Renier Gurnay of Verviers, Belgium, began in the sport as a "runner" for the great Mons Hansenne of world wide pigeon fame. A teenager in the time of no timing clocks in the 1870's, he relished the tasks that he had to do for Hansenne. For his love of pigeons had started early in life and this was stimulated by Hansenne whose own sons had no interest in the sport.
In due course Gurnay received pigeons from his mentor and when Hansenne died in 1903, he purchased some very good stock of the latter's lofts because of his inside knowledge and began a journey which saw him, in the eyes of others, eclipse his mentor.
His foundation hen called the 'Old Blue Hen' whose progeny won over 500,000 dollars, was the base of a wonderful and prosperous pigeon career although he was a successful business man in his own right as a merchant in tailor linings.
It is estimated that since he started racing pigeons in 1886 until 1936, Gurnay had won 600,000 dollars in prize money. A phenomenal sum in those days at the beginning of the 20th century. In fact, in his first season his birds won 160 prizes in one of the largest pigeon bodies in Europe and we should bear in mind that his successes were achieved when Bricoux and other giants of the sport were at their best.
One could say that fate had dealt a very good hand to Renier Gurnay for as some believe he had everything handed to him on a plate because of the genius of Hansenne and their relationship. Yes, I have no doubt that Gurnay was a good pupil and because of his role as a runner he was constantly taking in what Hansenne was freely giving and, of course, the obtaining of the best of stock. However, there is something born within oneself which is a necessary prerequisite to possess in order to form a loft of winning pigeons at the distance especially if one wants to reach the heights of Hansenne and Gurnay. Of that, Renier Gurnay definitely possessed.
And I believe that this was reflected in the fact that he was a hard culler based upon a very strong love for and commitment to the sport. And this involved a loft of about 20 to 30 inmates and no matter what the bloodlines, if one had to be culled it was culled. This was necessary for he was also a very close inbreeder who in the main kept his birds until they were two years before they went to the races. Again like many maestro's of the fancy acknowledging the need for maturity.
Gurnay was acknowledged as the official champion in Belgium for over 30 years which is testimony to how he was thought of and to how brilliant he was as a pigeon fancier, breeder, and racer. And I know that myths can be created or grow up around the exploits of any fancier but the evidence available would suggest that Renier Gurnay was an outstanding participant in the sport.
In other insights into various strain makers, I have outlined some results but in the case of this master it is not I think a necessary practice. In fact, I knew of one deceased fancier of my youth who was nicknamed 'Gurnay' and this was in the 50s of the last century which would imply that in the consciousness of the ordinary fancier Gurnay is a legend otherwise why use his name to describe the achievements of another?