The Church tower in Harnes stood high above the mighty "Villa Patience" racing and breeding lofts of the legendary Pierre Dordin, the man who built up the family that was to become a super strain and has lasted the test of time. This family of pigeons was used by many, either pure or as a cross and even today nearly 70 yrs after the "Villa Patience" went on to the drawing board. The pigeons that filled those lofts in the early days and the new introductions are still seeing their descendants winning the races that matter. There are not many from this family that are sprinters in comparison to the 400 to 600ml winners.
More on that later lets start at the beginning when the lofts were first built and the strain of "Dordins" was founded. The lofts did change over the years as did the pigeons through those new introductions but the base was always the same. The alterations to the loft meant that the old drop board went and in came the well supported balcony with the open doors which over the years has become the norm for more and more lofts. The first part of this article will be built around the founder of this great strain and then we shall go into the breeding and the pigeons that continued to win the races that matter for other fanciers. I have written to a few fanciers about this article who are known fanciers but not all have replied, even so we do have an excellent representation of this class family of pigeons that continue to prove that their master was a great pigeon breeder of our time.
Pierre Dordin was like most other noted fanciers from a pigeon based family, his father also a fancier who could not have imagined in his dreams that his son would found a family of pigeons that would win world wide. Pierre had other parts of his life going for him throughout his years with pigeons, especially coming from a farming family who for obvious reasons knew all about livestock, their needs and capabilities.
Then after serving in the forces in world War .1.for his Country Pierre had his own Pharmacist shop so his knowledge on the needs of the body were further enhanced. Pierre Dordin was also a disciplinarian with the birds and ran a tight ship and was known to not tolerate the pigeons falling out of line with what he expected of them. The Church Tower that stood high above the lofts was the downfall of pigeons that thought they could take the easy way out of their exercise routine and settle on the tower, they did not last. Brian Jones of "Le-Producer" fame pointed out that Dordin had a stick that was used to tap on the floor and the pigeons soon got used to the idea that when that tap came they should be in their boxes. it was just like a military establishment.
As previously mentioned "Villa Patience" went on to the drawing board in the early 20’s and was initially stocked from his father’s loft in Hellemmes. The Dordin years began and he was a regular for many years at the prize table but it was not until the 60’s that the best of the Dordin were to come to light. Top class years started in 1966 when one particular result stood out by taking the first eight positions. The eight included such legends as "Papillion" "Ramses" and "Spahi" and remember this was from an entry in excess of 3,000 birds from Angouleme in what was an excellent season. This was followed up the following year when the master Pierre Dordin won 4 x 1st Nationals plus 2nd International St.Vincent 580mls in a race that saw him clock 16 birds in less than one hour.
1968 again proved that Dordin was the man to beat when he took top honours winning 1st International San Sebastian with "Scout" beating the best of the continentals.
1969 saw a big change and many thought that Dordin was to drop back into the pack when all his experienced pigeons were put to stock and he started the year with a team of yearlings and two year olds. How wrong they were because yet again he came out with all guns blazing and the new big gun was to be named "Ut" won the St.Vincent National and was one of four pigeons to make the first eight positions from the "Villa Patience" lofts.
We skipped on a bit going on to the 60’s so lets take a step back and look at the pigeons that Dordin built his family on from the early days. Over the years Dordin like any other winning fancier continually brought in new pigeons to add to those first from his fathers loft. The Hansennes were early introductions to the loft and it is believed that they were from his fathers originals. Other early introductions were the Julian Commine including "Ecaille Commines" being a g.son of the "Napoleon of Commines" brought in because they were known to be speed pigeons for the sprint races. At that time Felix Rey of Anderlecht had an excellent family of the top winning Grooter family that brought in the larger type of pigeon to the Dordin lines and were also the heavy wattled type. What you must also remember is that the outstanding Commine stock cock was a Blue Van de Velde. Pierre did select for the slightly bigger pigeon because he felt that they could put that bit more in when it came to the longer races. Those who Knew the early Dordins were well aware of this point. Even today all these later you can still find the big Blue bold Dordins that were the dominating force at "Villa Patience". Prior to the war Pierre Dordin had built up a formidable team that were twice winners of the Regional Championship and twice second against a reported 75,000 fanciers. Then when the war came and Pierre left for the services as an ambulance driver.
