Adriaan and Johanna Rutte

Golden Memories of their 50th Wedding Anniversary at Stirling in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia

Adriaan and Jo on their Silver Wedding Anniversary
Adriaan and Jo on their silver Wedding Anniversary

In June 1991, when Adriaan and Johanna Rutte had been married 50 years, a family of no less than seventy members, spanning four generations, celebrated with them. The number was hardly surprising to those who had seen the ten Rutte children growing up in the Stirling area of the Adelaide Hills over the years. In addition to the sons and daughters and their spouses, there were 28 grandchildren, aged from ten months to 29 years, and eight great grandchildren.

Adriaan and Jo clearly considered they had much to be thankful for. This industrious couple had never looked back since 1958 when, fresh from Holland, they stepped from the Overland Express at the small historic Hills town of Balhannah, with eight children and a ninth well on the way. Well, in truth, Jo will not forget that it was not so much a step, but a desperate leap with a young child under her arm, when she left the moving train that morning. Being ‘with child’, she had traveled from Melbourne in a sleeper, unlike the rest of the family.

The sign at the Balhannah Station had confused more than one ‘new Australian’ bound for the Woodside Migrant Camp in those days and Jo was no exception. Happily, no injuries were sustained and the family was soon settled into three rooms at the Migrant Camp.

The Rutte family aboard the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelten route to Australia
The Rutte family aboard the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelten route to Australia

Survival in those early years was a challenging adventure which would in later times trigger some hearty laughs, when they recalled occasions such as the time they had salvaged copper wiring and then were left wondering if the house would still be there after the spectacular firework show from their chimney that night. (It was a method of removing the plastic coating!) And they never did discover which other worthy cause they had supported on the day when half a dozen bags of rags – ready to be sold to a garage – were ‘collected’ from their verandah! For seventeen years they had a service station at Eagle-on-the-Hill, with produce as a sideline.

These undertakings and others served to bond the family closely together.The family obtained their first home after seven months at the Migrant Camp, thanks to the late Father Frank Manak, who lived in Stirling and was an assistant migrant chaplain. As, at that time, there was a serious outbreak of dysentery at the camp, also affecting them, they were deeply grateful for this move.

The Rutte family after leaving the migrant camp.
The Rutte family after leaving the migrant camp.

After fifty years of marriage, the inevitable question put to Jo and Adriaan was: “what is your recipe…?” Equally inevitable was their answer: there must be give and take but more give than take and, of course, a sense of humour. Romance did not actually get a mention in our conversation but undeservedly so, for Adriaan told a romantic tale of their first meeting. He recalled that he’d had a very strict upbringing and was not permitted to frequent dances as a young man. However, one night, at the age of 19, he had attended his first dance, caught sight of Jo and it was love at first sight. That’s my wife  he had confided in his friend. With chocolates from his pocket he coaxed the reluctant Jo into a conversation and it was the start of a five-year courtship. He saw her at every opportunity which often meant a rushed ten-minute bike ride from his village whilst on a delivery run for his deli-owner father. They were married on 5 June 1941, at St Luduina Church, Haarlem North, Jo’s home town.

A special visitor for the Golden Wedding celebration was Jo’s sister, Mrs Marie van der Bronk of Bloemendaal, who was also at the dance that memorable night in 1936 and had married Adriaan’s friend. This was her fifth visit to Australia.


Adriaan and Jo on their wedding day.
Adriaan and Jo on their wedding day.


POST SCRIPT – OCTOBER 2006:  Before the family emigrated Adriaan owned a large pheasant farm. He had a great love of  birds and in the early 1970s he also established aviaries in Stirling, South Australia, together with his 18-year-old son Gerry. Adriaan died in 1999 at the age of 83 and Gerry continues to run the Stirling Parrot Farm today.









Jo still lives at home and celebrated her 90th birthday in September 2006.

Her descendants now include 29 grandchildren and 45 great grandchildren.

Jo’s industriousness has never stopped and in the past ten years she has made around 150 colourful hand-crocheted rugs for the organisation Wrap With Love. She still produces them at a steady rate, now crocheting mainly by feel because of severely restricted eye sight.



Story compiled by Elizabeth Anderson, 2006: adapted from an article she wrote for the June 1991 issue of The Bridge, a monthly newsletter of the ‘Catholic Parish of Stirling’ in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia.