Our club was founded in Wellington on 12th May 1948. Very little is known about the early beginnings as only few documents from those days have survived and, unfortunately, there is also no living memory of that period.
An undated letter from 1961 makes the following statement:
“On the 12th May, 1948, as a result of the work of a small committee, twenty people gathered at the home of Mr. H. de Bruyn, then Emigration Attaché for the Netherlands. That night the history of the “Nederlandse Vereniging Wellington” started. Mr. W. Arriens, First Secretary of the Netherlands Legation and still well known by many New Zealand and Dutch friends was asked to take the Chair of this newly installed Club. This Committee existed of 4 more members of which Mr. J. van Praag for many years served as the Secretary. Although there were ups and downs, the Club flourished. It was not until the Presidency of Mr. J. van Roekel in 1955, that the policy of the club changed. With more and more immigrants coming into the country the need for integration was strongly felt. As a result thereof the Club became an incorporated Society, welcoming New Zealand members. From then on English was mostly spoken at meetings and gatherings.”
The following excerpt from the “History of New Zealand Netherlands Societ (Wellington) 2008” contains research done by Emmy Vandeursen and sheds some light on the beginnings of our club up until the 1990’s. The full document can be found here.
“Emmy found in her research that the Dutch Club had been founded in May 1948. The chairman was Mr W Arriëns, the secretary was Mr J van Praag and the Patron was Sir Robert Macalister. The membership fee (contribution) was £1.1/- (one pound, one shilling) for and ordinary member and £0.5/- for ‘buitenlid’. In March 1950, the club had 80 members. Emmy wrote that in 1955 it was the first time that a Dutch minister visited New Zealand – Mr Suurhof, minister from Social Services. There was a reception held for him on the 2nd of February in the Concert Chambers from the Wellington Town Hall. With special permission from the Town Clerk, 36 bottles of sherry helped to make a happy party. In 1955 a new Constitution was put in place with a change of name from Dutch Club to New Zealand Netherlands Society. On the 1st day of September 1955, New Zealand Netherlands Society Wellington Incorporated obtained a Certificate of Incorporation from the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, Ministry of Commerce. Holland House was the next important event in the club. The club met in various locations and it was felt by the members at that they needed their own club house where they could meet and feel a bit more at home. A committee was set up with Boudewijn Klap as Chairman and their first meeting was held on the 28th of November 1956 and by March 1957 everything was in place to proceed to the next step. A Prospectus was printed and 10,000 shares were offered at £1 (one pound) each. Four hundred and eleven shares were sold at first offering. In the Double Dutch of May 1957 it was announced that quite a few more shares would need to be sold. At the closing of the share offer, two thousand, eight hundred shares were sold – which was not enough to set up Holland House. The shares were then invested in the Tulip Restaurant and Coffee Lounge in Herbert Street in Wellington. In the Minutes from the Annual General Meeting in 1970, it was announced that due to bad management, the Tulip Restaurant and Coffee Lounge was wound up and only £1200 (twelve hundred pounds) was salvaged. Finally, a location on the second floor of a building in Courtney Place, Wellington, was found and a lease taken out on it. Many members gave their free time to alter it so that it would be suitable as club rooms and it was opened of the 28th of July 1979. Many happy years were spent there in Courtenay Place, with activities such as Leiden’s Ontzet, Kerstavond, Saint Nicholas, Tulip Queen competitions, etc. However, during the 1980’s, membership was declining. Some of the reasons were lack of parking close to the club rooms, the difficulty of driving in Wellington for aging members, difficulty in climbing the stairs, the smell of the fish shop next door wafting up the stairs and toilets on another floor that were also used by other tenants. By the time the lease had lapsed, and the club was renting the site on a month by month basis, a decision was made to look for a better place and the best option seemed to be in the Hutt Valley. After many months of searching for suitable premises, a warehouse in the Hutt Road was decided upon but once again, attempts to raise the finance to buy our own premises proved to be too prohibitive. Then Bill Tames and Bill van Waas heard about the house in Avalon Park at 61 Taita Drive, Lower Hutt, which belonged to the Hutt City Council and had originally been built for the manager of parks and reserves and which was about to be demolished. After strenuous consultation with the Hutt City Council, a twelve-year lease was granted to our club to be used as club rooms.”
Picking up the history from 1980 onwards is easier as more documents are available in the club archives. However there are still many gaps and questions on membership numbers, success of events and exact committee composition will be left unanswered.