Note. I did not write the story below (the translation into English is mine though, as are the pictures).

My name is Michiel Frans Evert van Reenen. I was named 'Michiel' after Michiel de Ruyter, 'Frans' after Frans Naerebout (and 'Evert' after, I believe, my late greatgrandfather on mother's side, but that's less relevant).

I take great pride in these names. Reading the story below (that I found on the internet, can't remember when and where) you'll probably understand why, for at least the 'Frans' one.


After his death it was written: "Only after his career ended people realized who and what he had been, how much they owed him and how often he was denied". In a different way than Michiel de Ruyter Frans Naerebout, who lived approximately 150 years later, served his country and fellow being. Different also than de Ruyter he was buried august 29th, 1819 in Goes. There were no shots fired in salute. The only thing he had in common with his fellow townsman was that statues for them were only erected long after their deaths. Naerebout's stands at a stone's throw from the Bellamypark Museum.

Frans Naerebout was born in Veere and raised in a poor fisherman's family. At an early age he and his brothers were involved in fishery off the coast of Zeeland. The trades of the fisherman and the harbour pilot were practiced simultaneously due to their familiarity with the location of sandbanks. In 1781 Frans Naerebout, his fishing vessel and four men were hired by the State to perform piloting services. In 1783 he was appointed harbour pilot for the Eastindia Company, Zeeland region.

Talking about Naerebout as a lifesaver we end up in the year 1779. In the early hours of july 23rd, 1779 the Frigate "de Woestduyn", coming from Batavia, was approaching the coast of Zeeland. The ship had just been out for months, and spirits were high among crew and passengers, many of them women and children. Many of them hadn't been home for years. In the English Channel a pilot had boarded, who claimed to be familiar with the sandbanks off the coast. The intention was to reach Flushings harbour through the Deurloo, a deep stretch of water between the sandbanks. The captain noticed the pilot's rather nervous behaviour and informed after his knowledge of the Zeeland waters once more; a question again answered affirmative by the pilot, who was from Texel. In the late afternoon things went awry after all; disaster struck. With an abrupt bang movement was halted and to a terrible screech the vessel bore into the sand. Frightened cries were heard: "Help, we are shipwrecked".

That same afternoon, when the ship stranded on "de rassen" was seen, an East India Company rescue vessel refused to go out to the stricken ship, although the Company was under contract to offer help in just such circumstances. It was claimed the weather was too bad. Frans Naerebout and his brother Jacob, however, could not stand idly by as all these people drowned in sight of the coast, and decided to undertake the dangerous trip with Frans's vessel. Another six men from Flushings on board, they left at two o' clock at night, because that was when the tide was best. Meanwhile the wind had increased to galeforce, and aboard the "Westduyn" masts and tackle had been cut. One can easily guess what horrible situation existed on board.

Risking his own life, Naerebout reached the bedraggled vessel and managed to get 71 people off the sinking ship. But there were 17 left on the wreck when the upcoming tide forced him to return. Those saved were safely brought to shore. Although Frans Naerebout had trouble persuading his fellow lifesavers to go out a second time, to save the other shipwrecked too, they sailed again in the afternoon, in very bad weather. They succeeded. Each of the trips took twelve hours.

When one reads up on Frans Naerebout, one finds him praised for the characteristics of bravery, courage and love for his fellow human. His rescourcefulness comes to bear when the East India vessel "de Zuiderburg" gets into trouble. At the end of the year 1788 said ship left Rammekens "with a populace of 400, a load of merchandise and five times a hundred thousand guilders on board". Sailing out of De Deurloo the rudder was damaged, so the ship was anchored. But the sea close to the coast was entirely covered in sliding packice. This is why no ship could leave the harbour: al exits were closed off by the ice. Frans Naerebout was summoned as a last resort. After many attempts he managed to reach open water across the ice, so to be able to board the "Zuiderburg". After conferring with its captain, he decided to tie a loodsgaljoot (a small vessel) behind the "Zuiderburg", in order to provisionally be able to steer the ship. At the end of a most eventful journey the ship reached the English port of Plymouth, which was free of ice at that moment.

Many rescues and difficult piloting journeys would follow. Worth to mention is his piloting of the ship "Voorland", which he guided to sea. Because of the bad weather, Frans could not debark from the "Voorland", therefore the captain decided to take him to Capetown. Following an adventurous journey, he returned home to Flushings a year later.

He was decorated many times for his deeds, and in those years was a popular person. When trade and naval contact with England practically ceased to be, times went bad for Frans Naerebout. He tried to keep himself alive by fishing for shrimp. He was not a man who would get stuck in the past, point at his heroic deeds and go around begging.

To ensure a nice retirement, he was appointed "lighter of the fire beacon" on Oost-Beveland, by the mouth of the Zandkreek and in 1812 he became lockmaster at Sas van Goes, where he died in 1818. It is only now that people start to honour his memory. As J.L. Nierstrasz writes in an old booklet: "At a certain day, he did not return from the lantern at the usual time. They found him, lying on the Zeedijk, unable to cross the distance from there to his home". That was the moment other people started to get involved on his behalf. The Zeeland Society brought his merits to the attention of H.M. the King. On october 31st, 1816, he was appointed Brother in the Order of the Dutch lion with a yearly allowance of 200 guilders. The Department of General Use in Goes donated something too.

When Frans Naerebout passed away in Goes, august 23rd, 1818, the same department was willing to pay for the costs of the funeral and the headstone. Naerebout is still buried in the Grote or Maria Magdalena church in Goes and his headstone reads: "Here lies the famous sailor and noble friend of man".

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