1st M.N.F.C. Nat 5,103 birds
1st M.N.F.C. Nat 7,791 birds
1st U.N.C. Nat 17,366 birds
1st N.F.C. Nat 10,148 birds
1st B.I.C.C. Nat 3,461 birds
1st M.N.F.C Nat 4,154 birds
1st M.N.F.C. Nat 4,753 birds
1st U.N.C. Nat 14,701 birds
1st N.I.P.A. 12,229 birds
1st N.I.P.A. 5,243 birds
1st N.F.C. Nat 7,000 birds
1st N.F.C. Nat 5,977 birds
1st N.F.C. Nat 8,535 birds
1st U.N.C. Nat 10,143 birds
1st M.N.F.C. Nat 12,921 birds
1st N.I.P.A. 24,000 birds
1st N.I.P.A. 16,200 birds
1st M.N.F.C. Nat 4,756 birds
1st M.N.F.C. Nat 4,716 birds
1st F.C.I. Int: Nat 6,940 birds
1st M.N.F.C. Nat 4,080 birds
1st U.N.C. Nat 10,601 birds
1st M.N.F.C. Nat 8,406 birds
1st U.N.C. Nat 7,312 birds
1st B.I.C.C. Nat 6,590 birds
1st U.N.C. Nat 5,434 birds
1st S.N.F.C. Nat 4,472 birds
1st B.I.C.C. Nat 4,315 birds
1st S.N.F.C. Nat 4,767 birds
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About Myrtle Lofts

If we were to rewind the clock back to the mid 1990's it would be fair and reasonable to say that there wasn't all that much of a market for racing pigeons of the Gaby Vandenabeele strain in the UK. Indeed, it would be fair to say that the majority of fanciers in the UK had not even heard of the Belgian expert. Fast forward the clock a decade and the name "Gaby" is now a household name throughout all four corners of the UK, and we have seen some superb performances put up by this talented family of pigeons. The success has gone hand in hand with these birds often commanding very large sums of money within the UK pigeon auction scene.
Something dramatic has happened within the last ten years or so in the UK. Virtually every fancier will be able to offer an opinion on the family. Some I dare say will not be interested in them. Others it would be fair to say would swear by them. Either way, the name Vandenabeele is now firmly established within the UK racing scene and it certainly cannot be ignored. When did this all change? Well, it would be fair and reasonable I think to say that the success story of Mark and Dick Evans is one of the most pivotal and fundamental reasons for this change in the UK racing scene.

It was back in 1998 that the racing partnership of M & D Evans set the racing scene of the UK alight when they achieved a tremendous performance of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 14th Open in the Midlands National Flying Club race from Picauville in France - a distance of almost 300 miles for these babies. At this time, the Midlands National Flying Club was (and still is) one of the most highly regarded and toughest arenas of competition to compete in. Such a fabulous performance from an entry of just fifteen pigeons thrust this father and son into the limelight like never before. Add to this that the victory was achieved on a very testing, but fair and true racing day against in excess of 4,000 other birds from some of the finest racing lofts in England and you can hopefully appreciate the achievement. Add into the equation that such a performance was achieved predominantly with this "new family" of Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons and the curiosity of many fanciers in the UK was aroused.

It was the following morning after this victory that I first met Mark and Dick Evans. At the time I was the Press Officer for the Midlands National Flying Club and I was certainly eager and intrigued to go and see the pigeons and men that had achieved such a fantastic racing performance. I was most impressed to say the least. So much so that this started a 10 year love affair with the family of pigeons. They carried such intelligence and such vitality that I had to introduce them into our own racing lofts. This was done with great success it has to be said.

I started to do a lot of homework on both M & D Evans and Gaby Vandenabeele. I was not at all surprised, indeed heartened to see that both lofts had a rich and successful history. M & D Evans had achieved lots of success within their locality, but it was the Gaby Vandenabeele family of birds that gave them success on a more National scale. I quickly discovered that Gaby Vandenabeele was a truly outstanding Middle Distance fancier in Belgium having experienced his own 1st National successes in Belgium.
                                   
So, at the end of the 1998 racing season, it would be fair to say that an awful lot of fanciers had become aware of the Vandenabeele family of pigeons as a consequence of the breathtaking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 14th Open against the cream of the Midlands National Flying Club. I guess that fanciers were watching to see what else may be lying in wait for this family of pigeons. We didn't have to wait long to find out.

In 1999 M & D Evans decided to pay more attention to races carrying more prestige and success was about to come knocking on their door once again. The race in question this time was the Northern Classic race from Fougeres. Only five hens were entered into this 368 miles race from France, and two of them arrived together to claim the 1st and 2nd Open positions after flying over 8 hours on the wing. The winning hen was a most interesting pigeon called "Love Bird". She was a direct daughter out of a young pair of pigeons called "Jester" and "Carrie". I had seen these names before. This very same pair of pigeons had produced the pigeon a few months before that won 1st Open MNFC Picauville in the near 300 miles race from France!

The writing was on the wall for all to see. By the time that "Jester" and "Carrie" were only a few years old they had already bred pigeons to win both 1st Open MNFC from Picauville and another one to claim 1st Open Northern Classic Fougeres! What was this though? "Love Bird" the winner of 1st Northern Classic Fougeres had also already shown her class before by winning 2nd Open Northern Classic Picauville in 1997 when being only beaten for the 1st prize by a loft-mate. This was just getting better and better!

By this time, as you can imagine, the partnership and family of pigeons were beginning to attract attention. It would be interesting to see how these birds would compete in the Midlands National Young Bird race from Picauville. Remember, the previous year they'd dominated by taking five of the top 14 positions. The race in 1999 was exactly the opposite affair - very quick - but nevertheless another exceptional performance was shown by a young hen called "Band of Gold". 

                                               
In the MNFC, every member has the opportunity to enter their "Gold Ring Race". This is a competition that allows each and every fancier to purchase a maximum of twenty rings at a set price each (£10 each for example). These "Gold Rings" are put on selected birds at the time of ringing. It's a test of a fancier having an instinct for which babies might perform well later in the year - and the attraction is that every fancier adheres to the same rule. Nobody can have more than 20 rings.

The race in question where the money generated from the sale of these "Gold Rings" is competed for in the MNFC Picauville race. In 1999 the M & D Evans hen "Band of Gold" finished 3rd Section 17th Open (690 members sending in excess of 5,000 birds) but crucially for the partnership she also claimed 1st Section 1st Open in their "Gold Ring Event". This direct daughter of "Benetton" (Who is a direct son of the base breeder "Wittenbuik") went on to become the No.1 breeding hen less than a decade later.

Success was not hard to come by at this time, and in the year 2000 there was an important race from La Ferte Bernard in France. The Alliance Millenium of Specialists Clubs got together and organised this special event to mark the coming of the year 2000. Members of Specialist Clubs up and down the country were allowed to enter a maximum of just five birds each in the race. It was a race where only fanciers most fancied birds were entered. It turned out to be a tough race for the birds that were battling their way up the country. The wind showed that the shorter fliers dominated the race. However, the selections from M & D Evans performed admirably to take 26th, 33rd and 84th Open in the race. The first thirty-seven birds home were all flying a distance between 191 - 261 miles. The Evans pigeons were flying a huge 387 miles! Their impressive effort meant that the birds from the loft of M & D Evans were 1st and 2nd home from the birds representing the Midlands National Flying Club, and 1st, 2nd, 6th and 10th from the birds representing the Northern Classic. It was truly a rewarding performance put up on a difficult day. A feather in their cap indeed.

