Many readers will have heard the sad news of the death of Jean Degroot at the age of 77. I’d like to pay tribute to him.
Jean was a regular exhibitor at the Lizarddag, travelling with fellow Belgians Jules Etienne, Fernand Moes and Ronald Wauters. It was a quartet of some of the best Lizard breeders in the world. Jean made his mark not only with his birds but also with his mischievious personality. He was one of life’s great characters; there was always a twinkle in his eye. If there was an outburst of laughter in the Dorpshuis ‘De Horst’ in Keijenborg, you could be sure that Jean had just cracked a joke or pulled someone’s leg.
I first met him while judging the Lizards at Liege, and my initial impression of him was quite the opposite of the Jean I got to know. He made it clear that he was unimpressed by my judging (he wasn’t the first and won’t be the last). He was adamant that his non cap gold hen should have won her class, so I invited him to have a closer look at the birds. My Dutch is rudimentary, and he spoke with a guttural Flemish accent, but sign language is universal. He pointed to the hen’s rowings and gave a ‘thumbs up’; I pointed to her spangles and gave a ‘thumbs down’. Jean was not mollified, and for the rest of the day he would roll his eyes and shake his head in disbelief whenever our paths crossed. Then, as the show came to a close, he winked and grinned. He had been winding me up! We stayed on good terms ever after.
Apart from the Lizarddag, Jean rarely showed his birds outside Belgium, which meant that they were not as well known as they deserved. His Lizards were noted for their form, their ground colour and, above all, their rowings. As you might have noticed, his favourites were non caps.
The sudden loss of Jean is distressing for his family and friends, and a setback for the Lizard fancy. Thanks to Ronald Wauters, Jean’s birds are in safe keeping but it is inevitable that his stud will be dispersed. Hopefully the buyers will make good use of Jean’s bloodline, just as Jesus Carrilero Copete has done in Spain. His Best Lizard at the 2021 Amigos show was bred from one of Jean’s birds. Her sister also won the award for Best Non Cap . . .
Jean will be missed, Lizard shows will be less fun without him, but I am optimistic his legacy will live on.