Tomatos That I Grow

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Gardeners Delght seedlngs sown on the 23-02-18 seed bought from Wilkos

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Image of the aluminium greenhouse where I grow my tomato’s the greenhouse is very old and I have been using it for about fifteen years

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I was preparing the tomato’s for the coming season and you can see I have got about half of the greenhouse planted out the seedling are in the background amongst the chaos I have created

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The tomato’s in this image have been planted in their grow pots for about two weeks

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Notice the grape vine growing on the right hand side

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Close up of the tomato’s which have been planted in their grow pots for about two weeks

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The tomato variety shown in this image are my favourite Gardeners Delight which to grow very well and are not suspetable to many growing problems or diseases

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The tomatos look happy enough and seem to be growing well in their grow pots I always use grow bags as the base component for gowing them in

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Notice the grape vine which is a strawbery tasting type in the back ground its looking really healthy and the main thing it tastes great and there are no pips

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It normally takes about a week to get all the tomato plants into their grow pots and the other containers I use

The Blue Bell Hendon

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Notice the new houses on the right of the Blue Bell these where built in the 1970s and are privately owned

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The roof of The Blue Bell was once a beautiful tiled structure but over many years of neglect sadly it is now nothing like it was in its hey day notice the attic window and the chimney pots and the TV mast

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The Blue Bell was situated in Zion Street Hendon Sunderland which was a street in the Jewish quarter of Hendon

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The Blue Bell looks very sad in its derelict condition and was pulled down shortly after I took these images

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My white Berlingo van can be seen on the left of the image

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Holy Trinity church can be seen in the background the church was opened in 1719 for the growing population of Sunderland as the ship building industry grew

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The attic window of The Blue Bell I wonder what history it can tell us about the pub

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Close up of the Blue Bells attic window now sadly looking very delapitdated after the pub closed shortly after the Blue Bell was pulled down and made into a car park

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Notice the broken windows the drain pipes and the Sky antenna on the wall

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Close up of the broken windows and the drain pipes and the size of the bricks these were the old style a lot smaller than the ones used for building these days

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This was the main door of The Blue Bell the windows are now sadly boarded up with chip board

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Grass and weeds are now growing freely around The Blue Bells main door and on the pavement

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The licence sign of The Blue Bell sadly now looking rather tired and old

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The front of The Blue Bell you can see Holy Trinity Church clock tower on the right of the image

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Notice the broken windows and the curtains hanging out they look vey old

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There is even an original Sky mast next to the drain pipe

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Me and my father Billy Bell often had a drink in The Blue Bell on an afternoon

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The windows of the attic and the first floor are all broken now and the pub now looks a shadow of its former self

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The Zion Street sign looks tattered and weary now is as if to say I have had enough

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In this image you can see nearly all of the boarded up front of The Blue Bell

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The chimney and the attic window can be seen clearly in this image and notice the seagull perched on the attic window

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This image shows The Blue Bells rear extension in Moor Street not quite sure what the function of the extension was but it has been suggested that it could have been the pubs kitchen

Asparagus That I Grow

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This image is of an asparagus plantlet called Sweet Purple I purchased about a dozen of these plantlets of a guy called Keith Wheeler in May 2018
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The roots of the asparagus plantlets can be seen just before I repotted them into larger plant pots

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I use different size pots when transplanting the asparagus seedlings and always mix perlite with the compost I use for transplanting the asparagus

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These images of are of asparagus UC 157 F2 the one of the most popular varieties grown in the world and was developed in the early eighties

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A view of the asparagus plantlets ferns they are looking very healthy and green all these plantlets were grown from seed in my unheated conservatory

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More images of the asparagus plantlets after they had been repotted by me in the conservatory on the allotment

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Image of the ferns of asparagus Sweet Purple planlets which are about seven months old I grew the plantlets from seed in my unheated conservatory

Top Panel
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Friday, 22 March 2019
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Gray Road Hendon

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This a bit of a blured image of the front room of 33 Gray Road in the image you can see a photograph of my late mam and dad celebrating their wedding anniversary also an image of my oldest daughter Lisa

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The fire side in the front room of 33 Gray Road when we were children this was a coal fire but in my mam and dads later life was replaced by an electric fire

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The famous green phone which all of my family hated but my dad loved

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The bay window was a typical type used in the mid seventies on property in Hendon and Sunderland

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Billy Bell my father better known as Hendons historian because of his slide shows and his knowledge of Hendon and Sunderlands history

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David Bell outside 33 Gray Road visiting his father Billy Bell at 33 Gray Road this was just after my Mam had died

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Notice my Berlingo van parked on Gray Road the new buildings on the left was once an old vicarage

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These houses were buitl in the late eighties and were typical of the houses built in Hendon and Sunderland at that time they where well built and looked good

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Image show the repairing of the gable end of the house after wind damage on a house in Gray Road Hendon

Sportsmans Arms

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The Sportsman’s Arms now Known as the Scullery

The Sportsman’s Arms closed on the 05-02-2010 when it closed it was left empty for a few years until a plumbing business opened up a showroom and office in the premises the company owners decided as they were not using all of the building so decided to rent out the old lounge at the rear of the pub

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The Sportsmans Arms Silksworth was once one of the most important buildings in Silksworth

Images taken by Dave Bell

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I took these images from the bottom of High Newport Allotments in May 2010 when the Sportsman’s Arms sadly closed and ended one of the last places that was used and built for the miners and their families of Silksworth very little remains of the miners heritage in Silksworth nowadays

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The once proud sign of the Sportsman’s Arms now looks tired and weary

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Notice the boarded up windows and The Sportsmans Arms sign still swinging as if everything was ok image taken on a wet and windy very cold day

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Close up of the sign on the rear wall of The Sportsmans Arms which closed in May 2010 because of lost revenue caused by very few local people using the public house

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The Sportsmans Arms puplic house built for the miners of Silksworth in 1871 as Silksworth Colliery grew new houses were built for the miners and their families and not forgetting why The Sportsmans Arms built for the miners when they had finished their shifts and to socialise when not working

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Silksworth Colliery shaft was sunk in 1869 In 1871, according to the Census there were approx 800 people living in the Silksworth and Tunstall areas, the local area was mainly farmland and where most people worked on the land.

Karel Meulemans

Who does not know Karel Meulemans? Karel Meulemans from the famous town Arendonk is a living legend in international pigeon racing. A strain of birds spread all over the world. Known over the world as Janssen with this difference that Karel has won many 1st prizes and championships by himself, beginning in the fifties and still winning races and big championships in 2007. Most pigeon fanciers think about the strain Meulemans as middle distance birds. This is not true anymore. Karel switched to fond races (700-850 km) in the beginning of the 90's. He won his first national race on Dax in 1995 and became Champion of Belgium KBDB in 2001 on these distance. He wanted more…he wanted the very long distance also. He managed to get on top of this races also. He became soon famous on this distance in province Antwerp and in the area that he lives. But he is famous in Belgium now in 2007. He is on the top of long distance (6th national KBDB champion) and very long distance (6th national KBDB champion). How did he do it? And with what strain of pigeons??

Strains and history
Karel Meulemans now 73 years old, retired in 1990; he used to work on his own farm. Just after World War 2 he started with pigeon racing. He found a partner and raced in partnership with Adriaan Wouters. They had a world famous breeding pair "Oude Van Den Bosch x Janssen" a few years later Karel had a partnership with Frans Marien. Marien & Meulemans became successful on middle distance. They had success on racing and breeding and many fanciers won 1st prizes with these middle distance pigeons.
In 1980 Frans Marien died and all pigeons were sold in a public sale. Karel bought most of his best racers himself, Kadet, Prins, Het Schoon, Donker, Bonte Duif were crossed with the best of the Hofkens pigeons. Karel immediately had success.