It didn't need for this outstanding effort in the Alliance of Specialist Clubs race in 2000 to convince Mark and Dick that they were on the right lines with their Gaby Vandenabeele family. Work had already been underway for some time in analysing fanciers and performances from Europe who were also flying extremely well with a similar pigeon to what was housed by M & D Evans. After many hours of work, many miles covered and much heartache, in the year 2000 they introduced a team of pigeons from Koen Minderhoud in Holland who was also achieving great performances with pigeons containing the bloodlines from Gaby Vandenabeele. The result of the introduction was immediate.

The key race for M & D Evans in 2001 was the Midlands National Flying Club race from Guernsey. Normally, this race would have been held from France, but due to an outbreak of foot and mouth, no racing from France was permitted at this time. Guernsey would prove a testing work-out indeed for the convoy of pigeons as there is an even larger expanse of water to cover into England than from racing from France.
                                                

It certainly did prove out to be a testing race, but an excellent one too - especially for the birds racing back to Mark and Dick Evans. From an entry of twenty six young hens they finished 1st, 5th, 7th, 10th, 15th, 21st, 31st, 38th and 39th North East Section against 2,069 birds and 2nd, 8th, 10th, 13th, 23rd, 35th, 49th, 63rd and 65th Open when 771 members entered 5,661 birds. This was clearly an outstanding team effort. The day did the further fliers no favours and it was a young Blue Hen named "Joint Venture" that took the 2nd Open plaudits flying some 75 miles more (and almost two hours more) than the bird that won the 1st Open prize. Even more pleasing was the fact that the "Joint Venture" hen was carrying 50% of the old original Gaby Vandenabeele bloodlines, and 50% of the new Koen Minderhoud lines. The father was a direct son of "Gaby 103" winner of 7 x 1st including 1st 11,193 birds, 1st 8,307 birds, 1st 2,599 birds. In total he was a winner of 37 prizes with 22 of them against between 1,020 and 11,435 other competing pigeons. The mother of "Joint Venture" was a direct daughter out of the old 1985 warrior "Blauwen Nationaal". He was a full brother to Gaby's "Rambo" the winner of 1st Belgium National Bourges and recorded the fastest velocity from 63,176 birds. This old 1985 cock was mated to a direct daughter of "Ronker" the winner of 1st National Limoges 8,883 birds when "Ronker" was mated to "Rosa" the mother of 1st National Ciechanow 9,863 birds. The bloodlines and performances were certainly supreme to say the least that made up the genetic background of "Joint Venture".

At this point it would be worthwhile to say that whilst Mark and Dick were intent on trying to fly well in the bigger races, they were still competing extremely well within their own locality. Here are some of their performances from the 2001 season. The reason I'm showing you this is to demonstrate the versatility of the family (Remember their efforts from France and Guernsey) and also their uncanny ability to fly well as a team. From Buckingham they were 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 18th Federation against 1,590 birds. They were also 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 18th and 20th Federation against 1,592 birds. Another outstanding effort was 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 19th Federation against 1,440 birds. From Southsea the same partnership finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 15th Federation against 1,795 birds. From Melton Mowbray it was a similar story. When 1,635 birds were competing they claimed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th Federation. That's right - the top 16 positions! From Kettering when 1,289 birds were competing they were again at the fore-front winning 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th and 16th Federation. Oh yes, they were proving to be a fast and versatile family of pigeons.

For me, 2002 was an extremely important year. After the racing campaign had finished, Mark and Dick Evans held a public auction in North Yorkshire and sold off their entire race team. It was a decision based primarily on Dick's health which had been a little indifferent at the time. It also served as the turning point where Mark and Dick were able to concentrate their efforts 100% on breeding excellent pigeons for other fanciers. Naturally the sale of their own birds was well attended and the birds were sold for some high prices. At this time, the direct children of Jester, Carrie and Benetton were particularly sought after. Their birds had shown themselves to be capable of winning out of turn for fanciers up and down the country. It didn't really seem to matter whether the weather was poor or sensational, the wind behind them or in their face the results came pouring in. It was also becoming evident that it wasn't just pigeons that were carrying 100% M & D Evans lines that were winning. When fanciers were putting a "cross" into them they too excelled. At this point it has to be said that you can't just mate anything to an M & D Evans Vandenabeele and expect the winners to come out - it takes two pigeons to breed consistently outstanding pigeons. However, if we're being fair it has to be acknowledged too that the Evans Vandenabeeles have proved themselves as a useful outlet as a cross into another good family.

One of the best examples of this is illustrated by looking at the results from the highly competitive Midlands National Flying Club from the last five years or so. When Mark and Dick Evans closed their own racing lofts down, they had already gone into partnership with Gary Daykin of Nottingham. Gary was no stranger to success and his racing record in the UK is truly fabulous, a real master at getting pigeons right and getting them to win. He is best known for the Soontjen family of pigeons. These birds had won 1st and 2nd Open MNFC Thorness for instance in the Midlands National Flying Club, and also a 1st Open in this organisation's "Gold Ring" event in 2000 . When the cream of Gary's Soontjen family met the cream of the M & D Evans Vandenabeeles then performances were achieved that simply took the UK racing scene by storm. They certainly seemed to compliment each other very well - the performances were outstanding!

In 2002, the racing partnership of G.S.Daykin Son and Evans won 1st Section 1st Open in the Midlands National race from Picauville against a whopping 12,921 birds. The bird that won the race against record birdage in the MNFC also won a new motor car and was carrying 50% Soontjen and 50% Vandenabeele bloodlines. The success of these birds just seemed to go from strength to strength. Another two 50% Soontjen 50% Vandenabeele cocks won 1st and 2nd Section 3rd and 4th Open against 9,880 birds and another new motor car in 2003! Perhaps the most outstanding effort was still to come though, when in the Midlands National Young Bird race from Chale the loft took a truly amazing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 17th, 18th Open etc against 4,753 birds - this against over 450 competing members.

As you can see from the performances that have been written about so far, the Vandenabeeles from Mark and Dick Evans were no strangers to the winner's enclosure - and this happened when they were carrying 100% Vandenabeele lines and 50% Vandenabeele lines. Fanciers had been drawn to the family and started to introduce these birds into their own lofts. Lots of fanciers started to reap the rewards of this introduction. One such loft was Mel and Sue King. Precious few lofts in UK racing history can claim to have achieved as much as this loft has. In the late 1980's Mel and Sue achieved a pretty much unprecedented run of success by claiming 1st Open in the National Flying Club race from Nantes in both 1987 and 1988. No fancier in UK racing history has ever won more than three races with this organisation. The introduction rejuvenated Mel and Sue's fortunes. As I write this article, recent success is not hard to come by for Mel and Sue. Birds carrying the Mark and Dick Evans Vandenabeele bloodlines have won 1st Open National Flying Club Nantes (The third time they've won this race) against 10,150 birds. They have also won 1st Open in the British Barcelona Club Bordeaux race (416 miles) against 1,223 birds and 1st Open British International Championship Club Falaise (159 miles) against 3,473 birds. I believe I am right in saying that these three organisations throw their doors open to fanciers from all over England. Anybody is eligible to compete.
Within Mel and Sue's breeding loft, there is one particularly outstanding breeding hen that was bred by Mark and Dick Evans. Don't be too concerned about the names of the breeders at the moment, I'll be looking at them in a little more detail later. This exceptional breeding hen is a direct daughter of "Shadow" and "Devon". She is directly responsible for 1st Open National Flying Club Nantes 10,150 birds, 2nd Open Central Southern Classic, 1st Section winners, 1st Combine winners and 1st Federation winners. If that weren't enough, her children breed them too! This daughter of "Shadow" and "Devon" is the grand-mother of 2 x 1st Open National winners and 3rd Open National. She is also the Great Grand-mother of 2 x 1st Open Classic winners. It's not an understatement to say that she must be one of the finest breeding hens in the UK at this moment in time.
Mel and Sue live towards the South of the country. My reason for pointing that out is to now demonstrate the versatility of the pigeons that M & D Evans have created in the sense that they can adapt and perform well in many areas of the UK. In the 2000 racing campaign, the Yorkshire partnership of Dave and John Hawkins were flying really well. They had been the Highest Prize-winners in the competitive Thorne Coronation HS with 12 x 1st prizes and also the Highest Prize-winners in the Vale of York Federation with 8 x 1st Federation victories. Things changed though in 2001. The partnership of M & D Evans joined and duly took the Federation by storm, dominating the result. The impact of their success led Dave and John Hawkins to the front door of the Evans's lofts. It was an introduction that led Dave and John to victories above and beyond their wildest dreams.

Even though the partnership of D & J Hawkins is successful at sprinting with the birds acquired from Mark and Dickie Evans, Dave Hawkins would believe that the birds are at their absolute best when asked to compete in races around the 300 miles mark. Looking at the performances achieved by D & J Hawkins with the Evans pigeons in that arena it's easy to see why too, for their record is fabulous! In the Midlands National Flying Club race from Picauville in 2004 Dave and John won 1st, 2nd and 15th Open in the MNFC's "Gold Ring Race". This was a superb achievement, made even better by the fact that the first two timers were actually born in the same nest!
Remember, in the MNFC, every member has the opportunity to enter their "Gold Ring Race". This is a competition that allows each and every fancier to purchase a maximum of twenty rings at a set price each (£10 each for example). These "Gold Rings" are put on selected birds at the time of ringing. It's a test of a fancier having an instinct for which babies might perform well later in the year - and the attraction is that every fancier adheres to the same rule. Nobody can have more than 20 rings. The fact that two babies, born side by side in the same nest were to claim the first two positions in this race is absolutely incredible - a feat that's never been achieved before or since.
In the race held on this day there were 1,705 birds entered by 171 members of the North East Section. The M & D Evans Vandenabeele lines of D & J Hawkins were clocked for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 15th, 21st, 25th, 32nd, 36th, 40th, 57th, 77th, 80th, 87th, 106th and 107th positions. In the overall race 5,577 birds were competing, and the Hawkins partnership won 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 15th, 21st, 25th, 32nd, 36th, 40th, 58th, 81st, 84th, 91st, 119th and 121st positions. Add into the equation that £9,331.00 was also won and it concludes into a very satisfactory days work!

That wasn't a one off performance though. If we cast our eyes over the Picauville race that was organised by the Northern Classic organisation then the D & J Hawkins partnership once again excelled by taking a breathtaking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 13th Open positions when 74 members entered 556 birds. Never before had the Northern Classic organisation been dominated by one partnership to such an extent in any one result.

In Scotland the terrain is very different and offers a different challenge. The terrain may be different, but it does not seem to matter to the Evans Vandenabeeles. I'd like to offer the results of two partnerships as an example that the birds are at home in Scotland. Firstly, the partnership of Mr and Mrs Forrest and Son of Ratho who won immediately and out of turn with the family. Straight away the birds from M & D Evans were responsible for producing 7 x 1st Federation winners (including taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th against over 3,500 birds). The Scottish Central Federation was topped on no fewer than six consecutive weeks by this partnership! 1st Otterburn 2,812 birds, 1st Otterburn 3,508 birds, 1st Bishop Auckland 3,251 birds, 1st Bishop Auckland 2,324 birds, 1st Ripon 1,638 birds and 1st Federation Normanton. That's an incredible sequence of results. 
One of the finest racing lofts in the UK is that of George and Willie Macaloney in Scotland. Over a long period of time they have achieved some terrific results. In the 2007 young bird season they raced some M & D Evans Vandenabeele youngsters against their own highly refined team of record breakers. The results have impressed George and Willie tremendously. For example they have notched up 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th against 6,815 birds, 1st against 8,056 birds, 1st, 2nd, 4th and 11th against 7,491 birds and 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 10th against 7,994 birds. These are just two obvious examples from lofts in Scotland that suggests that the Mark and Dickie Evans Vandenabeeles are capable of adapting and winning to a different type of racing.
   In Ireland, many exciting families have been imported to those shores. Some have done well, but it would be fair to say that many have not been able to adjust to the terrain and demands of racing successfully there. Again, the Evans Vandenabeeles have performed with merit. In 2007 for example, George McWhirter was 1st and 2nd NIPA from Mullingar against 5,243 birds. Another good effort was achieved in an Area liberation by the NIPA from Navan. The partnership of D & J Armstrong and Son was 1st and 2nd against 2,895 birds. Gerry O'Keefe and Son put up an outstanding 1st and 2nd from Pilmore Beach when 401 members entered 8,670 birds. Davy Mawhinney won 1st NIPA from Thurles against 12,229 birds. Yet another outstanding example was achieved by the partnership of Gordon Brothers and Sons from Portaferry. Since 2002 this partnership has achieved 1st Federation on at least 30 different occasions - the majority of which has been achieved by M & D Evans Vandenabeeles. The best effort of 2007 for them was when they won 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 14th and 16th Open East Down Combine from Navan against 4,710 birds. No partnership had ever taken the first seven places in an EDC race. 

Racing into Wales is another route that's famous for it's awkward terrain, but here again we see the Evans Vandenabeeles adapting well and making their way to the front in some important races. Mr and Mrs Jenkins and son for instance claimed the 1st and 2nd Open positions in the Welsh South Road National race from Eastbourne in 2007. Perhaps an even better example though lies in the hands of the partnership of Scammell and Peploe. These lads are a formidable force in racing in Wales and have achieved great successes. The Evans Vandenabeeles have come in to their loft though and competed very well. For instance a yearling M & D Evans Vandenabeele hen won 1st from an entry of 10,400 birds. Another super hen won 1st Open National Bergerac from 502 miles. Here again this illustrates their remarkable versatility.

This hen is very special. In 2004 she was a winner of 1st Club 6th National Nantes, 3rd National Nantes, 34th National Bergerac and 8th Fed Messac. Not surprisingly these performances earned her the Gold Cup awarded to the most outstanding pigeon in the Welsh South Road National Flying Club. In 2005 this hen, carrying 75% Vandenabeele blood won 1st club 10th Fed Messac, 1st Club 2nd Fed Littlehampton, 33rd National Cholet, 1st Club, 1st Fed, 1st National Bergerac and yet again winning the Gold Cup awarded to the most outstanding pigeon in the Welsh South Road National Flying Club. That's an extra-ordinary pigeon for you there.

Is it little wonder that this fine hen carries the name of "Golden Princess"? It is also worthy of note that in 2005 that if "Golden Princess" hadn't won the award then the runner-up was also raced by Scammell and Peploe courtesy of a yearling Van Reet x M & D Evans Vandenabeele hen that claimed 6th National Cholet and 5th National Bergerac (502 miles). Super pigeons.

How can Mark and Dickie Evans produce winners on seemingly such a widespread scale? Well, the natural answer is three-fold. They have tremendous pigeons, an uncanny knack of pairing the right pigeons together and never resting on their laurels. It would be easy to focus on the breeders that were churning out the goods, but they are relentless in their pursuit of trying to acquire a super pigeon that will only enhance their colony of established breeders should it ever become available.

