnim. The only claim to some degree of expertise came from Tony Jnr, who for some time in Killarney had milked for Kevin Mugavin.  The family taskforce consisted of Dad, Annie, Henry, Tony, and me (with occasionally Richard and Jose thrown in outside school-hours and on weekends). All family members were generally rostered with 3 or 4 on duty.
Once more, Dad had to take a backseat, as understandably most of the decisions were made by Tony junior, in consultation with the farm’s owner, Ken Robinson. Two years later, in 1956, the Robinsons sold their dairy herd, to completely concentrate on wool-growing.
On the positive side, it was also realised that the family “purse” would be better served, if all of us took on individual jobs.
The move was made to 19 Wishart Street, Port Fairy.  Just for interest sake:  the asking price was 2,900 pounds ($5,800) : that was in 1956.  To illustrate the rapid increase in property values in Port Fairy :  at the time of Mum's death in 1981, the same house was sold for $37,000.  After extensive refurbishment, 20 years later the place, advertised as being in the "Toorak End of Town",  went for $295,000.  No use trying to guess, what at present, a further 20 years hence, the price will be!
It was there that Anthony and Maria Beks lived out their final years.
Until his retirement in the mid-sixties, Dad used to ride his pushbike out to Glaxo, in his job as laboratory cleaner. Unfortunately, he did not get to enjoy the fruits of his working life for long, as, aged 76, he fell victim to prostate cancer. In 1969 he went to heaven (on the same day the first man landed on the moon).  Mum survived him by 12 years, dying at the age of 83.
Our parents would have every reason to be proud of their offspring, all amounting to responsible citizens, choosing to be Australians at the earliest opportunity, integrating into the Australian way of life through community and sporting involvements, and mostly selecting Australian life-partners.
The Beks family has been engaged in a wide variety of employment, community and sporting activities: and I run through my siblings as follows:
On arrival in the Warrnambool district, (the oldest) JACK’s first job was as accountant at Briar Pty Ltd, a hot water appliance factory, on the site presently occupied by the Pertobe Road Army Depot. Being surplus to requirement at the dairy farm, I had joined Jack at Briar as cost clerk in 1955. Jack married a Killarney girl and they produced 5 children, mostly scattered throughout Australia.  In 1956 the company was amalgamated with a larger manufacturer, and operation transferred to Melbourne: Jack followed to Melbourne.
Having successfully survived a number of heart and other operations, Jack died in 2003, aged 82, a long-time, avid Hawthorn supporter.
JOHN (that’s me)  I did not take up the Melbourne job offer and commenced my 27-year employment stint as accountant with The Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory at Allansford.. This was followed by 14 years as Business Manager at St.Ann’s/Emmanuel College, until 1997.
Married to Patricia Lanigan, a Port Fairy nursing sister for 59 years, we have three children, all Victoria-based. Until my retirement, aged 75, I was locally employed by my son, Michael Beks, Chartered Accountant, mostly as office manager. This was a most rewarding period in my working life. 
My long-time sporting involvements include the “imported” games of soccer and volleyball. I actively continued playing soccer until aged 47.  (We were hard up for players!)
I started playing local volleyball in the late 1960’s and at age 73 retired with a final premiership late in 2006. One of my lasting pleasures of that occasion is to have played in the same winning team with both my son and two grandsons : three generations!
Apart from a deep involvement with St. Pius X Parish, West Warrnambool, in it’s first 21 years (until 1991), I have been a member of this Rotary Club for 29 years.
Since his arrival in the Western District in 1951, ADRIAN (the 2nd oldest) virtually only ever had one job, as a well-respected legal clerk-cum-accountant with Conlan & Leishman in Port Fairy.
Adrian married his Geldrop sweet-heart, Dora.  They had 5 children, all living in Victoria.   By no means a handiman, and no practical experience,  with a handbook in one hand, Adrian  built his own house. Following his naturalisation as an Australian citizen – like the rest of his family at the very first opportunity - Adrian proudly proclaimed he was an Aussie by choice, not just by chance of birth..
As a result of cancer, Adrian passed away in 1991, aged 67.
Sister ANNIE: apart from her involvement in refurbishing our first Killarney home and subsequently helping with milking the cows, was mostly restricted to assist Mum with home duties. In 1956 she married a fellow Dutchman, Harry van Kuyck, at that time employed on a Winslow farm property. They moved to Queensland and worked as station managers in Longreach, and Goondiwindi : their 3 children are now living in Queensland and Western Australia.
Even in her mid-sixties Ann was not one to mess with, attaining her black belt in karate.  She died aged 88.
