Rids van der Zee has led a very magical life all over the world. He’s been a magician, monk, Scoutmaster, Civil Celebrant, restaurant manager, hairdresser and counsellor.
Rids is in his eighties and he still remembers some of his favourite magic tricks. “I love magic,” he gleams with childlike excitement.
It all began in the Netherlands. He was always been interested in magic as a little boy, “when I was 14 I met a magician. He taught me a trick, the thimble [trick]. And six months later I taught him magic.”
“I seem to have a knack for it. It just came to me automatically. I’m not clever at all, far from it. But the magic worked. And I’m very perceptive with the mind. I can see things, I don’t know how to explain it.”
Though he started young, he also tried his hand at other jobs. Before he was a professional magician, he had spent 4 years in a monastery being a monk.
“I left the monastery and then I got an invitation to perform magic or the dutch queen, Queen Juliana, for the birthday of one of the princesses, Princess Margriet.”
Rids tells of how his world changed overnight with his royal visit, “the taxi came, picked me up and drove me to the Royal Palace. And the next day in the newspapers “Rids van der Zee at the Royal Palace with the Queen”, it was everywhere.”
“It was in all the magazine and on the television. I was well known, it was unreal.”
It was not long after that when his mother suggested he needed a break, a holiday away, “and I said what a good idea, I want to go to africa.”
But back then it wasn’t so easy, Rids went to the office, to arrange his travel to Africa, where there was a queue of about 40 people. He turned to one of the workers and asked,
“How long will it take till it’s my turn?”
“A long time, why don’t you go to that counter”
There was only one person waiting there, with a sign with ‘AUSTRALIA’.
Rids first came to Australia by himself in 1954 as he describes “by pure accident”
Rids’ Travels Around the World
In all his travels, he remembers Africa fondly, “I’ve been several times,” he says.
But the place that has stuck with him the most was his time in India, “I worked with Mother Teresa in the Home for the Dying.”
“One young boy we picked up with a nun at four o’clock in the morning on the street and took him to the hospital. I was asked to put fluid on his lips and to wash him. Beautiful young man, he died in my arms.”
It was there he learnt a lesson that still stay with him today, “the nuns told me “Mother Teresa says ‘not to be wanted or loved is the greatest disease in the world’, and you loved him, he died with a smile on his face”
“And that is with me everyday. We all want to be loved and wanted.”
Rids has a warm welcoming presence which draws people in, “I’ve always been interested in people”
While he was in Holland, he also worked as a child welfare worker, “I went to Australia and then I went [back] to Holland.”
It was in Holland where he met his wife, Korrie. “We had to work together at a children’s home. I came back to australia. And this six years later, I was a Scoutmaster.”
After a long time apart, and having never gone out with Korrie, he took a big step and wrote to her.
“I’m going to write a letter to Korrie – “will you come to Australia and marry me?”. And she did. It’s the happiest marriage ever.”
Despite being married for decades, he still look at Korrie like it’s love at first sight, “I tell everybody that the best two decisions I made in my life is coming to Australia and marrying Korrie”
After travelling the world, entertaining royal and helping the needy, Rids married and settled down in Australia. Together Rids and Korrie have four children, which also included a son they adopted.
When you ask him what the secret to his life is, he simply replies “saying thank you”.