Let us look at this last answer in more detail, because how the family develops and moulds itself is interesting. Wherever possible it has to be said that Mark and his father prefer to purchase genuine superstars at Entire Clearance Sales. On occasions there have been other purchases at Public auctions, and sometimes by going to the fancier themselves but normally they are forced to pay whatever the price the public put on a pigeon.

A few obvious examples to illustrate my point. At the Entire Clearance Sale of Tony Carter, the No.1 breeder was "T.C". This was the best Vandenabeele breeding cock in the lofts and had bred reams of winners. He was also a direct son of "Den As". This cock was duly purchased for a large sum by Myrtle Lofts at Public Auction.

At the Dave and Emma Armstrong Entire Clearance Sale, the best Vandenabeele breeding hen was "Hillcroft Fantasy". This direct daughter of "Wittenbuik" had produced 7 x 1st Amal winners in 3 years. She too was duly purchased by Mark and Dick at Public Auction for a large sum.
No stone is left unturned to try to identify excellent breeders to add into the well oiled breeding machine at Myrtle Lofts. For instance, 2005 saw a visit to the Entire Clearance Sale of Lucien Vandenbossche in Belgium. The main target at this sale was duly purchased by M & D Evans."Den Bandiet" was considered to be the best pigeon to have been sold in a Belgium auction that winter. He was entered in 44 races and won 42 prizes with 28 times - 1 in 10. In total he was a winner of 8 x 1st prizes. He was put to stock for 2003 breeding "Zoon Bandiet" Belg.03.436433 also winning 4 x 1st prizes in two seasons before being sold in the same sale.

Closer to home the W and D.S Blenkhorn Entire Clearance Sale saw "Eisenhower" offered for auction. This pigeon was bred by M & D Evans and sold for £250.00 as a baby. Since then he had gone on to do very well, so much so that he was re-introduced for £9,500.00. In his first year at stock he bred four cocks to win 71 prizes between them. Eisenhower's best two sons were introduced for £6,200.00 one winning 23 prizes the other winning 19 prizes all in the top six places. A half sister to Eisenhower" was acquired for £5,000.00 again proven breeder of 1st prize winners.

At the Freddy Vandenbrande's Entire Clearance the top racing and breeding cock "Edou" was introduced by Mark and Dickie Evans. He is bred from the very best bloodlines of Gaby Vandenabeele & Louis Deleux. He was winner of 1st Semi National Chateauroux 10,295 birds, 1st Provincial Chateauroux 2,047 birds, 6th Provincial Argenton 1,538 birds, 13th Semi National Argenton 8,405 birds, 17th Provincial Bourges 2,179 birds, 26th Provincial Bourges 1,249 birds, 29th Provincial Noyon 1,059 birds, 54th National Bourges 18,028 birds, 104th National Bourges 11,249 birds, 151st National Limoges 16,945 birds. He's a good one alright!
As I said before though, it isn't always Entire Clearance Sales where birds are introduced. Not so long ago at the Blackpool Show of the Year an opportunity presented itself to acquire a pigeon called "Golden Gaby". This cock was being offered for auction by the highly successful Peter Fox of Syndicate Lofts. His record was exemplary and his breeding equally appetizing. His age was right, only born in 2001. His breeding was right in the sense of he could call upon "Wittenbuik", "Limoges", "Turbo" and "Flicka" etc in his recent parentage. As a racer he excelled winning 1st National NPO Orleans 12,875 birds (606km), 2nd Arras 6,124 birds, 3rd Nijvel 3,553 birds, 6th Arras 14,674 birds, 14th Peronne 2,975 birds, 16th Reims 2,316 birds, 20th Nijvel 16,652 birds, 41st Boxtel 16,618 birds etc. Everything that M & D Evans were looking for was captured in this pigeon and he was introduced at Public Auction for the whopping sum of £15,000.00. I may well be wrong, but it's my own opinion in 3-4 years time that "Golden Gaby" will be paraded as the undisputed Number 1 breeding cock at Myrtle Lofts. 
So far we've predominantly looked at pigeons that have been acquired through Public Auctions, and often not containing the bloodlines from within the M & D Evans colony. It has to be said that history shows that Mark and Dickie Evans are never afraid to introduce outstanding examples of their own family. These pigeons have often been bred by Mark and Dick, sold as young birds, and then re-acquired at a later date for a much higher fee. This illustrates their desire to continue in developing their family of pigeons. Here are some natural examples of pigeons that have either been bred by Mark and Dick, or bred from their own pigeons that have been re-acquired. On every occasion these pigeons have not been available at auction to purchase. Reports of successful pigeons reach their ears and when and where they feel it appropriate they will attempt to re-strengthen by trying to add the successful pigeon back into their own birds. 

A 2004 hen carrying the "Rolls Royce" lines called "Cosmic Girl" was added back into the breeding lofts of M & D Evans. She was carrying 100% of their bloodlines when she won 1st Up North Combine from Maidstone against 14,701 birds. One of the most successful lofts of all time in the West Midlands is that of M, Yates and Son. When Clive (the son of the partnership) won 1st Open MNFC in their Yearling National race with 100% M & D Evans lines, both parents of the National winner came home to where they were born - Myrtle Lofts. At the same time, Mark and Dick had identified through Clive's feedback that he had an exceptional breeding hen. This hen, affectionately known as "The Golden Hen" had bred eight pigeons, and seven out of the eight had all won 1st prizes. So outstanding was this hen that she too returned home to where she was born - Myrtle Lofts.

Outstanding pigeons that carry the bloodlines from Mark and Dick's own pigeons returning home to re-strengthen the breeding pool is not uncommon either at Myrtle Lofts. One outstanding example of this lies with a pigeon affectionately known as "The Boss" due to his outstanding prowess. He is a grand-child of the 1995 originals "National Fideel", "Naomi", "Winston" and "Ebony". This cock has been a phenomenal breeding machine for his owners Gordon Brothers and Sons of Northern Ireland.

This pigeon was a great racing cock achieving results for Gordon Brothers right through to National level. However good they thought he was at racing; his ability at breeding far outshone any of his racing successes. Since retiring "The Boss" to the stock loft he has become a revelation, breeding winners to 6 different hens to date. Successes of his offspring would include 1st Open 8,048 birds East Down Combine, 1st Open 4,987 birds, 2nd Section 21st Open NIPA 27,772 birds, 16th Open NIPA National 9,142 birds, 3rd Classic 6th Open 1,561 birds, 57th Open National 2,874 birds, 119th Open National 9,142 birds, 134th Open NIPA 24,864 birds. The "Boss" bloodlines win from 100 miles right the way through to 500 miles in both tail and head winds. "The Boss" is responsible for at least 25 x 1st clubs, at least 11 x 1st Federation winners and 2 x 1st Open winners. In recent times, he has been at Myrtle Lofts to be mated to some of the finest breeding hens.

It would obviously be a fair statement to say that Mark and Dick Evans own some incredibly fine pigeons. Once you own these pigeons though, how does one go about refining them, establishing which ones are superior? That's a mighty task in itself and this is where many fanciers either step forward and take the plaudits or suffer drastically. Pigeons that arrive at the breeding lofts of Mark and Dick Evans are added to the experimental breeding lofts. Here's a typical example of the way Mark and Dick go about assessing the qualities of a potential breeder. When they purchased 54 youngsters in 1995 that were bred direct by Gaby Vandenabeele they quickly realized that they had the task of identifying the finest. As outstanding as Gaby Vandenabeele is a top stock man breeding outstanding pigeon's world wide, it would not be feasible, logical or possible for him to breed 54 champion breeders.

