“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
LOOKING BACK OVER THE YEARS (PART 30.)
The Would Famous Louella Lofts (Part 1.)
I think every pigeon fancier has, at some time, enjoyed a good day out at the Louella Pigeon World in Leicester! I’ve had several visits through the years and had some very interesting phone conversations with the late, Louis Massarella, owner of this wonderful pigeon stud. Louis passed away several years ago and the sport of pigeon racing lost one it’s great fanciers and characters. He gave a lot to our sport through the years and made quality pigeons affordable to the working man. I first visited the Massarella stud in 1977, when I was scribing for the Pigeon Racing ‘Gazette’ and was invited up to Leicester, with an article in mind. The Massarella family were so helpful that the finish write up was over six pages long and ran over two months. These articles are over 40 years old now and for bit of interest, I’m going to run them again in out ‘Look Back’ article!
I made my visit to the Louella stud in mid-June and because of the freedom I was given in the lofts, and the wealth of matter I received this report will be in two parts, to be continued next week. I made the 100 miles trip up the Ml to Leicester with three good friends and we arrived at Louis Massarella's farm at 12.30hrs, to be welcomed by the newly appointed loft manager, Jack Paley. I had spoken to a Mr. Paley many times on the phone when arranging this visit but I didn't know until I met him that he was the Jack Paley of 'Woodsider' fame.
He ushered us into the new showroom where fanciers come on open days and purchase first class stock at very reasonable prices. This light and airy place was very nicely set out with show pens and photos of the many champions at the stud, around the walls. It was opened in that November and open weekends took place in the winter, when about 250 old birds were for sale every open weekend. During the summer, open days took place on Sundays, (as fanciers are racing on Saturdays) and about 100 young birds were put up for sale on these days. There was a large car park surrounded with green fields and coach parties were welcomed. After we had inspected the showroom, Jack took us to his cottage for a meal which his wife, Shirley, had prepared for us, after which we sat and talked about the sport in general.
At that time The Louella Stud had just purchased 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 prices, 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.
Jack Paley looked after the continental strains and Louis Massarella's son, John, ran the British families. Stocks of most corns and seeds were kept and they made up their own mixtures to what they thought the birds need. Only first class corn was fed and Jack said it was better than the corn he used to give champion 'Woodsider.' The pigeons for sale were housed in 16 sections behind the showroom and were split into their different strains, etc. The champions and their sons and daughters were bred in what Louis Massarella called the racing loft, which was by the side of the stock sections and, in fact, this was the old Massarella loft which Louis used to race to. John lived 12 miles away and a lot of breeding went on at his home. Louis also had five stud stallions at the Kirby Park farm, two of which were direct sons of Derby winners, and these stallions served about 300 mares between mid-April and mid-August.
Louis Massarella started up in the sport at the age of nine with sub-standard birds obtained from everywhere, including the local fish market. The first good birds were obtained from Louis good friend, George Jarmy of Norwich, an Ace flyer of the 1920's. When he was 17 years old he had to give up pigeons to join the family's Ice Cream business, although the young Louis wasn't keen on the trade. At 21 he was manager of the family farms at Hugglescote and he visited a lot of fanciers in this area, although it was many years before he started up again. Louis finally began again at the age of 32, with birds purchased from Reg Hamblin of Leicester, and they included some of his best birds, such as `Newmarket King' his six-times Lerwick cock and sons and daughters of 'Newmarket Queen,' the King's Cup winner. Later, Louis obtained `Newmarket Queen' but previous to this Mr. Hamblin bred the dam of champion 'Twilight' from this hen. He purchased a pair of Hansenne x Jurion Blue Pieds from Mr. Brookes of Bromsgrove and the cock NURP 42 K 3532 was the winner of eleven times lst and three times lst Federation. This pair bred `Champion Snowball' for the Massarella loft and he was twenty times a prize winner in twenty two races including twice 1st South Section, 2nd Open G.N.R. Thurso Combine and Spitfire Trophy winner 1953. He was always on the look out for good pigeons and many more champions were introduced, including champion 'Twilight' at the cost of £625 in 1960. John Massarella rated `Twilight' as the greatest Pau King George V Cup winner ever. Louis didn't only purchase the great 'Twilight' for her outstanding performances, but also because she was a granddaughter of his first King's Cup purchase, 'Newmarket Queen,' and would strengthen his original Hamblin family.