His daughter Linda became interested in pigeon racing and Karel formed a partnership with her from 1981-1990.
In 1986 many famous birds like Kadet were stolen, Karel was lucky to have many youngsters and started breeding with these birds. In 1990 the partnership Meulemans & Damen started. Damen is the name of the husband of Linda Meulemans. Linda and Walter live in a house next to Karel. They have a nice loft in their garden, use the same birds for racing and almost the same method.
The big success on long distance started in 1995. Meulemans & Damen won lst National Dax (2nd international) and 8th ace pigeon KBDB long distance.
The basic pigeons from the nineties were Montargis 245/88 (son of Het Schoon Donker), the middle distance super hen '467-95' (lst Bourges, 7th National Argenton and sister of main breeder 118-90), '401-95' (daughter of Montargis which won 8th national Argenton 14,105 pigeons), '069-93' (son Montargis), '347-91' (mother lst National Dax and sister '118-90'), '345-91' (blue hen with lst Melun 1,780p, 8th National Argenton 27,499p), the red '311-90' (father lst National Dax, cross breeding Kadet, Prins x Georges Bolle from Kortemark), 292-93 (39th National Brive, 133rd National Limoges).
The main breeder is '118-90', a cock, but also some of his brothers and sisters were good breeding stock. This cock "118-90" has an interesting story, when Meulemans & Damen became champion long distance KBDB in 1999, 3 sons of 118-90 were the best racers- These 3 brothers 'Pantani 868-96'(basic cock at the moment), '590-96' and '591-96' won many top prizes. On the National Champions day in Ostend the KBDB asked Karel to bring some birds to show the visitors. Karel showed his '118-90' but in the evening this cock was stolen. Karel had to go home without the father of the best racers of 1999, he was disappointed but he knew that '118-90' does not fertilise anymore and hasn't done so in the last two years. A few months later, '118-90' came back to the loft of Karel, the thieves probably tried to breed but had no luck so they released the cock. The father of '118-90' is '758-89' got as an egg from Van Gils brothers (Ravels) out of their lst National Marseille crossed with lst National Pau 87 at Schellekens (Riel, Netherlands). The mother of '118-90' was 233/89; old Meulemans strain Het Schoon Donker.
The 188-90 was matched with 233-93 and these are the parents of the 3 successful brothers of 1999, the hen 233-93 is cross bred of the old Meulemans strain and a hen from Broeckx x Van Hees (Oud -Turnhout), daughter of Olympia Hen.

In 1997 Karel wanted to race very long distance races, the first thing you have to do is find good breeding stock says Karel, "1 went to Roger Florizoone (Nieuwpoort) and bought some sons and daughters of his famous cock Witneus 165-90" (5 times Barcelona and father of lst National Barcelona 1998). I also bought some youngsters from a brother of Witneus, I paid a lot of money but I had confidence and a lot of patience! Karel did not breed with the birds in 1998 but let them get accustomed to the new loft and the new boss. He started breeding with these birds in 1999, cross breeding but also Florizoone x Florizoone.
The strain Florizoone crossed with strain Frans and Paul van Gils, some long distance blood from The Netherlands but mixed with old strain Karel Meulemans proved to be the best racing pigeons!


Method
Karel, Linda and Walter have 65 widowers, including the yearlings. All widowers are matched on March 20th the old widowers on the loft of Karel can breed for 5-6 days, the yearling cocks 17-20 days, no youngsters. The old widowers of Linda and Walter, the same, the yearling cocks raise youngsters once after racing. After Perpignan all widowers can breed twice on eggs but no youngsters.
In 2001 Karel also raced 6 hens on the natural system. On their first nest the hens participated in short distance races. On the second nest 2 middle distance races and once to 550km. On the third nest on youngsters of 2-3 days, to Perpignan (965km). Karel won 40-43-161 National out of 5 hens. Next year there will be a system with only a few hens for Barcelona. The Florizoone birds are at their best on this race.

I am looking out for this. Youngsters were raced on the dark- ness method but Meulemans wil1 not do this next year. He cannot compete with the Belgium young birds specialists. Karel will focus on his yearlings and old birds. Good Advice Karel Meulemans advice to beginning pigeon fanciers is to start on speed and middle distance races. It takes too long to race very long distances. Most beginners will lose courage and stop racing. Karel second piece of advice, always read results of a race beginning at the end. See the number of birds a fancier has basketed and how many prizes he had. The top prizes are less important; some fanciers have many pigeons in one race and win one or two top prizes. This is not enough. Find a fancier with the highest prize average. Buy pigeons from the best but be patient.

What birds brought success in the championships 2007?
6th national KBDB long distance:
Orange national 6035d: 191-377
Cahors zone 1946: 101-140
Montelimar national 7873: 286-840
Total coefficient 36,098%
6th national KBDB very long distance:
Barcelona national 12.612d: 527-2170
Irun national 5846d: 86-263
Perpignan national 6765d: 207-628
Total coefficient 42,407%


6080888/2002

2003 La Souterraine 219d-40 Limoges 225d-21
2004 Vierzon 394d-31 Brive 192d-21 Bourges 81d-11 Marseille national 5738d-190
2005 Bourges 327d-92 Montelimar 147d-10 Orange national 6751d-106
2006 Bourges 284d-16 Aurillac 113d-27 Albi 89d-6 Carcassonne national 3911d-114
2007 Marne 774d-214
Montelimar national 7873d-286 (Championship KBDB long distance)
Orange national 6.035d-191 (Championship KBDB long distance)
Irun national 5.846d-263 (Championship KBDB Very long distance)
1ste Ace Pigeon 2007 Retiese fondclub
5de Ace Pigeon 2007 Club du Fond de Wallonie This is a top cock on the loft. . But also the pedigree is top.
The father '3226084/96' is direct from late Roger Florizoone. A son of his famous 'Witneus 165/90' x hen from Paul Govaert (Schoonaarde).
The mother is '6044385/98', 100% sister of 'Pantani 868/96'. She is from basic cock '118/90' (stolen but came back later ) X '233/93'.

6126087/2005
2006 Arlon 409d-134 Montluçon 129d-43 Limoges 199d-7
2007 Bourges 142d-33
Montelimar nat.7.846d-398
Orange nat. 6.035d-377 (Championship KBDB Long distance)
Irun nat. 5.846d-86 (Championship KBDB Very long distance)
6de Ace Pigeon Club de Fond du Wallonie 2007 Only two-years old but already top racing pigeon on long distance.
The father is '6080894/02' from '684/99'(son 350/89 sister Invincible Spirit) x '3185008/97'(direct Roger Florizoone from '120/94' son Montauban x 'blauw 789/87').
The mother is '6080957/02' from '606/99' x '302/98' (daughter '118/90').This '606/99' was top racing pigeon at the loft of Karel Meulemans .
He won p.e. 41ste national Cahors, 153ste nat. Perpignan, 35ste national Perpignan, 247ste national Dax… The father is a brother of basic '118-90' (Van Gils-Schellekens) X direct Florizoone-hen (from brother 'Witneus') as an egg.

6126121/2005
2006 Arlon 409d-20 Limoges 199d-1 2007 Marne 774d-104
Cahors zone 1.946d-101 (Championship KBDB long distance)
Perpignan 5.547d-207 (Championship KBDB very long distance)
The father '502/99' won 49ste national Montauban in 2002. He is from '3226084/96'(direct Florizoone) x 'NL111/91' (Schellekens, Riel).
The mother '660/2001' is a daughter from 'Pantani 868/96' x '3085120/99' (direct Florizoone from 'Witneus 165/90' x '121/94').


6080809/2002

2003 Limoges 225d-51
2004 Montelimar nat. 8538d-1971 Bordeaux 450d-134 Perpignan nat. 6489d-951
2005 Cahors 203d-15 Bordeaux 109d-13 Perpignan nat. 7611d-553
2006 Pithiviers 965d-171 Perpignan nat. 6765d-177
2007 Vierzon 3523d-1595
Perpignan nat. 5.547d-628 (Championship KBDB very long distance)
He is crossbreeding with several strains.
The father is '6044342/98' and was bred from '223/92' (Meulemans x Van Gils) x '300071/95' (100% sister of famous 'Kleine Didi' of E Devos).
The mother is '6030688/99' a dughter of basic 'Pantani 868/96' x '269/92' crossbreeding with line Schellekens ). This 'Pantani 868/96' is grandfather of 8ste national Barcelona from Frans en Paul van Gils.

6096253/2003
2004 Jarnac 6273d-948
2005 Narbonne 113d-17
2006 Limoges 86d-29 Cahors nat. 6654d-140 Dax 688d-230
2007 Vierzon 3523d-641
Cahors zone1946d-140 (Championship KBDB long distance)
Irun prov. 629d-160
Father '6030721/99' is a son of basic 'Pantani 868/96' x '618/95' (61ste nat. Narbonne) from old strain Meulemans x Van Gils.
Mother is '3185008/97' , direct Florizoone.

