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The farewell of a ‘Flandrien’ !…Georges Bolle
*Georges and Denise… they ended a fantastic career with the title of 1st All-round Champion of Belgium
Kortemark, Belgium - This beautiful summer is over… autumn is here again… last week; we raced our last national race. After the warm summer, Mother Nature is desperate for water, and the abundant rainfall of the last days has done a lot of good.
No Sir… this is Edewalle!
Although in the small hamlet of Kortemark, the natives stand their ground when it comes to their origins. Inhabitants of neighbouring villages scornfully used to call Edewalle ‘the woods’. A huddle of houses surrounded by a forest… but with their own small chapel and schoolhouse, they have always taken care of their own affairs there… and that has led to jealousy. In the past Edewalle was a reputed pigeon stronghold… now, the fanciers there are themselves an endangered species! You need a magnifying glass to find them.
Through the entire melee though, one fancier managed to keep the banner flying… Georges Bolle. But the passing of time has even conquered the toughest of all ‘Flandriens’. Georges has thrown in the towel… problems with the knees… problems with ‘the breathing’. But he said farewell as a real champion befits… by winning All-round Champion of Belgium for the fourth time in his career… the best championship to win because it must be won on the basis of national results.
Son of his father
Georges was born in 1936 in Ichtegem, as fourth in a family of 10 children… and has at present seen 77 summers. His father was a farmer who kept a couple of pigeons above the stables… also during the war, when it was forbidden.
“Actually, I started with the pigeon sport when I was still very young… I think I was barely 14 years old. Father was not a dedicated fancier… I used to ignore his well meant advice and fairly soon I started racing with my own pigeons. Pigeons that I was given by friends… which was no problem then, because almost everyone in the ‘Houtland’ raced with pigeons. I raced from Arras and Breteuil… with a loft of two feet square. The orange boxes from the fruit merchant close by were my ideal nest boxes… and I won my prizes! The passion for pigeons and the pigeon sport was a bit tempered when I discovered the pleasures of going out… my 21 months of military service in Germany… and all the while keeping my eyes open for the right girl. After my marriage in 1959 I didn’t keep pigeons for a year… in the early Sixties, I built a new homestead in this village, and then the out building you can see there. I said to my Denise… let’s build a shed with a second floor where we can keep a few chickens. She believed me… but instead of chickens, I got pigeons of course! I couldn’t get away with that now… but then, young love did wonders. In that time, I already raced from Dourdan and Orleans… but I dreamed of the long-distance. I tried my luck from Angouleme, and it worked. By 1976 I raced almost the entire program… in 1977; I participated in all races of West Flanders and the Inter Provincials. That was when I won the All Round Championship for the first time, and 1st with the yearlings. My dream had come true!”
The rain lashes against the windows… his gaze drifts over the fields… his thoughts turn to ‘then’… when it all still had to begin. The cup of coffee disappears in those big hands of his when he remembers.
With his height of 1.90 meter… his 108 kilograms… and his hands as shovels, he is still an imposing figure. The rough exterior with the soft heart, who values his pigeons as if they were the most precious jewels… who every year scatters 50 kilograms of linseed for the finches that live in the wild. To catch them? No, not at all… he enjoys the birds much more in the wild… and wouldn’t like to see them in a cage. There was that one finch once… 12 or 13 years old… that he wanted to set free. He opened the door of the cage but every evening, the bird was back on its perch. Now, it can stay forever… that is Georges Bolle…!
National Results 1982 : 1e Nat Limoges 8.784 d 1986 : 1e Nat. Dax 781 d 1990 : 1e Nat. Limoges jl. 22.506 d 1996 : 1e Nat. Cahors 9.043 d 1998 : 1e Nat. Dax 4.170 d 2006 : 1e Nat. Albi 5.063 d
With gifted pigeons…
As said before, father Richard was a pigeon fancier … and Georges started in the pigeon sport with pigeons given by friends.
In 1963, he made the switch to the middle-distance… and found his first breeding couple. Omer Bouquet from Koekelare worked with the father of Denise on the Railway, and he gave Georges a son from his famous ‘Provinciaal’. Georges coupled this cock with a hen from Bertje Verhaegen from Ichtegem… and bred a few pigeons that could fly 400 kilometers with ease.
In 1970, he met Hector Debou from Koekelare… bought from him some 20 pigeons… and managed to obtain from this West-Flemish grand master a fantastic breeding hen out of his renowned breeding couple, the ‘Bourges’ x ”t Oomtje’. The search for ‘long-distance material’ also brought him to Jozef Vandenbroucke from Wielsbeke, from whom he acquired a hen out of the line of the ‘Didi’ and the ‘Moens’.
