Together with Rik we set off for the De Duif offices today for a visit from Brian Bolton, an English pigeon fancier who because of his passion, racing pigeons, emigrated to Belgium.
Brian is a man of passion and perfection and above all a man with one mission: to win against the best.
Brian Bolton was born in the 1950’s in Bridlington, a British coastal town with 35,000 inhabitants in the North East, English county of East Riding of Yorkshire. This charming seaside resort is reminiscent of the old Belgian seaside towns except there are no ugly high-rise buildings on the horizon.
Young Brian’s father was a driver for a local horse stud farm and his mother worked as a home help for senior citizens. He wore shorts to the local Burlington Junior School and graduated to long pants when he attended the Upper Headlands School in Bridlington.
Until he went to Belgium he always remained proud of his home town and one day he will undoubtedly return.Brian’s career as a pigeon fancier is downright impressive. He is a man of hard work and his pigeons have to be the same way because “good pigeons have to be able to handle multiple distances, and race conditions and that makes sure of selection”. One of his many pigeon ‘Pearls of Wisdom’.A statement that typifies him and that immediately sets the tone of the conversation.No nonsense, that’s his style. No beating around the bush, he doesn’t have time for that either. Rarely have I come across someone like this who is so fanatically engaged in his sport. The passion and love for his feathered athletes radiates from him.Thanks to his British flair and casualness, the ice was already broken after five seconds. Something tells me the next hour is going to be exciting. Judge for yourself!
The birth of a pigeon fancier…
DD: Brian thanks for visiting us here today. We’re going to have a nice chat about pigeons and let’s start at the beginning.Tell us about the young Brian Bolton.
BB: From an early age I loved animals and I had my first pigeons somewhere around 1958.From eight to fourteen years old I really only played a bit with the pigeons.From the age of eleven, however, I also often went to the local stables where my father worked, they bred and trained racehorses there. I loved the atmosphere of racing, winning and getting over the line first. It was fantastic.
When I was fifteen years old I became an apprentice jockey and then there was no time for pigeons.When I was eighteen I started back with the pigeons and started racing.
The owner of the stables knew a pigeon fancier and arranged some pigeons for me. He was also a generous man and gave me some wood with which my father then diligently put together a pigeon loft. I started then once again with pigeons and I have never stopped since.
DD: Why did you quit the horses and start back with the pigeons? Was the love for the horses then suddenly over?
BB: No I still loved the horses but I’m a winner, I want to contest and win contests. I also want to have everything under my own control! To own a racing stable would never have been possible due to money, it costs a fortune. So I returned to the Pigeon Sport, which is cheaper.We have a saying, “pigeons are a poor man’s race horses” (“the racehorses of the little man”). (Laughs)
I joined the local club. It counted 75 members at that time, including twenty young ones like me. I did not really know much then about pigeons specifically, and I relied on knowledge that I gained from taking care of horses.That first year I was lucky right away winning first prizes and became the best novice.
After that I continued winning first prizes. I have also continued taking care of my pigeons based on my horse knowledge and I do it like this up to the present day.
DD: Can you explain a little more what you mean by that? Pigeons are not horses, you cannot saddle them up!
BB: (laughs) No indeed, but they are never the less still animals. I told you I love all animals.What it comes down to with both horses and pigeons is to have the right feeling for animals. Taking care of animals is not a science; you simply need to have an instinct. You either have it or you don’t.
I had it with horses and also have it with pigeons.A more specific example is that I also train pigeons as horses. You train a horse within its limits and not the full distance of the race, you gradually build up training and you save your athlete. You must aim to let them peak at exactly the right time.The right time of the year, and on the right day.
You have to make sure they are in top condition but without overtraining them. They should not be tired and agitated, but rested and relaxed.I don’t exercise any pigeon more than one time per day … ever!
