THE DUTCHMAN TILTING AT WINDMILLS JERRY MULDERS
text only of The Herald article in word format
I TALK TO OTHER PROTESTERS MORE THAN MY WIFETHE NEW PROTESTERS; [Final Edition]
MARTYN McLAUGHLIN. The Herald. Glasgow (UK): Apr 2, 2005. pg. 26
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(Copyright 2005 SMG Newspapers Ltd.)
THE DUTCHMAN TILTING AT WINDMILLS JERRY MULDERS
It was to be the dream home for a young family looking to escape the daily grind: an isolated farmhouse set in the heart of a lush forest in the rolling Ayrshire countryside. When Jerry Mulders and his family took over Upper Beoch Farm in 1999, their energies were consumed with restoring a derelict structure that had lain derelict for eight years, ravaged by wet and dry rot.
Now, however, the long evenings and weekends of renovation have come to a halt. Eighteen months ago, Mulders met two men who were carrying out a survey of the rugged Dalmellington landscape. They told him they had been commissioned by a wind-farm company. Mulders discovered the firm was planning to erect 150 turbines, the first of a number of developments that could permanently alter the valleys around Kyle Forest.
Several renewable energy organisations, including Amec, Nuon Renewables and ScottishPower, have since outlined their intention to raise turbines - some as high as 135 metres - across the moorland. In all, more than 300 are planned.
The Mulders family, who came to Britain from Holland, were distraught when they found out what was planned. "We used to live by the M4 in England, " Mulders explains. "Our two boys, Jan and Ross, both had asthma, but as soon as we moved up here they were fine.
That's exactly the kind of reason we came to Ayrshire - to get out of the rat race. Health, wellbeing and a better education.
"But over the past year it's been protesting day in, day out. Questions, contacting MPs and MSPs and councillors . . . when I was working on the house it was to ensure we got a better quality of life, and I'm doing this for the same reason."
Soon after discovering the turbines plan, Mulders sent out leaflets to villagers in nearby Dalmellington. Within weeks meetings had been arranged, community councils had become interested and official objections had begun. "Letters, " recalls the 40-year-old Mulders, "thousands of them. People began doing what I was doing - asking questions.
The postman was going about the village delivering letters from the Houses of Parliament."
As the momentum grew, Mulders began travelling throughout Scotland to meet other anti-wind-farm protesters, many of whom he now counts as friends. "Even in Dalmellington I was an outsider at first, " he says. "I suppose I did gain something of a reputation as the mad Dutchman who ranted about turbines, but I kept going." Now, he says, the penny is dropping among ordinary people in Ayrshire. "They're beginning to take a stand and say, 'Enough is enough.' This kind of issue has a cohesive effect and is bringing small communities like Cumnock, Mauchline and Sanquhar together. They're saying with one voice that it's time something was put back into this area. We're just starting to slowly recover from the mining days and we deserve environmental justice."
Mulders has a deep love for this part of Scotland and its landscape, and is exacting and deliberate in his attempts to stop the wind-farm developments. He speaks in a calm, composed manner, illustrating his points with letters, memos or graphics, each smattered with highlighted passages. He is, in short, a full-time protester, spending his days poring over research papers and requesting meetings with politicians, company directors and landowners.
Many of them decline to acknowledge the Dutchman, let alone grant him an audience.
From the exterior, the tranquil setting of Upper Beoch is distinctly at odds with such passionate work. All around is silent: the only creature that stirs is a horse, musing on a small fire spitting out its last embers in the yard.
Once you are inside the farmhouse, however, it is clear that this is not only a home but a base.
This afternoon Mulders has just returned from town where he picked up a projector ("It'll be excellent for the presentations, " he says). All around are documents, discs and newspaper cuttings.Mulders's wife, Anita, is helping him collate his research, while his 17-year-old son Jan is helping to put together a presentation on the computer. This is a family that is prepared to sacrifice a normal lifestyle in the pursuit of its beliefs.
Later this month the television presenter and environmental campaigner David Bellamy will visit Dalmellington at Mulders's request, restocking rivers with fish as part of a positive publicity campaign. Mulders has also helped create an organisation called the Scottish Health Environmental Protection Agency, which he has used to raise other issues in the Scottish Parliament, including the unlicensed spreading of sewage sludge.
"Whether it's wind farms, sewage sludge or opencast mining, this is a profession for me now, " he says. "I work on it all the time and I've ploughed a lot of money into resources. It can be frustrating. I talk to other protesters more than I do my own wife, but we're trying to protect a landscape that has been unchanged for centuries.
"My friends in Holland think Scotland is just like it is in Rob Roy, " he adds with a laugh. "And they're right in a way, because if all these wind farms go ahead, the difference will be devastating. The area will be completely industrialised. The sad thing is, there are elected representatives and people in publicly funded bodies who should be doing what I'm doing." He pauses for a moment. "If they were, the farmhouse might have been finished by now."
Caption: Jerry Mulders is taking a stand against wind-farm turbines near his farm in Ayrshire PHOTOGRAPH: SIMON MURPHY
Credit: Newsquest Media Group
Prepared to sacrifice a normal lifestyle in the pursuit of its beliefs.
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