All material Copyright © 1996-2014 by Silvio Mattacchione & Co. unless otherwise noted.
A Family of Pigeons: Kemyel Powder Blue Mania
by Doug McClary
When I started back in pigeons back in 1963 I could never have imagined that four decades later I would have been here, with the same family of pigeons, and enjoying very much the same things that I enjoyed then. I had decided at the outset that I would keep thorough records and as I was a member of the police force, trained in the contemporaneous recording of detail and data, it seemed a sensible and very easy thing to do. Indeed in the early days, I was actually looking for information to record whereas now, that record which is constant and unbroken is an extremely large record of a loft of pigeons, notably show racers and requires frequent attention.
The start for me came in the early fifties. I had been a livestock enthusiast all my life keeping rabbits, cavies, mice, poultry and all manner of creatures but one day I visited a friend who had a small shed of pigeons and the magic hit me like a ram, realising that here was a pet which could be liberated and which would then return of its own volition. Pigeons were obtained, mainly from a large farm barn where ferals nested and boyhood visits were made at night time darkness using ladders and other means of reaching them especially the best gay pieds.
Fortune favoured the brave for no harm came to any of us although on reflection I believe that we were lucky. It was okay so far for I was a pigeon fancier but with no knowledge of shows and showing. Almost by accident I attended an agricultural event at Redruth where I entered the pigeon marquees and became mesmerised by the magnificent birds there, especially the show racers. In a matter of minutes I had become a show enthusiast. Contact was made with a local pigeon showing club and with local fanciers and soon I was building a show team and impatiently waiting for shows to come along.
I was still at school and relied on my parents and upon work on farms and other places to finance my 'habit' but managed to start on winning ways. I left school and immediately started work over a hundred miles from home. Eventually the problems proved to be too great and my birds were sold allowing my early career development to continue as a single, unattached young man. Never however, did I lose my regard for pigeons.
In 1962 I Married Ann
There were two matters of extreme interest. Firstly an account of the Old Comrades show revealed that blue white flight hen 'Rosa Belle' had won best opposite sex for A.R. (Reg)) Brown of St Day, Cornwall. In my earlier days I had always admired his pigeons particularly his powder blues. Secondly, an advertisement for show racers appeared on behalf of a Mr A.Rawson of Whitwell, near Worksop and from that I bought a mealy cock and a blue hen, as well as a six bird pigeon show basket.
The birds came before I owned a loft but I managed thanks to a local racing fancier Jack Smith of Cullompton the start of a sincere friendship between us. I later wrote to Reg Brown who offered me two pairs but finances dependant upon a new marriage, house furnishing allowed me to purchase one pair, but what a pair! My new record was in use and the pattern I planned and selected four decades ago has remained in force and almost unchanged.
My Reason For Writing This Appraisal
My reason for writing this appraisal of my record and of my family came about when I had some of the main birds in my loft photographed and this led to some research of my records to establish that the current team of powder blues is exactly as the original purchases from Reg Brown based upon the famous old family of C.R.Snow of Southsea. Ever since, I have been determined to preserve my family of powder blues.
In the earlier days the money situation was quite tight so there was little prospect of purchasing a lot of stock. The need was clear, to produce my own family, using the quality birds already possessed but introducing occasional birds to strengthen the strain without losing the original bloodlines of those beautiful powder blues. It has been tempting to vary the family in order to pander to fads and fancies of the times and this I fear is where most fanciers go wrong. They see a mealy winning well and decide that they must have mealies.
The Popularity Stakes
Over the years we have seen all the colours take a turn in the popularity stakes, mealies, chequers, opal mosaics and the reds. The main reason for being able to keep to a family was either luck, or perhaps some ability to spot a likely successful stock bird. Over the years I have been able to find pigeons which have not been winners in their makeup, but which I have surmised have had the potential to produce birds better than themselves, birds with consistent and proven quality.
A blue cock bred in 1963 and known as 'Brown's Cock' after A.R.Brown, turned out an era of top winners including 'Blue Belle', "Sparnon Queen' and 'Kemyel Max' winning between them fifteen classic first prizes and three classic best in show wins. Then there was a blue hen I named Kemyel Producer which was no oil painting and in her time with me won only two minor 'coddling cards', yet bred a succession of excellent winning pigeons. A gay blue pied produced in 1983 was never shown. She was badly pecked while in the nest so was destined never to grace a show pen. She possessed a wonderful powder blue colour which, when supplemented by her white flights, was a striking pigeon. She also possessed an excellent compact body and with these qualities she proved to be worth her weight in gold as a breeder. I do not know what reveals a potential breeder as such but I am grateful that I have been fortunate to find a few. I wonder however, how many I have failed to identify!