But also when it comes to feeding I take my inspiration from the horse world. For my whole career I feed heavy, fatty foods. I even literally fed my pigeons “horse beans”. (Fava beans) This heavy, fatty feeding I will continue to do.
The emergence of a champion
DD: Continue with the course of your pigeon career. So you were immediately successful as young fancier?
BB: That’s right, but then I was about to receive a bit of good luck, in 1971 I think it was, something happened that was to prove very decisive for my further life as a pigeon fancier. In our club raced a fancier named Mr. Albert Sedman, a man who was years ahead of his time.
He was not only quite a gentleman but also the best fancier of the very strong Yorkshire Middle Route Federation an organisation that covered almost the entire area of Yorkshire. You should know that Yorkshire is bigger than Flanders.So, everyone wanted pigeons from him, advice and tips.
However, he was not the type to offer pigeons or words.
One day I passed his house while riding. Suddenly I saw a pigeon in front of the loft in his garden covered in oil. I got off my horse, and started knocking on his door with my whip until someone answered and told him about the little pigeon that needed help.The following week at the club he invited me to visit his loft. I was as happy as a child that I was allowed to visit him as I was aware it was a rare privilege.
Can you imagine how even more happy I was when he presented me with a young pigeon. I felt as rich as a King. No one could buy his pigeons and I actually got one given to me.
We spent another two hours that day just chatting. It clicked between us. He had lost his son to cancer. His son was around my age when he died, so perhaps I reminded him of his son somewhere.Maybe I was a bit of a substitute for his son.
DD: And you suddenly had a pigeon father and a mentor!
BB: Absolutely, that is what he was. I learned an incredible amount from him. Albert wrote everything down meticulously in his pigeon diaries. I still have all of them and I still browse through them regularly. Today I still learn from his wisdom very much.
Even though the pigeon sport has changed a lot after all of these years – we train differently, we feed differently, and race using different systems – but the basics remains the same.It was very unfortunate that he also got cancer the following year.
To relieve him I helped him to race with his young pigeons. So I raced with my own pigeons at my loft at home and with his pigeons with him at his loft. That year we became 1st and 2nd champions with the youngster’s, with a street length ahead of the rest. A year later he unfortunately died. (Silence)
DD: But your pigeon career was now established?
BB: Indeed, I won a lot in the following years with first prizes ranging from 80 to 550 miles (130-900 km) and also included winning some big races, against good fanciers and against many pigeons, sometimes against more than 10,000 entries.
But I was never satisfied, I always wanted more and better. Always trying to improve. I raced both hens and cocks on widowhood for the first time in 1978. With this system I won immediately, so the system worked for me and my pigeons.
So it has been my entire pigeon career. I watch, listen, learn and try; I am constantly busy with the pigeons ‘up here’. (He taps his forehead)
DD: In 1982 you formed the legendary partnership Bolton and Williamson. How does a passionate perfectionist and individual like you get involved with someone else?
BB: John (Williamson) and I had been best friends for year’s best friends, best pigeon friends too. We weren’t really competitors either. John was a specialist of shorter distance races and I was more the man for the longer races. The flights from “over the water”.
Around 1980 I started to suffer with my breathing. The diagnosis turned out to be pigeon lung and the doctors advised me to stop with the pigeons, otherwise I would likely be sitting in a wheelchair within three years.This was a real bolt from the blue.Pigeons were my life and my passion.
What could I do now? I became aware of a hospital in Glasgow that had two specialist doctors that were themselves pigeon fanciers and had committed themselves to research into pigeon lung.
The following week I traveled to Scotland and my friend John accompanied me for moral support. The doctors subsequently diagnosed that I indeed had a serious case of pigeon lung. Thanks to their medical knowledge and their knowledge of the pigeon sport they could however offer a lot of tips and advice to keep the risks as small as possible.
So according to them, I could take sensible precautions and continue keeping the pigeons.On the way home from Scotland, John and I decided to join forces. By racing together as a duo we could divide the jobs and in this way it was practical for me. I had less work with the pigeons and above all I didn’t have to do the jobs that were bad for my lungs.
