From The Chair - Memories of Belgium
By Chris Williams
Before starting this article my family and I were sad to hear of the passing of Rob Horton of the Tamworth & District South Road Federation and the Burton & South Derbyshire South Road Fed. We would often have drinks together at the Elgin hotel at the Blackpool Show in the company of mutual friends, one of whom was the late “Watto". May he rest in peace. Our thoughts and Prayers are with Robs Family and friends at this sad time.
£2696.14 A record price for a pigeon sale in Belgium in 1933, the 65 pigeons were the property of Ernest DURAY, from Ecaussines. For this sum of money in those days you could buy a staggering 10 houses. Facts such as this show us two things 1, there has always been money in pigeons and 2, fanciers are always willing to pay good money for them. I am just pointing this out to people who like to moan about money and pigeons, no one holds a gun to your head, and it is up to individual fanciers to pay what money they wish, and be honest if someone knocked at your door offering you a life changing sum for a bird would you turn it down? I think not, look as far back as the sport itself and there are countless examples of such events, so it is by no means the “curse” of the internet as some would have us believe. In my opinion it is simply that because of the advent of technology that we hear more about it.
I spend a lot of the cold winter months glued to my computer screen having what I call study days looking at anything and everything to do with the sport and sometimes this will spark a memory as was the case when I read that Willy Daniels from Kessel in Belgium, a fancier who has flown exceptionally well in recent seasons had won. The titles of 1st & 2nd National Ace Pigeon Longer Middle Distance KBDB, 2nd National Champion Longer Middle-Distance old birds + yearlings and winner of 1st National La Souterraine 15,939 yearlings, and the fastest of 25,408 pigeons, fantastic performances by any standards!
As I digested this information it brought back to the forefront of my mind fond memories of my first visit to Belgium a place which will always have a special place in my “pigeon shaped heart”. For it was here where I made the truly life changing decision to take up this great sport of ours. As long as I live it will be impossible for me to forget traveling to Leir market long before the sun had risen in the heavens and the truly remarkable sight of several Belgians with torches on their heads which are reminiscent of miner’s lamps from our sports industrial past were used to proudly display the young pigeons in and on top of their baskets for sale. The atmosphere was nothing short of electric !
The Belgian people are truly born with the pigeon in their heart and making your way through the cobble stoned square one feels as though you are tracing the footsteps of the great fanciers of the past especially when we sat in “The Greenhouse”, the famous bar and if I correctly remember birthplace of the Antwerp Union. The walls were covered in black and white photos of champion pigeons, fanciers, and result sheets, in this truly intoxicating environment how can a person not fall in love with pigeons? At that time, we got to know Swa better known as “The red hat man “, if I close my eyes, I can picture him as clear as day in his red Arsenal football club hat, smoking a small cigar. Together with our close friend the late Nick Carter, we got into Swa’s car and headed for his home in Nijlen, there we met Swa’s Wife Lizzie and their charming West Highland Terrier. Once inside we were treated to the excellent Belgian hospitality and got down to the important conversation of pigeons. Swa told us he had planned for us to visit his friend Willy Daniels in Kessel. In Swa’s words “Willy was a very good player “and with that we set off for Kessel.
Kessel is a borough of Nijlen and many of its people and pigeon fanciers work in the diamond industry. Two of its most famous fanciers being the racing legends Karel Schellens and Maurits Voets. These champions made pigeon racing look easy, but then again ask the champions and they will tell you “good pigeons make racing easy", and make no mistake both Schellens and Voets had more than their share of “good pigeons!”
Like many Belgian fanciers, Schellens and Voets exchanged the occasional pigeon, which shows the important roles friendship and respect have to play when the sport of pigeon racing is practiced in its purest form, after all it is often said that “a fanciers’ best birds are gifts from friends”. Speaking of friendship it was very interesting to learn that when Maurits Voets suffered ill health in later years it was Willy Daniels who took care of Maurits Voets’s birds .
Maurits thanked Willy for his assistance by giving him some of his pigeons, including a few descendants of his stock pigeon Lichte Bourges. These were top class pigeons that have bred 'De 37', Willy's winner of a 1st Nat. Argenton 2008, and Olympiad Pigeon later that season. Nikki, the winner of the 1st Nat. Chateauroux, originates from these lines as well. He also found reinforcements in the loft of Jos Bastiaens from Wommelgem (family by marriage), whose Noyon pair proved a true stock pair, and he also introduced pigeons of Luc & Bart Geerinckx. He then obtained four pigeons from the neighbouring loft of Meyer & Sons, which proved a great combination and has continued to build on these successes right to the present day and in doing so has arguably become one of the best small team fanciers in Belgium at the present time. My visit to the loft of Willy Daniels as a fresh faced 12 year old schoolboy just starting out in the pigeon game is something I will treasure, with a start like that is it any wonder I’m obsessed with pigeons, I guess Dean Martin was right “Memories are made of this”. The success of Willy Daniels racing to a garden loft is a perfect example to us fanciers who are in a similar position that with the correct groundwork we too can reach the top.
Until next time enjoy your pigeons.
Willy Daniels of Kessel who is following in the footsteps of Karel Schellens and Maurits Voets thanks to his outstanding performances.
The maestro Karel Schellens the diamond dealer and priceless gem of Belgian pigeon sport who helped put Kessel on the world stage.
Maurits Voets a top fancier who at times dominated the middle distance competition in the region of Kessel.
The famous “DE LICHTE BOURGES of the late Maurits Voets
"Den 37" 1st National Argenton 2008 against 5.252 old birds NB this was Willy’s sole entry this bird has Maurits Voets blood.