In the mid Seventies, the switch to the long-distance was made… and on one cold morning the late Gerard Vanhee came calling in Kortemark. The Vanhee family had just won the 1st national Narbonne with the ‘Napoleon’… and Gerard wanted to know if the ‘Debou-duivin’ was for sale. A silly question… but in the end it was agreed that Gerard Vanhee would lend him his earlier acquired national winner from Grijspeerd, if he could take the ‘Debou-duivin’ with him for a couple of eggs. And Bolle could also come and choose a couple of young pigeons out of the complete breeding loft… and Vanhee would give him a free couple on top of that.
Georges went to Wervik… and to the breeding loft of the West-Flemish champions. After due consideration, he decided on a couple of youngsters of about 25 days old. “I will take these”, Bolle said… he put a young pigeon in each of his pockets and descended the stairs… with a protesting Michel in his wake. “I have promised him… and he may have them,” said Gerard. Bolle returned to Kortemark with a son of the ‘Patrick’… out of the ‘Geschelpte Patrick’ x the ‘Monsieurduivin’.
Two super breeders!
The ‘Zoon Patrick’ x ‘Halfzuster 1st national Montauban’ proved to be a fantastic breeding couple. They gave some seven or eight good racing pigeons… one of which was the ‘Rappen’, who won 1st national Limoges in 1982.
Mountains of work… health problems of the daughter-in-law… and to be honest, being a bit fed up with the pigeon sport, Georges sold off most of his pigeons in 1982…except for a few daughters of the famed breeding couple and the young pigeons of 1982.
At the basis of the new colony were foremost the ’145 Duivin’ of 1982 (daughter ‘Zoon Patrick’ x ‘Blauwe Montauban’) x the ’599 Doffer’ (‘Provinciaal’ from Marc Pollin x 1st provincial Bordeaux from Gerard Baert from Torhout). This couple also turned out to be a super couple which produced a dozen excellent long-distance racers… and of which the offspring was also successful in other lofts.
A daughter of this ‘super couple’ became the grandmother of the 1st national Barcelona from Roger Florizoone from Nieuwpoort. And Gaston Devooght from De Haan was very successful with the descendants of the ’145′ x ’599′.
Once again Georges Bolle was firmly established and he had success with this breed until the beginning of the Nineties. Until once more, the urge had gone… In the winter of 1993-1994 there was a public sale that became a great success… and quite a few Bolle-pigeons found their way to the Far East.
By this time George Bolle had retired from work… and Bolle without pigeons was unheard of! With the remaining pigeons… recently purchased pigeons… and loaned pigeons that were returned, the third episode of the Bolle-history was written.
The ’50′… later called the ‘Adjudant’, had earlier been bought by Adhemar Lerno… but was repurchased by Bolle at the public sale of Lerno’s pigeons. It became a top breeder… and father of among others the 1st national Dax… and of the 1st national Cahors!
Also redeemed were… the ’500′, who became mother of the 1st national Cahors… the ‘Peirenduivin’… the sister of the ‘Barcelonatje’… and more. The wonder breeder ‘Adjudant’ traced a line of class through the Bolle-colony. By way of his father, the ‘Adjudant’ was a grandson of the super couple ’599′ x ’145′. By way of his mother, he was a great grandson of the ‘Condor’, who became 5th national Ace pigeon Long-distance in 1988. Hens ‘in the picture’ in the new colony were the ‘Sonneville-duivin’ and the ‘Santens-duivin’.
In later years, top hens were acquired from among others the Brothers Santens from Oudenaarde (5)… Nouwen-Paesen from Kleine Brogel (4)… and Maurice Casaert from Nechin (2). Georges Bolle only buys hens with excellent origins… just because he has an abundance of very good cocks that were all born out of the same family. For that reason, a bit of ‘fresh blood’ is more than welcome. And that ‘fresh blood’ was certainly acquired in 2002, when Georges bought 14 pigeons out of the best birds of Noel Lippens from Aarsele. All these were pigeons with which he was very successful. A son of the ’213/02′ (hen) won the 1st national Albi against 5,063 pigeons in 2006. The two cocks, the ’204/02′ and the ’279/02′ produced very good offspring.
A cock from Gerard Baert, the ‘Barcelona 1′, (half Bolle/half Baert) was a formidable breeder, and a son of his won this year the 89th International Barcelona. A hen from Fernand Malfait became mother of the ’504′, who was an excellent cock.