The lofts and shop were looted, he knew the perpetrators but refused to pursue them after the liberation and when he did returned he had to more or less start again. Pierre said at the time "One turns the page". As the war continued he was allowed to keep a few pigeons in captivity and on the day that Northern France was liberated so were the pigeons which was the start of Pierre Dordin building a new family.
In 1946 the prizes once again started coming his way and the other fanciers from the Region knew that Pierre Dordin was building a team to be as successful as the one that was greatly reduced in the war years.
1947 was even better and other fanciers were left in the wake of the new Dordin team that were proving to be a continued success story for Dordin. Prizes were collected with ease and in the space of eight days Dordin won 12 x 1sts. To prove he was back Dordin won a grand total of 275 prizes including 26 x 1sts. This was also the year that one of the crack pigeons that Dordin owned was bred. The famous "Adonis" was a late bred of this year and went on in 1950 to be the Premier Ace Pigeon in the distance races of the Region.
Pierre Dordin was like most fanciers who paired their pigeons up around the middle of February each year and in the case of Dordin there were over 60prs of both stock and race birds. But as with any top winning loft they were not all bred from and some were used as feeders to maintain a high standard of breeding from only the very best pigeons housed. However Pierre did breed a few late bred youngsters from his very best racers which did not include the yearling cocks because they were raced to a section of their own and not even paired up. The best of these were then named in the usual Dordin manner with a new letter in the alphabet each year and transferred as two year olds to the old bird race loft. Going back to those late breds and their value to the Dordin lofts, what Pierre did with those that came up to standard was to use them for stock purposes because he always believed that late bred youngsters were too unreliable to go into a race team. These lofts were solely for widowhood cocks and Dordin did not race the hens and while talking about the widowhood system he did not even show the hens to the cocks until the later stages of the season when the longer races were being flown. Exercise around home was twice per day with the same times religiously stuck to each day because Pierre felt that birds were creatures of habit.
The feed was very different from many of the modern day lofts because they were not on the corn tin for either old or young birds. The youngsters were allowed as much as they wanted both morning and evening and the old birds were not fed depurative. That takes me on to our own way and many other channel lofts method which is, if you expect your pigeons to race from the first to the last race then they better fed on good corn. Pierre Dordin was a man who liked to race the pigeons and the financial side was not even considered, all he wanted was the first prize no matter where the competition was. Even though he did win rather large sums of money the prize was what he aimed for and was a man known not to pool the pigeons, he said "For honour and glory alone, gentleman it is much more elegant". .
Pierre Dordin was a great fancier but also had a loft manager with Guy Barre who stayed at "Villa Patience" for 30yrs after first going there when he was in his 13th year of life. Guy was more than a loft manager to Dordin because he was without doubt his right hand man and was responsible for the everyday management at the lofts. What made it possible for Guy to take on this role was the fact that his uncle was a pigeon fancier and suggested to his father that he take him there which he did. At that time Dordin had a big reputation and was the loft that everyone wanted to visit which pleased Guy no end when he had made that first visit to see the man himself. These visits then became a weekly happening and Guy was getting more and more friendly with Dordin. As time went by so did their relationship and Guy officially became the "Villa Patience" loft manager in 1950 and lasted for 30yrs until the death of the master pigeon fancier Pierre Dordin. Guy was also the trainer for Dordin and was a regular at the training route and it was nothing for them to be trained three times each week. the young birds were also trained three times each week and Dordin liked to race them to 250 to 300mls as their preparation for racing later in life.
I was in conversation with Peter Morrison while compiling this article and he was saying about different families and the way the continentals bred their winners, Peter pointed out that even the Dordins had the Stichelbauts in them. I began to look through the stud books that I had and there in the first one I inspected being one from the Monterey Breeding Stud was what I was looking for. The pigeon that I was reading about was "Madam Panama" Blue France 66/015145. Sire Blue 62/512185 "Panama" one of Dordins greatest long distance racers, winner of 15 engagements from Poitiers, St. Vincent, Angouleme and Dax, in this race he was 3rd Open in the National. Sire of "Panama" is Dordins great stock cock "Klaxon" Blue France 57/455610. Dam of "Panama" is Blue France 58/425839 a direct daughter of "Champion High Life" winner of 1st Open St. Vincent International and many other prizes. Dam of "Madam Panama" 66/015145 is Blue France 63/495621 from "La Mascot Stichelbaut Mathon X L’ecaillee Stichelbaut".
