are constantly asking me about my late friend, Eric Cannon, and his wonderful
long distance family of pigeons, and many have requested a re-run of this
article, which I wrote on him several years ago. I have up dated this
old article on Eric by "public demand" and I hope you enjoy it, one more
At the 1999
National Flying Club prize presentation held at Bedford, my good
friends, Eric and Pat Cannon of Wormley, were presented with their fourth
N.F.C. Pau Certificate of Merit, which is won by a pigeon that has taken
three positions in the first 100 open in the Pau Grand National result.
Their fourth certificate winner was the blue hen, Champion 'Culmer Bess',
whose record reads, 1996: 4th. section, 47th. open Pau / Saintes, 1997:
2nd. section, 6th. open Pau, 1998: 170th. open Pau, 1999: 2nd. section,
26th. open Pau, to lift the Certificate of Merit. A wonderful hen! 'Culmer
Bess' is a daughter of one of Eric's N.F.C. Pau section winners, 'Culmer
Joan', and a cock obtained from Michael Spencer of Clitheroe. The Cannon
/ Spencer cross proved to be an excellent one, with '76956', a brother
to 'Culmer Bess', winning 1st. in the very strong Godalming club from
Nantes, 17th.open N.F.C. Pau, 184th. open N.F.C. Pau, 161st. open N.F.C.
Pau / Saintes. The Cannon loft won it's previous N.F.C. Pau merit award
with the champion blue hen, 'Culmer Channel Queen' and she recorded 364th.
open Young Bird National, 9th. section, 98th. open Pau, 3rd. section,
29th. open Pau, 5th. section, 23rd. open Pau, 14th. section, 183rd. open
Pau. Another fantastic pigeon! She was a direct daughter of the champion
stock cock, 'Culmer Producer', sire of many good Pau pigeons and son of
'Culmer Pat', when paired to a son of Tom Gilbertson's 'Treble Five'.
The champion hen, 'Culmer Pat', won 27th., 80th. and104th. open Pau N.F.C.
for the late Gerald Stovin and was dam of his 1st. open N.F.C. Pau winner.
'Culmer Pat' was bred by Gerald Stovin from two Cannon pigeons and was
gifted back to Eric before Gerald's untimely death from cancer. The dam
of 'Culmer Channel Queen' was '27444' and she scored in three Pau Nationals,
recording 70th., 298th. and 507th. open, and her dam was 'Culmer Joan'.
A brilliant family of long distance pigeons!
started to keep pigeons in his early school days, with his first birds
costing only a few pence each and trained his birds on a pushbike. He
joined the local Godalming club as a junior member. The club comprised
of some the best N.F.C. members, such as L. Raynford, winner of 2nd. open
San Sebastian in 1935, F. Seaman, winner 2nd. open Mirande in 1937,
H. H. Boshier, winner 4th. open Mirande in 1938 and 2nd. open Mirande
in 1939, J. Pattman, winner of 5th. open San Sebastian and C. R. Gush,
who recorded 8th., 11th., 17th., 18th. and 21st. open from San Sebastian.
Growing up with fanciers of this calibre enabled Eric to learn the trade
of long distance racing. He always maintained that these great fanciers
would take only one position inland to give novices encouragement and
would always congratulate the youngsters when they won a prize card. Eric
had to pack up pigeons due to four years in the Army, on war service and
after picking up a bad foot injury, he met his wife, Pat, a nurse at a
war time hospital in Liverpool. One of Eric's best pigeon after the war
was the dark chequer hen, " Circle Queen". She was a late bred in 1949,
bred by the outstanding Godalming fancier, the late Stan Edgington, who
won everything in Combine and National racing. The name Edgington has
long been connected to the fancy of the Godalming and Guildford countryside
and it all started with Harold Edgington who passed away in 1961. Harold
started up in pigeons in 1924 and was one of the founder members of the
Godalming & District F.C., and was the secretary for 20 years. His
son, Stan, started up with pigeons from Fred Seaman of Woking in 1932
and inherited his father's gift for racing pigeons. We called Stan, "the
birds man of Eashing", because he loved all birds and had lots of aviaries
in his big back garden. He was a first class carpenter and joiner, owning
his own building firm. "Circle Queen" was one of the first pigeons Eric
raced on coming out of the army after the war and she was outstanding
on the north and south roads. In 1949 flew Doncaster, 1950: flew three
races through to Berwick, 1951: clocked from the N.F.C. Pau, 1952: clocked
from Libourne, 1953: 171st. open N.F.C. San Sebastian, 1954: 136th. open
N.F.C. Pau, 1955: 112th. open N.F.C. Pau, 1956: 7th. British Section,
120th. International Barcelona. "Circle Queen" was the start of 50 years
of fantastic long distance pigeon racing by Eric Cannon. His family of
pigeons started in 1950, when he purchased a blue chequer hen, '50 - 1753',
from Mr. Wiggins of Ipswich, costing him 30 shillings, her dam being a
big winner from Lerwick. This wonderful hen was dam and grand dam of 34
pigeons to score in channel races. One season, Eric paired a daughter
