By Hans Betlem
The true story about the origin of the hunebeds in Drenthe.
I saw my first hunebed at the beginning of the 1950’s when I was about five years old. My father worked in Emmen as a construction supervisor and lived in lodgings with the widow Pomp in a house right next to the railway line. At that time the family lived in Ede in the province of Gelderland. That was a long way from Emmen and my father only came home at weekends. But sometimes the whole family would go and stay in the house in Emmen. And from there it was not a very long walk to that enormous hunebed!
As a child you accept some things without questioning but, young as I was then, this colossal stone structure affected me in a different way to other buildings. There was a kind of odour about it, a sense of eternity, spirituality, timelessness, a tangible mystique hanging in the air. The whole atmosphere was reminiscent of old stories combining truth and fantasy.
From 1975 I lived in Drenthe and the hunebeds became a familiar feature in our surroundings. We played and picknicked by them with our children. We showed them to everyone who came to visit us. They were a constant presence in our walks and bike rides. They also intrigued me as a song-writer. Having become a ‘Drent’, I felt that I should be able to write a song about the hunebeds. But a song or a ballad needs something to trigger it, to release a certain feeling, and that is something that cannot be forced.
And then – about three years ago – it happened! One afternoon three music friends gave a performance by the hunebed in Exloo and they showed me a photo: three attractive girls, of different ages, and in the background the hunebed, the Stones. The association of love, eternity and fate caused something to bubble up inside me and within a short time I wrote The Hunebed Song / Song of the Dolmen. The ballad tells the story of a love affair which happened a long time ago on the banks of the local river, the Drentse Aa, and which ended tragically. The endless stream of tears shed by the girl were transformed into stones and together these stones grew into a hunebed, a dolmen. The girl then dies of grief. Every evening for the rest of his life, the young man goes to the hunebed to see her. And when he is old he lays down his weary bones there to die and so to lie by her forever.
The Hunebed Song – Song of the Dolmen
Words and music Hans Betlem; voice and acoustic guitar Hans Betlem; keyboard, bass guitar percussion Frans Vollink; violin and & viola Meike Abels; cello Barbera Vinke-Deinum; recording and arrangement Frans Vollink; Studio Het Atelier in Weiteveen, March/April 2022