Wubbo Edward Bijker, was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in April 1939. His parents were Wiebe Bijker, born in Zwolle, and Nicolette Kempff who was born in Haarlem. Grandfather Bijker was Frisian.
Father Wiebe Bijker was a mechanical engineer and during the years after WW2 he built bridges all over Netherlands, replacing those that had been destroyed during the war. Later Wiebe switched to building ships, eventually acquiring a shipyard in IJsselmonde, on the south-east side of Rotterdam.
Wubbo was the oldest son, he had one brother and two sisters, who were born during the years that father Wiebe was building bridges. Wubbo started primary school in 1946 in Rotterdam, where he also did mechanical engineering at the MTS.
Wubbo went to work as a junior manager at a shipyard in Pernis, and later moved to the in 1957 opened Verolme shipyards in the Botlek. The Botlek area was developed after the war to accommodate Rotterdam’s growing role in the international marine trade. It is situated on the south bank of the “New Waterway” flowing through Rotterdam.
In 1963 Bo married Ria, whom he had met a few years earlier when shopping in the Bijenkorf. Ria grew up in Hillegersberg, a northern suburb of Rotterdam. They went to live in Hellevoetsluis and later Tinte, both communities on the island of Voorne-Putten just south of Rotterdam. They had two children, both boys.
After twenty years in the Botlek, Wubbo felt the need for a change of pace. Australia was still advertising for migrants, and friends suggested he give it a try. So, in 1980 Wubbo, Ria and two sons (aged 13 and 14) stepped on the KLM plane and flew to Sydney. Their household effects were coming by ship.
The family first spent three months in a hostel in Sydney, and then moved to a hostel, Yungaba Residences, in Kangaroo Point, Brisbane. They lived there about six months while they were building a house in Chambers Flat, in the Logan River area. While at Yungaba, it was decided to make his name easier for English speakers and Wubbo became Bo.
Bo was 41 when he arrived in Australia, and had more than 20 years of solid experience in ship building and refurbishing, so he didn’t have much trouble finding a job. He started at a yacht building shipyard in Wacol, SW Brisbane, near Goodna. This was only half an hour’s drive from their new home.
After a number of years Bo changed jobs and started working for Lloyds Ships in Bulimba. Lloyds specialised in building and servicing of luxury yachts. While they still had the Chambers Flat property, this was a much longer commute, and they rented a house in Bulimba. Around this time Ria started a coffeeshop in nearby Morningside.
Later they sold the property in Chambers Flat and moved to Russell Island in Moreton Bay. Their sons were no longer living at home. Ria had sold the coffee shop, and Bo had left Lloyds Ships and worked closer to the island. Living in Moreton Bay afforded Bo the opportunity to practice his great hobby: sailing. Bo and Ria lived for ten years on Russell Island and then moved to Cleveland, on the shores of Moreton Bay.
In 1995 Bo became the manager of the Prins Willem Alexander Village, a job he held till 1998. He had known two of the founders of the village, Steve Flierman and Henk Mollee, since many years and he was the first person to pay a deposit of $1 to become a member of PWA, in 1983, before it had been built. In 1999 Bo retired from all work.
While living in Cleveland his marriage broke down, and Bo and Ria split up in 2006. Bo moved to Coorparoo, a Brisbane suburb closer to the city. After a few years he moved again, this time to Moorooka, a suburb south of the city, where he lived with a new partner, Heather. Between 2006 and 2016 Bo and Heather did a lot of cruising all over the world. Their last cruise visited many locations in Europe, including Netherlands.
In 2017 Bo had a bad fall at home and broke his back. He was in hospital and rehab for a long time. During his convalescence, he moved into care at the PWA village hostel because he needed to use a wheel chair. Heather continued living at Moorooka, and they are still good friends.
In the intervening years Ria had already moved into PWA village as an independent resident and they had remained friendly. They now live on opposite sides of the village.
Bo has recovered a lot from his injuries and uses a scooter or walks with a cane. He has moved into an independent residence, is keeping busy with playing the piano, cards or reading. He used to paint abstract paintings, but stopped in 2019. He loves eating Dutch foods like croquets, herring, licorice, and Leyden cheese. The shop in PWA village has all of these for sale.
I asked Bo what he thought about his migrant experience. He said that the whole family had adjusted very well, they had loved living in Chambers Flat, but in the beginning they had found Christmas in the heat of summer a bit difficult to get used to.
The boys had also had difficulties at school in the first year due to their lack of English language knowledge. However, they overcame this and one of them now lives in Melbourne where he is an engineering consultant in building construction, and the other one lives in Brisbane and works as a salesman of specialist office furniture.
Bo’s father had already died before Bo moved to Australia and he travelled back to Netherlands only a few times to visit his mother. Bo says he doesn’t miss anything about Netherlands and finds that the migrant experience has been a positive one for him and his family.
Marianne Pietersen (August 2021)
Bo died on 29 November, 2023.