and a grandson of 'The Wiggins Hen' and they produced Eric's champion
hen, 'Pat', winner of 1st. open Combine Bordeaux, 35th. open Combine Bordeaux
and 73rd. open N.F.C. Nantes. 'Pat' was the dam of 'St. Swithin', winner
of 1st. open Combine Bordeaux, 8th. open Combine Bordeaux and many more
premier positions. The sire of 'St. Swithin', was bred by Mr. H. J. Chandler
off a pair of big winners at Thurso and Lerwick. Eric's family of long
distance pigeons went back to the originals although he brought in a cross
every now and then, but Eric always thought it better to have a family
of pigeons, providing the base is sound. One of the best crosses was 'The
Challen Hen', a pigeon bred in 1971. She bred 10 pigeons to score at Pau
(540 miles) and a daughter of this champion bred Cyril Medway's 1st. open
Palamos B.B.C. winner. Another premier cross for the Cannon loft was the
blue hen called 'The Wood Hen', a daughter of Mr. Wood of Horsham's, 'Pride
of Sussex', a big N/F.C. winner. ' The Wood Hen' was the dam of Eric's
champion blue hen 'Blue Bird' and she won, 98th. open Young Bird National,
247th. open N.F.C. Nantes, 1st. section, 6th. open N.F.C. Pau, 1st. section,
28th.open N.F.C. Pau, 57th., 118th. and 251st. open N.F.C. Pau. Another
champion daughter of 'The Wood Hen' was the blue hen, 'Culmer Lady', winner
of 26th., 27th., 48th.,135th. and 140th. open N.F.C. Pau and she was Eric's
first N.F.C. Pau Certificate of Merit award winner. The wonderful 'Culmer
Lady' is the grand dam of Champion 'Culmer Gold', who won 21st., 70th.,
83rd., 103rd. and 111th. open N.F.C. Pau, 163rd. open N.F.C. Nantes, winning
Best Average Nantes and Pau, 1st. Club, 3rd. Federation, 9th. open Combine
(5,049 birds) Niort, 1st. Club, 3rd. Federation, 11 th. open Combine (4,248
birds) Bergerac and was the winner of the Cannon's second N.F.C. Pau Certificate
of Merit award. Eric also used some of the best of Fear Brothers' bloodlines
and one cock crossed into Eric's family produced the red cock, 'Culmer
Sam', who won 6th., 6th. and 8th. section N.F.C. Nantes and 89th. open
N.F.C. Pau. When this great cock was stopped for stock he proved to be
a champion breeder, producing many premier racers, including 'Culmer Rose',
winner of 30th., 56th., 389th. and 541st. open N.F.C. Pau. This wonderful
red hen was dam of 'Culmer Joan', winner of 1st. section, 12 th. open
N.F.C. Pau and grand dam of Champion 'Culmer Bess', Eric's fourth Pau
Merit Award winner.
Cannon pigeons were raced on the natural system with the Pau Grand National
in mind, but Eric rated the widowhood system for races up to 400 miles.
The birds were paired in mid- March, with the date being worked back from
the Pau National, so the birds got a natural cycle up to the race. The
shorter races were used for training and the birds were tossed along the
south coast. Eric maintained it didn't matter where the birds were trained
from, for if they were super fit, their minds would be right. Eric remarked
that he enjoyed Combine racing years ago, but in later years all his energy
was spent on the National races. In spite of that, the loft won the Combine
four times in recent years, with the blue chequer hen, 'Pat', winner of
1st. open London S.R. Combine Bordeaux, grizzle cock, 'St. Swithin', winner
of 1st. open London S.R. Combine Bordeaux, dark chequer cock, 'Evil Eye',
winner of 1st. open London S.R. Combine Le Mans and the champion blue
hen, 'Culmer Lass', winner of 1st. open S.M.T. Combine Bergerac, only
bird on the day of liberation in the Combine. The Cannons won the Surrey
Federation's longest old bird race shield outright for winning it three
times. Eric's most recent Combine winner, 'Culmer Lass', went on to win
1st. section, 12th. open N.F.C. Pau the year after her Combine win. This
game hen also won two more positions from the Pau National, plus 49th.
open N.F.C. Nantes and is the grand dam of Champion 'Culmer Marion', 1st.
open N.F.C. Sartilly in 1990.
loft was a converted 48ft. x 12ft. stable divided into four sections and
Eric thought one of the most important items of good loft design is good
ventilation. The Cannons had a really bad hawk problem, living in the
Surrey country side, so early in 1999 Eric and I built a massive
48ft. wire flight in front of the loft, so the birds could come out and
bathe, but still be protected from the bandits in the sky. He liked to
change the birds' diet from time to time, but mostly a good mixture of
beans, wheat and maize was fed. His race team was his old family of pigeons
he had since the war, with the odd cross in from time to time. When bringing
in a cross he looked for pedigree of work, long lines of distance winning
pigeons and not fancy ring numbers.
was working through some old photographs recently and came across a picture
of Eric's old champion, 'Culmer Gold'. On viewing this handsome blue cock's
photograph, it made me reflect on his wonderful racing record and I wondered
to myself how you measure to find the best when it comes to racing pigeons.