You see even the great fanciers of the world get there by bringing in a cross but if someone visits a loft in the UK and they say that has a cross in it, more often than not they do not want to know. There are no doubt many more examples in the breeding of this great family that we could use as examples but one is enough to make a point. Dordin always kept what he regarded as the central blood line, the "Imperial Blood" he called it, running through the centre of the colony. This was the prewar Hanenns-Commine-Grooter mixture. To this he would bring in the out-cross of Stichelbaut, Fernire, Wendzinski, Sion etc etc and test the results against his own. If it didn’t click the whole lot were eliminated. After the war he gave an annual award the "Prix Dordin". The winner would often present a young bird from his Champion to Pierre Dordin in thanks for the prize and this bird was also tested as an out-cross in the same way. John Brocklehurst was one of the top men and I am told the first man to bring this family into the UK and had a loft of the very best including direct from the legendary "Indemne" and "Spahi". The daughter of "Indemne" was a Blue hen that was a typical Dordin being bold and good looking.
In fact the Blues were the dominant pigeons at one time in the UK but there were also Cheqs, Reds, Mealies and the odd Pied that made up this great team of winners. Even today John’s daughter Tracy still has some of the old Dordin material of her late fathers and has kept a letter that Pierre Dordin wrote to John in 1973.
Dear Mr Brocklehurst I have your letter attached is a copy of the lost pedigree. The most important thing was to find the pigeon I was very pleased to hear that you have 6 or 7 very good pigeons in your young bird team. You have only kept those that have pleased you this is the best way. That is not to say that the others were not also good but it is only natural that we should all prefer to keep those that suit our own personal taste. In the old bird list recently sent to Mr Baker there are a number of outstanding subjects. I am afraid l have had to distance myself from these good pigeons because they are getting on the church where they find a family and go down to egg. The church is 55 metres high and close to the pigeon loft. And what an attractive perch it makes. 1973 was a splendid sporting year, results were exceptional, My current team of pigeons is probably the best l have ever had, I was pleased to hear that you are planning to come to Harnes, you are always welcome. Please make sure you forewarn me so that l can be sure not to be away with kind regards yours truly. P.Dordin.
Tracy also supplied an auction report that read, "During the last few years many outstanding auction sales have been held at Wolverhampton but few more successful than the dispersal sale of the Dordins held recently for J.Brocklehurst of Hazel Grove. The Ballroom of the Fighting Cocks was filled to capacity and many Dordin enthusiasts were present from all parts of the four Home Counties and even without the magic of the presence of Kings Cup winners. It may be a very long time before such a successful auction is held again. The first 40 birds were all bred by P. Dordin and averaged over £100 each and for these the highest prices realised were Lot22, £460 bought by Cyril Greenfield of Glengormley along with many other lots and who is getting together a Dordin Stud. Lot 36 £300 to C.H.Bould of the Potteries. Lot 13 "Solitaire" £225 to Mr & Mrs B. Jones of Crewe to add to their extensive "Le Producer" based Stud". There was a total of 23 direct stock that made over the three figure mark with the home bred pigeons making an average of £30 each.
CWM went on to add "This was an outstanding auction sale, a pleasure to conduct". I spoke to Jim Biss about his years with the Dordin family and he gave me his permission to use the introduction to the family from one of his stud books which goes as follows.
"The preparation and compilation of this my first stud book has given me much more pleasure for not only am l able to introduce my book to the fancy but am also pleased to mention some of the outstanding performances of the man who is without doubt one of the greatest fanciers of the present ere and possibly of all time Monsieur Pierre Dordin. Several times l have been asked why l have invested so much in the Dordins when l have a most successful family of birds myself. It is quite true that l have an outstanding family, and was most successful a few years ago when flying in the London Area As a writer in a pigeon paper put it recently ‘l played havoc’ in the London North Road Combine , so why the Dordins? The truth is that l was so impressed by that remarkable beauty and racing abilities they are perfect specimens with marvellous eyes lovely feather and a perfect temperament and are so quiet and intelligent. My friend Mr F G Baker who has been a regular writer of foreign news for the American Racing Pigeon Bulletin for the last 15 years and has indeed been a pigeon scribe for thirty years has followed race results the world over the during this period and in particular he has had access to the performances of the fanciers in Europe He has told me that some ten or fifteen years ago he came to the conclusion that Monsieur Dordin was the greatest fancier in the world. No other fancier could show such results. Since then however Monsieur Dordins results have so improved that they are far better than the results ever achieved by any fancier in this age or any other. Mr Barker has also told me that he can well remember the day he had the pleasure of handling his first Dordin when he exclaimed, "If this is the type of bird Dordin keeps no wonder he wins so many prizes".
Let me now briefly touch upon Monsieur Dordin’s performances during the last 5 years. In 1966 one of his performances was that in the race from Angouleme flying against 3194 pigeons he won 1st 2nd and 3rd, and in fact timed in 8 in out of the first 10 pigeons. This achievement has never been before accomplished. Even the Belgium’s admitted that this was far greater than any other performance put up by Dr Bricoux . Then in 1967 he won 3 National races in 10 days being 1st National Angouleme 1st National Libourne and 1st National Dax. Two weeks later he won 2nd 3rd and 6th open in the National from St Vincent in which 560 miles race he timed 16 birds within an hour all together a tremendous performance. Those three National winners together with the 2nd and 3rd Open National St Vincent winners now belong to Hill side Stud. In 1968 the result which is at the top of his sheet of wins is the San Sebastian International which he won and his winning bird the world renowned ‘Scout’ who also resides at Hillside Stud beat the next bird by about one hour. It must be remembered that in this International he beat all the cracks of Belgium. In 1969 the winning continue but l need only to mention his first National St Vincent and so to 1970. In the San Sebastian National he was 2nd 3rd 4th and 5th. This is a record for to my knowledge no other fancier in any era or in any country has ever done this further more from Libourne competing against 1100 birds he timed in 22 birds in the first 50. I have never heard of this ever being done either.
And just for good measure he wins 1st Ace pigeon 2nd Ace pigeon 4th Ace pigeon. Apart from ‘Scout’ and the world record price l had to pay to obtain this fabulous bird simply reflects Monsieur Dordins great reluctance to part with him l have spent several thousands on other champions Dordin pigeons as will be seen in the following pages. Recently the Belgian’s have drawn in the radius for their international races putting Pierre Dordin just outside so he can no longer compete against them. When he asked why they started they were fed up with one man so regularly taking 3 or 4 positions in the first ten. I think that this action is a great tribute to the capabilities of Pierre Dordin and his pigeons. So when l offer birds for sale l do so in the full knowledge and confidence that they are bred from pigeons of which there are no better anywhere".
Other very successful fanciers who we have called to see include the ever present Nobby & Michael Henley who are past National winners and appear in a separate report. Derek Lawton who has kept his family of Dordins together for nearly 30yrs and has a list of creditable performances at National level and again will be reported on in a separate article after he has been to collect his awards from the British Barcelona Club. The legendary
Jack Bate of Sandbach, Dave Farrell plus many more who have called, all have something to say on the subject. This has been a case of giving a report on a family that has been responsible for so many pigeons over many years and deciding what to use and leave out from the amount of info that I have received has been difficult at times. A lot has been down to performances, that is an area where you can only use so many and they could obviously not all be used. I shall also be using some of the info in future or already published articles on fanciers who are still successfully racing this family.
However to finish I would like to thank all those who have contributed in any way towards this article and a special thank you to Tim Lovel who wrote the book "Pierre Dordin the Complete Fancier" that was very useful for research reasons. Also the information from many other Dordin enthusiasts around the Country and in fact as far away as Australia all contributed in one way or another. I have a great deal of other information on this family and I will be re-addressing the family at a later date, so if you have sent information rest assured I shall be compiling a further article in the near future.