After his dairying experience, (the next boy) HENRY held a series of labouring jobs. Unfortunately, often they were short-term, as his employers either went broke or relocated. Henry’s jobs included bridge construction with the van Kempen brothers, and a range of home building jobs, as well as a stint at the former Port Fairy Cement Works.
Henry married Mary Bowman of Southern Cross.
Following the birth of their first 2 children, (as a result of developing an allergy to penicillin), he was advised on medical grounds to resign from his Port Fairy Glaxo job in 1961, and to move north to a different environment. He settled in Mooroopna, where they had a further 5 surviving children, all residents of Victoria.
Eventually he chalked up 25 years as hardware departmental store manager in Shepparton’s Target : in addition, he acted as union representative and safety welfare officer during that period.
Since his retirement, Henry made himself useful by assisting the local St. Vinnies. His interests in guitar and piano accordion, accompanying Mary’s great singing voice, have come to the fore, in their weekly attendances visiting the local retirement home, entertaining the resident folk.
Sadly, both Henry and Mary got cancer, and died two days of one another,  9 years ago.
TONY, having married a Purnim girl, Dorraine Eccles, moved back to Purnim, bought a farm and settled for dairying, eventually concentrating on cattle breeding : for many years he had an involvement at the weekly sales at the Warrnambool Cattle SaleYards.
To supplement the income from his farm, over quite some years, he delivered Esso, Shell and Golden Fleece petrol throughout the Warrnambool district. He would have visited the majority of farm properties in the district. They have 4 children : all Victorians.
His family influence is strong in local football (South Warrnambool) and cricket (particularly Dennington) : a passion passed on to his offspring. Since retiring from team-sport, he still keeps himself fit and active in fun runs/walks, and bike rides.
Recently, after some 50 years, he sold his farm and retired in Warrnambool, aged 84
When the youngest two, Richard and Jose first arrived in Killarney, they went to primary school at this very Crossley site, riding a pony to school.
RICHARD, graduated to Christian Brothers College, and his first job saw him at the Koroit Co-operative in 1962.
He married Rosebrook girl, Nola Hoy, and have three children. After operating a Hamilton wool-scouring business for a few years, the opportunity arose to take both shareholding and management roles in the Hamilton Spectator Partnership, and they now hold a controlling interest.
As a teenager, before a knee injury put paid to competitive football, Richard had played with both Port Fairy and Koroit in the Hampden Football League.
Over 25 years he registered around 450 games as a central umpire, officiating in Western Border and district football leagues around Hamilton, as well as selector and mentor to junior umpires. As such, he built himself a hate/love relationship with the majority of football followers, depending on the perceived accuracy of his umpiring decisions.
He is a long-time member of the Hamilton Rotary Club.
JOSE, (the baby of our family), as mentioned, commenced her schooling here at Crossley, and to this very day is still deeply involved in the development and fundraising of this here "Friends of St. Brigid's" project.
(As she is working here tonight!)
Following the family’s move to Purnim, Jose continued at the local Catholic and State Schools, completing her primary education with 2 years at St. Patrick’s, Port Fairy.  She joined brother Adrian on the staff at Port Fairy solicitors, Conlan & Leishman in 1961 and worked there until married to a local teacher, Robert Farrar : they have 3 children.
During Robert’s 5-year teaching stint at Mansfield, for a short period Jose worked in the legal offices of State Minister Marie Tehan (our local member Dan Tehan's mum). In 1984 she continued her employment in the legal field with Maddens Lawyers, where she was manager of the Conveyancing Company.   
In the field of sport, over the years Jose has been mostly involved in tennis, netball, basketball, golf and racquetball : and that was well before the days of women's football and cricket!!
As you can see, this family's employment, sporting and community profile also gives an indication of the expansion of the individual family members through this here immediate and the wider Western District.
You have to agree that our family adopted a local flavor, by marrying partners from Killarney, Crossley, Rosebrook, Southern Cross, Purnim and Port Fairy.  How much more local can you get!?
Taking into account the next generations as well, there are now 34 Australian grandchildren, 83 great-grandchildren and 14 great-great-grandchildren : and that's to date at last count, with power to add, no doubt!
We are proud to say, and that goes for all the other mentioned Clog Wogs as well:  "We are one, and we are many, and from a far-away land on earth we came : we share a dream, and sing with one voice - I am, YOU  are, WE ARE AUSTRALIAN!
This is a future that Antonius and Maria Beks could not have imagined for themselves, nor for their children, when 67 years ago they left their Geldrop family home of 26 years to finally settle down in Port Fairy. 
They have reason to Rest in Peace.