Three years later in 1998 a dozen pigeons were destroyed as they did not make the standard for their breeding lofts. On the positive side the remaining 42 where responsible for breeding outright 1st prize winners in Club, Fed., Amal., Classic and National races beating up to and over 30,000 birds.

The next step was to re-evaluate the remaining 42 because Mark and Dick would believe that their breeding standards are higher than most. As far as they are concerned their breeders must be capable of producing pigeons that have the ability to win Classic and National races. By the time 2001 was with them, only 22 of the original 54 were still housed at the lofts. This lengthy elimination process had left Mark and Dick with 22 top breeders which are the cream of this family.

One of the most fundamental reasons for the continued success of Mark and Dick Evans can be attributed to the work that is put in to study to in-breed and cross breed all the hard day working pigeons together. Tough decisions have been taken in the past to cull the parents to winning pigeons which can only achieve top awards on fast days. Mark and Dick passionately believe that with astute management any family of pigeons can win on high velocities. It's a different story though when pigeons are asked to win on slow, hard working days with the wind on their nose and giving 100 miles to shorter flying competitors. How much confidence would you have in your family of pigeons with the ability not only to win, but achieve results which most fanciers only dream about and think it is totally impossible to achieve?

An example of the results that Mark and Dick aspire to achieve is the result from Guernsey in the M.N.F.C. when Myrtle Lofts bloodlines won 1st, 5th, 7th, 10th, 15th, 21st, 31st, 38th, 39th North East Section when 269 members sent 2,069 birds. In the overall race there were 771 members competing with 5,661 birds. The Myrtle Lofts bloodlines won 2nd, 8th, 10th, 13th, 23rd, 35th, 49th, 63rd, 65th Open.

The Midlands National Flying Club would be one of the strongest and highly competitive organisations in the UK. In their race from Chale, youngsters carrying the bloodlines based at Mark and Dick Evans breeding lofts achieved the following breathtaking performances. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 16th, 17th, 24th, 25th, 30th, 31st, 39th, 41st, 43rd, 50th, 56th, 64th, 70th and 87th North East Section (154 members entering 1,829 birds). In the overall race when 451 members sent 4,753 birds the following positions were attained by birds carrying Myrtle Lofts bloodlines. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 17th, 18th, 27th, 28th, 36th, 37th, 47th, 49th, 51st, 60th, 71st, 81st, 90th and 111th Open. These birds were carrying either 100% Myrtle Lofts blood, or had been crossed into another family to achieve a remarkable performance. In these results they were flying over one hundred miles further than some competitors and racing into a head wind. This result clearly illustrates that Evans birds are not only winning against a small number of fanciers, but competing and winning against some of the strongest competition possible in the U.K. The finest breeding couples can ultimately only be found by subjecting the offspring to the ultimate test - the race basket. Any breeding policy, irrespective of how good the gene pool can not escape this acid test. The breeding couples at Myrtle Lofts are not only required to breed winners and outstanding racing pigeons on a regular basis; but they must also attain these same exacting standards when coupled to different partners. This most rigid of policies has allowed Mark and Dick Evans to create a family of pigeons, whereby only the very finest survive within the breeding lofts. Pigeons are not housed on sentiment or on just one outstanding performance. Single results are considered comparatively meaningless. When it is time to assess a pigeon's real quality it is taken to heart when it is seen for a third time. Once may be a fluke. Twice might be a coincidence. Three times though is perceived as an initial indicator of class.
So, we've come a long way so far I think. When Mark and Dickie Evans introduced the birds from Gaby Vandenabeele back in 1995 could they envisaged what was to lie ahead of them? Only they will honestly know the real answer to that. I'd suggest though that it was no fluke that they found themselves a long way from home, knocking on a man's door in a different country at exactly the right time. From the original batch of 54 birds that were introduced, there was always going to be a mighty task ahead of them to develop the birds and identify the good, the bad and the great. Oh yes, there were good ones, bad ones and truly great ones I'd suggest.
What are the cornerstones of the M & D Evans success? Well, in terms of identifying actual pigeons then Gaby Vandenabeele produced 5 cocks in 1995 that were of absolutely outrageous quality. These five cocks I'd suggest are the absolute rocks on which their success has been built. That's not to say that the other cocks in the colony aren't up to scratch, because pigeons of that quality have no home at Myrtle Lofts. But, if we're being fair and ask ourselves what have "Shadow", "Benetton", "Jester", "Nationaal Fideel" and "Logan" bred, then I'm afraid I haven't got the fingertips to be able to produce an incredible resume of success. However, I'm happy to try and highlight.

In a DVD film that was released a few seasons ago, M & D Evans identified "Shadow" as being their No.1 breeding cock. I would dare to suggest that this was based not on "quantity" of winners that this cock had produced. Sure, he's responsible for a bucket-load of winners, and of the highest calibre too. No, what I think helped elevate him to that position was the fact that he could breed outstanding specimens with pretty much any hen to which he was mated. I'll offer you a couple of examples.

When "Shadow" was mated to "Devon" he produced the great breeding hen for Mel and Sue King. This direct daughter of "Shadow" must be one of the best breeding hens in the UK at the moment being responsible for 1st Open National Flying Club Nantes 10,150 birds, 2nd Open Central Southern Classic, 1st Section winners, 1st Combine winners and 1st Federation winners. If that weren't enough, her children breed them too! This daughter of "Shadow" and "Devon" is the grand-mother of 2 x 1st Open National winners and 3rd Open National. She is also the Great Grand-mother of 2 x 1st Open Classic winners.

When "Shadow" was mated to "Princess" he produced the ace racer/breeder for M & D Evans called "Solitaire". Remember the race in 2000 that was organised from La Ferte Bernard in France? It was organised by The Alliance Millenium of Specialists Clubs? The cock called "Solitaire" was the first bird home representing the Northern Classic and Midlands National Flying Club. He finished 26th Open in the race overall, however the first thirty-seven birds home were all flying a distance between 191 - 261 miles. "Solitaire" was flying 387 miles! Since finishing his illustrious racing career, "Solitaire" has proved to be a great breeder, with offspring taking positions which include 1st National. In particular he seems to have struck up a great partnership with "Band of Gold". Together they are a very dynamic mating! Again, "Solitaire" is a direct son of "Shadow".

Remember "Eisenhower"? He was re-acquired by M & D Evans at Public Auction for £9,500.00. This cock is again a direct son of "Shadow" but this time the mother isn't "Devon" or "Princess", it's "Saffron"! The "Eisenhower" cock was a prolific breeder of good racers for Dave Blenkhorn which inspired the re-purchase by M & D Evans. Since being re-acquired the "Eisenhower" cock has been responsible for producing pigeons to perform at the highest level of competition in the UK (Indeed, one son has twice won 2nd Open - once in the British International Championship Club and once in the London and south East Classic Club - only beaten by a loft-mate on both occasions!). The BICC club welcomes members from all over England.

Another example of the potency of "Shadow" can be found in a cock that was called "The Assassin". Purchased as a youngster by Cath Lycett and Son this cock won almost £2,000.00 in a 9 race career before being successfully retired to Stock. This cock went on to breed winners for many fanciers. The mother of "The Assassin" wasn't "Saffron", nor "Devon", nor "Princess" - it was "Ebony". These are four examples of top class progeny coming out of "Shadow" and on each and every occasion he was being mated to a different hen. That's the stamp of a very special pigeon indeed. "Shadow" is a full brother to "Amocachi". This excellent pigeon was winner of 3 x 1st, 3rd Limoges 4,359 birds, 4th Chateauroux 6,678 birds, 4th Limoges 18,608 birds, 9th Blois 6,100 birds etc.

