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 A Wonderful Stray
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Perhaps we have said and no doubt others have said 'If they come back in boxes best to dispose of them'. Here obviously I am referring to that phenomenon of the sport known as 'The Stray' or that pigeon for whatever reason never returns after a training toss or a race. Of course I'm not referring to those who disappear because of predators or guns, etc, but those who appear to be healthy and yet do not return to their lofts.

Are these necessarily bad pigeons or if lacking orientation ability could they surprise us by producing the goods via breeding? From my own experience I knew of a fancier long gone to the great loft in the sky but known as Joe 'Gurnay' Smith who raced in the Limavady RPS, in Co. Derry, who in the 50s of the last century got in a black cheq stray rung IUUF(?) who won 1sts and other positions from 119 to 345 miles week after week in all elemental conditions including races across the Irish sea and the St. Georges channel. In fact if my memory serves me right my late father then won the inland and cross channel averages with a team of birds and 'Gurnay' Smith was runner up with points accrued by his famous stray alone. Then for about two years until the bird was sold the competition in the Roe valley was between the rest versus Smiths 'Dominator'. I also recall another pigeon a red cheq which was picked up as a young bird racer on a building site in Limavady which when transferred to my father was unbeatable in blow homes into the town. In fact in one two hundred mile race or thereabouts it set a record which perhaps existed for years if it was ever broken of just under 3,000 yards per minute.

This piece however is about another stray which came into a loft on the European mainland to a fancier who saw right away that the bird looked sickly in appearance, whose tail was very long in relation to other bodily proportions, and he could not define its gender- 'a henny cock or a cocky hen'. Upon doctoring it he kept it for a few days until it appeared better but instead of releasing it he gave it to a fancier friend who upon handling it
rejected it. The original fancier was not of the culling type in fact he hated killing anything so as he knew that his nephew had started in the sport he gave the stray to the latter who then reported it and was told to keep it.

The bird in fact belonged to a Mr. Desprets who was the son-in-law of the famous fancier Mr. Commine. The nephew was called Andre and he bred the stray with a hen which he had obtained from a Mr R. Benoot.From the pairing a pigeon was bred which began to win races and make a reputation in the local area. Then one day at basketing for another race Mr Commine arrived and asked Andre where he had got the bird and upon being told that it was bred from a stray of his son-in-law Andre was told that he was a lucky person for the father of the stray was Commines favourite 'Napoleon'. Yes the famous 'Napoleon' bred what appeared to be a dunce or a freak of the pigeon world. Yet in turn a champion was born for Andre was no other than Andre Vanbruaene and the son of the stray was the famous 'Bull' who at the age of 15 years produced the 'Young Bull' who won 1st National Libourne and 1st International Pau in the same year.

Followed a year later by the 'Bull' producing a son named 'Tarzan' who went on to win 1st International. San Sebastian. Of course this is not the end of the story for a daughter of 'Young Bull' produced a son from a mating which when bred with 'Tarzan' produced a 1st International Barcelona winner in 1966. And yet it is still not the end of the story for the 1966 International Barcelona winner was the ancestor of at least 3 other International Barcelona winners in 1984,1995 and 2003. All carrying the bloodlines of an ugly, ill formed wanderer of the skies- the original stray. Thus what greatness would have been denied if Andre Vanbrauene's uncle rather than doctoring the stray had pulled its neck.

Which leaves me wondering how much greatness is destroyed each year at culling time or how much potential greatness lies in the genes of those racing pigeons which have taken up an abode with the common or feral pigeons of our highways and byways. No! please don't respond in this context with the old adage that 'One swallow does not a summer make' for there are many other examples out there. Of course I am not suggesting that we end all culling for I believe it to be necessary but lets get to know our birds better and hopefully not destroy a gold mine through a lack of knowledge and awareness. Just remember that blood will tell and come to the fore even within an ill shaped, ugly looking stray.

Liam O Comain  -
by: Liam O Comain

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