Trip of a lifetime ( David Van Aalst  )

Back in October 2005 I wrote a letter of appreciation, via your excellent Journal, to Peter and Wendy Binks of the Mandurah Murray Pigeon Racing Club in WA for their confidence in sending me and my great friend and mentor, the late Art Van den dungen, to Sydney to acquire their foundation stock.  This appreciation also extended to John Hanson, his family and staff of Blenhaven Stud for the way they looked after us during our stay with them.

Time has gone very quickly - it has hardly seemed to be any time and once again, last March, I was more than pleasantly surprised, this time to be invited by John Hanson to join him and his friends in a catch-up in the time leading up and after the successful Blenhaven Stud and the ARPJ sponsored Conference entitled “An Afternoon with World Renowned Pigeon Fanciers Jos Thoné of Belgium & Charles Attard of Malta” which was held Saturday December 12th at the Liverpool Catholic Club in Hoxton Park Road.

As had happened previously, I was very conveniently and thankfully met at the Sydney airport on the Wednesday afternoon, this time by those excellent fanciers, Ian and Dolly Freeman and thanks most sincerely Ian and Dolly.  Some may remember their champion Hen, ‘Prada Blue,’ Janssen Family and racing under the syndicate name of ‘Dolly’s Pink Ladys’ that produced 3x1st and 2 x2nd Adelaide Club winners.  Ian drove me directly to Blenhaven Stud situated on Jensen Road, Wadalba, just under one-hundred kilometres north of Sydney and about an hour and twenty minute drive.  On arrival we found John and Jos Thone in the loft looking at the new Jos Thone imports – fabulous pigeons.  There were three sons of ‘Nadira’, The Wonder Hen, 1st International Perpignan 830kms and 1st International Corcassonne 900kms - in the space of two weeks! John and Jos bought her for 74,000   Euro. There was  also son and brother & sister to Avril, a white grizzle hen that sold for EUR140,000 ($220,000) to China!  Where do they get such money?

It goes without saying that I was nervous when first meeting the famous Jos Thoné and in which I had read so much, but in less than a minute he had put me totally at ease.  He is very likeable and can be a very funny man too.  He has that knack of being able to mix with ‘royalty’ and the working man without any noticeable difference. We got on exceptionally well and Jos and his good wife Gaby (daughter of the famous Belgian fancier, Thomas Peeters) and who, incidentally, were domiciled at the Kooindah Waters Residential, Golf and Spa Resort close by in Wyong.  They have invited me to their home in As, in eastern Belgium, north of Liege, during the next racing season (The Wizard of As) and I might just take them up on that. At one stage Jos remarked that the distance pigeons of ten years ago, in Belgium, are not fast enough now.  If not on the day, you’re not in it!  Naturally, we progressed to lunch and a few brown ales and we no sooner started than it was remembered we had to pick up Gaby. John asked if I would like to drive his Jaguar and pick up Gaby from the hair dressers, so off I went down a few roads, a few lanes and nearly got lost, but got it done and not a scratch on the duco. Exciting stuff!

We had an enjoyable evening at the Bay Cafe at Long Jetty, which is close to The Entrance, Tuggerah Lake.  There was just John, myself, Jos and Gaby.  Very nice surroundings and offered a wide range of exotic Australian meats – I stuck to the tried and true.

I saw and handled so many fine birds and always falling back on everything gained from working with that old maestro, my late friend, Art Van den dungen of Perth.  I believe I was able to do justice to each and every bird handed to me.  I must thank most sincerely Steve Eggleton and his lovely wife Alex and family of St Ives for their wonderful hospitality.  A lovely barbecue followed up with an in-depth look through the birds and was very much appreciated.

Lofts today?  Where is it going to end?  One of the most magnificent lofts I have ever seen is at Tony and his son Luke Sienkiewicz’s property at Kenthurst, North Sydney.  We spent a very enjoyable morning going through the birds.  Blood lines housed here are the very best from John Hanson, also their own winning family based on old Aussie blood.

The conference was a success with some well-known interstate flyers making their way to Sydney, such as Mr John Van Beers and David Wettering.   There were lots of interesting questions and good answers from Jos Thoné.  Unfortunately, Mr Charles Attard of Malta was unable to attend, as advertised, due to his wife just being diagnosed with thrombosis  but  Jos spoke on his behalf and described how the pigeon sport is structured in Malta and it was very interesting.  Mr John Hanson arranged to have the conference captured on film and the film crew will be going to Europe to complete and put the final touches to the movie.  It came around so quickly that I needed to say goodbye to John Hanson, Jos and Gaby Thone and thank them for the great time and then it was back to Ian Freeman’s place, back to the airport and then on home to Mandurah, WA. Thank you everyone.  Last, but not least, I must thank my lovely wife Monika for allowing me to go Sydney and leaving her with the 3 children so I could make the “Trip of a life Time”.




Night out with MR John Hanson, and Jos Thone And His Lovley Wife Gaby..



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