DD: So what do you do to help with your health?
BB: A lot, actually. Just like the sport itself it is a matter of paying attention to many small details. Of course I take as few pigeons in the hand as possible and for 30 years I have watched the birds a lot and observed more.
I use open baskets when taking the birds training and create a flow system. The pigeons are also trained to be basketed as calmly as possible, because so much less dust flies around the quieter they are. I do everything to my keep pigeons as calm as possible at all times.
Eight pigeons in a basket that can hold fourteen, always helps the pigeons to keep calm.My pigeons often get a warm bath. Good against the dust and the pigeons enjoy it, they are relaxed.
When I release pigeons for exercise around the loft, I spend a lot attention to train them to re enter when I want. I never let them fly for longer than one hour, and when they are given the signal to return they have to learn to trap immediately. Even if they have not actually exercised sufficiently, they still have to be called in after one hour and come right in within one minute when I call them.
Rest is very important in a pigeon loft. There are always cameras in my lofts. So I can observe the pigeons, but nowadays also the other loft helpers. I want them to calm everything down and do nothing too quickly, that causes stress. Peace is good for the health of the pigeons, and also for mine.
I give the pigeons a lot of rest. It sometimes happens that they only exercise outside for the first time on Tuesday and again on Wednesday and then they are basketed on Thursday.
Sometimes I also dare to let them spend a week “resting” and enter no races if the pigeons are not to my liking. The week before we won Issoudun, the pigeons flew a shorter flight from Quievrain instead of Argenton.
The pigeon lung limits my actions with the pigeons, but I have learned to live with it. I must as crying is easy.
DD: The consequence of all of this was of course that there was a very successful pigeon partnership born!
BB: You can say that again. We won a lot of first prizes and sometimes an impressive series such as 1-2-3-4 and even 1-2-3-4-5-6 against more than 5000 pigeons.
In 1993 we were the first fanciers to darken our youngsters in the UK. I picked that up somewhere from a small fancier in Belgium, I think somewhere in Brabant. I don’t even remember his name anymore, maybe due to age! (Laughs).
I used to visit so many fanciers in Belgium and it was not always to a great name at all. Although I don’t remember his name I listened to his explanation and I saw something in this system that would be useful for us.
Our pigeons already flew very well but after introducing this young bird darkening system they flew even better, this took the results of our birds into the super league.
In 1995 we moved to a new loft. We settled our birds to the new location and that year we won three Ace Pigeons Awards in the RPRA North-East Region. We once won 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11 against more than 4000 pigeons.Every year we raced sixty youngsters and I may say that especially with the pigeons from Bob McDonald and Planet Brothers Van Loon we were very successful. The latter we obtained from the Planet Brothers of Essex. They themselves raced fantastically well with their Van Loon and Janssen pigeons.
Premier Stud, 2005-2009
DD: In 1999 this fairy tale came to an end. John and you called it quits.
BB: Yes, my pigeon lung didn’t get any better and in the end I had way too much contact with pigeons. We then stopped racing and have sold all the pigeons.
DD: But the urge came returned anyway?
BB: Of course! In 2004 I was approached by Graham Sparks. Graham owned a very large caravan park with more than 500 caravans.
He had started racing the pigeons two years earlier, but without much success.He proposed that I come and work for him. Racing with his pigeons and advising him what to buy for the breeding loft.I agreed and so I became the general loft manager at Premier Stud.
Together with Graham I also visited the Netherlands and Belgium very often. Visiting Belgian and Dutch top lofts to buy pigeons, because here are “the good ones”.
On our first visit we went home with 24 pigeons from Leo Heremans, and later another 200 would follow, including children of all the toppers such as “De Jan”.Among other things, we got from Dirk Van Dyck nine pigeons direct from the “Kannibaal”. Direct from “Kleine Dirk” and “Golden Lady” from Gerard Koopman.