6126049/2005
2006 Arlon 409d-69 Montluçon 129d-11 Limoges 199d-14 2007 Bourges 142d-6
Montelimar nat. 7873d-840 (Championship KBDB long distance)
The father is '6044236/98' won 51ste intern. Biarritz .
His father is 'Jonge Laureaat 777/96' direct from family Gyselbrecht from Knesselare. It's a son of their famous 'Laureaat Barcelona 350/92' (1ste intern. Barcelona).
Mother is '659/01' daughter from 'Pantani 868/96' x 120/99(direct daughter of 'Witneus' from Florizoone)


6294653/2004

2005 Chateauroux 262d-57 Limoges 492d-89
2006 Pithiviers 965d-234 Bordeaux 2240d-88
2007 Vierzon 358d-27
Barcelona nat. 12.612d-2.170 (Championship KBDB very long distance)
The father '322/03' is from top-cock '606/99' paired up to '221/01' ( Van gils x Florizoone which won 40ste nat. Perpignan).
The mother is '6219932/98' Frans and Paul van Gils from a cock from J. Konings (NL) x '350/89 sister Invincible Spirit' Biemans (1ste intern. Barcelona 1992)

6294688/2004
2005 Bourges 135d-26
2006 Arlon 330d-72 Brive 195d-52 Narbonne 170d-8
2007 Barcelona nat. 12.612d-527 (Championship Long distance KBDB)
Here we have another crossbreeding.
The father is '319/03' , direct from Gommaire Verbruggen (Kaggevinne) from his '469/00' (35-116-156 nat. Barcelona).
The mother is '769/02'. She is again from '606/99' paired with '734/92' (Van Gils x Meulemans).

Provincial results on long distance 2007
Brive 1259:11-58 (2/8)
Montelimar 735d: 14-20-60-65-70-111 (6/14)
Cahors 591d :12-32-33-48-81-82-103-160 (8/10)
Chateauroux 3857d: 61-216-350-367-704-850-893-964 (8/11)
Pau 54d :11 (1/2)
Orange 495d : 12-28-49-66-135 (5/6)
Barcelona 1470d : 81-124-170-288 (4/5)
Irun 629d : 26-38-160-172 (4/4)
Irun 557d : 7-26-72-138-161 (5/6)
Narbonne 520d : 34-41-45-90 (4/4)
Perpignan 666d : 7-48-53-197 (4/7)

Some championships 2007
6de National Champion KBDB long distance
6de National Champion KBDB very long distance
1st Champion (1+2) very long distance Retiese Fondclub
1st Champion (1+2) very long distance Zuiderkempen
'Keizer' (3 times champions in a row) and general champion very long distance Retiese Fondclub
'Keizer' and general champion very long distance Zuiderkempen
1st La Route du Rhône club de Wallonie
1st Champion (1ste signed) Fond Union Antwerp
1st Champion (1+2) Fond Union Antwerp
1st Marathon Flying Club Antwerpen
1st criteria Cureghem Centre Flying Club Antwerp

 

Frank Tasker

Frank & Ann Tasker
I don’t think that I would be exaggerating in the slightest if I was to state that there is not a pigeon fancier in the U.K. who hasn’t heard of the great Frank Tasker and his multi National winning family of super pigeons. The Tasker strain has been winning, not only for Frank, but for many other fanciers throughout the length and breadth of these islands for more than 30 years. Club, Federation, National and Combine races as well as Queens Cups have been won by those fanciers from Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland who have been fortunate to obtain these multi talented racers from this ever helpful master fancier. Frank Tasker has himself won hundreds of first prizes at club and Federation level at a number of locations in central and eastern England not to mention his Six outright National wins with the ultra competitive N.R.C.C., home to some of the best north road fanciers in the U.K.
This article is to be the first in a series on this great fancier as it would in all honesty take a book to do full justice to one of Britain’s greatest ever sprint / middle distance fanciers.

So where do I start this massive task? Let’s be conventional and start at the beginning! Frank was born on 29th July 1942 in Melton Mowbray and had his first pigeons as a seven year old and started racing to a converted chicken shed when he was 10 years old. His early career saw him working in his uncle’s butcher’s shop, a career that he was to see through until his early retirement in 1988. Whilst in Melton Mowbray Frank met the love of his life, Ann, and the couple soon moved to Market Rasen in Lincolnshire to set up their first family home. Further moves saw Frank and Ann move successively to Leamington Spa, Warwick and finally Radford Semele, a small village on the outskirts of Leamington, where they set up their own butchers business. It was also whilst at Radford Semele that Frank was first able to properly establish a loft of racers. At that time , the mid 1960s, the Somerset partnership of Reg and Myrtle Venner was setting the racing scene alight on both north and south roads with their fantastic team of all purpose racers. Frank, not one to miss an opportunity, soon got his hands on the Venner pigeons and started winning from the off. All racing at that time was done on the natural system but in 1976 Frank converted to widowhood flying and as a result he began his search for top class pigeons from the Continent, pigeons that had been born to this “new” way of flying.
These new introductions came via the French National winning loft of Claude Hetru. Frank being Frank, only the best would suffice and so direct children were purchased from the double National winning blue cock “Eole” along with others from brothers and sisters to Eole and also from Eole’s parents. Eole had won 1st National Poitiers 300 miles and 1st National Royan 400 miles and was, at that time, the only pigeon living that had recorded such a feat.

Once back in England the Hetrus started to take the opposition apart. One blue hen bred from the Hetrus went on to become one of the greatest stock hens to grace any loft in the U.K. or Europe for that matter. This was the incredible “Whitenose” hen which was responsible for literally hundreds of 1st prize winning pigeons at all levels of competition, both for Frank, and those fortunate to obtain some of her offspring. This writer had a direct daughter of this great hen and she was to become the mother of our loft breeding winner after winner and also breeders of winners from 60 – 486 miles. Two of her daughters produced two cocks to win 2nd Open WGNFC Thurso for other Welsh lofts. Frank gifted his good friend the late Arthur Beardsmore the full sister to this hen and she bred many top fliers for him including the famous JOAN’S Boy a winner of 12 x 1sts and RPRA award as a yearling.
As a direct result of the phenomenal initial success of his French imports, Frank subsequently carried out some research on the origins of the Hetru National winning pigeons and came up with the name of Mencke- Haelterman. This partnership seemed to be at the root of all the best pigeons that he had introduced. One pigeon in particular cropped up consistently and this was the legendary “Jonge Korte” bred and raced by the partnership of Hilaire Mencke and his nephew Paul Haelterman. The Jonge Korte was not only a champion racer, having won the equivalent of £12,000 between 1964- 1969, but also a super star when retired to the stock loft. Once again, Frank being the determined, single minded and persistent man that he is decided that he had to get more of the Mencke-Haelterman pigeons and so he set off to Belgium in an attempt to track down these Belgian masters. It was late in 1978 that Frank and Paul Haelterman first met up and a lasting friendship has endured for the past 32 years. During these years many top quality pigeons have moved between the two friends lofts in Belgium and England and just as importantly much sound advice has passed from the elderly Belgian to his English apprentice.
By the early 1980’s the Tasker – Haeltermans were burning the skies up whilst competing with the Warwickshire Fed and Upper Thames Fed in the sprint races. I do not intend to bore readers with a long list of the many club and Federation wins achieved during this time but will highlight some of the performances from the 1984 old bird season which are fairly representative of the performances achieved by the Tasker/ Haeltermans in the 1980’s as a whole.

Starting with the Taunton race at 112 miles the Tasker team took the first six positions in the club plus 9th & 11th Fed. Exmouth at 141 miles saw them take the first five prizes at both club and Fed level with 2,239 birds competing. Plymouth saw the team win the first six club prizes plus 1st,2nd 8th , 9th ,13th , 16th Fed 1,896 birds. Back to Exmouth once again and it was the same old story the first six club prizes and also the first six federation positions with 1,915 birds competing. The next Plymouth race saw the team in the first six prizes in both club and Fed plus 7th, 8th, 9th & 10th Fed from a field of 1,542 birds. By the time of the second Taunton race the team were obviously on the wane as they only managed the first six club prizes and a lowly 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th & 14th Fed with 2,000 birds away!!!!!
As a result of the extraordinary racing successes of his pigeons Frank was in great demand to sit on panels at pigeon “moots” throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles. Frank was usually accompanied on these panels by his long time friend the late great Arthur Beardsmore, along with Geoff Kirkland, Ron Green and for a short time Martin Young. It was at one of these talks held at Merthyr Tydfil in 1981 that I first met Frank and a lasting friendship was forged that has lasted for close on thirty years.
Some of the Champion pigeons in the Radford Semele lofts at this time were multiple first prize winners like Captain Paul [15 x 1sts]. This amazing Dark chequer widower not only won first prizes at club level with ease but also won 1st Fed with 1,896 birds;1,915 birds;2,093 birds and 2,114 birds competing not to mention nine other top ten finishes with entries in excess of 1,500.
Yet another top class racer was a light chequer cock named “Smartie” who’s wins were numerous but just as importantly to Frank he was a true character. Whilst living at Radford, Frank rescued an injured baby kestrel which had fallen from it’s nest . He nursed it back to health and often on sunny days spent most of the time tethered to a post on the lawn in front of the widowhood loft. Smartie’s party trick was to fly out of the loft and land on the lawn just outside the reach of Frank’s tame kestrel. He would then proceed to walk around the lawn out of harms way much to the obvious annoyance of the raptor!
Many other super pigeons were raced successfully but the true loft champion was a blue pied cock bred in 1983 and later named Champion Filmstar. This amazing racing machine won no less than 26 x 1sts plus 12 x 1st Fed and RPRA awards before being retired to the stock loft where he was to go on to breed winner after winner. Filmstar survived at Wainfleet until his twentieth year and left a legacy of top class children which also bred many winners. This truly great champion’s bloodlines can be found in the breeding of 1st NRCC; 1st NFC;1st MNFC;1st CSCFC; 1st London NRCombine;1st Up North Combine and 1st Welsh SENFC.- truly a once in a lifetime pigeon.
The lofts at Radford were set in a beautiful garden with rolling lawns and abundant flower beds, all tended to by Ann. Everything about the set up was immaculate and professional. A brick built stock loft was sited adjacent to the bungalow and this had room for no more than 20 pairs of stock. The main racing loft housing only 24 widowers was a 24ft x 6ft Kidby style loft that Frank had adapted to suit his needs for widowhood flying. It was split into three sections each of which had controlled ventilation and thermostatically controlled heating. See accompanying diagram for exact details of the set up. It was to this modest but exceptionally well designed loft that all the afore named champions raced.