In addition, a number of fantastic breeding couples were discovered! At least 15 good racers were bred out of the ’204/02′ x ’207/05′. The couple ’279/02′ x ’349/01′ (daughter ‘Wipo’) also reared several good racers… and one of these became mother of the 1st national Bourges for Maurice Casaert. The ‘Barcelona 1′ coupled to several sisters of the ‘Kolonel’… the ‘Barcelona 1′ with the ’213/02′ (Lippens) and with the ’619/02′ (Lippens) gave many good pigeons as well.
These breeding couples formed the basic lines of the Bolle-colony of the past few years. But, Georges’ patience was certainly not endless… the newcomers are given two or three chances with different cocks and if that didn’t work out they had to go !
Many lofts… few pigeons
This year Georges Bolle housed 58 widowers (28 old pigeons and 30 yearlings)… 12 breeding pairs, and in the summer also 110 young pigeons. All together, during the winter, there were 160 pigeons in lofts with ample space for at least 600! Lofts with 12 nesting boxes, of which only three were ‘occupied’, was more the norm than the exception. “Overpopulation is the road that leads to destruction,” says the retired building contractor. “The last years, I didn’t breed any more with the racing pigeons. I only took the eggs of a few of the best couples and moved them to other nests. I now mainly breed with young pigeons. After all, you don’t find any children in an old people’s home’ either. But with eggs out of a good breeding couple, I kept on breeding of course. The last five years, I have mainly entered in the national races. After the race from Limoges, the racing team was divided according to the function of the coming long-distance classics.”
Did you plan the racing strategy beforehand?
“Certainly not… because rigorously following a certain strategy can have adverse effects. I look at the form of a pigeon at the time of basketing. Having given too much in the last race… a difficult recovery… such a pigeon is kept at home for a week or fourteen days! The last thing I will do is to work my pigeons to pieces! A pigeon that is trained well and can fly 400 kilometer, can be entered from any distance without problems. I find a recovery period of at least three weeks ideal.”
Just clocked and already thinking of the next mission?
“That is indeed how you have to do it with the demanding racing schedule of the last years. I never feed the pigeons cleansing mixture… and I know after the first feeding time after they have return from a race which pigeon has given too much of itself. The biggest eaters… which then digest the feed well… are the least tired. A pigeon that has flown itself to a ‘total loss’ is not hungry. The widowers stay with their hen until the next morning… and the first exercise period is not before the Monday morning. This is also a time to keep your eyes open! The pigeon that has come through the race in good condition exercises well… the others will leave the pack before time and return to the roost.”
Feeding with the hand of the master
“During the first week after a race, the pigeons must be ‘your friend’… in other words, they don’t get so much feed as they can eat but have to keep a healthy appetite. It is the restart of the normal feeding schedule… and especially in the beginning; this is done very gradually… Feeding towards the next race is done according to two principles…
a) The pigeons always get pure water in the drinking container! A pigeon has a well developed taste… and when there are medicines or by-products added to the drinking water, the pigeon will automatically drink less. If adding something is absolutely necessary, I will always give some glucose in the water to sweeten it.
b) During the last two weeks of the ‘restart feeding period’ I give natural products over each feed. I only use the products that the pigeons really like… which is especially Zell-Oxygen with glucose.
Keeping the pigeons eating is an important part of the craftsmanship of a fancier… and you can only do that by feeding the pigeons with what they like to eat. Important also is to ensure that the dessert is not given before the main meal… and the last days before basketing, the pigeons mainly get their favourite feed. They also get an extra bit of maize… a little bit of candy seed is always very much appreciated… and also peanuts are eaten with relish. I feed the pigeons individually in the nesting box, and while one bird can have enough after three quarters of a spoon… another bird only stops eating after 1,5 spoon.”
Medicines in moderation
We already know that Georges Bolle is no medication fanatic! “The vet is only consulted for the classic inoculations. When my pigeons are ill… I will see for myself!
During the first breeding period I treat them against worms. Fourteen days before the start of the racing season, they get a full week treatment against trichomonas. My philosophy is that if you do ‘something’ you must do it well! When, during the racing season, the pigeons return home a bit more ‘fatigued’… or when they produce a little less droppings… then, a few times a season, I will treat them against tricho (B.S. de Weerd) for three days. Against the head illnesses in old pigeons I have never given much during my whole career as a fancier. I think that this ailment is ‘strain related’.
I may sound a bit old fashioned, but I still believe in stimulating the natural resistance in pigeons. Especially important in all this is avoiding overpopulation.
I like to see my pigeons fly… and winter and summer… in all types of weather, the pigeons are released. Ventilation in the loft is plenty, also during the winter period. When it’s winter, it’s winter… when it’s summer, it’s summer… especially in a pigeon loft!”