Anyway, all top pigeons from top lofts. I still forget so many, Kees Bosua, Van de Wouwer, Geerinckx and of course “Berreke” Derwa.
DD: So from then on you started racing the pigeons again but not your own?
BB: Yes, but by now I also a loft back at home! (Laughs)
There Michelle did a lot of the care and the tasks that were not good for my health. I commuted every day from home to the “stud” fifty miles away and back. That’s how I raced in two lofts within the same Federation.
In the second year we raced from the two lofts and between us we won seven first prizes from ten races!
Through Graham Sparkes I first met Ed Sittner an American and business partner of Graham. Undoubtedly this was a turning point in my life because suddenly my big dream came into the picture?
DD: Your big dream?
The Belgian years:Sittner-Premier-Bolton, 2009-2011
BB: Racing the pigeons in Belgium to see how I measured up with the sport’s top fanciers. That was my dream and suddenly I got the chance.
Ed Sittner was a builder from Las Vegas. He lived for ten months of the year in Vegas and two months a year he came help with the youngsters in Merksplas. Ed had a house with pigeon lofts in Merksplas and was looking for someone for his pigeons.
Michelle and I then decided on the jump to Belgium, we rented our house in Bridlington and moved to Merksplas I didn’t get paid, I didn’t want that. When you get paid then you have a boss and you have to listen to him. When it comes to pigeons I don’t want to answer to any boss, and I want to be able to do my own thing. So, no pay. We could of course live in the house for free and I got some expenses reimbursed. I received my income from the rental of my home in England.
In Merksplas we raced for two full seasons, and we won 3x 1st provincial and from Bourges in 2011 we scored no less than 7 old birds and 7 yearlings in the top 100 national. I raced with the pigeons bred by Ed Sittner and Premier who then had a loft with many Bosua pigeons.
We competed in the great Antwerp Union, including 1-2-3-4 against 4302 pigeons and that is pigeon sport at a very top level, right there.
Unfortunately, after that super season Ed decided to sell everything. The house, the lofts and the pigeons. I could have seen this as the end of my Belgian dream, but rather I saw it as the beginning. Thanks to this short cooperation part of my dream was already realised, I had already raced and won in Belgium!
I lived in the Mecca of pigeon racing. Finally I could measure up to the greats. I had already proven that I could hold my own there too. My big dream, of winning a Belgian National had come a little closer.
Now it was time for the next step.
Bolton-Van Tilburg, 2012-2015
DD: And that next step was a switch to the Netherlands?
BB: That’s partially true. After finishing in Merksplas, I received an offer from Ronny Van Tilburg from Baarle-Hertog. Due to the location of this border village we could race in both Belgium and the Netherlands.In the Netherlands we raced under the name Van Tilburg Premier UK and in Belgium as Bolton-Van Tilburg. That way we could optimally use both flight programs.
I went for Ronny to do what I did for Ed and I may say again with success. In the Netherlands we won 3x 1st NPO and also 3rd, 7th and 9th national in Belgium.
DD: And if I’m not mistaken, with Ronny you also started your own line of Pigeon Feed?
BB: That’s right; Ronny also owns the well-known Pigeon and Pet Feed Warehouse in Baarle-Hertog. Together we developed a feed based on my own system. I don’t use anything else.
My system is based on three types of feed. The Brian Top 1 “Start”, the Brian Top 2 “Widowhood” and the much fattier Brian Top 3 “Energy”. I feed a lot of “fatty” food, and they are also allowed eat as much as they want, the food remains in front of the birds the whole day. Only difference is on the days that they are basketed for the races, and then they only get food during their morning feed. I have used this system all of my life and with success.
The only thing I changed after I got to Belgium is I feed even heavier because the pigeons here have to perform more intensely than in the UK. We combine the mixes and there are fixed feeding schedules, but I often deviate from them. As with basically everything in the pigeon sport I feed according to circumstances and feeling.