Performance, I suppose. The great 'Culmer Gold', never won the Combine
or National race, some might say, Ah, but he was super consistent in the
fierce competition of our supreme English specialist organisation, the
National Flying Club. My ol' mate, Eric, had countless champions in his
lifetime in pigeon racing, including 1st. open N.F.C., but 'Culmer Gold',
was his favourite and I think probably his greatest champion of them all.
A once in a life time pigeon winning, 21st., 70th., 83rd.,103rd. and 111th.
open N.F.C. Pau (540 miles), winning the N.F.C. Pau Merit Award and in
one season recorded 163rd. open N.F.C. Nantes to win the best Average
from Nantes and Pau, plus two premier Combine positions. A brilliant performance!
Champion 'Culmer Gold' was sired by blue cock, '40799', one of Eric's
premier stock cocks in the 1980's and a full brother to the champion blue
cock, 'Culmer Lad', who flew Pau 10 times and was in the N.F.C. result
8 times, to record 22nd., 37th., 227th., 346th., 373rd., 467th., 614th.
and 761st. open. 'Culmer Lad' also scored in two other N.C.C. races, putting
10 National positions to his name and he was also an outstanding breeding
pigeon, being the sire of several premier N.F.C. pigeons, and was grandsire
of 'Culmer Belle', winner of 4th., 76th., 131st. and 428th. open N.F.C.
Pau. 'Culmer Lad' and '40799' were both sons of the first of Eric's four
N.F.C. Pau Merit Award winners, Champion 'Culmer Lady'. The grandsire
of 'Culmer Gold' on his dam's side was the blue chequer cock, '26792',
who is rated by some as Eric's principal breeding pigeon. He is half brother
to Champion 'Culmer Lass'. The stock cock, '26792', and 'Culmer Lass',
were both sired by the blue cock, '13953', the sire of three 1st. section
and a 2nd. section winners from the Pau National. The dam of '26792' was
the famous blue chequer hen, 'The Challen Hen', who bred 10 pigeons to
appear in the Pau National results, including 2nd. open. The nest mate
of '26792' was blue chequer hen, '26791' and she won 2nd. section N.F.C.
Pau, and was also the dam of the champion red cock, 'Culmer Sam', who
I think was Eric Cannon's key breeding pigeon from the early 1980's.
Gold' is typical of Eric's old blue family, being medium, long cast in
the hand, with good, silky feather and a nice head. The old timer loved
Eric, and was always up on his shoulder or hand looking for a bit of Maize.
He won a great deal of money in National racing and bred a dynasty of
outstanding long distance racing pigeons for the Cannon loft and others.
the N.F.C. Pau Certificate of Merit had started a few years earlier, Eric
would have won three other awards, with the three hens, 'Culmer Julie
Girl', 'Culmer Beauty' and the great champion blue hen, 'Culmer Blue Bird'.
My wife, Betty, and I have been good friends with Eric and Pat for nearly
30 years and out of all their many champions through the years, 'Blue
Bird', was my favourite. She was perfect in the hand and in the late 1970's
she recorded 6th., 28th., 57th., 118th. and 251st. open N.F.C. Pau, winning
1st. section twice.
Cannon loft has won countless positions in the N.F.C. through the years,
but the highlights have been: 5 times winner of the Langstone Gold Cup,
for best average of three N.F.C. races, 16 times 1st. section in N.F.C.
races, 1st. open Sartilly, 2nd. open Pau, 4th. open Pau, 5th. open
Sartilly, 5th. open Avranches, 6th. open Pau (twice), 8th. open Sartilly
and so on. The Cannons had 74 positions in the first 100 open positions
in Pau Grand Nationals and lifted the 3 bird Average from the Pau National
six times. Eric and Pat had a lot of problems with sparrowhawks and had
many top class pigeons ruined by these birds, including the Pau section
winner, 'Culmer White Flight'. Soon after this handsome cock won 14th,
open N.F.C. Pau, he came home from an inland training fly ripped open
by a hawk and mentally he was never the same pigeon again.
Cannon passed away in July 2000 and I was asked to arrange his three dispersal
sales, which were held in Nottingham, Sutton and Paulton in the
autumn of that year. The Nottingham sale produced the highest priced pigeon
at £2,300 - 00 in the form of Champion 'Culmer Bess', Eric's fourth
Pau Merit Award winner. Her sire was bred by Michael Spencer, who went
to the Nottingham sale with the sole intention of purchasing 'Culmer Bess'.
He won the bid and took this great hen back to Lancashire. When Eric passed
away the sport of pigeon racing lost the 'King' of the Pau National and
one of it's greatest champions!
& PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT.