A Stroll to Tytsjerk and a Conversation With Clergymen About Local History

Written by Dyami Millarson

Church of Tytsjerk, built in 1716, which the character Hotze Piebes Wiekstra, the warden, visited on 18 May 1750. By the way, 18 May is one day before my birthday, and this year I published a freely available online Hindeloopen Frisian dictionary, which is the first dictionary of the Hindeloopen Frisian language ever to appear in the English language, despite Hindeloopen Frisian having existed for centuries.

Wandelingen van mijnen oud-oom den opzigter (Strolls of My Great Uncle the Warden) published in 1841 details a stroll to Tytsjerk and conversation with local clergymen in chapters 1 and 2. The main character in the book is Hotze Piebes Wiekstra, who was a warden for many years at one of the mills in Leeuwarden, the city where I live since 2009. The setting of the story is the 18th century. I have decided to translate selections from the book written in 19th-century Dutch to English; I selected texts which pertain to Tytsjerk. I am not aware of this work – or portions thereof – ever having been translated to English before, and so this must be a first since the work was published 2 centuries ago. The original text contains three historical inscriptions from the church of Tytsjerk as well. These texts are written in Latin, 17th-century Dutch, and Latin mixed with 18th-century Dutch respectively. Being proficient in all of these, I have translated them all to Modern English as well, because why not? I did, however, put these translations between swuare brackets while I also wanted to show the original texts as they appeared in the 19th-century work Wandelingen van mijnen oud-oom den opzigter. I generally use square brackets for adding comments and translations, but also for indicating words, signs or letters which are originally not there.

The cover of the work, of which I will translate some portions pertaining to Tytsjerk this morning.

My selections are taken from chapters 1 and 2 of the aforementioned work and are only texts which pertain to Tytsjerk. Here follows my translation from the original 19th-century Dutch:

Strolls of My Great-Uncle the Warden,

Through a Part of Frisia

Based on papers left behind by a village preacher

“Geeske! Will you have my breakfast ready at five o’clock tomorrow morning?” my great-uncle, the former warden Hotze Piebes Wiekstra, said to his sister on Whitsun Sunday, 17 May 1750, when they wanted to go to bed that evening. “If you stick to the plan of taking the little trip, I will see to it that nothing is missing; I have already warned our neighbor the baker to wake me up at half past four: for whether it is caused by increasing old age I do not know, but I can no longer keep watch as well as five-and-twenty years ago,” was the reply. […]

It was not unpleasant for him to finally be able to leave the bare Zwarteweg [Black Road], and by turning right into the trees to arrive at the dirt road that led to Tytsjerk. Going forward only a few steps, he discovered to his left a beautifully situated country estate, which, as he found written on the hamei [barrier gate], was called Toutenburg, and immediately next to it another, called Hanenburg, both set back slightly from the roadway, and also provided both with a summer cottage attached to them. When he arrived at Harke Hendriks inn, he demanded a sandwich with a glass of beer, for the early morning walk had made him hungry and thirsty. While taking this refreshment, he learned from the chatty innkeeper that there would be preached that morning in Tytsjerk, for that the preacher had to serve every other Sunday or public holiday in nearby Suawoude or here in Tytsjerk. Hotze immediately remembered that he had met the teacher Martinus Vitringa several times at the house of his friend the Leeuwardian Pastor Blom, and therefore decided to attend the religious service, which he moreover did not like to neglect attending. While he was resting at his leisure on the sidewalk, he saw several farmers in their Sunday suits pass the inn, those of Ryptsjerk, where no service was served that day, as well as those who came from the part of Tytsjerk located on the other side of the bridge.

The innkeeper called them all by name and bowed very deeply, when first an old lady, neatly dressed, and then a dignified gentleman passed by, whom he made known to Wiekstra, as the widow Kuffeler, born Wijckel, and as the Lord Superior Beilanus; the first owner and inhabitant of Toutenburg, the second inhabitant of the adjacent Hanenburg. No sooner had the latter passed than the bell began to ring. Accompanied by the innkeeper, our traveler [Hotze] went to the church, which, isolated from the neighborhood, lay in the middle of a graveyard planted with ascending trees. The innkeeper showed him a good place in the neat church, which had been newly built for thirty-four years […]. While the preacher had already noticed his old acquaintance; when people were leaving the church, he greeted him warmly and bade him go with him to his rectory at Suawoude, to keep him company for the rest of the day, as he liked to chat with a good friend after his shift. Although Wiekstra would not promise to stay all day in Suawoude, he gladly accepted the invitation to at least have lunch there, and went with the minister, his wife and two children to the rectory. […] Having finished the bare short road from Tytsjerk, they continued on the more leafy road, planted on both sides with lush alder wood, to Suawoude, and at last arrived at the humble vicar’s residence. Seated in front of the window, through which he had an unobstructed view of the opposite church, our Wiekstra was supplied by the minister with a pipe and tobacco, while the busy housewife prepared the coffee with the porcelain cups, as small as nutshells.

[Teacher Martinus Vitringa, an acquaintance of Hotze, said:] ,,[…] As you can understand, I have plenty of time to study, and as it is not always possible to be occupied with theology, in my spare hours I have spent quite a bit of time researching our Frisian history and antiquities, and I have particularly devoted myself to tracing what has taken place here and in the surrounding area.” This was just grist to the mill of Hotze, and so he did not hesitate long in asking: if this is the case, can you also explain to me from where the villages of your community got their name? “This is not so easy, as you may think,” replied the minister; “[for] the names of most places are very old, and often so corrupted by time that it is difficult to determine their origin, and most of the time we have to be content with guesswork. The most probable is that Suawoude, called Zuwoude and Zuidwoude in old texts, was thus named, because the village is situated south of the so-called Trijnwouden, and that Tytsjerk received the name from a distinguished man, Tiete, probably the founder of the church, which, as you know, is called t[s]jerke in Frisian. […]”

[The minister said:] “You will probably have read of the Superior Schenck van Toutenburg, who in Spanish times was Stadtholder of Frisia thanks to Charles V. This renowned man was the founder of this estate Toutenburg, and kept his country residence here during his Stadtholdership, when the war activities did not call him elsewhere. He certainly contributed much to the construction of the Zwarteweg, as it stands today; already in the regulations of the toll on that road it is expressly stipulated that the inhabitant of Toutenburg, as well as the Grietman of Tytsjerksteradeel, should be free of toll. His first name was Jurriaan or George and he was the son of Johan Schenck, one of the German noblemen who came to Frisia with Duke Albert of Saxen in the late 15th century, from Ludomilia Schleinitz.”

Above the entrance of the church in Tytsjerk is carved on a stone:


[Translation from Latin by Dyami Millarson: Three times by the favence of God [who is] the best [and] greatest: This sacred building was built by the inhabitants of this village in 1716 AD[.] [Written] by Hector Wilhelm van Glinstra, priest of the territory.]

In the church is a tombstone, in the center of which is the coat of arms of Kingma, with a medallion at each of the four corners, the first depicting the face of a young man, the second that of a man of advanced age, the third of an old man, and the fourth a skull. Around it [is written]:

Anno 1645 den 21 ianne[v]r sterf Ian va Kingma, [g]ewese [g]edepeterd. staet va Frislandt out 59 iaer.

[Translation by Dyami Millarson from 17th-century Dutch: Jan van Kingma, [who had] been deputy of the state of Frisia, died on 21 January 1645, aged 59.]

Another, on which is carved:

Obiit den XXIII Junij CIƆ IƆ CCXXXIII [= M D CCXXXIII] Juffrouw Jeska Wilhelmina van Glinstra ætatis LIII en leit alhier begraven.

[Translation by Dyami Millarson from Latin mixed with 18th-century Dutch: Miss Jeska Wilhelmina van Glinstra died on 23 June 1733, aged 53, and lies buried here.]

One comment

  1. What a historical, literary gem. You too are interesting. Thanks so much for sharing the read and about yourself. ☕️☕️🤗❤️


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