That certainly does not mean that I am erratic with what I do! I take into account the previous flight, I think of the following flight. I think about everything I do, but in the end it is my ‘gut feeling’ that decides.
In everything that I do I like to do well as I am also a perfectionist. My pigeons in the race baskets take a drink from my own sterilized drinking troughs that I hang inside the basket. On the inside because then they shouldn’t put their heads out of the basket.
Reijnen-Bolton loft, 2016-present
BB: Unfortunately for various reasons this fairytale collaboration with Ronny also came to an end in 2015.
I did not have to wait very long as I soon received an offer to become the loft manager for Eric Reijnen in the Dutch town of Alphen.I had met Eric at a one-loft race in England sometime in 2009 I think. A bit later I met him again in China and it clicked between us.
Eric owns two Indonesian restaurants in Alphen and Tilburg So these days I have no lack of good food. (Laughs)Here too it went smoothly again, we stacked up the first places. We won several times 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4 and even 1-2-3-4-5-6 plus other chain results. We also won several championships in The Netherlands.Actually, championships and other rankings are not for me, I want to win the first! You can become champion by placing a pigeon four times in the top 100 with the best result being a 12th place. That’s not really winning for me. That’s winning by numbers, and of course says something about the quality of the fancier and the pigeons, but for me it is not winning.
Winning for me has to be the first to cross the line!Anyway, luckily we regularly finished first. (Laughs)
DD: But now you only raced in the Netherlands and no longer in Belgium, your dream! So why do you really want to race in Belgium?
BB: Because in Belgium are the best fanciers with the best pigeons. There are several reasons and of course there is the history and the tradition.
The Pigeon Sport has been here for a long time, and although the numbers have diminished, there is still a lot. To fly against good and many competitors you get better yourself. They drive each other to a higher level.I also believe the system has a role to play.
I race a lot and during the season from different disciplines. In my opinion this will increase the quality. Although I myself don’t specialize, I always have to compete against the specialists. My pigeons have to be able to handle that. And again, you become better yourself by competing against the best. You also get stronger pigeons in this way.
In England and also in the Netherlands they race in zones so they actually fly in tunnels. This results in tunnel flyers (“followers”) and they are not smart enough. This way selection becomes more difficult.
In Belgium the good races are competed for more “broadly “and one thing is for sure, in Belgium you race at the very top!
Reijnen-Bolton-De Hoogh, 2017-present
DD: But again, meanwhile you did not race any longer in Belgium!
BB: And that continued to irritate me. Therefore in 2017 we had the use of a piece of land at Claudia Manders in Baarle and built a loft.
At the beginning of 2019 Gert-Jan de Hoogh also joined us, he helps me with the general care, I cannot be in two places at the same time.Of course I was to experienced my peak here as a pigeon fancier.
Finally my big dream was achieved. In 2019 I won for the first time a National victory in Belgium, 1st National Chateauroux (against 19,529 youngsters). And to make the fairytale even more beautiful we achieved our second national this year in 2020, 1st National Issoudun (18,176 yearlings)
DD: Which of the two was the nicest?
BB: Hard to say. It is like asking which of your children you prefer, you cannot choose between them. Of course, just like with children, the first remains the first, and that is always something special. Moreover the first victory was with youngsters and I love to race with youngsters.The young pigeon game is easy! If they are good then everything will work out. Motivating is not really necessary, if they are good, they will come home quickly.
I am not a believer in extra motivation for a flight anyway. The pigeons must be good, they must be tip-top condition and then they will race home. Coming home is their motivation!
DD: Do you have a problem that after one national victory your super pigeon is going to be sold?
