BELGIUM & HOLLAND LOFT VISITS - PART 2
by KEITH MOTT
This week we are continuing our tour of premier lofts in Belgium and Holland. After enjoying a loft visit with the 2003 Belgium General Champions, Schoors & De Waele, we drove over the border into Holland and arrived at the Laren home of Ronald and Annie Heesen just after lunch time. Brian Goodwin who arranged out tour of Belgium and Dutch lofts last February was particularly keen to visit Ronald Heesen, as he is an up and coming star in his pigeon fraternity and will be the next big name in Dutch pigeon racing.
Ronald & Annie Heesen of Laren
Although Ronald Heesen is very much a back garden fancier, with an average size team of pigeons, he has climbed the success ladder with outstanding result over the years and is now one the top pigeon racers in Holland. When we walked in to his garden for the first time I was very impressed with his very smart pigeon set up and I must say from the outset, Ronald himself impressed me as a person, being a nice modest man, who would do any thing to help you if he could. A quality man with quality pigeons!
Ronald’s late father was a success pigeon fancier and Ronald raced on his own from 1967, also with great success. When his father passed away he went in partnership with his mother, Annie, and moved his pigeons back to her garden in Laren. The base of his family today is Janssen and he likes sprint / middle distance racing, or what they call one day racing in Holland. Ronald has introduced a couple of long distance pigeons to form a cross from his friend, Rob Boesten and hopes to have a go at one or two long distance events in the near future. He races 32 cocks on the standard widowhood system and pairs them up two weeks before the first race in April. The racing cocks are fed on a good quality widowhood mixture and are never trained, just get two hours exercise around the loft every day. Ronald never races his old hens. Ronald’s self built lofts are of the traditional Dutch style, with Pan tiled roofs, ‘Sputnik’ trapping and he has used the ETS system of clocking for the last ten seasons. He told me that fanciers must strive to obtain the very best stock possible, as second rate pigeons will put up second rate performances! Ronald is not a believer in treating his birds and tells me they have not been treated for any ailments since 1994.
These are some of Ronald and Annie’s loft results over recent seasons: 2007: 3rd National Champion all Holland young birds (26,000 members), 5th National Champion all Holland young birds (26,000 members), 1st Champion Average Nominated old and young bird Mid-Holland Combine 7. (2,800 members), 1st Champion Combined Average Mid-Holland old and young birds Combine 7. (2,800 members), 2nd Ace Yearling Mid-Holland Combine 7. (2,800 members), 1st Ace Mid-Holland young birds Combine 7. (2,800 members): 2006: 1st and 2nd National Ace all Holland young birds (26,000 members), 1st Champion Combined Average old & young birds Mid-Holland Combine 7. (2,800 members), 1st Champion Average Nominated old & young birds Mid-Holland Combine 7. (2,800 members), 1st Champion Average old & young bird Mid-Holland Combine 7 (2,800 members), 1st and 3rd Ace Mid-Holland young birds.
The 80 young birds are paired up and sent sitting eggs to the races, and are given one training toss every week during the season from 45 km. Ronald likes to work his youngsters and they get ten races, through to 480 km. The Laren loft houses 28 pairs of stock birds and Ronald’s ‘Gold Pair’ are reputed to be one of the breeding pairs in Holland. He has turned down many offers and vast amounts of money for this stock pair, ‘Carl’ and ‘De Telederby’, and they have only been mated since 2006. They are Janssen based and have produced a long list of premier performers, including: 1st & 2nd National, best young pigeon bred and raced in Holland 2006, 5th National Champion young pigeon in 2007, the 2nd Ace Pigeon Yearling Average Mid-Holland, 9th National NPO (10,648 birds) and 13th Mid-Holland / Combine / Federation (10,373 birds). A brilliant stock pair! The breeders are mated up on the 1st January and when selecting birds for the stock loft, Ronald, likes a strong pigeon in the hand, and pairs small pigeons to big ones. His birds looked in mint condition and I noted he used the ‘up and over’ type nest box fronts, which were all in the ‘over’ position leaving all the boxes open. His pigeons and lofts were a credit to him!
Other visits in Holland.
After a very enjoyable visit to the Heesen loft, Ronald took us to a hotel he had pre-booked for us about 30 km out side Amsterdam. We were glad to get to the hotel, as we had been travelling all night, not getting any sleep and were ready to hit the ‘sack’. Ronald had arranged two loft visits and a special visit to ‘PV de Zwaluw’, his local pigeon club head quarters for next day. We met up with Ronald at his mother’s house at 09.00hrs next morning and after a cup of his Dutch coffee we were soon on the road.
A few years ago the late, great Jim Biss told me he thought the Continental pigeon fancier were ten years in front of the English fanciers, with their general pigeon management and the manner they run the sport in general. At that time I don’t know if I believed him, but after seeing the ‘PV de Zwaluw’ pigeon club H.Q., I know he was right! Ronald Heesen has been the President since 2000 and he took us to see their brilliant H.Q. building, which the pigeon club members built in 1953 and now own. They got an interest free loan to fund the project and have never looked back. The super brick built building has a function room with a bar, which is hired out to the general public for parties on none pigeon nights, a computer room for working out race results, a marking room which is racked out to store race baskets and at the side of the building there was a garage that houses the clubs own pigeon transporter, which is used for training and ferrying the race birds to the Federation transporter. The building had proper, clean toilets and a store room full of booze, which the members buy in the bar on pigeon nights at cost price. I noticed there was a car parked at the side of the H.Q. and Ronald informed me it was owned by the pigeon club and was taxed and insured to pull the pigeon transporter. I’ve never seen any pigeon club that was so self sufficient, it was brilliant! ‘PV de Zwaluw’ was formed in 1921 and has 40 members on the books, with 20 of them sending about 400 birds each week. The club is affiliated to Federation 1. (400 members) and Combine 7. (2,800 members), which are two of the biggest organizations in Holland and race on Saturdays, with the longest old bird race being from St. Vincent (1,174 km).
What a great time we had! From my self, Brian, Darren and ‘Fat Wallet’, we would like to thank Ronald Heesen for his wonderful hospitality and for arranging the Dutch visits, which were much enjoyed. We have to make another trip out to see Ronald in the spring, as I promised him a gift pair of my best Eric Cannon / Brian Denney squeakers to try for a long distance cross. I hope my readers have enjoyed the two Continental articles, as much as I’ve enjoyed penning them. Well, that it for this week! I can be contacted on telephone number: 01372 463480. See yer!
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT