THE WORLD FAMOUS
by Keith Mott
This week we are going to have the second part of my insight into the Louis Massarella Stud in 1977, when I first visited the Leicester establishment. These two articles were first published in the Pigeon Racing Gazette over 38 years ago.
To say the 100 mile trip to Leicester for my visit to the Louella Lofts was worthwhile would be an understatement. I must describe that day in June as one of my best days as a fancy press scribe as I was permitted to handle and inspect all the Louella champions, including the world record priced pigeon champion Bliksem.
After a first-class dinner, Jack Paley took us to the main breeding loft, called the racing loft, and he had to hold a monster of a dog which was chained in front of the main door while we slipped inside the large building. Dogs were on patrol all the time around the lofts and were a bit unfriendly. On entering this door, which was in the middle of the building, we found ourselves in the corn store with a sliding door on both sides leading to the breeding sections. Large nest boxes were used in the breeding sections and these were divided to take two nest bowls. The sections were very roomy with nice big flights in the front of the loft and a sharp sand dressing was used on the loft floor. The lofts were cleaned out every day (except Sundays) and the water was changed twice a day. The contents of each nest box are checked when cleaned out and Jack had three young bird ringing days per week.
The first section we looked at was the Louella Dordins, mostly mealies and blues, bred around champions Ramses and Louvre II etc. A nice cock we inspected in this section was a ten year old mealy called Atlantide which was bred by Rene Boizard from Lucane a full brother to Louvre II. This handsome cock was large and apple bodied with a yellow eye-sign and was the sire and grandsire of many winners. In the next section we looked at some first class Jurgen Ross pigeons and Jack said, "some good reports are coming back to Louella lofts on the performances of this German strain". The champions were housed in breeding pens and these were nice and roomy with a 12ft flight on each pen. Each pen housed one pair and the champion racers I handled didn't carry an ounce of fat. The first two champions I inspected were the two Kirkpatricks, Stranraer Simon and Double Top. First, I looked at the cock which was dear to my heart, as my own family of pigeons at that time were bred around him, that being champion Stranraer Simon. He looked really great for a 12 year old and handled just under medium with a long cast. He had nice wide flights, with a yellow eye-sign and his typical British frame won 1st open S.N.F.C. Rennes (497 miles) in 1968. The other Kirkpatrick was red chequer Double Top, winner of 1st open S.N.F.C. Nantes (572 miles) and he was a harder type pigeon with nice shovel flights.
Next to hand was a dark chequer cock, which Jack described as the `T.V. Star', that being the world record-priced pigeon champion Bliksem. He won 32 top prizes in National, Club and Federation, including 1st open International St. Vincent (560 miles), 5th open Brives National (3,038 birds), 3rd open St. Vincent National (2,770 birds), 11th open St. Vincent (2,546 birds), 55th open Brives National (2,845 birds), 10th open Cahors National (4,135 birds), 1st Federation St. Vincent, 2nd Section St. Vincent, 4th Federation Brives, 6th Section St. Vincent, 4th Federation St. Vincent, 4th Section Cahors, 6th Federation Cahors, 53rd Chateauroux, 11th Poitiers and was purchased by the Louella stud from Emiel Denys of Zulte, Belgium, for the record sum of £10,500. He was a nice type pigeon, just under medium size with an apple-body and had a dark green eye-sign.
To my mind the best pigeon in the hand was pencil blue cock, champion Captain's Pride, winner of many outstanding positions, including lst Sect, 4th Open Pau (730 miles) N.F.C. (5,455 birds) and he won at the Doncaster Show under Jack Adams. He was medium to large, built like an ocean liner and he had a superb green eye-sign. At that time many consider this cock's great performance from Pau second to none. The Dordin champion Ramses was another good type pigeon, although he showed his 14 years a bit. He was one of the first Dordins imported by Louis Massarella and was a son of the great Neon, sire of two National winners. Ramses had a nice eye and shovel flights and he had to his credit, 1st open National Angouleme (3,200 birds), 2nd open St. Vincent International, 5th open Libourne National, 5th open Dax National, 12th open St. Vincent International, 41st open Dax National.
Next, we looked at the two Mr & Mrs Clayton champions Red Flash and Dark Flash, which were full brothers and two superb pigeons in the hand. The performances of these two aces was incredible, the highlights of which are: Red Flash - lst open L.N.R.C. Thurso (512 miles) (5,776 birds) and Dark Flash - 1st open L.N.R.C. Berwick (308 miles) (1,324 birds), 2nd open L.N.R.C. Thurso (512 miles) 4,748 birds competing. The dam and sire of these two superb champions were also at the Louella stud. When I visited Dark Flash was paired to champion Misty Lady which I think was an excellent mating, as she had won twice 1st open L.N.R.C. Thurso. At that time she was the only pigeon in the history of the London North Road Combine to win the Thurso race twice and she had ten times 1st to her credit in all, a great pigeon. We then looked at the winner of eleven firsts in club, Federation and Open competition, RCC, The Saint. After this great Gurnay champion, we looked at several Alf Baker stock birds which were quite outstanding. I was very surprised when I handled champion Workman as he was a much bigger pigeon than I imagined from his photos. His performances were staggering! 1st open North Midland Combine Saintes (2,040 birds), 1st open Notts and Mansfield Amal Saintes only bird on day (beating 6,000 birds), 1st open N. & M. Amal Salisbury (5,900 birds), 1st Open Great North of England F.C. Nevers (approx 5,000 birds), 4th Doncaster Federation Poitiers, 15th Sect 24th open G.N.E.F.C. Clermont (942 birds), 1st Yorkshire Continental Rennes (670 birds). What a pigeon! No wonder they called him ‘The Racing Machine’. Workman was also the sire of The Texas Star, sold in Dallas, Texas, in 1975 for approx £1,192. This Baker blue pied champion was a character and was a firm favorite at the Louella Stud. He was just above medium, and long cast in the hand, with nice wide flights and good eye-sign.
At this point John Massarella came into the loft and Jack Paley introduced us to him. He was soon telling us about the old Massarella racing team of Kirkpatrick, Snowball and Marriot pigeons, and said that probably his father's biggest thrill racing was when he won the Orchardson Trophy in the Pau National. I asked if he had any preference of type when buying a champion and he said he hadn't handled a real champion pigeon with a weak back, or bad feathering, and he had never seen an under or over sized champion. He said ten different men would probably pick out ten different pigeons as perfection if they handled the Louella champions, so how do you define a perfect type? If a man inspected any true champion he would rarely fault it badly in the hand. John's favourite pigeon was the Workman and told me he never looked sick or sorry, but always looked well. He said he didn't mean to be unfair to the other champions at the stud that day but at that time the great Solway King was the all-time favorite of the Louella Lofts, without a doubt.
When pairing the pigeons, performance was considered but mostly they tried to pair to a type although he said it is sometimes hard with some continental families. They were very happy with the good reports of the Vanhee pigeons and John maintained a weekend hardly went by without someone ringing up and saying they had won with one and could they have a repeat order. John thought short and middle distance racing, which is 90% of the season, is commonsense and routine as far as management goes. He said when he was racing, the birds had a 50 mile toss every morning, Monday to Friday, and would fly around the loft for an hour in the afternoons. He would train bad days when other fanciers wouldn't although they wouldn't go the full 50 miles. He told novices that bad pigeons cost as much to keep as good ones and if they go to a top man for stock, there is no guarantee they will be champions in 12 months but the chances of achieving this are higher.
The next pigeon we looked at was very near to Jack Paley's heart, that being the 13 year old mealy cock, champion Woodsider. He was Britain's long distance record holder, winning 1st open B.B.C. Palamos (861 miles) (788 birds) beating his nearest rival by 31 y.p.m and flying 163 miles further. This great pigeon was bred and raced by Jack Paley and he was of the Westcott and Osman bloodlines. The Woodsider family had great eye-sign and Jack told us that at one eye-sign show (with 100 birds entered) Woodsider was 3rd, his sire was 7th and his sire's nest mate was 1st! We saw the Vanhee champion Argenton but we couldn't handle him as he was out in his flight. He had won 49 top prizes in National, Provincial and Regional races, winning over £2,000. I looked at one of my favourites next, the Vanhee champion Motta, who was purchased in 1975 for what was then the record price of £6,000. A young bird from Motta was sold for $3,100 (approx £1,500) in November 1975 and that was a world record price for a youngster. The Vanhee's hailed Motta the king and in his fantastic racing career he won 75 prizes at all distances, and £6,285. He was a larger type pigeon, with nice wide flights, and it looked like someone had painted his black splashes on; his markings were magnificent and very unusual.
After my very much enjoyed inspection of the champions we headed down the loft in the opposite direction and entered three sections which housed sons and daughters of British champions such as Solway King, Stranraer Simon, Workman etc. In one of these sections we saw champion Man Friday. He was there because he likes a nest box to breed in and not the breeding pens. He was a Kirkpatrick and winner of 1st open S.N.F.C. Nantes (572 miles). I asked John how many sons and daughters he had off Solway King and his answer was a healthy 34. In the next section we saw sons and daughters of Bliksem, Motta, Argenton etc., and some imported birds from Vanhee and Mark Roosens. Jack said there were not many Roosens pigeons coming into the country because Roosens at that time was asking £500 for anything that left his loft. When we moved on we saw the newest introduction in the Louella stud, the imported Beuselinck/Cattrysse pigeons, which were mainly blues and blue pieds. Mons Beuselinck was a son-in-law of the late Cattrysse Brothers and he then managed the Brothers pigeons, hence the name Beuselinck/Cattrysse. In the last section we saw some Delbars including champion Irish Mint. This cock wasn't only an outstanding racer but was the sire of many winners including a 1st and 2nd open L.N.F.C winner, both in the same season. He was the sire of champion Mary Ann winner of lst Open L.N.F.C. Nantes (2,150 birds) who was also at the Louella Stud. Also in this section were some imported direct Janssens and these were a bit special.One pair sent over by the Janssen Brothers was a brother-sister mating and they said they would breed winners and they had!
I didn't in fact meet Louis Massarella as he was tied up with business at the time of my first visit, but I met him many times through the years after that! John Massarella and Jack Paley were very helpful and made that day in 1977 a great day to remember. I hope my readers have enjoyed this little look back at a bit of pigeon history! The Massarella family have done a lot for the sport of pigeon racing through the years and as I’ve previously stated, have made quality pigeons affordable to the working man!
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)
Elimar - January 2014