BB: Not really. Of course a pure racing fancier would prefer to continue racing with the pigeon or if necessary put it in the breeding loft. Of course you would rather not lose it, but it is what it is. That’s not my department, Eric decides about such things and I don’t get involved.My job is to fly and try to compete to win. And I have to do that with the pigeons that I have available. You can only race with what you have got!
When I arrived here, Eric had a team of 150 pigeons, and I cleared out a lot and a year later only 2 of them remained. So this is the reason I don’t want wages. I decide what happens in the racing loft. I don’t interfere in the breeding, but with the racers I am the boss. A ship can only have one captain. Besides, I race here for the love of the sport, not for the money.
DD: Are you satisfied with the location of your current lofts?
BB: We have to be happy with our location, it is what it is. Every location has its own pros and cons. Being in a remote corner is often not ideal, so we have to ensure that the pigeons are top all season.
If you have race conditions wrong 80% of the time, you have it right 20% of the time.
When you aim at your goal you have to be top because you competitors in the area are also aiming at the target.So if you have fewer chances to get conditions right then when the opportunities arise you should grab them.
DD: It is old pigeon wisdom that you always get better results when you are centrally located!
BB: Of course the most often you have the wind advantage and the location advantage the better I certainly do not argue against that.
However even in good locations there are disadvantages of course. Rik (Hermans) has a favorable location, that is certainly so. But look who he has to perform against. In order to win, he must first be better than his neighbour Danny (Van Dyck), if he beats Danny then he still has to beat Eddy (Janssens) and Dirk (Van Dyck) and all those other toppers in this area.
You must try to be the best in your area. The quality of your opponents determines the value of this title. Good position is made by the flyers!
That is why I also wanted to go to Belgium and race against the best, a win is worth more !
Winning against the masses… Brian’s highlights
Bolton-Williamson, 1982-1999 UK
1st East Section (semi-nationaal), 3rd open (nationaal) Tours
1st East Section (semi-nationaal) Picauville
1st East Section (semi-nationaal) Falaise
1st Las Vegas Classic (one loft race)
1st Prov. Bourges 2.745 b. + 1e Interprov. + 6.000 b.
1st Prov. Argenton 3.176 b. + 1e zone + 7.000 b.
1-4-9-13-14-15th… Union Antwerpen Melun oude 2.037 b.
1-2-3-5th… Union Antwerpen Melun jonge 2.265 b. (Brian’ first race in Belgium)
6-15-24-27-44-85-91e Nat. Bourges oude 24.676 b.
15-49-50-76-82-85-86th Nat. Bourges jaarse 20.544 b.
Bolton-Van Tilburg, 2012-2015 Belgium
1st Union Antwerpen Souppes oude 3.403 b.
1st Union Antwerpen Souppes jonge 2.091 b. 3rd Nat. Argenton 22.463 b.
Van Tilburg-Premier, UK & NL
1-2-7-15th NPO Nanteuil 17.015 b.
1st Prov. St. Quentin 21.236 b.
1st Prov. Peronne 14.158 b.
1st Quiévrain 3.186 b.
1st Quiévrain 5.879 b.
1st Morlincourt 5.643 b.
Hok Reijnen-Bolton, 2016-heden NL
1st NPO Châteauroux 8.202 b.
1st NPO Argenton 8.338 b.
1st Prov. Niergnies jonge 8.267 b.
1-2-3-4-5-6th Quiévrain 8.028 b.
1st Niergnies 5.007 b.
1-2-3-4th Asse-Zellik 2.655 b.
3-4-5-6th NPO Orléans 5.110 b.
Reijnen-Bolton-De Hoogh, 2017-heden Belgium
1st Nat. Châteauroux jonge 19.529 b.
1st Nat. Issoudun jaarse 18.176 b.
Life in Belgium 2009-present
DD: How was it on a personal level to move to Belgium?
BB: Very good actually. I could find my niche here right away. The people speak quite good English here and I even think the Belgians are more pleasant and friendly than the English.There is much more jealousy in England than here. In Belgium you are overwhelmed with compliments if you win. In England they hated me.