The Four Pigeons Chosen To Illustrate The Family
The four pigeons chosen to illustrate the family continuity are as follows:
Blue Cock NU69D32183 'Brown's Blue'. This cock was no show stopper but I had an inkling that he would breed well. His sire was the sire of 'Rosa Belle' Mr Brown's terrific BWF hen which won all the top west country shows as well as being BO Sex at the Old Comrades in 1962. This cock was paired to a mealy of Harry King and they bred Blue Belle, Sparnon Queen and Kemyel Max, to name but a few. The front cover of my book `The Show Racer' portrays this pairing. The cock remained with me until 1982.
Powder blue pied hen 'Sweetie' GB83E84606. This little hen was never shown having been badly pecked in the nest. She was beauty personified however and produced a long line of winners for me and for others. She was bred down through `Brown's Blue' and carried on as a true breeder until 1990. Although a gay pied, she rarely produced pieds.
Blue cock GB90D70028 'Kemyel Bob'. Bob was bred from 'Sweetie's son a lovely powder cock and has remained with me ever since as one of my top stud cocks. He carries a terrific head and presence. For many years he was paired to a 1990 blue hen 'Kerderrian', a daughter of 'Sweetie'. Just as a matter of interest, 'Bob' won his last first prize at the age of 13 years in a class for veteran pigeons. Like me, he can no longer get up on to the top perch but also like me, is very happy in the loft! Like m6, he is very happy in retirement.
These four pigeons have provided me with continuity over my period in pigeons and prove that my family is as much a family now as it was when I started using the proven one of Mr Brown based upon the C.RSnow birds.
The result however is that in this my fortieth year working with my family of powder blues, I still have the colour and the birds as they were in 1963. Indeed by using four pigeons only, I can produce an unbroken sequence of family pattern through those four decades. Those four pigeons were with me for long periods but in their time produced a line and allowed their progeny to generate subsequent generations for the Kemyel lofts.
I am fairly certain that my chances of showing success have suffered because of my desire to create a genuine family and keeping the blues to the fore, but success in the pen is but a facet of the sport of keeping and maintaining a loft of pigeons. The greatest pleasure is in going to my lofts and witnessing a uniformity of type, colour with a very obvious family pattern.
My Advice To Any Fancier
My advice to any fancier would be to pursue the family line as the surest way of being able to find consistency built upon an experience with the type and quality and expectancy. It applies I would imagine to any breed of pigeon and the surest way of breeding with any sort of certainty is to produce a family.
This is my advice only. It is a system which has been good to me and my birds over the years but I refrain from saying that this is the only way for it is not the only way. There are fanciers who have been provided with a wonderful stock sense and who have the ability to buy or acquire birds to gel as breeders and winners. Such fanciers however are few so for the average person must find a method which suits them and their birds in a manner which is suitable to management conditions and available resources. If I have given the impression that my interest has only been concerned with the powder blues, it is not so. For alongside the powder blue side of the family, living in total harmony and blending as and when required, I have maintained most of the other colours to be found in show racers. They are all Kemyel pigeons, an interwoven and specialist family of birds. Neither do I claim that my experience is unique or a record but it would be good to hear from other long established fanciers with theirs.
This little article is by way of introduction to another called "Kemyel Powder Blue Mania" which will show in pictorial form how I have managed to hold it all together.
Kemyel Powder Blue Mania
Show racers have always fascinated me and the powder blue colour has been my delight throughout my career in pigeon showing. I set out with an intention to build my own line or family pattern and thought that I would like to explain this using a period of four decades in pictorial form. To do this I have selected only photographs of the powder blues but I need to make clear that I have always kept the full range of colours and have won well with them. However as this is an exploration of the family citing the maintenance of the powder blue I think it best only to use the blue colour only.
