Archive for the ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ Tag

Fred van Lier RIP.   1 comment

It is with both sadness yet honour that I write this account of the life of our good friend Fred van Lier and his involvement in pigeon racing in Auckland, New Zealand.

I first met Fred in 1992 and my first short conversation with him was interesting. He may well have been long haired, with a beard and resembling a middle aged hillbilly dude, I can’t remember for sure! I’d been back in the sport two or three years and we were both flying the Henderson Classic race from Christchurch to Auckland, or should I say our pigeons were! It was the hardest Christchurch race I can remember in 25 years or more of pigeon racing.

My pigeon, a yearling homed sundown on the second day after enduring gale nor-east winds (a headwind and a dangerous wind from that racepoint to Auckland lofts) and rain for much of the weekend and Fred’s (which came second) around mid morning on the 3rd day. Fred’s comment to me at strike off was a blunt ‘prick’ and at the time I thought that he was serious having not got to know the man yet at that stage.

I guess that memory sums Fred up fairly well; he had a sharp albeit dry wit and was well liked around the New Zealand pigeon racing community. Many pigeon fanciers around the country were very gutted with his recent passing.

Fred loved to drive either of the Federation’s two trucks and after he and Bronie partnered up they would go down together to the South Island with Auckland and other Federations and clubs’ pigeons. Both he and Bronie enjoyed this activity immensely and Fred always looked forward to it.

Fred always kept many different sorts of animals and had an affinity with them, especially those that you could race, such as pigeons and grey hounds. He liked growing vegetables including giant pumpkins for showing and in recent years started bee keeping. His father Wouter started van Lier Nurseries which a younger brother Theo, (another pigeon man) has run for quite some years now. Fred learnt the nursery trade and later on had his own nursery in Hobsonville. There are accounts of Fred’s goats getting into glass houses both there and other places of abode, I guess not a good outcome for the flowers usually!

When Fred shifted to Hillsborough I got to know him quite well. Soon after in April 1998 my wife and I, almost having given up on buying our first home, managed to find one we could get finance on, a state house up for sale in Three Kings under the then National Government who were selling off a few. It had the potential for development and in late 2002 a doctor bought our house and plot of land and developed it thus allowing us to shift into our beautiful 3.5 Ha block and home here in the hills of Onewhero.

Fred built the bulk of my new loft in Three Kings which about four years later got shifted south to my current address in Onewhero. Like Fred, I did shift it with a few pigeons inside but unlike Fred, I paid professionals to shift it and didn’t have problems with the wind enroute and no pigeons escaped, unlike one of Fred’s loft moving experiences……

Fred liked me because I was a straight shooter; we had a lot in common and had some good conversations on many topics. We didn’t always agree on everything, including my philosophy on racing pigeon welfare here in New Zealand and how to go about changing the system within pigeon racing and yet he could see what I was trying to do. I guess that’s what friendships are all about, true friendships are democratic rather than autocratic in nature and free speech is to be encouraged within them.

Around that time I recall one pigeon tossing expedition which I went down with him in his flat deck pickup with our boxes of pigeons tied securely on the back. We got to Pirongia and it was overcast but still bright and we released Barry Wilson’s pigeons. We wanted to go further for ours, somewhere near the start of the Kawhia Road. It was very murky with light rain; we had young birds in our boxes so they needed at least some bright patches in the sky to help get a bearing. Fred said it might be better at Kawhia Harbour so to Kawhia we drove, but the weather was no better there, so we parked up by the Kawhia Maritime Museum and went in for a look-see. After some time and probably some food etc Fred said that we would head back home and see how the weather was enroute.

Back in the pickup we must have headed north up the coast to Raglan which is the harbour two up from Kawhia. We couldn’t let them go anywhere there and headed back east over the Four Brothers hills enroute to Whatawhata. There was a short passing lane in those hills but it was on a windy bit and Fred gunned it to get past a car that was holding us up and I heard a box or boxes fly off the back, across the road in the air and when we had stopped I was relieved that the two boxes in the ditch upside down were both Fred’s and not mine! Fred rushed across (no swearing if I remember rightly); a blood red cock got out as Fred righted the painted wooden boxes which Fred told me later had come home through all the murk. I guess it’s not usually ‘a given’ to share a joke about the departed but Fred and I had talked about that trip a few times and laughed, probably I more than him! After that he took his pigeons all the way home and mine went up at Whatawhata, as they’d been there before and there was one at home when I arrived, a vandie cross cock looking fresh as a daisy and others dribbled in the rest of the afternoon and some the next day.

Our conversations also included religion and for many years Fred wasn’t a believer in the Great I Am, but having terminal cancer can make a lot of people reassess their position on these matters and I believe ex Apostolic pastor Laurie Bull had an input there and I believe that he was also there at Fred’s home when Fred passed on.

Fred was cut down way too soon, only 63, while I being a little younger struggle with my own health issues Ad infunitum. He had a rock solid constitution and would be one of the few who would wear shorts all year around since I have known him the last 25 years or so. That type of resilient constitution is something to be envied by people like myself.