Frank in earlier days
The young birds were housed in a separate loft to the rear of the widowhood loft and these lived a life of leisure being allowed an open loft to come and go as they pleased during the old bird season. They were only confined to the loft during the twice daily exercise periods of the widowhood cocks. Fed on a light high carbohydrate diet they used to range the countryside around the lofts from early morning til early evening. As yearlings they were housed in a separate loft to the older widowers and were brought on slowly as Frank took great pains to educate them on the widowhood system. The best of these yearlings were then transferred to the main loft if Frank thought them worthy of this “promotion

Janssen Brothers

Arendonk, a little village in the Belgium province of De Kempen, became famous for thousands of pigeon fanciers around the world. And perhaps the name Arendonk is still known by a few cyclist fans that remember the name of Rik van Steenbergen, a threetime world champion cyclist much admired by the Janssen Brothers.

But we all know the difference between being world famous because of cycling and being world famous because of pigeons! Very few pigeon fanciers will remember Rik van Steenbergen the cyclist , but the Janssens will be remembered for generations.
The Janssens didn't only make history because of the performances of their pigeons in the races, but even more for what their birds achieved as breeders for the thousands of fanciers
that could eventually acquire a few specimens of this family of birds. All over the world you will find their birds, and there is no other loft that has been as important for the
development of the modern racing pigeon as the Janssen loft. Thanks are due to my kind and good friends, the Janssen Brothers, for allowing me to visit them so many times so that
I would be able to prepare this exclusive report. The Janssen Brothers wish for all the fanciers reading this report a lot of joy and a sincere hope that they may garner some
useful thoughts from it.

How It Began
It began in the year 1872, the year that Henri Janssen was born. He founded the Janssen family of pigeons. Henri had his first pigeons in 1886. He was at that time better known
under the name Driekske De Paauw.
Henri married Pauline, who was born in 1877. They both worked very hard all their lives. Their marriage produced nine children, seven were boys and two were girls. Their names
were Fons, Frans, Jef, Vic, Irma, Adriaan, Charel, Marie, and Louis.
Henri was one of the original fanciers that founded the pigeon club in Arendonk. He was a top fancier right from the very beginning. In the period from 1908 until 1914, he had very
famous Ace Pigeons such as "Het Blauwtje" with twenty firsts. Already at that time he won some bicycles in the races.
Henri was a quiet man who loved nature, and everything that had to do with pigeons had to do with nature. Because of that, he was an enemy of winter breeding and also of the
widowhood system. All these tricky things made him angry. With an endless amount of love and care, Henri used his eyes and his knowledge, and with the help of the majority of his
family he built his own family of birds.
All the children had to take part and share in their father's hobby. For instance, the cleaning of the lofts was done by the girls as well as the boys. Henri died in 1947. His wife Pauline
was the head of the family until she passed away in 1967. She was known for her kindness and all the children loved her very much.
Henri, as I mentioned earlier, was only interested in racing the natural system, and in spite of the fact that the sons built a widowhood section, it was never used as long as he was
alive. Henri was very much afraid that the use of the widowhood system would, after a few years, hurt the quality of his pigeon family due to the fact that he would not be able to test the race quality of the hens. You see many of his best birds were hens.
After Henri's death, the sons decided to continue the life's work of their father. In the meantime, some of the children were married. Those that remained divided the work amongst themselves. Adriaan took care of the nestbirds and the youngbirds, Louis took care of the breeders, Jef did the shipping, the cleaning of the nestbowls, the opening of the
clocks, and the care of the dog. Mother Pauline and Irma did the household chores and took care of all the visitors.
It was finally decided that Charel would take care of the widowers. Yes, you read well. After the death of their father the sons started very carefully trying the widowhood system. At
first with only four cocks! These were the "Oude Donkere", the "Oude Lichte", the "Rode", and the "Lichte Vos". They had not forgotten the wise words of their father; they made sure
that the natural system, as well as the breeding, was still first in line.
The House at Schoolstraat 6 in Arendonk
People that visit the Janssen house for the first time may be a little surprised at what they find. They may expect, as with most superstars in every kind of sport, a large imposing home. In this case, what you find is a very humble home that was built before the Second World War. As is the custom in Arendonk, the entrance to the Janssen home is a small door around the back.
The Janssen Brothers are downtoearth, honest men that remained faithful to the fashion in which they had been brought up. These were people who worked hard in the cigarfactory
until they could retire on a pension. Inside their home, everything is honest and downtoearth; the pictures of their parents and of their brothers and sisters are all in their own places. They have a little dog that barks very loudly at every stranger who enters their home. This is not the average residence of famous men, but rather the residence of very good and unpretentious people.
In the backyard you immediately notice a well and a pear tree. From this well is drawn the natural water to fill the drinkers of the famous pigeons. Their hospitality to visitors is wellknown, as is also their appreciation of punctuality. Anyone that visits must be punctual, as well as respectful of their schedule; this would not change even for the King of Belgium.
The Lofts
Their lofts are as unassuming as their own homesmall but efficient! Everything has a use. No expensive or unwarranted materials. They are still the same as they were years agothat is except for a very expensive alarm and security system. Charel mentioned that it was a shame that they had to use it nowadays. There are four sections built on the attic. The youngbird section and the nestbird section are below, and above are the two sections for the widowers. As soon as you enter the lofts, you notice how quiet it is. All the landing boards are on the southwest. There are also two lofts in the backyard. One of them is called "De Ren"; this is where the older birds are breeding. The other one is built with an aviary for the widowhood hens. Notice that all the race sections are situated directly under the tiles that cover the roof of the house. Several tiles made of glass take care of providing the light inside the sections. Because of the fact that between the shelves from which the sections are built and separated there is still a lot of room; you can say that the pigeons can take advantage of all the air that is inside the whole attic. So fresh air is always there. Many times the brothers have to remove the snow out of the sections. There's no need to close or open the ceiling in order to get more or less air for the pigeons.
"Those sections stay the same as they are, day or night, winter or summer," the brothers tell us. The most important thing is to keep the sections as clean as possible. If that's done seriously it's no problem to keep the birds healthy. Every time you enter the lofts they are as clean as can be. No matter how many people visit in a day, they always clean once again before someone else is allowed into the lofts. The floors always look as if you could eat from them. Once per week they use the vacuum cleaner so that there's no dust in the lofts, and besides that, they regularly take broom and brush to disinfect the lofts. Once every year they have the big cleaning and they brush everything with water and chloride. After that, all the walls are painted white again.
The Stockbirds of the Janssen Brothers
When we are sitting comfortably together having a drink, the Janssen Brothers start talking a bit more. Sitting in their wellknown easy chairs they tell us about their family of birds:
The "Oude Vos"
In the year 1919, Fons got himself a blue cock from a man called Ceulemans from Berlaar. This man was already an old man at that time. The youngbirds out of that cock were doing very well. Louis, at that time a very young little fancier, got the "Oude Vos" for himself when the pigeon was three times as old as he was the bird was already 19 years old. Louis made himself a nestbox that he placed on top of the toilet situated in the backyard. The "Oude Vos" was very happy in that box and Louis saw that a suitable young hen called "Jong Voske" was made available to him. This young hen was very much in love with his cock. The young hen had won the second prize the day before in the race and Louis tried to make her get into the nestbox on top of the toilet. After some time he succeeded and was already dreaming of the pair making love to each other in his own "loft". But when he looked a few hours later, he saw that the old cock didn't like the hen at all and he had pecked her head so that it was all covered with blood. You can understand how this gave
him big problems with the rest of the family. Around that time, Fons Janssen became friends with Mister Schoeters from Herenthout, and later got himself the socalled "Oude Duifke van '25".
The "Tamme"
In 1920, both Adriaan and Charel were also very enthusiastic fanciers. They both had a small section for themselves; one that had been a former chickenloft, Charles told me. Our Jaan had his "Tamme" that was sitting always on the hedge. Jaan only had to put his hand on the hedge and "De Tamme" immediately sat on it.
The "Lichte"
After sitting together, they all agreed to put the "Tamme" together with the "Schoon Voske" from Charel. He bred from this pair two beautiful light chequers with pearl eyes. The oldest brother, Frans, liked these youngbirds very much and was willing to pay five Belgium francs for them (approx 25 cents). Brother Fons saw the disappointment in Charel's eyes and offered him 30 francs. Fons took them both to his home in BaarleHertog and was very successful with these birds. One of the two was lost in a race, but the other one became a real superbird. This cock won nine times first prize. At first, all the members of the Janssen family thought that Fons was saying this just to please Charel, but when Fons brought the raceresults as a proof, they all were convinced and could not believe what they were seeing. Charel was as proud as anyone could be! Fons had his heart in the right place and gave the bird back to his brothers. Later, when broken to the loft, the brothers raced him. One day the "Lichte" was shipped again, as Adriaan believed him to be in super shape. That Sunday, the race was delayed because of bad weather. On Monday, they let the birds go and Fons decided to come and watch the birds together with his brothers because there was a strong headwind, and according to him this was the best weather for the "Lichte". The pigeons flew, according to Fons, longer than you might expect. After he saw his brothers
clock a few other birds, he shouted, "None of mine home yet!" His brothers started laughing and said: "My dear Fons, you know nothing about pigeons, because you were late yourself and the bird was already clocked before you arrived." The "Lichte" that day won first prize, ten minutes ahead.
The next winter, the neighbours built a new wall. All of a sudden, a big shelf fell down and mother Pauline saw a bird that was scared and raced away. In the evening, the whole family was in a state of panic! The "Lichte" was gone. He was still sitting on the nest at 16.00 hours, Charel said. Mother Pauline told them what she had seen. Two years later, the "Lichte" came back without his band. He probably strayed in another loft and was kept as a breeder.
Also the "Blinde" of brother Frans, a full sister of the "Lichte", achieved top results. Charel at that time raced together for two years with his older brother. However, since Frans gave all the good ones away, Charel quit as he wanted to seriously build a strong family of birds. The brothers told me that Frans kept on racing by himself and had extremely good results.

