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The Huyskens van Riel Story (part 2)



Huyskens made his living working hard on the docks in Antwerp. He was gentle and quiet by nature and didn’t have too much to say, in that respect he was like van Riel. Van Riel also had a very calm and quiet personality. Huyskens began racing pigeons in 1929. His friendship with the diamond cutter van Riel did not begin till several years later. Van Riel at that time had no pigeons and sought his relaxation at Huyskens. The two of them got along very well and quickly became good friends.

Now we are at the end of the 1930’s. After van Riel stopped racing, a certain Frans Nuyens was the one picking up his banner and became the man to beat. Van Riel was burning with curiosity and wanted to know what pigeons this Nuyens was racing with on the short distance races. It didn’t take long before he was knocking on the Nuyens front door. He was deeply impressed and took some squeakers home, this was in 1937. Among those youngsters was a short, small dark hen, a tight, compact pigeon with amazing eyes. Fire seemed to spit out of them. She was a real wringer and hard to hold on to. Jef placed her in his brother Louis loft (who in those times didn’t have pigeons?) where she developed into a pigeon having no equal. We are talking about famous “Boerinneke.”

Because the “Boerinneke” seemed to be such a top-class pigeon, van Riel went back to Nuyens. Admittedly, Nuyens was a vitesse flyer, but van Riel no longer believed in vitesse pigeons. “Those Nuyen pigeons should be able to handle anything,” he thought, and that’s why he again left with some youngsters which van Riel took to the lofts of his friend Huyskens. Among these youngsters, there was another one out of the same parents of the “Boerinneke,” except that this one was a cock and looked exactly as his sister: the same build, the same colour, and the same eyes, but he was an incredible coward. If the boss entered, in a panic, he flew off the eggs, right into the bosses face. Coming up with a name for him was no problem “de Bange” (the coward). Later both “de Bange” and his sister “Boerinneke” would turn out to be world-class pigeons. In the fall of 1946, the “Boerinneke” was sold to De Scheemaecker for the sum of 25,000 Bfrs, for the times a considerable amount. She was fertile for two more years for the new owner. Nowadays it often happens that, chiefly, famous pigeons stay fertile till they literally drop or … longer (!) but then those were other times.

Today there is a lot of money spent buying and selling pigeons, at that time the money was spent on pooling. The Nuyens pigeons had shown in the loft of Frans Huyskens that they possessed enormous class and van Riel, always curious, could no longer be stopped. He had to know, “the roots,” of the otherworld pigeons such as “het Boerinneke” and their like and began investigating. He learned that Nuyens got these pigeons from a Vanderkeylen, who was also a dock worker who in turn had obtained pigeons from a workmate: Boer Peeters. And it would be impossible for, Boer Peeters, until the end of time to become commercial because he told everyone that he had bred them out of church tower pigeons and strays. But just at the time that Huyskens could become famous nationally with the pigeons given to him by van Riel, the unthinkable happened: the second world war broke out. “Het Boerinneke” and “de Bange” survived the war and would form the basis of countless descendants.

KERMIS (Celebration)

In 1944 it was kermis in Ekeren Donk. In the cafè ‘De Pelikaan,’ Jeff was drinking a ‘Trappist’ from the barrel when Huyskens walked in. Of course, he had a drink with him, and soon the topic of conversation was clear: Huyskens had large lofts, van Riel had very little room but had good pigeons. It was decided to fly in partnership and in 1945 the name of Huyskens van Riel appeared on the race result for the first time. The very first year of the existence of the tandem they were already Champion in Union Antwerp ahead of such names as Havenith, Hermans and Horemans.

However, the ambitions of the partners reached well beyond the Union. It was decided that a plot of land would be purchased and on ir build a house for Huyskens and a palace of a pigeon loft that would also serve as a home for van Riel. In the meantime, however, something else happened. Something you will find no reference too and has never been made public. Something that I learned straight from the mouths of the van Riel sons: Francios and Georges. ‘The biggest and most important move our father ever made”, according to both of them. They mentioned to me that in 1945, twenty late youngsters were obtained. The following year these were paired with their own pigeons, and out of those crossings, the famed generation of 46ers was born. A regiment of super pigeons, of which one was better than the other, all bred in one year.

Where did that late round of 1945 come from? From the man who possibly had the best pigeons that have ever flown: Jos van den Bosch from Berlaar. The above leads to something comical. Especially in America, they still fly with 100% pure Huyskens van Riel pigeons from before the war. Even Raymund Hermes, who is far from dumb, was almost trapped and was close to buying ‘pure Huyskens van Riel’ pigeons from before the war. Why did they go to Jos van den Bosch?

In the war, here and there rumours travelled around, that someone from Berlaar had a kind of wonder pigeon: Van den Bosch was the source of this rumour. The same place where Janeke Wouters and Frans Mariën (Arendonk) got their famous ‘Oude van den Bosch.’ In Arendonk he was paired to the ‘Janssen hen’ from Saelen from Mol, and they produced one wonder pigeon after the other. This ‘foundation pair Meulemans’ (which Karel had taken over from Janeke Wouter and Frans Mariën when they passed away) is often described as ‘the best breeding couple of all time.’ I have heard bigger exaggerations.

Their most famous descendant is de Merckx, which brings to mind a fascinating anecdote. He died on the same day as his boss, Janeke Wouters. The brothers of de Merckx such as de Piet, de Kadet, de Junior, de Benjamin etc. were all extraordinary both as racers and breeders. Countless super pigeons today still carry their genes, with them myriad fanciers have become champions. Of course, not all their children were ‘supers.’ Kees Noyen from Tilburg once bought a cock out of ‘the breeding pair’ and no matter which hen he paired it with, not a single youngster capable of flying a prize was produced.