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The story behind these walls is very similar to the story of Eyjólfiur and Fillipus Hannesson from Núpsstaður in Southern Iceland (see my previous blogpost). The landscape here is definitely not as dramatic as the one in Iceland and the conditions created by the elements are far from what the Hannesson brothers have experienced. But live was surely not easy here.
The ‘Van den Borres Molen‘ (Van den Borres Mill) is a watermill on the ‘Traveinsbeek’ (brook) in Strijpen; a village in the Flemish Ardennes of Belgium. It is not clear when the mill has been built, but it’s existence is mentioned in a farm lease from the year 1429. The name Van den Borre is the surname of the miller who bought the mill in 1896.
The mill has always been in use as a corn mill. Since the first world war, it has also been used to generate electricity. It generated enough electricity for the greater part of the village.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity the visit and photograph the mill. It was then that I met the residents Marguérite, Raphaël and Gerard De Muyter. Three siblings, all being over 80 years of age, who had always lived in this mill and farm. They never married, because “there was no time for such things” …
And although they have lived for over 80 years together, I was amazed to find out that they barely knew each other. Raphaël, the more pragmatic of the two brothers, never knew that his elder brother Gerard had never really enjoyed live in the mill and had always been longing for something else. He even didn’t know that Gerard wrote poetry.
In an interview for a newspaper, a few years ago, they told that the mill and the farm were the only things they ever new; they had never seen or known anything else. They said : “We were born here, and we will die here” …
Marguérite passed away in 2010, leaving the two brothers looking after themselves. In 2013, at the age of 85, Gerard followed his sister.
Last august, I passed in front of the mill and saw a big yellow bin bag near the entrance gate. Never had I been so happy by the sight of a bin bag. To me, it was a sign that Raphaël was still alive. I had heard before that he had serious health problems, due to a live long use of agricultural chemicals.
But unfortunately, I am afraid that it was his last bin bag that I photographed in august 2014. I recently got the news that Raphaël passed away a few weeks later. As he said before : “We were born here, and we will die here” …