R004. Gustave François ROELS

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Born: Brugge 5-Dec-1869, son of Jacobus ROELS and Theresia DEFOORT

Married: Brugge 4-Sep-1893 to Louise MILLEVILLE

Died: Filée – Jallet (Haillot), Namur on 26-Dec-1945

Gustave ROELS, aged 66

He was an engraver, as well as having a business selling tobacco, lace and post cards. He was born in the Raamstraat no.7 in the front room.

On 12-Feb-78 he moved with his parents to the Clarastraat, 19 (now 21). There was a large garden, his father Jacobus, who was a gardener for the city, even raised pigs in it.

From there he moved to the Kleine Hoedenmakersstraat, 9 on 21-5-1890. Two years later (15-Jun-1892) it went to the Rode straat, 38 and after that on 21-Dec-1894 to the Peperstraat, 28 (his father Jacobus had already died in 1891).

House in 135 Ezelstraat

After his marriage he probably lived first with his in-laws (Arsenaalstraat, 7) and on 19-Oct-1894 he moved in with his mother Theresia Defoort, Peperstraat, 28.

Two years later (2-Sep-1896) they went to live alone the Carmerstraat, 67. Nine years later (24-Sep-1907) the whole family moved to the Ezelstraat, 135, where his wife Louise Milleville kept a tobacco shop which also sold lace and post cards. The shop was called “Het Spinnewiel” (the spinning wheel).

Sign of the times : to be part of the scene you need a business card in french, hence Rue St. Claire instead of Clarastraat

In 1920 on 8 January he bought a house in the Ezelstraat, 63, from Charles Boels (no relative, and not a typing error !) for 12.000 fr. and made 24.000 fr. worth of alterations. There were no ceilings and you could see through the gaps in the floor boards.

After the death of his wife in 1940 he went to live with his son Maurice, who at the time was vicar at Filée (Wallonia).

He was small of stature (1.64m) but very agile. He once walked on his hands from his house in the Raamstraat, to the school in the Ezelstraat. He had dark brown eyes and dark hair. Never in his life did he ever have toothache or headache and he still had all his teeth when he died. This may have been because apart from being a smoker he also chewed tobacco.

After primary school he became an apprentice with the printer Derreseauw in the Gouden-handstraat, and also attended the arts academie for 6 years.

He went to work for the printer and engraver Ancot and he stayed there for most of his life. He earned 1 franc per hour, whereas the normal wages for a meestergast was 40 to 60 centimes.

Cigar bag, hand printed with copper stamp

At Ancot he engraved the plan of Bruges on ten large lithograpic stones, based on the original copper plates of Marcus Gerards. He was not allowed to put his name on any of this work as it was issued under Ancot’s name. But Gustave engraved the name ROELS in the western side of the square part of the belfry tower anyway.

The name ROELS engraved on the side of the belfry tower

In the older editions his name can still be seen. Afterwards he shared his secret with the printer Isselee from ‘het Verbrand Nieuwland’, who had bought the stones. On the reprint the latter covered the name with a layer of Arabic gum, so that on the younger editions the name Roels has disappeared. Nowadays these maps are offset printed and it depends which map has been used as the original, so that sometimes the name appears and other times not. But on the original lithographic stone his name can still be seen in the tower. One of the Marcus Gerards copper plates together with the lithographic stone can be seen in the Gothic Room in the city hall.

He loved to go out : he was for instance a member of the archer’s guild “Maatschappij Handboog, Fort Lapin” and also of the archer’s guild along the Blankenbergse steenweg in Sint-Pieters. On Sunday he went with his friends to the “kapelletjes” (= pubs) after the 10 o’clock mass and arrived home between one and two o’clock for lunch.

Gustave in the print shop of Ancot’s

Otherwise he was very thrifty. Amongst his burins and compasses we found a staple, neatly wrapped up in a piece of newspaper. He hammered old nails straight and kept them per type in cigar boxes. He was very orderly : “A place for everything and everything in its place” he used to say. He called his son Gérard from his bed in the evening in order that some odds and sodds that had been lying around be put away.

The house in 135 Ezelstraat, bombed in 1917

The family had to fight setbacks and illness during 1917-18. Seven bombs fell on a house nearby, causing 3000 francs worth of damage to the shop and furniture (see damage statement). His wife Louise and daughter Marie-Louise both became very ill. A Belgian doctor thought it was typhoid although a German doctor disagreed. Hence the saying in the family: ” ‘t Is een brokke op de borst gevallen en hij stak ze in de Potterie” (she had a cold on her chest and he put her in the Potterie). That’s a hospital where typhoid cases were looked after.

1945, when Gustave was already very ill

He didn’t let anyone walk over him, and he defended himself with all his might against unsavoury practices. For instance an attempt was made to cancel his (3-6-9) rental agreement even though it was only up for renewal in 1916. The intention was that “Marietje Bisschop” would set up shop in the same house “Het Spinnewiel”, Ezelstraat 135, and be able to take over the customers without any trouble.

In the end the courts ruled that until 1925 no similar businesses could be kept on penalty of 5000fr.

He was sensitive to hernias and had one to the left of his groin.

He died in Filée, Wallonia (a godforsaken hole in the province of Namur) far away from his beloved Bruges, but he was buried in Bruges anyway. He died of cancer of the large intestine, after a painful six months.

Marie-Louise in front of the shop in the Ezelstraat Obituary of Gustave ROELS

In the garden of 63, Ezelstraat, from left to right: 1. Louise MILLEVILLE; 2. Gustave ROELS; 3. Irma ROELS; 4. Marie-Louise ROELS; 5. half-brother Edmont DOUSSELAERE; 6. Gerard ROELS

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