We often got doping control simply because everyone was suspicious, we won too much.I blame this mainly on the English system. In Belgium there are many more winners. There are many more competitions in which you can compete; and many more prizes are distributed.
In the UK for example in a race of 5000 pigeons only the first six win a prize, and run with all the money. So this of course creates envy.
When more people win, then more people are satisfied. For example, when I won the first six, I gave away my prizes to the seventh, just to keep more people happy.
Here you do not have this problem. And of course Belgians are also just nice people who love the good life. (Laughs)
Fortunately, since I have raced in Belgium, things are a lot more positive. After all, they are no longer bothered about me. (Laughs)
Besides, I think over there they do also respect my sporting performances on this side of the ‘Pond’.
DD: Do you miss anything about England?
BB: Fish and chips! (Laughs)
No, really, my children of course. I have three daughters, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Nothing else really.
It is not as easy for my partner Michelle though. I am constantly busy with the pigeons, there is no time for homesickness. This is different for Michelle. She sits a lot to chat on her computer with friends and family. She also collects photos of Lady Di, that’s how she passes her time here.
DD: How important is Michelle in your life?
BB: Ever since we became a couple 15 years ago she is extremely important to me. She is my support. For years she has been doing a large part of the care of the pigeons because I can’t. Without her, I would have never made my dream come true. Michelle brings light to my life and she cares with a female touch in the loft, the hand of the woman! (Laughs)
She has also sacrificed a lot for me and I am very grateful to her for this. Remember that she just left everything behind in England to join me to support me in the pursuit of my dream.
It is because of Michelle that I am definitely returning to England, maybe next year.
Eleven years ago we relocated to Belgium. Then I promised her that this would be for five years. But then came another year and another two, and we have been here for eleven years now.
DD: Then what are you going to do? Back to England and race pigeons?
BB: No, certainly not! I have realized my dream. I have been able to compete in the Netherlands and Belgium and have won a “National” in Belgium, the ‘Valhalla’ of the pigeon sport.
Now going back to England to race would feel like moving from the Champions League to the Third Division.
I don’t know at all yet what I’m going to do but I am certainly not going back to England to race pigeons.There is no kick in that anymore, no challenge.I’ll see what comes next, I’m not worn out yet at seventy, but I’m not a young boy anymore either.
DD: So what if a Chinese comes with bag of money looking for a good loft manager would you not be willing to move over there?
BB: (laughs) No, I don’t think so, that time is over.
Incidentally, I have declined such an offer in the past. What would be better than that is if there is a good offer to keep racing here, I would still want to think about it. Michelle would want us return home to England however if anything should arise making it compatible I would think about it if I don’t have to be here full time, who knows…!
DD: We’re pretty much done with this report about your impressive career as a “pigeon fancier”. Finally another round of short questions. But the answers do not have to be short!
The question round
DD: We’ll start with an easy one! What’s your greatest achievement in the field of pigeons?
BB: It goes without saying my two Nationals victories in Belgium. That was the realization of my dream, and it couldn’t be more beautiful.
If I go back to England, those trophies [The gilded trophy from the KBDB that every national winner receives] certainly should also be in England.
DD: And what is your biggest disillusionment?
BB: That I didn’t win them sooner! (Laughs out loud)
No seriously, I don’t have any real disillusions. I have had to sacrifice many things in my life but I have been able to do the things that I wanted to do. I’ve had setbacks, but often good luck too. You have to take it as it comes!In the pigeon sport we cannot always win, and you will always have more downs than ups.
But I hate to lose, I always want to win. I am terribly ill-disposed to being second, a position I do not to enjoy. But you have to deal with a loss with dignity; you have to take your loss like a man!
DD: Was there any wrong decisions in your career?
BB: Maybe, who knows? Probably. Like everyone else, I have made good decisions but also made mistakes. It is what it is.
