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Obituary – Ruby Nicoll-Heijmans 1923 – 2021

Ruby Nicoll-Heijmans was born in Dundee on the 16th March 1923 and died on the 22nd November 2021 aged 98, peacefully in her adopted home of Leiden in the Netherlands.

She was a woman of extraordinary spirit, and courage. Devoted to her immediate and extended family. Ruby drew people to her like a magnet, always full of fun and laughter, a keen singer and pianist.

The 2nd eldest of 5 siblings, 3 sisters, Winifred, Irene, Dorothy, and the youngest, brother Jimmy.

Sadly, for her, she outlived them all.

At the start of World War 2, Ruby was sent to work in an arms factorybut soon found the work too mundane. This spurred her to enlist in the Women’s Royal Naval Service which proved a defining point in her life.

She was stationed in the Orkney Isles and often recalled this experience fondly. In the photograph, Ruby is the one with her hat in her hand. By the looks of these women, and as Ruby said herself, they were proudly embracing freedoms previously denied them.

Ruby often recounted the romantic tale of how she met her late husband. The Dutch Submarine fleet were stationed in Dundee including a Petty Officer called Jacobus (Jack) Heijmans.

Heading down Lochee High Street one day, Ruby saw a man in uniform walking in front of her. Without even seeing his face, she sensed that he was the man she would marry, and so she did.

They wed on the 13th April 1944 in St Marys, Dundee Parish Churchas so many of Rubys’ family have.

Soon she moved with her new husband to Leiden, however his Naval service continued, and Ruby raised four children, for long periods,with Jack absent until well after the conclusion of the War. Unable to speak the native tongue, she was terribly homesick for the company of her sisters. Over time Ruby picked up the Dutch language andformed friendships with other military brides, becoming immersed in a post war network of former comrades all over the world.

Jack Heijmans became the most highly decorated Sailor in the Dutch Navy during the War although, he himself, would jokingly dismiss this incredible achievement as “Always being in the wrong place at the right time.”

Ruby was able to return home to Scotland often after the war, where she was treated as an honoured guest because she was such wonderful company. The spark of every get together and family sing song.

Ruby is survived by her four children, Jack, Gina, Winifred and Davidand family in Scotland and Holland. We are comforted to know that our loss means there is a party going on in heaven.


Author Stephen Nicoll Borland (Nephew)