Another stunning example of his potency can be found when he was mated to "Carrie" to produce "Carrie Black". This hen went on to produce "The Blue Ace" winner of 2nd Open Europa Classic Edinburgh and "Ace Bird" of the six race series winning £15,000.00 and a new car! Remember, I've just illustrated to you his ability with "Devon", "Princess", "Ebony", "Saffron" and "Carrie". Quite remarkable!

If "Shadow" had reached the No.1 spot based on the variety of hens that he bred winners with, then "Jester" could count himself a little unlucky. I believe that most fanciers when asked to name an M & D Evans Stock cock would have "Jester" not far away from the tip of their tongue. With good reason too. His partnership with the breeding hen "Carrie" is one of the most successful partnerships that the UK racing scene has seen since… well, I don't know when. Before we attempt to look at what this pairing were responsible for, I'd like to tell you a little story about "Jester". Those fanciers who did not see him in the flesh couldn't imagine what sort of pigeon he was.

He was unique. You know why? The pigeon was a one-off. A genuine lunatic! The first time I saw him was the morning after his son had won 1st Open Midlands National Flying Club Picauville against 4,154 birds in 1998. Naturally I was keen to see the parents of the pigeon that had just won 1st Open MNFC. At the time, "Jester" was sitting eggs. As we gently moved towards the vicinity of his box, we could all see "Jester" watching everybody in the loft very warily. Next second BANG and he was off, kicking his eggs up the wall behind him and he was gone! For the next two minutes he would fly the length and breadth of the loft daring anybody not to go near him. Nobody had gone within five feet of his box! To all who witnessed him, you had to marvel at his eccentricity. Yes, he was quality, his record proves it, but he definitely had his own ideas on life too! Personally I quite enjoyed seeing the character of the cock. Life was certainly never dull with "Jester" around the place.

I do believe that it is genuinely impossible to now try and keep an accurate record of how many winners are coming through these five cocks - none more so than "Jester". I know that there were literally hundreds and hundreds of 1st prize-winners attributed to "Jester", and that was some years ago too. Inland or across the water, the offspring of "Jester" were a danger. An example of some of the performances attributed to the offspring of "Jester" are :- 1st NE Section, 1st Open MNFC Picauville 4,154 birds, 4th Open National 11,448 birds, 3rd Open MNFC Picauville 9,880 birds, 4th Open Picauville 9,880 birds, 8th Open MNFC Bergerac 2,016 birds (566 miles), 8th Open Mullingar 7,000 birds, 10th Open Mullingar 7,000 birds, 10th Open MNFC La Ferte Bernard 7,194 birds, 11th Open National 9,142 birds, 1st Section 1st Open Northern Classic Fougeres, 2nd Section 2nd Open Northern Classic, 1st Open MNFC Yearling National, 2nd Open MNFC Yearling National etc. These are just the tip of the iceberg believe me!

Genetically, "Jester" was very well bred indeed. His father was the 1994 bred "Late Kleinen" this cock was a half-brother to the famous "Wittenbuik" as they both share the same father ("Kleinen"). The mother of "Jester" is the 1990 bred hen "Beauty" and she is direct from the base Gaby breeder "Bijter". Is it any wonder that "Jester" turned out to be such a prolific breeder with genes so potent?

M & D Evans always acknowledged to me that when they were racing, when it coming to putting the highly sought after prize of trying to do well in the "Gold Ring Races" it was always "Benetton" that took priority. It's not hard to see why either. Genetically, this cock was superb. He was a direct son of the base breeding machine "Wittenbuik" that was so very successful for Gaby. The mother of "Benetton" was the 1986 hen "Francoise" who was a grand-daughter of "De Kleinen". The "Benetton" cock was a proven producer of winners at all levels, and with different mates too.
Initially "Benetton" started his breeding career off with "Belle" - a most superb hen that we'll come to shortly. Together they hit it off straight away producing winners. However, I would dare to suggest that "Benetton" was at his very best when he was mated to the "Saffron" hen. Together they produced "Band of Gold" who in 1999 won 1st Section 1st Open in the MNFC Picauville Gold Ring Event. In the overall race she was 3rd Section 17th Open against over 5,000 birds. If we fast forward the clock the best part of a decade, the "Band of Gold" hen is now the No.1 breeding hen at Myrtle Lofts, and as I said earlier, she has a great rapport with "Solitaire". Together their children do very well - one example being when M. Yates and Son won 1st Section 1st Open in the Midlands National Yearling National with "Solitaire" and "Band of Gold" blood.

Another example of how good "Benetton" and "Saffron" were together can be found in a hen called "Pale Rider" that was owned by Cath Lycett and Son before they left the sport. The "Pale Rider" hen was also their No.1 breeding hen being responsible for many winners. One such daughter of "Pale Rider" was "Bobby Dazzler" winner of 4 x 1st and 2 x 2nd as a baby, including 1st Section 1st Open in the North Midlands Continental Classic race from Yelverton.
It wasn't just "Belle" and "Saffron" that produced winners with "Benetton". One fine mating was "Benetton" and "Devon". Together they produced a super pair of nest-sisters called "Going for Gold" and "Gold Gem". These sisters were both winners of in excess of £1,000.00 as babies. A full brother to these hens was "True Blue" who proved equally as good.

If that weren't enough, I'm sure that there are plenty of fanciers in the UK who would argue that "Benetton" was at his best when he was mated to "Amber Louise". This is the stamp of a really special pigeon. Small in size it's true but "Benetton" was a genuinely exceptional breeding male who could seemingly produce the right calibre of offspring virtually irrespective of who his chosen partner was.

I was reading the breeding catalogue of Mark and Dick Evans a few days ago and came across an interesting quotation from them. It related to the 1995 breeding cock "Nationaal Fideel". They say "Winners for winners this cock will appear on more winning pedigrees than any other breeding cock at Myrtle Lofts". That should give you an idea of the quality of this breeding cock. Genetically it's not difficult to see why he's so good either. His father is "Zoon National" a direct son of "Rambo" who of course was 1st Bourges, recording the fastest velocity out of 63,176 birds. The mother of "Nationaal Fideel" is a direct daughter of "Fideel" himself a winner of 2nd National.

The "Nationaal Fideel" cock struck up a superb relationship with the 1995 hen "Belle". Together they would be recognised as a very dynamic pairing here in the UK. Perhaps the best child of this mating would be "Rolls Royce". Bred in 1998, this cock was one of three pigeons that dropped together when M & D Evans were 1st, 2nd and 3rd Section, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Open MNFC Picauville ("Rolls Royce" was clocked second). He wax also a winner of 32nd Section 33rd Open MNFC Thorness 5,617 birds and 9th NE Section (2,896 birds) 50th Open Midlands National Flying Club Le Ferte Bernard when 1,161 members entered 7,017 birds.

The racing career of "Rolls Royce" was cut short due to an injury sustained in training. What a blessing in turned out to be too, for he has turned out to be a wonderful breeder in his own right too. When McArdle and Archibold were 1st and 2nd in the Bamfords Gold Ring race (In excess over 1,000 birds competing), both of the first two birds home were bred down from "Rolls Royce". Total winnings on this day from these two pigeons was £4,500.00!

