Friesland Meres

Another sub-genre of of travel writing that was popular around 1900 was the description of a holiday spent sailing through Dutch waters. I have a few of these books in my collection and one of them is Friesland Meres & Through The Netherlands In A Norfolk Wherry. It was published in 1889 and written by Henry Montague Doughty. I am trying to find out whether he was related to the writer Charles Montagu Doughty, famous for his Arabia Deserta. In the text there is an indication that Henry was a former naval officer from the UK, so he may also be related to Rear-Admiral Henry Montagu Doughty.

Friesland Meres


After having been towed across the North Sea the Gypsy, as the boat is called, sails on most of the lakes in Friesland, stopping in many of its towns. Their stopover in Dokkum was not a happy occasion. Perhaps the fact that the English Saint Boniface was murdered by the Frisians near Dokkum was an indication of the treatment foreigners could expect. Fortunately only their dignity was harmed:

“A crowd looked down upon us from the parapet; men and boys, hands in their breeches’ pockets, staring stolidly; women excitingly inquisitive. The bank was steep and slippery ; we had to clamber up under a battery of eyes; no hat was raised, as is the courteous custom of the country; the unyielding, sullen throng choked up the roadway, I could hardly force a way through them. Presently a clatter of sabots  on the coble stones, the rabble from the bridge had started after us, the boys and children shouting, screaming, pressing round us rudely. I took the girls into a shop; the mob swarmed in the street, and when we came out, hunted us again. … Dick and I pulled round the moat aftwerward; but our tormentors ran along the path beside us, hooting “Vreemdeling! Vreemdeling!” “Foreigner! Foreigner!” manned each bridge before us, and actually spat down on our heads as we pulled under.”

Sneek proved more to their liking:

“A very foreign-looking town, strange to our eyes; tree-edged water streets, old gables, singularly bright colours, and, to the eye, perfect cleanliness – filthy black smoke never sullies these Dutch towns, peat is the common fuel, and makes but little smoke – polite, simple-seeming people; such were our impressions.”

I have not been there recently, but the Waterpoort has not changed much:

The Water Gate circa 1889 - The Water Gate now

The Water Gate circa 1889 – The Water Gate now

The Gypsy then tours to the south via the IJssel and the Rhine, passes Purmerend where “the girls brought back a herd of green and yellow swine; the sweetest little money-pigs of earthenware, long and round, with the most delicious twisty-twirly tails.” Via the Zuiderzee they arrived in Hoorn, where they were met by another “voluble, excited crowd of raggamuffins.” My friends from Hoorn can comment if the scenery in the harbour has changed much since 1889.

Hoorn Harbour

Hoorn Harbour


Hoorn - Main Tower

Hoorn – Main Tower


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