Fred was a bit of a jack of all trades and would give anything a go. He was likable, loved nature, animals, plants and people. He wasn’t a perfect man but that is one thing I liked about him, he didn’t live his life as a facade, was thick skinned in the pigeon racing scene here in Auckland, resilient, durable and very likable. He also worked tirelessly in many club, Western Union and Federation positions.

During his less than a year’s time of diagnosed terminal cancer he lived his life in many ways the same as before. Still helping his aged father Wouter in the veggie and flower garden, driving the Auckland truck down the South Island for our liberations with Bronie his partner whom he married two days prior to his passing and his pigeon racing career terminating with the winning of the last pigeon race he flew, the Old Bird National from Christchurch, a tough one.

Fred lived and died the same sort of person in many ways. I don’t know what his vision for the future was prior to his diagnosis but I do know that likely it would have included pigeons, poultry, plants, friends, family and others whose lives he touched and made a difference in.

Just like Mac Armstrong who passed on also with a terminal illness aged 85 prior to Christmas last year, Fred was a pigeon man who is well worth remembering. Those two were indeed generous with their love for their fellow human beings and I remember them both fondly and with a high degree of admiration. They both won their fair share of pigeon races and loved the long distance racing but really they must primarily be remembered for the quality of people they were and the lives they touched and that they loved people genuinely as the unique individuals they both were.

Some of the catch phrases of Fred.
‘The long and the short of it’.
‘At the end of the day’.
‘For all intensive purposes’.
A funny reply from Fred when we were discussing races where pigeons hadn’t trapped well.

‘If the dog hadn’t stopped for a crap it would have won the race’! He would say that with a big infectious laugh and a beaming smile and eyes asparkle like precious stones as if to say, “Stop making excuses Mr Elley!” He always, for some reason, called me Mr Elley, but whether that was out of respect or contained a glint of satire, one will never know! He loved reading about the likes of famous New Zealand icon Barry Crump and quite naturally they had a lot in common, perhaps I hear a few chuckles…..
Fred passed away at home on the 7th of March 2016, father of Walter and Marie and husband of Bronie, he will be greatly missed!

Now something that I’m sure Fred would laugh at, as he was always looking for the comedy in life. I got this from boardofwisdom.com it’s credited with an ‘unknown’ as the author.

On the first day God created the dog. God said, “Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will give you a life span of twenty years.” The dog said, “That’s too long to be barking. Give me ten years and I’ll give you back the other ten.”
So God agreed.

On the second day God created the monkey. God said, “Entertain people, do monkey tricks and make them laugh. I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.” The monkey said, “Monkey tricks for twenty years? I don’t think so. Dog gave you back ten, so that’s what I’ll do too, okay?”
And God agreed.

On the third day God created the cow. “You must go to the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves, and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of sixty years.”
The cow said, “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. Let me have twenty and I’ll give back the other forty.”
And God agreed again.

On the fourth day God created man. God said, “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. I’ll give you twenty years.”
Man said, “What? Only twenty years? Tell you what, I’ll take my twenty, and the forty the cow gave back, and the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back, that makes eighty, okay?”

Okay,” said God, “You’ve got a deal.”

So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play, and enjoy ourselves; the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family; the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren; and the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.
RIP Fred; see you at the great party at the end of time! Thank you for being part of my life and of others who read this. We salute you for the good example you gave for us to follow and emulate.

My journey in pigeons.   8 comments

Dad.

Dad.

Dad in holiday mode!

Dad in holiday mode!

Everyone has a journey in pigeons and this is the start of mine and I welcome you to read it. I had my first five years in Tawa, Wellington, New Zealand. As a little boy I loved chickens, we raised and cared for them, even using an old concrete water tank to do so at one stage. Dad, a Presbyterian Church Minister and a country boy from Hunua, Auckland, worked at the Porirua Mental Hospital down there, that’s what they called them in those days. He also did work for the Arohata Women’s Borstal down there around that time.

Like most little boys it was always a thrill when Dad arrived home from work and he’d attend to his chickens and garden and we’d help him. Dad’s pancreas had a bad viral infection not that long after I was born and he became an insulin dependent diabetic making his life a challenge for him and especially for our Mum! But he still ‘flew his kyte high’, naturally with a good woman behind him!

Not long after I’d started school at Tawa Primary, Dad got the invitation to be the Presbyterian Minister at the Khandallah Presbyterian Church up in the hills below Mt Kaukau overlooking Wellington harbour. It was one of the posher areas of Wellington. Dad had pastored in a previous parish in Wanganui before I was born and had done very well there.

Khandallah Presbyterian Church, I'd like sneaking up and ringing the bells for a laugh!

Khandallah Presbyterian Church, I’d like sneaking up and ringing the bells for a laugh!