This Hen Was Everything I Wanted In A Pigeon
The start came in 1963. I had already purchased a six bird show basket and a pair of show racers consisting of a stock mealy cock and a blue hen. I then wrote to Mr A.R. Brown of St Day enquiring about purchasing his birds. I told him that I had always admired his birds from my schoolboy shows in the Penzance area and particularly mentioned his powder blues. He wrote back and offered me two pairs and from the offer I bought a yearling mealy cock and a yearling blue white flite hen. This hen was everything I wanted in a pigeon as she was powder blue with the white flights and an attractive white eye tic as well as thick black bars.. She had already won well including 1st and reserve best for the Osman Trophy at the Welsh Charity show and had been best opposite sex at the Royal Dairy show of 1962. 'Annie' as she became known was a valued part of my loft until 1973 and in that time won 15 firsts as well as three times BIS. As a breeder she excelled and for seven years was paired to a chequer cock which had been presented to me by Mr. Brown. This arrangement set a trend for me in that I keep pairs together which produce well and this was my first experience of the arrangement. When I look back, I realise just how fortunate I was to be, provided with such a wonderful pigeon as `Annie'. Mr. Brown did me proud in that sale and set me on a lifelong course of satisfaction.
Even After All These Years
Even after all these years, I can still picture her and almost feel her in my hands with a nostalgia which is genuine and heartfelt. She produced many good pigeons but coming down from her was a beautiful blue pied hen bred in 1968 which, despite being a pied, won eleven firsts and two best in shows and bred a succession of lovely powders. She again set an ideal that a good blue pied will often excel as a breeder and over the years I have always been prepared to keep the good ones. I despair at those who decry any form of pied marking for they do a great disservice to our hobby of pigeon showing. Just as an aside, this blue pied hen was a daughter of a powder mealy pied hen bred out of Annie. What a lovely hen she was and until now, the last of this colour I have had in my loft. I have always hoped I would breed another powder mealy pied but have failed to do so despite being prepared to breed from both mealies and pieds, but recently was given a lovely mealy pied cock, almost identical to the one here mentioned.
So, in the 11 years that Annie was an important part of my lofts, a way forward had been established and I was in to a consistent family pattern. With Mr. Brown having died, I was unable to go to him for further introductions so knew that from then on it all depended upon me and my growing family of birds. Help came however in a Welsh form.
I Was Visited By The Famous Harry King
While living in St Austell, I was visited by the famous Harry King and Ron McCarthy. At that time I would guess that my birds consisted of at least eighty per cent powder blues and when he entered the loft, Harry just about fell over backwards at the sight. His advice was that I should diversify more and promised to send me a dark chequer hen, a pigeon which had won well for him including best in show at the prestigious Abertillery show. When the beautiful dark chequer hen arrived, she was accompanied by a gift mealy hen and this proved to be my key to great showing and breeding success. The two hens came to me in November 1969. In 1969 I had bred a blue cock which came to be the mate for the mealy hen, and which look the name of 'Brown's Blue'. The cock was bred from another cock I bad bought from Reg Brown . This blue cock was in his eighth year and was the sire of `Rosa Belle' Mr Brown's beautiful blue white flight hen, a great winner of firsts and best in shows and was also best opposite sex at the Old Comrades. I still have her photograph and still admire her. `Brown's Blue' was not a great show winner but carried length, an excellent body and absolute balance. I marked him as a potential breeder and he graced my loft until 1982.
Fortunately for me, I paired him to the Harry King mealy hen. She was no show pigeon either. In 1970 this pair bred me 'Blue Belle'. This beautiful blue hen went on to record my first classic BISat the Newport International (1200 birds), and took seventeen classic positions including firsts at GYA, Show of the West, Show of the Year (twice) and the Monmouth Open. In 1971, they bred me "Sparnon Queen' winner of three classic BIS awards at Show of the Year, GYA and the Southern Region, a total of 13 classic positions including seven classic firsts.
The following year they bred 'Kemyel Max' a mealy cock, so much like his sire in body and head, and winner of two firsts at the Show of the Year, and one at the Old Comrades. The first time I ever showed Max he won best in show at Barnstaple and the judged advised me to take great care of him. That same year the mealy hen contracted what I would now identify as Salmonella and died. Continuity came in the form of Annie and `Brown's Blue, but contemporaneously by that lovely of lovelies, `Blue Belle' daughter of Brown's Blue; and a chequer cock bred out of the other Harry King hen, the dark chequer. This pairing stayed together for a number of years and bred a succession of classic winners right up until 1982.
A Gay Powder Blue Pied Hen Named 'Sweetie'.