Results 2013 Montélimar Nat. 5952 o.d.: 58, 203, 363, 1039 (4/6) Cahors reg. 499 o.d.: 1, 37, 65, 80, 103 (5/9) Inter-Westvl. 1167 o.d.: 7, 134, 206, 249, 325 Montauban reg. 227 o.d.: 5, 6, 16, 21, 38, 45, 48, 61, 64 (9/14) Inter-Westvl. 1290 o.d.: 26, 27, 73, 104, 243, 293, 316, 380, 390 Nat. 6772 o.d.: 87, 89, 291, 447, 970, 1135, 1230, 1457, 1488 Agen reg. 189 o.d.: 6, 10, 19, 24 (4/5) Inter-Westvl. 1075 o.d.: 62, 86, 160, 199 Barcelona reg. 546 o.d.: 4, 49 (2/2) Inter-Westvl. 1522 o.d.: 10, 142 Nat. 10542 o.d.: 43, 938 Libourne reg. 112 o.d.: 1, 3 (2/3) Inter-Westvl. 1159 o.d.: 2, 15 Nat. 6658 o.d.: 4, 33 Brive reg. 168 o.d.: 7, 9, 14, 25 (4/5) 121 jl.: 1, 3, 4, 6, 26 (5/6) Inter-Westvl. 1235 jl.: 22, 45, 47, 72, 290 Nat. 6842 jl.: 54, 141, 145, 218, 1131 St. Vincent reg. 112 o.d.: 1, 3, 13 (3/6) Inter-Westvl. 954 o.d.: 13, 20, 79, 310 Nat. 3738 o.d.: 32, 49, 248 Int. 10907 o.d.: 87, 147, 717 Souillac reg. 154 o.d.: 1, 2, 8, 11, 14, 18, 20 (7/10) Inter-Westvl. 1069 o.d.: 10, 13, 54, 74, 91, 101, 118 Nat. 5282 o.d.: 18, 30, 132, 193, 228, 281, 316 Tulle reg. 87 o.d.: 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 20, 21, 24, 29 (10/13) 120 jl.: 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 23 (8/11)
A rigorous selection
A rigorous selection… the springboard to success?
“Every year, I breed 110 young pigeons… these are only trained up to Clermont. The young of the first breeding period can fly up to 300 kilometer. There are always a few good pigeons amongst them … but they have to have a few basic qualities. I like a soft plumage… a somewhat longer model… with preferably an average build, but certainly not too small. And believe it or not… breeding here will always come first to racing. Discovering a good breeding couple still gives me the biggest thrill!
It is also wrong to hold on too long to the ‘monuments’ of your colony! Getting rid of the old racing and breeding team… keeping back a round of young out of this successful basis… taking it easy for a couple of years… and then starting anew. I would recommend it to every established colony.
A young team of pigeons… a fancier who has bought himself new stock… and a new ambition to move mountains… it is the springboard for a next period of success!”
Bolle the professional
And what is the role of the fancier?
“A real fancier… and that is someone who is fancier for 365 days a year… must always be with and around his pigeons. My pigeons are tame… they know my ways… they perch on my shoulders five at a time… they don’t fly off when I clean their nest box. A professional must see it all… but also anticipate and properly intervene. Too much sun… darken the windows. Too cold… provide some extra warmth. One day of 45 degrees C in your loft through oversight and you are done for!
During a good summer… there are usually not many problems. Not paying attention for a moment with changeable weather and you lose the form in a flash. Constantly adjusting the loft to the changing weather to get the most ideal conditions is the task of every pigeon fancier.
And I also make mistakes of course… blunders for which I could box my own ears afterwards. Not enough ventilation… too much draft… too hot… not enough oxygen in the loft… it can happen to me too, but even so I try to keep an eye on things as best I can.
Fancier and pigeons have to be on the same wavelength. A long-distance racer who wants to race the entire program is just as ‘shattered’ as his pigeons at the end of the season. After the last race, I always say to Denise… the war has been fought!”
Georges Bolle is starting to show signs of old age ailments. Stiff knees… not enough breath… it doesn’t make attending to the pigeons any easier. During the summer months he had a lot of help; otherwise he would have stopped even sooner. The pigeons were sold to other countries, all but about 20… Because Bolle without pigeons is even more unthinkable than a bar without beer. They are mostly old pigeons that he kept for his own pleasure, but participating in races, he will never do that again.
Especially the young fancier Jan Schepens from Edewalle has helped Georges with basketing the pigeons this summer, and Georges shall assist this young fancier in the coming years.
But the ‘last of the Flandriens’ has said farewell in style by this year winning the All-round Champion of Belgium … the championship that lies closest to his heart!
With winning this championship in 1982… 1989… 1991… and 2013 he has realized a unique series!