Why are so many places named after the natural surrounds and our immediate geographic landscapes?

The simple answer is that rivers, hills and mountains were there long before any of the towns and cities were established. When nomadic man was looking for somewhere to settle he more often that not chose a place near water whether for washing, drinking or earing.

Water is, of course, of major importance to the early settlers of any area for a multitude of reasons – subsistence, sanitation and work. In a religious context water is a symbol of purity and because in many places it is plentiful, and does not require hurting others to give it – it is a life giver.

The names of towns and regions have long had origins in the names given to springs, streams, rivers and seas whether in Holland or Ireland.

Where on earth is Waalwijk exactly you might ask.

Well, while we are mostly concerned here with art from an etymological perspective the biggest clue is in ‘wijk’. Wijk is the ancient Dutch word for hamlet, village or neighbourhood. Waal meanwhile refers to the River Waal a vast river which runs to the north of the city.

Waalwijk – a village near the Waal.

Present day Waalwijk is a city that is located in North Brabant and lies 30 minutes north of Tilburg and just west of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. It is small, in fact so small that there is no train station in Waalwijk but given the compact nature of Holland nowhere is really that far away by public transport.

Waalwijk was originally a locality in the Duchy of Brabant (Staats Brabant); a state of the Holy Roman Empire. Its early social, demographic and political status was influenced by the Dutch revolt also known as the Eighty Years war. This war had at its core themes of church reformation, taxation, the rights and privileges of the nobility and the cities they inhabited. The outcome of the conflict saw the low countries divided across the protestant north and the catholic southern regions.

RKC Waalwijk

North Brabant and Limburg to the east have historically been the most Catholic parts of the Netherlands. Catholicism and some of its traditions now form a part of the cultural and historical traditions of the region rather than being a religious identity for many of the people in the area.

A catholic church stands not that far from the Mandemakers Stadion the current football home of RKC but religion plays only a small role in the identity of the modern RKC even if the club’s name references the Catholic church.

Currently the club describe themselves with the following:

‘a transparent and passionate paid football organisation in North Brabant that structurally plays professional football in the Eredivisie. It exists in order to optimally meet the sporting, economic and social needs of all its stakeholders whether fans, employees or volunteers‘.

RKC were founded in 1940 under the name Roman Catholic Combination (RKC – Rooms Katholieke Combinatie). They came about via merger of three other clubs who went by acronyms – HEC, WVB and Hercules.

Over the years RKC have slowly managed to work a way up to the top of the Dutch footballing ladder. Currently RKC are in Eredivisie while its traditionally bigger neighbours Willem II and FC Den Bosch linger in the second tier.

There would be possibly be little or other reason to visit this part of southern Netherlands were it not for the resident football club. It’s a club more than humble – more or less a footballing outpost reachable only by bus and car from its much larger urban neighbours.

The club started life at the Sportpark Olympia a locality which still sits adjacent to the site of the current Mandemakers Stadion. RKC remained amateur – like the many of the clubs that proceeded it – but only until the 1980’s when it became professional and promotion to the top tier followed.

Outside of two Eerste Divisie titles however they have never won any trophies traditionally being strugglers in the top tier but one of the stronger side in the second tier.

The artwork inside the Mandemakers Stadion consists of a number of murals in the colours we associate with the club kit – predominantly blue and yellow. But also the flag of the Brabant region (vlag van Noord-Brabant or Brabants Bont) which consists of a chequy pattern with 24 distinct fields in the colours red and white. Also noticeable are black and yellow which references the region’s coat of arms.

The blue and yellow (colours the club play in) is a nod to the colours of Schoenlapperslaand the name Waalwijk is called during its carnival.

Every day is not a carnival in Waalwijk; its quiet, a little cut off in terms of train connections but peaceful and a nice accessible place to stay particularly for those who wish a little bit more peace compared to the larger s-Hertogenbosch.

The local club are not PSV or Ajax but the Mandemakers Stadion offers an interesting location with vibrant internal colours.

See here the full album of images from Waalwijk RKC