On May 28, 2011 Bill Clinton held a speech in Achlum, province Friesland. The village has some 600 inhabitants. Looks like a small audience to me. What was he up to? We searched online for the keywords “Clinton” and “Achlum” and found many articles mentioning large sums of money…
Indeed Achlum should be famous for large sums of money. But not for the huge sum that allegedly has been paid for Clinton to speak. So, let’s pause Bill for a moment.
We would like to draw your attention to someone else.
Let’s move the spotlight to Ulbe.
Ulbe is relatively unknown. His full name was Ulbe Piers Draisma. He lived some 200 years ago. He was born in Achlum. He died in Achlum. And in between, he lived in Achlum. “Never a dull moment”, you might joke.
Well, Ulbe witnessed a lot of misery among the farmers in the surroundings of Achlum. Lightning and haystack fires caused damage. It burned down farms, destroying crops and cattle in its wake.
Lightning strikes had become a serious problem since the Frisians dumped Thor as their God around 900 AD. The lord who has thunder & lightning in his portfolio, was clearly not amused. Naming a weekday after him (Thursday) did not do the trick.
Stacked hay has the tendency to reach high temperatures inside. And, that is not only due to the fact that farmers’ daughters prefer to make love there. It is pure physics and chemistry, not only cigars. Oh well, you know what I mean.
The fires ruined families financially. Instead of becoming a fireman or inventor of the lightning conductor, Ulbe decided to set up a fund in 1811. When he was 26 years old he began a startup which became one of the oldest insurance companies in the world. Some 39 Frisian farmers joined right from the start. An instant success. The farmers were relieved from their misery by sharing the financial risks.
What once was the Assurantiemaatschappij Achlum now has become a huge insurance company called Achmea. While Ulbe tracked finances in a small booklet, which he kept at one side of his bed, today Achmea’s assets could save half of Greece, close to a 100 billion.
Check out the entire timeline, from Achlum to Achmea.
Oh yes, a final word about Bill Clinton. Indeed, he did not have financial relations with Achlum, since Achmea paid Bill’s bills.
Bill Clinton held his speech to honor the fact that Ulbe founded Achmea 200 years ago.
Here is our tribute: “Well done, Ulbe. You rock!”
If you want to pay homage to Ulbe too then here are some interesting things to see.
As hiker you will visit Achlum on stage 4 of the Fristia Coast Trail when walking the Slachtedyk. Here is a printable detailed description of this part of the track. Feel free to add comments!
So, here is how you can find Ulbe in Achlum. If you walk the Slachtedyk northbound, you’ll enter Achlum from the east. Keep the canal on your right. This street is called the Oosterstraat. If you continue, you will automatically enter the Dorpsstraat. After some 40 meters you will see a beautiful old building, made of red bricks and elegant grey columns, on your left.
If you have time to spare, leave the track for a moment and take a left turn into the sandy path. You will find an amazing view. It is very typical picture for this part of the track. What makes it so special is that 4 outstanding elements come together in one picture. Here they are.
- a church on a terp
- a Stjelp farmhouse – the Volkswagen hatchback of farmhouses
- a Head-Neck-Body farmhouse – the Audi sedan of farmhouses
- a sportsfield for the popular Frisian handball sport: Kaatsen.
On the church wall of that terp you will find the memorial stone for the hero of this article: Ulbe.