The "Schalieblauw" x "Blauw Duif"
As has already been mentioned, Fons became very good friends with the brewer, Schoeters, from Berlaar, and he went together with his brother, Adriaan, to Herenthout. When they
arrived, they also met Mr. Goossens, a friend of Mr. Schoeters. "What have you sitting there?" Adriaan asked, and pointed to a rabbit hutch. In it was sitting a very neglected
pigeon with a lot of old feathers and a dirty tail. The brothers examined the bird carefully and discovered that it was the previous year's latebred, still having three old primaries.
They asked if they could buy the bird, but Schoeters said that this bird wasn't even worth keeping. Nevertheless, they bought the bird and Fons and Adriaan returned home satisfied.
After moulting, he looked very different and was nicely built too; the "Schalieblauw" looked as if reborn. At an auction of Schoeters, Fons bought a few pigeonsamongst others, a blue
hen with red around the eyes. She had raced very well and had won, amongst others, a first Noyon and a first Orleans. "As a youngbird, she was raced too many times," Louis
remembers. This blue hen was mated with the "Schalieblauw". It was an extremely good pair. Birds bred from this pair were mostly light chequers with pearl eyes, as the "Oude
Grote" and the "Jonge Witoger". The brothers said that these birds had beautiful bodies, silky feather, and a very tough character.
"Jonge Witoger" x "Dochter van De Aap"
Later, Fons got himself a daughter from the famous "Aap" of Schoeters. She was mated to the "Jonge Witoger". The first two youngsters from this pair didn't show much potential for
the future. One got lost from the roof and the other one was lost in training. But the youngbirds from the later rounds were all very good. They were all beautiful bodied
chequers with beautiful pearl eyes. Their racing and breeding qualities, more importantly, were the deciding factors. The Janssen pigeons nowadays are still descendants of these pigeons. They were crossed with the "Vossen", those from "Oude Vos" from Louis and off "Vos van '26", which was still direct from Ceulemans.
"Wonder Voske van '45"
One of the most famous stockbirds, this hen was wellknown because of her winning numerous first prizes. She was almost unbeatable. She was a daughter of "Vos van '39" and
a daughter off the pair "Schalieblauw" x "Blauw Duif"
"Bange van '51"
This crack is the offspring of the wellknown "Vossenline". His father was "Vos van '49". The name "Bange" is not because he was shy, but because of the fact that when he got home
from a race, he stayed for a couple of minutes on the landing board in order to have a nice view of the neighbourhood. The "Bange van '51" is the keybird from which the pigeons descend that became famous in the later years. These pigeons were "De Scherpen", the "Oude Merckx", the "019", "Jonge Merckx", and the "Geeloger".
The "Halve Fabry"
One day, Louis relates how Mr. Viktor Fabry came to their home to purchase a cock. The bird was called "De Trage", a son of "De Witoger". Fabry wanted to mate "De Trage" to a
daughter off his famous "Portois". He promised us a youngbird from this pair. A little more than a year later we found a box in the kitchen with a little youngster in it. After some time,
the brothers remembered the promise Mr. Fabry had made to send a youngbird from the crossed pair. It was a normal rather than an outstanding kind of youngbird, and after a few
training tosses the brothers decided to send it to Quievrain (100 km). The weather was not good and when all the birds were home the "Halve Fabry" was still missing. After a few
hours, the brothers found him in the backyard with a full crop of grains that had been gathered by him in the field. "De Halve Fabry" won as youngbird, but nothing really special;
still, in this his year of birth he changed enough so that the brothers decided to keep him. He had all the qualities to become a good bird. In his second year, he won three prizes in a
row, the best one was a fifth. After that he missed and the brothers decided to keep him at home for one week. On Wednesday, he had a training toss and was shipped (driving his
hen) to the race. He won first prize. Before he was used as a breeder, he was to win four firsts. As a breeder he was even better. His offspring were crossed into the Janssens.
Louis and Charel were very modest, indicating that they had a lot of luck. Yes, we agree that the good ones are rare. However, I think the Janssen Brothers also created their own luck. They were never satisfied with anything less than the best and they sought to achieve this in all that they did.
The Mating
Before we go to this very important part of pigeon game, we asked the brothers what qualities they consider as important for a good pigeon to have. They say that the important things are:
The balance of a bird
A strong back
Silky feathers
Strong vents
A strong eye
A short backwing
The primaries not too wide
The last three primaries, if possible, the same length
A small tail
Extra important are the vitality and courage of the bird
Our next question was how have you increased the odds of breeding these types of birds? Louis and Charles tell us: "At first comes good performances and pedigree. We like to do some inbreedingnephew to niece seems the best mating. That's how we got the best results. The following things we tried never to do: Never mate two big birds together, otherwise you get chickens. Never mate small pigeons together, or pigeons both of whom have deep keels. Also, never mate pigeons together with so called white eyes. As far as we are concerned, the vitality and the colour must stay in the eyes, especially with pearleyed pigeons, one must provide to breed the colour out of the eyes."
The matings in Arendonk are agreed to by the brothers after long conversations. The long winter nights are super for this kind of pigeon talk. The cocks usually keep their own nestboxes. If a hen is racing very well, she also keeps her own nestbox. As soon as a cock, after feeding youngsters, starts showing new interest in his hen, they put an extra nestbowl in the box. The material provided to build a nest is tabacco.
After mating for the first time they let the pairs out one by one, and in the evening they are all locked up in their nest boxes to insure that there are no fights. After two days the pairs can go in and out as long as they want (open loft). During the first days, the brothers spend a lot of time being in the lofts in order to be present when something goes wrong. As soon as the eggs are laid, the brothers are already curious to know what the colour of the youngbirds later on will be. The colour of the feathers at the Janssen lofts shows a lot of variety. You see dark and light chequers, blues, reds, schally's, and pigeons with one or more white primaries. To my question if white feathers were a sign of strength the brothers start laughing, "You must know better, good ones and bad ones come in all colours. It's just a matter of taste for us."
As far as the "Vossen" are concerned, they have to be red. Though they don't like silvers, they readily admit that there are very good ones amongst them as well!
The time they mate their birds is:
January 8th 8 breeding pairs
January 22nd 13 nest pairs
February 12th 14 widowhood pairs
Altogether the brothers have 35 pairs of oldbirds. The pairs stay almost nine months together; during the season they never change the pairs. End of October, they separate the birds.
The Feeding
The feeding of the birds is by far the most important part. Most of the fanciers give their birds too much food. It is extremely important to feed the birds in a way that they always have their ideal weight. Their feedingschedule for the shortand middledistance races is as follows: On Monday and Tuesday, very light grains; after that, bit by bit, some more energy in the food; and on Saturday morning only small seeds. Charel gives an extra tip by telling that you must be sure birds, when shipped, do not have too much food, otherwise they get thirsty in the basket. The Janssen Brothers mix their own food; all kinds of grains stay separated in bags in the attic, and daily they turn it by mixing it with a stick.
The feeding time is adapted to the season. According to the Janssens, it's not important if you feed them at daylight or with electric light, but for them, they stay with nature as long as they can. Important, however, is that the birds get fed always at the same time of the day. The birds get in the winter: 31% corn, 38% barley, 15% wheat, and 15% beans. In the summer: 30% corn, 25% English peas, 27% wheat, 13% barley, and 5% beans.
Special Things
The well is, as you have read, the secret weapon for the pigeons. The pigeons always get this water, and one time a week also as bathing water. In the bathwater is always a big
spoon of salt. At first they gave Aviol in the drinking water, but later on they stopped that. The whole year long, the pigeons get on Sunday honey in the drinking water. Once a week
they give carrots cut in very little pieces; other vegetables they never give. In all the sections the pigeons can eat Vitamineral as much as they want, also grit with a spoon of
salt mixed in. Pickstone they also give, but never on the day of shipping because otherwise the birds would get thirsty in the basket.
The Nestbirds
They are let out for loft flying three times a day: At 7.30 in the morning, 12.00, and 17.00 hours. This is done in order to give both the hens and cocks an opportunity to loft fly. In the past, they let the birds out all day, but now it's too dangerous because of the poison on the fields. In the morning when they are called in, they get a little bit of small seed. At
lunchtime they get a little bit of flying mixture, and in the evening they get as much as they want until a few birds go to the drinker. The nestbirds get fed in their own nestboxes. This is because some of the pigeons get fat very quickly and this way you can control this tendency. When the birds just have youngbirds in the nest they get more barley in their
mixture. After a few days this is changed into wheat. In the spring they wean the youngbirds at four weeks of age, in the summer already after three weeks. The breeding
pigeons are sitting in the darker half of the nestbox. This makes them more quiet and protects them against cold and draft. They take particular care to watch the health of the
nestbirds and also the vitality.
The hens are shipped the most. As long as the cock isn't chasing too much, they are shipped. The best nest position of a cock is, according to them, when he's chasing the hen.
For the hens the best position is a youngster of eight to ten days. All the nestbirds raise only one youngster while racing. Very important is that the pigeons that raise youngsters
keep looking very healthy. The feathers must look silky and feel like that. Special signs that nestbirds are in excellent conditions are:
When they rarely leave the nest
When they defend the nestbox when the fancier gets near to it
When at feeding time they only take a few grains very quickly and then hurry back to the nest
When pigeons show behaviours that they never do normally
At our question as to whether a nestcock later on can be a good widower, they answer in the affirmative. They often see that yearlings that are raced on the nest the first year are
the next year often their best widowers. A nestbird can even be used as a widower after three or four years. They still don't like to talk about making birds excited or do tricks with
them. One of the nicest stories we've ever heard is that on the day of shipping a hen was lying dead on the floor. The brothers saw it and decided to lay her in her own nestbox in
front of the cock. After that he was shipped and won first prize that race. "You had to see him arrive," Louis said.