My mother Val was trained as a ‘deaconess,’ the female equivalent of a woman minister back in those days. They had met while training at Knox College down in Dunedin i.e. a ministers training place. Mum was from a prim and proper churchie home background (lawyers) and Dad from a more dysfunctional background, his father Jim having lost his health sometime during or after the First World War whilst serving as a naval officer. It’s possible he had an over active immune system like me and burnt himself out (I have debilitating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Either way, the old codger lived to 94 and he had settled onto 20 acres in Hunua, Auckland which the government had given him after the War with his wife Georgina, the mainstay of the family and they raised four children, Dad being the eldest.

Dad's parents grave. I led the old codger, grandpa Jim Elley to the Lord three months before he died at 94. I look forwards to seeing him in heaven further down the track!

Dad’s parents grave. I led the old codger, grandpa Jim Elley to the Lord three months before he died at 94. I look forwards to seeing him in heaven further down the track!

At Khandallah I had my own bantams in their own shed and Dad had layers in battery cages which would get out for a scratch around in the garden on his day off, Mondays. It took quite a while to convince my parents that I could have pigeons.

Back in those days there were no laws to stop kids travelling around by themselves and we wouldn’t even know what a child molester was and from a very young age I’d travel into Wellington by myself or with a friend by train. Most of the time we’d sneak on for free.

I remember trying to catch pigeons as a little boy down at Wellington railway station with a cardboard box and a bit of string and grain, but naturally they were too quick for me. I also remember family visits to Pigeon Park in Wellington from a very young age. Obviously something fascinated me about them. Another time I found out some old ladies near Khandallah shops had a problem with pigeons sitting and crapping on their roof. I tried several times to catch them on the roof at night having climbed up a big ladder. Again to no avail, I just scared them off.

Pigeon Park Wellington 1930, a bit before my time. One of my childhood loves.

Pigeon Park Wellington 1930, a bit before my time. One of my childhood loves.

After that I think my Mother convinced Dad to build me a little pigeon loft. It was on stilts on the concrete play area that the manse had (Presbyterian minister’s free accommodation). It was only about a metre wide and the rest of it even smaller. We got some pigeons off a guy in Miramar near the Airport, a bit of a drive from where we lived. He was an Asian guy. He said “don’t let them out”. Probably the first big storm that came along the little loft got blown over and wrecked and of course we didn’t see those pigeons again!

The next loft I had was a small shed; Dad probably had chickens in it beforehand. One of the places I got pigeons from was up behind Onslow College somewhere. Some boys were going out of pigeons, racers and of course this was very exciting for me. I remember bringing them back by train with my mate Timothy Prescott including a big squab in an open cardboard box much to the awe of a few of the passengers. Those were pigeons I really liked the look of and the bug had really bitten!

I had plenty of success breeding babies off these pigeons and sold a whole lot when we moved up to Auckland where Dad had changed jobs to be a Bible College lecturer in Auckland at Henderson. Naturally having a father as a minister was embarrassing at times and Dad had already embarrassed me in Wellington by turning up with another church man from another brand at Raroa Intermediate School Assembly wearing the full ‘preacher gear’ including the white ‘dog collar’. My teacher, a lovely Mr Langridge at the time said to me from the side aisle, ‘Fergus aren’t you going to stand up for your father?’ Which of course made it worse for me!

Dad obviously enjoyed being in the ministers suit with the dog collar on his wedding day!

Dad obviously enjoyed being in the ministers suit with the dog collar on his wedding day!

I only took two pairs to Auckland, a pair of racers and a pair of whites. I was 12 by that stage. I attended Henderson Intermediate and when the teacher Ollie Green found out that I had pigeons he suggested we build a cage and keep them in the class high up near the ceiling. We thought it was quite cool as we could let them out in the class. There’d be the odd crap during that time and we also bred them there, that was 1974.

We bought our first house later that year in Te Atatu North and I started out at Rutherford High School in 75. I was a pretty bright boy and the school ran an advanced class which meant that you skipped the fifth form. I joined the Henderson pigeon club and Graham Abercrombie often used to take me there. The following year I got my driver’s licence. Les Gale a friend of Dad’s from the Church circles provided birds and I also got a good hen off my Uncle Jim, Vaughan Jones bloodlines and I had success pairing it to a Mealy Cock from Les.

So there’s the start of my humble pigeon life. I hope to add more episodes of my racing pigeon experiences in the near future.

Dad passed away about 18 months ago at the ripe old age of 87. Many people have commented either to my face or behind my back that I was the way I am because I am a ministers son. What a load of garbage. I was a rebel in my teenage years and kicked over the traces big time. I even vowed to never become a born again Christian and yet that is what I have been for almost three and a half decades and loved every minute of it despite poor health for the bulk of that time.

Dad didn’t deserve the abuse he got, as he met hardly anyone in pigeon racing here in Auckland and I just put it down to people’s ignorance, narrow mindedness and rejection of God’s free gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. I’m a fool for Jesus, who’s fool are you??

Here’s some shots of Dad the funny man. The sweetest man I’ve ever known with a great sense of humour and a very funny speaker (people told me so).

Always up for a laugh!

Always up for a laugh!

Good one Dad!

Good one Dad!

A distant relative?!

A distant relative?!

Rest in peace Dad, till the last trumpet sounds and the graves are opened!