From them, came the next part of the family continuity, a gay powder blue pied hen named 'Sweetie'. What a cracking pigeon she was, never shown because of a pecking she received in the nest but her colour, type, body and general appearance indicated that she was to be a most valued stock hen. This proved to be the case because with a number of cocks, she produced some terrific winners. This decade was one of my busiest because of career demands and family commitments so the value of 'Sweetie' was all the more important. She remained here until 1990 when fortunately the last part in the jigsaw came in the form of Kemyel Bob, bred in 1990 and still here, and a beautiful blue hen of the same year named Kerderrian. This pair bred together for eight seasons until the hen died but together they bred a series of good blues. The appearance of thesetwo and others coincided with another very successful introduction from Don Spedding of Cumbria.
A Very Successful Introduction From Don Spedding of Cumbria.
I have always been an admirer of Don and his birds and at a Blackpool show he made me an offer which was an excellent opportunity. I bought from the Spedding loftsnow in the care of cousin Alana dark chequer cock, a blue cock and two blue hens. These birds had an immediate impact because they continued to throw blues which seemed very powdery in colour but with the advantages of a suitable cross. The only drawback has been that they contained dilute opal blood and this sometimes makes an appearance in the progeny. 'Kemyel Bob' was bred out of a Spedding hen and he has been the breeder for some of the lightest powder blues bred here.
Just take a look at Vision 2. This cock's showing career was cut short owing to ring removal but he has always been admired. He carries a single white flight another trait within the family. However when paired to "Powder Puff" an extremely light powder blue W.F. hen, produced 'Roly' one of the lightest powders I have ever seen and others including the most beautiful gay pied , called "Azure"which I sent to Thomas Mattacchione(http://www.silvio-co.com/pigeons/thomasM2-british.htm ) in Port Perry, Ontario, Canada.
It is often sad disposing of such quality pigeons but as any show racer enthusiast knows, the biggest problem is in keeping numbers to manageable numbers and from time to time the best have to go. The Spedding cross however was as dramatic as the Harry King input so many years earlier and despite the wish to maintain my own family, it follows that the occasional cross is both desirable and necessary.
At the moment I have a superb pairing which is producing good winning type pigeons in just about every nest. The cock is 'Del Boy' another one white flighter but despite this a considerable winner including three best in show wins at consecutive Devon and Cornwall SRS shows and qualifying for the Blackpool championship class. His mate is a 1998 blue hen, `Sapphire', a terrific winner, hardly ever out of the cards and she carries a wonderful body. This pair breed true to type and it is worthy of note that in my 2003 six bird entry to the Blackpool show, five of the birds were brothers and sisters out of this pair. Had I realised, I could have made it a full `flush' of six as a laterbred blue W.F. cock of 2002 could have gone as my young cock entry.
The Future Is Secure
I believe therefore that the future is secure with the present crop of Kemyel powder blues for being so close within the family concept, they can hardly fail to produce their like. As my showing decreases and my interest in it wanes, there is one thing that is as passionate as ever, my love of show racer pigeons and of these magnificent powder blues. I could not imagine myself without them.
I hope that this little guide through my family and my fanciership years will be of interest to readers. It is not an advertising feature, for friends will know my views on trading in pigeons, and neither is it a claim that my experience is unique. My research into my records however has provided me with great pleasure and some wonderful memories. It saddens me to recall so many lovely pigeons, lovely to me anyway and in my own mind I can still picture then and almost feel them in my hands. My love for my show racers has not dwindled. Over the years I have been fortunate in producing some beautiful winning pigeons for myself and for others and have felt justly proud in owning them and when exhibiting them.Any winning has been a bonus but the real pleasure is in the breeding and being able to present pigeons at their very best for the attention of good judges.
Racing Pigeons Section Contents
Background on Silvio Mattacchione, his pigeons, his loft, and inbreeding program.
A group of articles and editorials addressing various aspects of the sport of pigeon racing and the history of Silvio's line of Spanjaards/Janssens pigeons.
Buy fantastic pigeon books online! Selections include The Will to Prepare by Robert Kinney, Rotondo on Racing Pigeons by Joseph Rotondo, and The Pigeon Guide by Dr. Jon Esposito and Shannon Hiatt.
Some of Silvio Mattacchione's own winning stock is for sale.
Sivio Mattacchione offers a wide range of racing pigeon consulting services and consults with owners as far away as Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines and the United States. Each consultation is tailored specifically to meet the client's needs, and is conducted in as thorough a manner as possible.
Good causes supported by Silvio and the racing pigeon and parrot communities.
Clever pigeon pictures constructed of keyboard strokes by artist Jerry Downs.
Links to other racing pigeon sites including those of clubs, products, and information resources. An easy way to navigate a series of pigeon web sites!
Silvio's e-mail, mail, phone, and fax contact information.