Even at grand-child level the birds from "Rolls Royce" do very well. One daughter from "Rolls Royce" is "Pure Gold" who when mated to "Shadow" bred a pigeon to win 6 x 1st prizes including 1st Federation Buckingham 1,592 birds, 1st Federation Buckingham 1,440 birds, 1st Federation Basingstoke 1,345 birds etc. Remember, "Rolls Royce" is a direct son out of "Nationaal Fideel" and "Belle".

The "Nationaal Fideel" cock proved just as potent though when he met "Carrie". Together they bred a pigeon called "Young Fideel". This cock is another example of how Mark and Dickie Evans went to a public auction and acquired a pigeon that they had bred for a large sum of money. By this time, "Young Fideel" had bred winners with different hens and was purchased for the highest price in the Entire Clearance Sale at Barry Atkinson's sale.

The final cock that I'd like to offer as being one of the "fabulous five" is "Logan". This 1995 cock along with his nest-sister "Saffron" must rank as one of the finest pair of nest-mates ever to come into the UK shores. That's no idle boast either. As you'll see from their track record, they more than prove their ability. "Logan" is a direct son of "Blauwen Beauty" - a most desireable son of "Bijter".

As a breeder, "Logan" has shown himself to be most versatile. Inland or channel with different mates, it seems to make little difference. Offspring containing "Logan" bloodlines have won 1st NE Section 1st Open Midlands National Flying Club Yearling National, 1st NE Section, 3rd Open MNFC Picauville 9,880 birds and a new motor car! 2nd NE Section 2nd Open Midlands National Flying Club Tours 4,076 birds, 2nd Section 2nd Open Northern Classic 1,300 birds (beaten by a loft-mate). When the pigeon scored 2nd Open Tours 4,076 birds it was a descendant of "Logan" and "Ebony" when mated to a Soontjen that put up this marvellous performance. In my opinion, the best mating for "Logan" at Myrtle Lofts was the "Ebony" hen.

However, this does not mean that he does not and cannot breed winners when mated to different hens. To be in the "top five" he must be more prolific than that - and he is. Some examples for you. When "Logan" was mated to a daughter of "Rolls Royce" he produced "Witpen Logan" winner of 2nd Federation Kettering 1,289 (beaten by a loft-mate), 2nd Federation Leicester 1,146 birds (beaten by a loft-mate), 2nd Federation Basingstoke 1,243 birds (once again beaten by a loft-mate). This shows his direct offspring have the ability to perform well over very short distances too, as well as from France.

When mated to "Band of Gold" for instance, we again see top performers coming out of "Logan". "Blauwen Logan" was a winner of 3rd Federation Buckingham 1,592 birds, 9th Federation Buckingham 1,440 birds (beaten by eight loft-mates), 10th Federation Leicester 1,146 birds (beaten by nine loft-mates). On all of these occasions "Blauwen Logan" could have won 1st prize had he been picked up first.

I don't know whether you're a fan of music, but here in the UK there was a highly successful band called "Eurythmics". One of their biggest hits was a song called "Sisters are doing it for themselves". Why am I telling you this? Well, the start of this song begins with the lyrics "Now there was a time when they used to say, That behind every great man, There had to be a great woman". What's the relevance of this? Well, it's fine to have some outstanding breeding males, but without exceptional hens to lay the golden eggs, then these cocks are comparatively useless. Fortunately, from the pool of the original 54 directs that were bred by Gaby Vandenabeele there were some simply superb hens, and it would be a crime not to shower some attention on them.

Probably the most famous hen amongst the colony of breeding hens for M & D Evans was "Carrie". Her relationship with "Jester" set literally scores of lofts on the road to success. Hundreds upon hundreds of 1st prize-winners can be attributed to this mating, and a significant offer was made to purchase the dream pairing of "Jester" and "Carrie" some years ago, which I would say was very wisely turned down by Mark and Dick Evans.

Bred in 1995, "Carrie" immediately started to produce the goods. In 1996, one of her first children was sent over to Victor Reid in Northern Ireland to race. The baby turned out to be a cock and as a baby won 1st Club, 1st Section 4,358 birds 20th Open NIPA against 31,619 birds. Shortly after, Victor retired from the sport and this cock, aptly named "Victor Reid" came home to where he was born - and immediately started to produce a steady stream of winners. He was mated to "Princess", "Nationaal Fideelke" and a daughter of "Belle" and produced pigeons to win 1st prizes with all of them. The writing was clearly on the wall for the "Jester" and "Carrie" pairing. 
Around this time it's worth remembering that "Carrie" gave birth to "Love Bird". She was a great hen in the short time that she lived. A winner of both 1st Open Northern Classic Fougeres and 2nd Northern Classic Picauville she was clearly a remarkable talent, and in 1999 produced five incredible pigeons known as the "Super Five" when mated to "Rolls Royce". The young from this mating all produced winners. One youngster from this mating was "Pure Gold" the mother of "Team Leader" winner of 6 x1st including 1st Federation Buckingham 1,592 birds, 1st Federation Buckingham 1,440 birds, 1st Federation Basingstoke 1,345 birds etc.
 Another child of the "Love Bird" and "Rolls Royce" mating was "Joe Jones". The young from "Joe Jones" immediately showed their potential by winning 1st Federation Warwick 1,562 birds, 2nd Federation Basingstoke 1,315 birds, 2nd Federation Portsmouth, 2nd Federation Stoneleigh etc (All of these were achieved by one pigeon for Alan Darker of Broughton). The potency of the descendants of "Carrie" was there to be seen by all. Another son of "Joe Jones" is "The Bouncer" that was purchased by Jack Walker of Cannock. He immediately produced pigeons to win 1st Ashby Gold Ring Yelverton 2003 and 1st Stafford Gold Ring Picauville in 2004. Another descendant of "Joe Jones" is "Cosmic Girl" winner of 1st UNC Maidstone against 14,701 birds. Oh yes, you can see why the "Carrie" line was so highly regarded! 

Let us not forget, there are ample examples that "Carrie" produced winners at all levels at every generation possible. Successful direct children include the afore-mentioned "Love Bird", "Victor Reid" and of course "Blue National" the winner of 1st Open Midlands National Flying Club Picauville, 4,000+ birds. It was soon acknowledged though that these direct children were so valuable that they were immediately asked to breed the goods as opposed to race themselves - and they did the task with great success.

I do believe that it would be possible for me to go on all night about the exploits of "Carrie" - especially when mated to "Jester". For many years they were never separated, but in latter years she was also to be shown as potent with other breeding males. "Nationaal Fideel", "Shadow" and "Golden Gaby" are a few examples breeding males who have been mated to "Carrie" with great success.

When "Carrie" met "Shadow" they produced "Carrie Black". This hen bred "The Blue Ace" who was "Ace bird of the Europa one-loft six race series" winning £15,000 and a new motor car. When "Carrie" met "Nationaal Fideel" they bred "Young Fideel" who was purchased back by M & D Evans at Barry Atkinson's Sale. This cock was only two years old at the time, and had bred winners with different mates both seasons. The bloodlines were just so strong! It wasn't just "Jester" that threw winners with "Carrie" as we can clearly see.

It's not just in the UK where this success has been seen though. Tom and Niel Chalmers in Port Elizabeth (South Africa), Carey Tilson of Las Vegas (USa), Joe Ferreire of Richmond Hill (North America), Jeff Wilburn of Chatham (North America), Mike Valente of Guildford (North America) and Koutsoudis Brothers of Port Elizabeth (South Africa) and John Marles are just a few names from further other continents who have experienced success with "Carrie" and Mark and Dickie Evans Vandenabeele bloodlines.