The next question was if it's possible to race the nestbirds very often. Louis says that at first the birds have to be very healthy and recuperate very quickly. Their nestbirds are mostly shipped about fifteen times a year. As an example, he mentions "Oude Blauwke", that was shipped five times within fourteen days and won five top prizes. This isn't an exception but rather a rule, because when a nestbird is in excellent condition it stays for at least fourteen days. But the fancier has to make sure that the birds do not get overweight and are not forced to do things they can't do. The eyes of the fancier are very important in such cases. Tips: During very warm periods it's not wise to race hens that have youngbirds younger than six days. The longer the hens are in the baskets the less chance you have to win a good prize. The results of hens are better when they are liberated early in the morning. Hens feel that they don't have to sit on the nest later in the day. Hens that go to the fields when they feed youngsters are locked up in their nestboxes. This is also to prevent them from taking other birds to the fields. Nestbirds can also make excellent widowhood cocks.
The yearlings are very sharp on their nest. On the second and third nest you have to try to make them more motivated by giving them special care.
The Widowhood Cocks
These are let out twice a day (at 7.00 and at 18.00 hours). In the morning they always get a little bit of small seeds. In the evening they get the racemixture. In the beginning of the
week they get 25% more barley than at the end of the week. The cocks get their food in the boxes. The widowers are let out first in the morning and are locked out for half an hour. No flag or any other thing is used to force them to fly. You shouldn't frighten a bird, they say. A bird has to fly by itself. If that isn't the case, it isn't healthy. If they can't land on their own loft because of the flag, they start landing elsewhere, and that's a bad habit. The widowers all raise one youngster in the spring, and after ten days of breeding on the second round, they go on widowhood. All the hens are taken away the same time, also when they're only breeding for a few days. The loft sections are situated directly above the nestbird and youngbird sections. On my question if this isn't a disadvantage, they don't answer. This is like it always was, so it doesn't matter.
During the cleaning of the sections and when there are visitors, they don't worry about disturbing the widowers. They're used to that, so it's not a problem. Charel says it's a fairy
tale that you're not allowed to disturb the widowers. He goes to the widowhood sections three times a day and spends just as much time there as with the other birds. "Also when I
walk to the nestbirds they hear me, and to the youngbirds the same. And I'm not very quiet when I go to the birds, so they are disturbed many times," Charles says.
At our question how widowers show their form, Charles thinks every bird has his own way of showing. You just have to know them very well. "Our 'Schallyblauw' was always sitting on
the landing board, while the 'Lichte' always practiced landing manoeuvres on the roof. When you expected him to land, he just flew away again."
Widowhood cocks always fly in a flock. The yearlings are put in the free nestboxes in the fall as early as possible. Before shipping they put the nestbowls in. The old widowers are not
shown their hens and put in the basket first. After that they show the hens to the yearlings. When the hens are laying down in the nestbowls the cocks are taken and put into the
basket. At the Janssen loft there are no big windows the birds can fly in, so they have to get in through the landing board. After the race, they're locked up with their hens and can stay together for half an hour. If it was a bad race they stay longer. The birds that get home later or the next day also get to see their hens. In that case, the other cocks are locked up in their nestboxes. As soon as the hens are away, they put a curtain in front of the windows that is put away in the evening. The widowers are sitting free in the section the whole week. Widowers that are not shipped are not allowed to see their hens. The boxes of the other cocks are closed, of course.
Widowers can easily do two races in one week. You don't bring them out of their rhythm. Every cock has his own strange behaviour. One is very quiet, and the other is very busy.
Important is indeed that the cocks must keep their nestboxes under all circumstances. If one is thrown out of his nestbox, you'd better take him from the loft. The cocks stay on
widowhood for three months; after that period of time they raise one youngster. Very often they race the former widowers a few times in the autumn. This can do no harm to them.
According to the Janssen Brothers, a former widower can easily be a nestbird after; it doesn't do harm to it. They also never had problems with nestbirds arriving at the same
time as widowers. They both go as quickly as possible into their own sections. When a widower is racing very well, you should give him the same hen next season.
The Widowhood Hens
The hens play a major part in the success of their partners, according to Charles. The hen must be very much in love with her cock. When some hens are not, they try to get the cocks very angry. They never show him another hen. After showing the hens they go immediately back to their section. Right before the return of the cocks, the hens are locked up with a nestbowl in half the box. Louis is taking care of the widowhood hens. The way of feeding is the same as for the cocks. The hens are locked up for three months in a box at night on the days they are in the aviary. Only when it's good weather are they allowed to go in there. A hen only is good for widowhood during three or four seasons; after that, the love for the cocks is gone and the interest for the cock isn't there anymore. In order to get used as a breeding hen later on, they advise to keep a hen no longer than two years as a widowhood hen. Double widowhood they never tried so far.
Tip: Take very good care of your widowhood hens and try to keep them healthy, don't treat them like they are of no use. Also watch them very carefully because they often make the prizes for the cocks, Charel says. All of a sudden Charel raises his finger and says, "Don't think you can only race widowhood, because you cannot breed many good youngbirds if you don't know what your good hens are. This way you end up as just a fancier." It's for you to decide!
The Youngbirds
When the youngbirds are weaned they stay for one day at the youngbird section to get used to it. The next day they are put outside on the landing board, in order to have a good
look around as soon as possible. This is done daily, as they think this way they will lose less pigeons from the loft. When the youngbirds are too old before they get weaned, they often are lost from the loft because they go into the air and are not familiar enough with the area to come back down. On the first days the brothers watch very carefully because sometimes they fly down or fall down and can't fly all the way to the high roof to get back to the landing board. In the beginning they can fly around from 13.00 to 16.00 hours.
The brothers breed for themselves sixteen winterbred and fourteen summerbred youngsters. All the birds are weaned in the same section that is 2.5 x 2 meters. The brothers don't think that it's the most ideal, putting different rounds together, but they have no alternative because of a lack of room. When the summerbreds are weaned they get extra food when the winterbreds are outside for exercise. They also have a problem when the winterbreds take the summerbreds with them to fly away when the summerbreds have just flown a few rounds around the loft. And when it is warm weather, Charel says that there is more chance that the summerbreds get sick.
The youngbirds get the same mixture as the nestbirds, only the corn is replaced by popcorn and very small French corn. This is only for the first weeks so that the youngbirds learn
quickly to eat the corn. It is very important that the youngbirds eat all the grains. They give special care to the youngbirds because they are the future of the loft. Besides
that, they try, through contact with the birds, to develop a friendship with the birds that will endure rest of their lives. The youngbirds are trained to come in with a referee whistle so
that they rush in as soon as they hear the sound of it. Always when they feed the birds this whistle is used. This way they also call the birds in when they return from a race. It's Jef
that can whistle the best. "You have to be good to do it the way Jef does," Charel says. "Our Jef can whistle the same way as our brother Jan did a long time ago."
During the feeding, they touch all the birds, one by one, so that they get used to the hands of the fancier. They also try to get the birds to eat out of their hands for the same reason. Another thing that they do is talk to the birds constantly. The Janssen birds are so tame that they fly on the shoulders of their bosses and pick their ears. The brothers dislike shy birds. It is a joy to go to the birds because you can see that they like their bosses. When you see the brothers take care of the birds you notice immediately that they love their birds. The birds are allowed to loft fly until twice per day until the races begin. After that, they get trained together with the oldbirds. The training is no more than three times from 15 km away. After that they get five training tosses with the club at a distance of 38 km. When the youngbirds are healthy and not heavily moulting, they have to fly the whole youngbird program.
They like to race youngbirds on the nest. As soon as they notice that there is a pair, they put a nestbowl right on the spot where the birds like to build a nest. If youngbirds are raced on the nest, they simply have to perform well. If not, they won't be there the next season. They say that youngbirds can also perform very well on the perch. After the races, the birds have to moult very quickly. Latebreds don't have to go entirely through the moult. As regards keeping a youngbird that isn't raced, the brothers say that they hardly ever do so the exception being only when a very good pair is getting old and they are afraid they will stop breeding. Then they keep one or two youngsters from that pair in order to save the family line.
Tip: Keep your eyes open in the youngbird section. For instance, when a youngbird chooses a very high perch, also give it a high nestbox as a yearling. They will pay you back in
performing very well.
The Training of the Birds
Loft flying should be given every day at the same time. The birds stay in when there's fog, heavy rain, and snow. Long ago, they trained the birds very often. Charel brought them away by bike 20 km and Adriaan watched them coming home. Nowadays, the youngand the oldbirds are only trained three times before they are shipped for the training tosses of the club. Pigeons that are trained later in the season they ship at all kinds of clubs in the neighbourhood where they have training tosses all the time.
Tip: Charles thinks it is very important that the birds are watched when they come home from a training toss in order to get them used to going in very quick after landing. If you
can't watch them coming, put some food for them as soon as they arrive.
We Asked the Brothers a Lot of Questions
Do you ever give your birds pellets?
The birds have to stay healthy with normal food. They are not pigs.
What do you think about fanciers that never clean their lofts or put peastraw on the floor?
That is no way of keeping pigeons. Again pigeons are not pigs.
Why don't you race long distance?
We hate longdistance races because there are too many risks for the birds and you loose them often. That our birds can do the job we have proved, but only to stop all that
nonsense that our birds couldn't handle the distance. One time we shipped three birds to Chateauroux (575 km). We won first, second, and fourth in the club. "De Scherpen" we
shipped to Montargis and Bordeaux (800 km) and he won two times first. Then the gossip was over. After that, we decided only to ship for the short and middle distances. That's what we like.