In 1961 the great `Solway King' was purchased from Irving & Johnstone and John Massarella rated him as the all-time great of Louella lofts at that time, and I second that! Not only was he a champion racer, winning 1st Section, 1st Open S.N.F.C. Rennes, 11th Section, 31st Open S.N.F.C. Rennes, 17th Section, 96th Open S.N.F.C. Rennes, but he was a champion breeder and it's said his best mating was with the great `Griselda.' Champion 'Solway King' died 2nd January 1977 at the age of 22 years old and was filling his eggs up to the age of 18 years old. `Townfoot Goodboy III' and 'Lancashire Rose' were purchased in 1964 and 'High Noon' in 1965. Champion 'Lancashire Rose' was bred by Hugh Sutton and raced by J. O. Warren & son, and was the record long distance Pau National King's Cup winner, flying 722 miles. The great Rene Boizard hen, `Louvre II,' was introduced in 1967 and she was the winner of 1st, 4th, 5th & 9th open Barcelona (590 miles) National four consecutive years. 'Ramses' the champion Dordin cock was imported from France and 'Mausi' from West Germany in 1968. Louella lofts saw the great champion `Stranraer Simon' introduced in 1969 and one of the reasons for purchasing this 1st open S.N.F.C. Rennes winner, was because his pedigree goes back on four lines to one of the Massarella early purchases, `Galabank Producer.'
Louis Massarella finished his very full and highly successful racing career in 1964 and has been selling progeny off his champions since. He was an `ace' from all distances, North and South, having timed three birds in from the Shetlands in 18 seconds and three birds from Pau to win the Orchardson Trophy for best average in the National in the North Road Federation. He won 120 times in the first six in four consecutive seasons. His last year of racing in 1964, was an outstanding year on the road winning 28 positions out of a possible 30 in the South Section of the Derbyshire North Road Federation in three consecutive weeks, in the N.R.C.C. young bird race winning 19 Open positions in the first 63, taking 7th, 14th, 16th, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 29th, 30th, 34th, 38th, 48th, 50th, 52nd, 53rd, 54th, 59th, 62nd, 63rd flying in the great North Road Berwick Combine, winning 5th, 11th, 16th, 19th, 22nd open and finishing the season winning 1st Leicestershire Federation Lerwick and 2nd Derbyshire Fed Lerwick. Great stuff!
The Louella lofts gave a tremendous amount of pigeons to charity sales every year and that year Louis donated a Vauxhall Chevette G.L.S. Estate car and 19 other prizes for a Grand Draw in aid of the 1977 Blackpool Olympiad. The nineteen other prizes were direct children from his Louella champions, 'Bliksem,' 'Motta,' ‘Argenton’, 'Workman,' etc., and in terms of cash the donation totals approx £5,000. The Chevette was won by Mr. Fred Griffin of Chippenham, Wilts, and Louis Massarella presented the car to him at one of the Louella stud open days. The stud had started a new thing that year to help Federations and clubs raise money for transporter funds, etc., by giving them six top class young birds for a special reduced price and the Federation or club could auction them off. About ten clubs had gone into it that season with great success and in one batch a very inbred young bird to `Motta' was sent out and raised £78, which was big money at that time.
Champion `Townfoot Good Boy 111’ died on that 22nd June, in fact, two days after my visit, at 17 years old. This great old Mealy Cock was bred and raced by David Angus of Symmington and he won 1st Open S.N.F.C. Rennes (524 miles) in 1962. He was bred down from Bricoux bloodlines and was introduced into the Louella stud in 1964 at the cost of £600.
In part one we have had the late great Louis Massarella the 'ace' racer and in part two we have a report on my inspection of the Louella stud and the champions at the Leicester establishment in 1977. I also interviewed John Massarella, so read about this great fancier’s ideas and views the next article.
The World Famous Louella Lofts (Part 2.)
In this article 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 40 years ago.
To say the 100 miles trip to Leicester, for my visit to the Louella Lofts, was worthwhile would be an under-statement. 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 is changed twice a day. The contents of each nest box is 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 11' This handsome cock was a large, 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 champions racers I handled didn't carry an ounce of fat. The first two champions I inspected were the two Kirkpatricks `Stranrae ' 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 'Stranrae Simon.' He looked really great for a 12 year old and handled just under medium with a long cast. He has 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 prices, 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 he has 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 greatest performance from Pau, second to none. The Dordin champion 'Ramses' was another good type pigeon, although he shows his 14 years a bit. He was one of the first Dordins imported by Louis Massarella and is a son of the great `Neon,' sire of two National winners. 'Ramses' had a nice eye and Shovel flights, and he has 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 the Louella stud 'Dark Flash' was paired to champion 'Misty Lady' which I think was an excellent mating, as she has 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 has ten times 1st to her credit in all, a great pigeon. We then looked at the winner of eleven first in club, Federation and Open competition, RCC, 'The Saint.' After this great Gurney 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 call 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 oversized 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 favorite pigeon was the champion `Workman,' and told me he never looks sick or sorry, but always looks well. He says he doesn't mean to be unfair to the other champions at the stud today 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 try and 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 have won with one and can 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 is 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 31ypm and flying 163 miles further. This great pigeon was bred and raced by Jack Paley and he was of the Westcott and Osman blood lines. The 'Woodsider' family have great eye-sign and Jack told us that at one eye-sign show (with 100 birds entered) 'Woodsider' was 3rd, his sire was 7tth 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 favorites 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,' `Stranrae 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 leaves his loft. When we moved on we saw the newest introduction in the Louella stud. The imported Beuselinck/Cattrysse pigeons, which are 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 is 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)