For many years "Carrie" was paraded as the No.1 breeding hen at Myrtle Lofts for Mark and Dick Evans. Imagine the quality that was needed then for another hen to come and take her mantle as "The No.1 breeding hen". It was a task that "Saffron" proved more than capable of fulfilling. This isn't to suggest that the winners coming out of "Carrie" stopped. Far from it, I believe it simply to be the case that the winners reported back to "Saffron" were not as quickly reported as "Carrie".

"Saffron" is the actual nest-sister to the afore-mentioned "Logan". This must make them one of the finest pairs of breeding nest-mates that have ever graced the shores of the UK. In recent years, "Saffron" had knocked "Carrie" off the perch as being No.1 breeding hen. That mantle is now being carried by her daughter "Band of Gold" - but it's fair to say that "Saffron" produces outstanding breeding and racing pigeons when mated to different partners.

Remember "Eisenhower"? He was re-acquired by M & D Evans at Public Auction for £9,500.00. This cock is a direct son of "Saffron" when she was mated to "Shadow". The "Eisenhower" cock was a prolific breeder of good racers for Dave Blenkhorn which inspired the re-purchase by M & D Evans. Since being re-acquired the "Eisenhower" cock has been responsible for producing pigeons to perform at the highest level of competition in the UK (Indeed, one son has twice won 2nd Open - once in the British International Championship Club and once in the London and South East Classic Club - only beaten by a loft-mate on both occasions for the partnership of Crammond and Langstaff).
When "Saffron" met "Maclaren" they produced a sensational breeding hen for Clive Yates known as "The Golden Hen". This daughter out of two of the 1995 original Gaby's was so prolific that Myrtle Lofts went down to Clive's lofts and purchased her back. From eight youngsters that she had bred, seven out of the eight had won 1st prizes on the road for Clive! Such a high percentage of winners to come out of a fairly young hen is quite phenomenal, and you can see that, with her parents getting older that such an outstanding daughter of them was re-introduced back into the breeding colony at Myrtle Lofts.
For me though, the best partner for "Saffron" was the nest-brother of "Maclaren", the pigeon known as "Benetton". Together, they produced a ream of good pigeons. No, in fact they were capable of throwing better pigeons than that! We've already seen that "Saffron" was the mother of Dave Blenkhorn's No.1 breeding cock "Eisenhower". We've already seen that she was mother of Clive Yates "Golden Hen". These pigeons share the same mother, but not the same father. Now we introduce some more "top" pigeons that are direct out of "Saffron".

Before their retirement from the sport, the best breeding hen for Cath Lycett and Son was "Pale Rider" a direct daughter of "Benetton" and "Saffron". This hen produced lots of good pigeons for many fanciers. One outstanding young daughter of her was "Bobby Dazzler" the winner of 4 x 1st and 2 x 2nd as a baby including 1st Section 1st Open North Midlands Continental Yelverton by a clear 9 minutes and 59 seconds. This hen is now owned by Gordon Brothers in Northern Ireland. A full sister to "Pale Rider" is "Band of Gold". This is the hen that now carries the pressure of being the No.1 breeding hen for Mark and Dickie Evans themselves at Myrtle Lofts.

You may recall she herself was a star as a racer winning 1st Section 1st Open in the MNFC Picauville Gold Ring Event. In the overall race she was 3rd Section 17th Open against over 5,000 birds. It's as a breeder though where she has gone on to truly shine. You may recall that a spoke of a "hot pairing" between "Solitaire" and "Band of Gold". Well, together this pairing is proving to be rather dynamic. For instance, they produced "Solitaire Gold". This pigeon bred the pigeon that won 1st Section 1st Open for Clive and Donna Yates in the Midlands National Yearling Race. They also produced "Solitaire Princess" who was an outstanding breeding hen for Jack Walker and Al Booth.

Another outstanding example of the "Solitaire" and "Band of Gold" mating can be seen in the breeding lofts of Dave and John Hawkins. Their daughter of this mating is the direct mother of the sensational nest pair "Lord of the Rings" and "Lady of the Rings" and "The 42 cock" As a pairing "Lord and Lady of the Rings" won 1st Open Midland National Gold Ring Picauville 3,192 birds and, unbelievably 2nd Open Gold Ring too! "Lord of the Rings" won in excess of £6,000.00 as a baby. Other prizes included 2nd Section 2nd Open MNFC Picauville, 34th Section 42nd Open MNFC Chale and 12th Section 13th Open Northern Classic Picauville (beaten by ten loft-mates!). As for the brother "The 42 cock" he was 1st NE Section 38th Open in the MNFC, 1st Buckingham, 1st Newbury, 1st Alencon, 2nd Club 2nd Federation Falaise (beaten by a loft-mate). It's worth remembering that the direct mother of these three fine pigeons is a direct daughter of the "Solitaire" and "Band of Gold", and of course, "Band of Gold" is a direct daughter from the mighty breeder "Saffron".

As we start to draw towards a close now, I hope that you may have found this article of interest. I've attempted to tell a bit of a story. It originates from a time when the Gaby Vandenabeele family of pigeons was largely unheard of in the UK. It charts the racing and breeding merits of Mark and Dickie Evans at Myrtle Lofts. I purposely haven't gone into extravagant detail on how they determine which pigeon is selected to mate with which pigeon. What I can tell you though is that Mark himself has published a very extensive article on this topic on their own website www.myrtlelofts.com It's portrayed better there can I could re-invent it. We've also looked at the more prominent breeders within their colony and some examples of fanciers throughout the UK that are flying extremely well with these birds.

It would be fair to say that there are Federation Champions flying these pigeons that I haven't even touched on. Please accept my apologies for this, as I simply cannot cover everyone and everything. The purpose of my selecting certain fanciers in certain areas was simply to demonstrate the adaptability and versatility of this family through various terrains that are on offer.

One thing that I do notice, that I do find rather interesting is the uncanny ability that these birds seem to possess to find each other at the front of a race and help each other to achieve some outstanding performances. This has happened in various outlets of the UK. If I may, I'll offer a few instances to prove my point. 1-2-3-4 Kelso against 6,815 birds. 1-2-3-4-5-6 Truro against 1,348 birds. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 Northern classic Picauville. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16 against 1,635 birds. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-12-13-14 against 1,440 birds. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 against 1,243 birds. 1-2-3-4-5-6-8-9-11-12-17-18 etc against 4,753 birds. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 against 4,710 birds. 1-2-4-5 against 7,257 birds. There are plenty of other examples. The ones I've chosen above would be offered by me simply because they are my favoured examples of "team performances". You can call that privileges of the author if you like! What does the future hold? Well, Mark and Dickie have managed to cultivate a family of pigeons that have become very successful both in the UK and further afield. They've achieved this through stringent management principles and a desire to acquire the best pigeons that they think can be an attribute to them. From talking to them, I believe that this desire is only being whetted by the success that they've already experienced. If I'm being fair, I think five years ago, Myrtle Lofts were always on the look-out for a class pigeon of Gaby based origins. I don't believe that has changed at all. What I do believe has happened though, and wisely too for my money is that they are on the look-out for any pigeon of the highest quality virtually irrespective of its parentage. When I say "any pigeon" that of course isn't true in the strictest sense of the word. A class performer with a strong history where winners are plentiful in the recent history of the pigeon in question would always be strongly considered - almost irrespective of whether it had Gaby blood in it or not. To me, that is wise, because you can never have enough outrageous quality in the gene pool, no matter what bloodlines the bird is carrying, and at Myrtle Lofts we can see that there is a formidable array of talent at the disposal of Mark and Dickie Evans.

Hope you have enjoyed the read. Mike Lycett