Once I also had a beautiful job offer but I ignored it because I just thought I was right where I was.To those who are good to me and respect me I am very loyal.
What matters to me is that I got the best out of what I had to work with. If you don’t get better pigeons then that is what you have. If they sell your best birds, then is that right! Does the competition have better pigeons, then that’s it, they have! I already said: you have to fly with what you got!
The most important thing for me is that I can’t blame myself for not winning, I have to know I did everything I could. I really give myself completely to the sport, my head never stops, I’m there constantly working on it. After a race I am also still working on it, until I am empty. Which is then decompression time after an enormous week of living it, tension building up and using every conceivable effort?
Michelle knows that after a race you need me give some recovery time. Then you should leave me alone!
DD: Even if you won?
BB: Even if I won! But then I recover faster. (Laughs)
DD: Do you have any tips for a beginner?
BB: The best tip I can give is get your pigeons in the best possible health.
A pigeon that is completely healthy is automatically in good condition. You don’t have to train much to be at the top even in harsh conditions. The flight program that can be a busy one and a pigeon that feels well performs well.
I also forgive a pigeon an off day if they were already super in the past. I would much rather have one pigeon that flies a top prize 2 times and then completely fails than one that 4 times just flies averagely well. That first pigeon has already proven to be a top pigeon and that is important.In this circumstance if a top result did not materialize and if I did everything right, then results will definitely come back.
I can win against fanciers with better pigeons. You do this by ensuring that your Pigeons at that time are just healthier and better are theirs.
You don’t have to have the best pigeons to win.
DD: If you were to start over today, where would you buy pigeons?
BB: Here! (This meeting took place at our office in Zandhoven, Belgium) Here are good fanciers with good pigeons, I would buy here. Men such as Eddy (Janssens), Danny and Dirk (Van Dyck) or Rik (Hermans) have very good pigeons that do well anywhere, from such men I would buy.
DD: Are one-loft races right for you?
BB: Not my thing. I understand very well how this is a good solution for many people, if they don’t have to too much time spend. They can combine a nice trip and they can have some fun.
I just race the pigeons and have to have control over everything, so no, not really my thing.
Despite this I did it in the past occasionally with pigeons from my old Van Loon base and I have a few times won a lot of money (up to £ 15,000).
DD: What is your favorite month on the pigeon calendar?
BB: June of course! The month when the Nationals arrive.I live to race, so that’s the best time of the year for me.
Now is the quiet and dull period, but I am still here because of the corona problems. Normally this time of the year I go back to England for a few weeks, to visit the children and stuff.
DD: Brian, thank you very much for this very entertaining chat. I am sure about what to wish you, another National win of course!
BB: Of course! (Laughs)
This interview is a summary of a conversation that lasted almost four hours. I already have met some very big names in Pigeon Racing and even interviewed a few, but never met anyone who is so obsessed with winning. Brian wants to be the first and he will do anything for that.An adventurer who crossed the Channel to make a dream come true because winning really only means something when you can win against the top of your sport.
He has proven that at all lofts where he has raced and he sometimes had to do it from scratch and get things up and running quickly but still achieved success. He gives himself to the sport altogether, and is maniacally concerned with every detail.
When he has done everything he can live with losing to the best, rather than win without opposition. But actually he just prefers to win. There is only one place that counts in the result, the first!
The first months of my career were a nervous time for me. Every time I had to interview a big winner, there was then a certain tension in the air. I was nervous and excited to be able to interview a pigeon great. Someone with a track record makes a massive impression and can fill the room with his presence.
This week I was very excited that I could still do a nice interview in these boring times. Meanwhile, I have already met quite a lot of greats from this sport and so I am not so easily impressed anymore, not even from a certain Brian Bolton.
Rarely, however, was I so affected by someone after these four hours. So much drive, passion and willpower in one man. Honors doesn’t affect me much, but personality and character all the more.