From The Chair
We all have our likes and dislikes, I cannot stand the wet weather and on Wednesday the 10th of March that is exactly what we got, only the day before I was sat on our patio with a mug of tea as the hens set to work exercising around the loft and today, I am confined to barracks typing away on my keyboard with the lights on, yes you can tell that the racing season is nearly upon us! Unlike the rest of me my mind is always working at the proverbial 100 miles an hour and pigeons are always in my thoughts and I cannot for a moment switch off from the sport, but then again what is the point of doing things half-heartedly? The same can be said when we talk about selection as we can all think we have a good pigeon on our hands, but actions speak louder than words and it is in the action of racing and not anything else which determines if we have good ones or also rans. According to Ad Schaerlaeckens “A loft full of good pigeons you can only build by racing and selecting”, in other words it comes down to survival of the fittest, this was backed up by Piet de Weerd who often said: The basket is always the best selector and thank goodness for that because if it was any other way then what would be the point of racing at all because the results would be known long before the liberation and it would all boil down to how much a fancier paid for their birds and not the work they put in. Of course you need good pigeons but without the fancier knowing what he or she is doing they will never get the best out of the pigeons and that is why the sport is such a mystery at times and it is precisely because of that reason the sport will always captivate mankind because nobody can know everything about pigeons, for like life it is all a learning process , after all luck pursues the man who doesn’t give in!
I am fascinated by the subject of motivation both for pigeons and humans, recently I read in a report by a sports phycologist named Dr Mark Tobin which stated that Research has identified two primary motivations for individuals who enter the world of competition. They are ego and mastery. Look at the world today and you could easily think people are now perhaps more than ever driven by their egos but unlike so called “celebrity culture” I would argue that the ego as a source of motivation in sport is in fact extremely harmful or at the very least it can be counterproductive in the long-term. Such individuals only thrive when all is going to plan and easily give themselves away when things do not , which let us be honest happens in pigeon racing a lot just the same as any other sport and anyone who says otherwise is either joking or mad. According to Dr Tobin: Performers who are too highly motivated by ego are at risk for a host of issues. They are the athletes who complain when they do not get enough recognition (as judged by them), playing time or contribution in a particular game plan. They loose their temper and cause penalties when challenged and things do not go well. They often are not true team players. In the business world, they are the executives who compare their salaries to others, need to have the best office and often feel entitled to more–regardless of what they currently have… you can take the mentioned analogies and apply them to pigeon racing, and you will soon see ego is the end of road!
Many of us came to the sport of pigeon racing through our family members and if you look through its long existence as a sport you will find that many families have more than left their mark. In discussing this one immediately thinks of Janssen Brothers and the Houben dynasty who without question have all helped to move pigeon racing forward. Perhaps one name that is often overlooked in modern pigeon circles is that of the Descheemaecker family who at the beginning played an integral role in the sports development a role that continues to this very day. Like all good stories lets start at the beginning and for two brothers named Noël and Robert their love affair with the racehorse of the sky began in the year 1927 when they constructed a pigeon loft above their fathers printing business and just like throwing a stone into a pond this small action would produce a huge ripple effect that would benefit pigeon fanciers in every corner of the racing world. From the outset these eager young men clearly possessed an energetic and entrepreneurial spirt because shortly after they began racing, in 1930 they developed the “Het Duivensport' magazine which was also published in French under the title “Le Sport Colombophile” (pigeon sport) which of course is ideal for fanciers in the French speaking part of Belgium the Wallonia region. In the modern age of instant information, it is hard for us to comprehend that Initially, only 25 sample copies were produced but with no advertising just common-sense articles based upon practical experience and personal observations it became a huge hit with the fancy.50,000 copies were printed. The printing company was continuously operating at full speed and was working day and night to print so the magazine could be distributed. At the pinnacle of “Het Duivensports' popularity the magazine attracted an estimated readership of 240,000 pigeon racing enthusiasts. Not only in the world of commerce did the names of Noël and Robert command respect but in 1932 the name Descheemaecker began to dominate the racing results largely due to the performances of their pigeon 'De Kaers' named after the 1934 world track cycling champion Karel Kaers from Vosselaar a place which is still talked of in pigeon circles today thanks to the many successes of a certain Leo Heremans.
Along with pigeons it is a well-known fact the other sport the Belgians love is that of cycling, a sport that ignites their passion in the way the English love football, Canadians ice hockey and the Australians cricket, hence why many champion Belgian and Dutch fanciers name their winged warriors after stars of competitive cycling. Two examples that immediately spring to my mind are the legendry ""De Oude Merckx” of Janssen Brothers and one of today’s premier names in pigeon sport “Kittel” for Dirk Van Den Bulck. The Descheemaeckers super crack 'De Kaers' came from the loft of a well-respected Antwerp fancier by the name of Evrard Havenith, what a bonus this turned out to be because 'De Kaers' over a period of seven years was one of the best middle distance birds in the Antwerp region and in 1939 finished his splendid racing career with a 1st Union Antwerp flying 400 km from Orléans , given that the Union of Antwerp is often referred as “The academy of pigeon” racing , one could say that 'De Kaers' graduated with a first class degree! This “real pigeon” gained a lot of attention being the muse for many articles, so much so that one doubting Thomas challenged the Brothers to send “de Kaers” in a competition with the highly competitive club “De Zwaluw”. “De Kaers” immediately answered his critic by taking the first prize. Proving two things 1, you cannot keep a good pigeon down and 2, jealousy and Ego are not the calling card of a true champion for they let their basket do the talking!
At our own loft in a day or so Dad and I shall move some of the youngsters over into the young bird loft and then the class of 2021 will begin their preschool education. Having just looked up from my desk and out of the window it appears as though at long last that there is finally a break in the bad weather and so I will close this article and go and give the hens their liberty. So, until next time my friends enjoy your pigeons. In a previous article I mentioned a W.W. Harris of Bedworth who scored 4th British section in Barcelona race of 1931 and lived in Wooton Street flying his birds in the Bedworth HS. well fellow scribe and friend Owen J. Vaggers has very kindly sent to me an advert that W.W. Harris placed in the 1931 Squills journal which I have enclosed in this article for readers to look at.
The original Descheemaecker loft on the roof of their fathers printing factory in 1927
The DESCHEEMAECKER brothers NOËL & ROBERT
Descheemaecker Brothers phenomenal pigeon “de Kaers”
Ring no .6136542-32
The DESCHEEMAECKER pigeon loft built in the style of Georges Fabry’s loft
1934 world track cycling champion Karel Kaers
Kittel the Belgian sprint sensation
Marcel Kittel the famous German sprint cyclist
Cycling’s Eddy Merckx
"De Oude Merckx" 21 X 1st for “The Greatest Pigeon Fanciers Of All Time!”
W.W.Harris of Bedworth’s advertisement in 1931 Squills book