Georges Busschaert

 Georges Busschaert one of the great pigeon breeders of all time his birds are winning races all over the world I visted this great mans loft just before he died
If you were asked which pigeon fancier had the greatest impact on the racing pigeon scene in Britain, who would it be? Well one very strong contender must be Georges Busschaert.
There cannot be a fancier in Britain that has never had a Busschaert pigeon in their loft. The strain seems timeless, even now there are many fanciers that still keep and race Busschaert pigeons, and with great success. When you think that George Busschaert first came to this country over thirty years ago, it is a great testament to his pigeons that they are still being raced today.
How did it come about that this strain of pigeons could have such an impact on the racing scene in Britain? It all started over 90 years ago. George Busschaert was born in 1911 in St Lodewijk-Deerlijk in Belgium. His father was a pigeon fancier and inevitably he soon got the bug. His other Brothers Andre and Marcel were also keenly interested as was his sister Alice. George’s first name was really Remi but he preferred to be called George and it soon stuck.
George went into partnership racing with his new brother-in-law Albert Nuttyens who had married George’s sister Alice. They bought several birds at auction, a mealy Commines and a pigeon called Tito from Hector Baele of Scheldewinke. They bought De Plattekop from Vandevelde and sons and daughters out of ‘The Coppi’ and ‘Witterugge’ from Michel Nachtergaele of Zulte. George later borrowed ‘The Coppi’ to pair to the daughters of ‘Tito’. They later also bought the pigeon called ‘De Fijnen’ from Michel Nachetregaele.
The Busschaert family decided to build a textile manufacturing plant in England, in Kent. George was sent over to run it. Being from Belgium it was inevitable that he had a passion for pigeon racing and he subsequently met fanciers from England and soon had his own set up in England.
Pigeons were bred from those now held in Belgium by George’s brother-in-law Albet Nuttyens, and shipped over to England. Birds were also obtained from his brother Albert Busschaert who was in charge of the carpet-weaving factory in Deerlicjk, Belgium.
George struck up a friendship with Gil Duncan of Deal. They went into partnership and George’s pigeons soon set the racing scene alight with their wins. They bred pigeons such as ‘The Crack’, ‘The Coppi cock’, The Great Coppi’, The Bonten’, ‘The Blesse’. Between 1956 and 1962 they won over 150 first prizes often taking the first three in the fed. Soon people started to take notice of these fantastic sprint pigeons and they started to buy them.
One of the first to purchase them was a Mrs Newton from West Durham. She bought a pair for her husband as a silver wedding anniversary present. He put them in the stock loft and they bred birds that took the West Durham amalgamation by storm. He suddenly shot up from being an average fancier to becoming a champion almost overnight. These stock pair were later known as ‘The Newton Pair’, and they went on to breed many champion pigeons. News soon spread and fanciers all over the north wanted them. Another to purchase was JJ Horn. He obtained sons and daughters of the Newton pair and later purchased the Newton pair themselves. He also purchased ‘The Broken Keel Cock’ and a grandson of the Newton pair, the Wilkinson cock. He built a family around these pigeons, which kept him at the top for years to come.
Back in Kent someone else was about to try the Busschaerts, Ron Hallam of Belvedere. He took the first three in the London and South coast Combine from Bergerac with over 4000 birds entered. This is a remarkable performance on its own, but when you realise that there were only 4 birds home on the day it puts it into a new perspective.
By now George had sold the factory and went back to Belgium to see what else he could pick up. He wanted pigeons that were smaller, he wanted pigeons that could not only sprint but sprint the distance. He bought ‘the Klaren’ from Georges Doetreloigne of Waregem, ‘Sooten’ from F. Declerc and the Old Sooten, and 14, and 817, from De Klinge. And boy could they race the distance. In only 3-4 years they bred pigeons to win 1st National Limoges not once, but twice, 1st Perigeux National, 2nd Cahors National, 3rd Brive National, 5th Cahors National, 27th Barcelona International, 33rd San Sebastion International.
Tom Larkins had got in touch with George and was now importing George’s new lines. He wanted to see how these new birds would perform. He was not disappointed, their results exceeded his wildest dreams. In 1972 Tom entered the Wadebridge Open sending only 4 pigeons. The race was from 276 miles. He clocked all 4 together, to win, which again is remarkable in it’s own right but he was 1 hour 10 minutes ahead of the next bird!
George Busschaert hysteria was by now reaching new proportions. George started to hold an annual sale in England. The racing performances of the famous Busscharerts soon started to become legendary. Ken Aldred bought two pigeons, one of them the famous stock bird The Little black. She produced pigeons that were totally unbeatable. George Corbett bought stock from George Busschaert and from Tom Larkins to produce the famous Dark Uns. The most famous bird to come from these pigeons is probably the ‘Coppi cock.’ This pigeon went on to breed hundred of first prize-winners, and they could also fly the distance. One fancier topped the federation from over 500 miles from two different race points on the same day!
Another buyer was Danny Challis. He was an experienced racer who had for years flown the old long distance English strain of Fuller-Issacson. He and a friend decided to try out these new fangled Busschaerts. They purchased 16 youngbirds from Tom Larkins and split them. Danny had amongst his selection a medium to small blue chequer hen. She was a double grand daughter of Little black. When she won the Open Wessex Combine she was put straight into the stock loft and went on to become one of the best breeding hens that this country has ever seen. She bred no less than 5 other Combine winners and 15 fed winners when paired to each of the other cocks that came with her.
Even more amazing was that her offspring not only won races but also went on to breed even more champions. One of her youngbirds called Moneypacker, for good reason, won 4 open first Combines, 1st Federation and 5th Combine and went on to breed Wilbur to win the Rennes central Southern classic, also Blue Steel to win 1st open Parkstone, 1st Dorset fed, Imperial black and Black fire who both went on to take 1st Solent fed. At one time Danny had in his loft 40 fed winners and 5 combine winners. Other famous Busschaerts and Busschaert flyers were the Larkin pair of Mr & Mrs Shuttleworth of Harrogate, W Parkes of Northern Ireland, John Palmers no 1 and no 2 pair. Bill Johnstons with his famous Busschaert ‘Old man’. John Hodgson of Annan. The list went on and on. Johnston Eagleson & sons went on to win over 50 1st open Combines with the Busschaerts.
People who purchased the Busschaerts were ending up with not one but a whole loft full of champion birds. Alf Wright was another example he obtained birds from George Corbett and started to then breed his own champions. Clapper 36 x 1sts, Twirler 30 x 1sts, Slimmen 20 x 1sts.
Other famous Busschaert fliers were Arthur Beardesmore, with his Terror Busschaerts, Little Terror 12 x 1sts , Short terror 12 x 1sts, Flying solo 12 x 1sts. Fred Elliot and his famous Euro Busschaerts. The Highview and Starview Busschaerts. The list goes on and on. The big studs had started to realise the potential of the Busschaerts and soon the pigeons started to command big money. Louella was one of the first to obtain a whole series of Busschaert champions. They started to offer their offspring to the everyday fancier at affordable prices.
In 1982 George Busschaert decide to have an entire clearance sale. It turned out to be three clearance sales on the 9th, 10th and 11th October. 274 birds were entered into the sale, of these 271 were bred by George Busschaert. All birds were sold.
Even today Busschaerts are still creating a stir by winning high birdage prestigious races. Those of Ron Williamson from Ireland are amongst the most recent high fliers. Tom boy 1st 20,367 birds, Ron Ville Del boy 1st 25,243 birds, Lauras boy 1st & 2nd open to 22,337 birds, 191 2nd NIPA 11,860, Ron Ville dark Destroyer 1st 24,108, Flash Gordon 1st 14,600 birds, Ron Ville Superboy 1st 26,770 birds, Millenium Superstar 3 x 1st average 23000 birds, Ron Ville Heartbreaker 1st, 3rd, 4th NIPA, Millenium Superstar 3 x 1st average 23,000 birds, Ron Ville Lee Der & Ranger 1st open winners, Ron Ville Maggie Ann 1st NIPA 7,11 birds.
The questions that have to be answered when writing about George Busschaert, why did his pigeons make such an impact on the racing scene in Britain and why have they stood the test of time and seen many other strains come and go?
Well you have to go back in time to what the racing scene was like in Britain all those years ago. After the war and into the fifties there was not a lot of money about, especially for pigeons. In the sixties times changed, there was a boom and as Prime minister Macmillan said ‘You’ve never had it so good’.
However in spite of this newly found affluence most pigeon fanciers kept small teams of pigeons in back garden lofts. They nearly all raced natural and they raced predominantly traditional families of pigeons that were either handed down from their fathers or bought and swapped locally. Race programs were typically mixed, short races, building up in length throughout the race program to longer ones at the end of the season. Pigeons were thus bred and selected to be good ‘all rounders.’
In Belgium however, at the time things were very different. There were specialised race programs. Races were being separated into short, middle distance and long distance races. Specialised clubs were springing up. Fanciers were also concentrating their selection to pigeons to race predominantly short sprint races. There was a strong gambling culture and good prize money could be won. This drove a desire to obtain the best pigeons for the job, auctions sprang up to fuel this desire for more and faster pigeons. Champion pigeons were soon snapped up by the more wealthy to be put into their lofts.
This is where George Busschaert comes onto the scene. He was effectively a rich man, he had come to England and he had a passion for fast pigeons. On his visits to Belgium to obtain pigeons, he had a very big advantage. He knew the language, he knew the Belgium pigeon-racing scene, and he knew what pigeons were the best at the time, and he bought them. He also had contacts through his brother and brother-in-law. It is rumoured that he would travel to many successful lofts simply to buy their champion pigeon. He would then bring them to England and set them up in his loft. He soon made a big impact. He started to win everything. He had introduced fast sprint pigeons using widowhood methods on pigeons that had been selected from years and years of widowhood racing. At the time the English fancier was using predominantly what effectively were just homers on the natural system, which was simply no match. The old English strains were absolutely slaughtered in all types of races.
These out and out sprint pigeons were unbeatable. For example, Tom Larkins once described how he sent his team of 30 youngbirds to a race with over 2000 pigeons and 21 dropped in the loft all at once. John Palmer had 10 pigeons drop together to win the London and South coast combine 30 minutes ahead of the next bird in the federation.
George Busschaert also had this talent of being able to pick pigeons that would breed together to produce outstanding pigeons. This was not just a case of being rich and simply buying top pigeons from winning lofts and putting them together, although this did help. What also helped was that Georges Busschaert had this great sense of stockmanship. He would chose pigeons of the same shape and form, and he could identify in pigeons, qualities that he knew would blend in, but also be passed down throughout the generations.
In addition to all this, his pigeons were breeding champions through what geneticists call heterosis. This is hybrid vigour.
This usually occurs when highly inbred strains are crossed, but the reason Georges Busschaert could produce it in his pigeons is that there was a massive pool of winning qualities that were all different, in all these interbreeding pigeons. It was these winning genes that would produce excellent racing characteristics that kept reappearing throughout the lines. So for example you would have pigeons that won because they had fantastic cardiovascular systems, some that had perfect wing formation, others with super efficient metabolisms, others with fantastically powerful musculature. It was these individual characteristics that kept emerging and reemerging sometimes one at a time, sometimes two or more qualities together, that kept making champions.
The whole family was not inbred at all it was a family of maximum outcrossing but what made it work was that there were no bad genes to get in the way of producing champions. The chromosomes were packed with genes that could only produce these winning characteristics, different winning characteristics in each subsequent generation. This is why fanciers with distance Busschaerts would suddenly start to throw pigeons that won short sprint races and sprinters that would suddenly breed distance pigeons.
Furthermore this was all fuelled even more when people started to cross them with their own strains, their own old winning lines. You now had these qualities that had been selected and honed by the British fancier being added to the continental Belgium winning characteristics.
That is why they turned out to be so versatile. They would win from 60 miles they would win from 500 miles. They would win in a strong headwind they would win in a blow home. You could race them widowhood you could race them natural. They won as youngbirds and straight away were winning as yearlings and old birds. So fliers even today are winning classic races with them when they are up to 7 years old.
The other element that made the Busschaerts so versatile at all distances was that George Busschaert did not solely select short distance sprint pigeons, his later acquisitions were equally capable of flying the distance. Fanciers were purchasing offspring from these distance lines and crossing them with the original sprint-middle distance Busschaerts.
This diversity of champion blood also explains why the Busschaerts cannot be described as an inbred family of pigeons and why they came in all shapes and sizes and colours. One thing is certain, and that is this diversity of racing qualities is still being discovered today as fanciers cross and recross the Busschaerts and I think that they will remain within the pigeon fancy, especially in Britain, for years to come.
Email Alan Wheeldon