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Reports by Joe Murphy

I received an email from Alessandro Croseri who wrote: ‘Dear Joe, I am an independent film maker from New York City and also a homing pigeon fancier. I wrote, directed and produced an 8 minute short film titled, "The Flight". It is in memory of homing pigeons in combat. "The Flight" was developed to spread the message that these were extraordinary pigeons that performed extraordinary feats of heroism-warriors whose service to their country was recognized with the most prestigious medals of honour like the Purple Heart, Dicken Medal, and Croix De Guerre (France). I am honoured that the US Army Communications-Electronics Museum endorsed "The Flight" by selecting the film for inclusion in its collection of memorabilia in Fort Monmouth, N.J., where the history of American war pigeons began and is kept alive today. I have attached a link where my film, "The Flight" has been reviewed by Dr. Rick Wright, Editor of "Winging It", which is an American Birding Association publication. This review is on Dr. Wright's website, "Aimophila Adventures".'

I replied to Alessandro regarding publishing his letter and the details in the pigeon weeklies and the SHU year book as they have a part on our pigeons during the war time. His reply was: ‘Dear Joe, thank you very much for your email, by all means, yes, you are welcome to publish Dr. Wright's film review and the information in The Racing Pigeon, British Homing World and the Scottish Homing Union Centenary book. Please let me know if there are any other publications that you feel are appropriate.Could you kindly publish the film review in its entirety, with the image of the DVD coupled with the text? Thank you very much for your support for the film and its mission! It's of paramount importance to our feathered friends that their memory be preserved and remembered. I will be in London, Nov 10th for the dinner at the House of Commons for the Remembrance Day weekend. I'm in the process of arranging a screening for my film for the veterans before dinner a venue still to be confirmed my very best regards and please allow your readers to visit my website: www.pigeonsincombat.com  yours Alessandro.'

Request for help

Received an email from Brian Lawrenson asking if I had photographs of Dr Anderson's 1917 and 1918 winning pigeons also one of the Watson Brothers 1921 Rennes winner: These are for a friend who lives in Australia and wondered if I could have helped him out. Unfortunately I do not have these on file and if anyone could help us out then please contact us by phone or email Brian’s number is 01772 464775. Mine is at the end of the column.

Blast from the Past

Ayrshire was a hotbed of pigeon racing in the early 1900s and they sent as many birds to their federation race as Fife and Lanarkshire did up to a couple of years ago when both were at there peak. To try and encourage these Ayrshire fanciers back into the concept of national racing the club have agreed to allow a race marking and clock station into Ayrshire. The purpose of this is to entice this sleeping giant of a federation back into long distance racing, these past few seasons we have seen John Mathieson of Mossblown win the section twice being 110th open Falaise 2005 and 65th open Alencon 2006. Then we had 1st section F 1st west section 11th open win by Mick McQuire of Dumbarton from the 2006 Newbury race and from the longest race in the programme another Ayrshire fanciers won 1st section 18th open Tours was Tom Blakeley of Irvine. From the Falaise race 1st section F was won by Andy Davidson of Ayr with 2nd section F going to T Dunwoodie & daughter of Ardrossan. So it can be done and it is hoped that more and more Ayrshire members compete in the national races in 2007 and I hope to speak to them during the season when I obtain details on their winners. As soon as I have conformation on the race marking and clock station details I will let everyone know.

Rennes on the Day

The 1912 winner

The first Rennes winner on the day was to Mr Tom Paton of Galston who won the 1912 Rennes race with his famous ‘Shot Wattle’; his flying time was 11 hours and he recorded a velocity of 1432. Second open was the New Cumnock partnership of Nicol & Crawford. This Rennes win stood as a record until the year 1923 when the race was won by Messrs White and Dickson of Paisley with their famous grizzle cock ‘Scotch King' (as a matter of interest this was Matt White of Paisley who won the Rennes race in 1980 father). This 1923 race was won with a velocity of 1488 and the second open pigeon was Lodge Star velocity 1478 raced by H Kennedy & son of Irvine yes the same Bobby and his brother Hugh who won the Rennes race in 1972 with Culzean Victor.

Third open in the 1923 race was Tom Paton with his chequer hen ‘Orchard Queen’ a grand daughter of Shot Wattle. To go back to the winner Scotch King who turned out to be an outstanding pigeon as he won 1st 3rd and 9th open in the SNFC during his racing career.

The 1923 winner

1924 saw another first for the national when for the first time the pools and prize money broke the £1000 barrier the winner was J Birrell of Renfrew with A Duncan of Barrhead in 3rd open place from an entry of 933. The 1926 race the birds were released on the Saturday and there were no day pigeons. The race was won by Dundee fancier D McInroy, McGinn brothers of New Cumnock were faithful Christian people so no sport was entertained on the Sabbath their faith being similar to that of our famous sportsman Eric Liddell as portrayed in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’. When the McGinn brother’s pigeon arrived some time was lost before a fellow fancier was on hand to time it in and the end result being this brave pigeon was 3rd open. One year later 1927 the McGinn Brothers were rewarded with their blue chequer cock won 1st open Rennes against 2.046 birds. This cock was raced on the widowhood system which was in its infancy in Scotland in those days. Many Ayrshire fanciers naturally wish to see the Gold Cup coming back into their direction and although the prevailing winds are generally against them I firmly believe that have the birds to compete against the rest of the country and I hope they do participate in 2007. To finish off this part of the story the first ever Nantes winner was Captain Leslie of Gourock who won 1st open in 1932 with his dark pied hen named the Vixen the good Captain won 2nd open Nantes in 1936.

Hand written letter

Norrie McNeil from Hurlford has been assisting me with some data on past winners and he sent me a letter that he received from Andrew Paton the son of Tom Paton the winner of the 1912 race with Shot Wattle. This letter gives an insight into how Tom built up his team of pigeons and I have included this hand written letter which was compiled in 1978 when this man was 78 years old.

Dear Norrie,

I received your note regarding the birds of the late Robert McGhee; I also read the notes in the BHW about Leslie’s comments on same.

My father kept pigeons from his boyhood days and ‘Shot Wattle’ was bred in 1904 and contained the blood of Mr Whitehood of Oldham also a Mr Johnstone of Uddingston Scotland. The grand sire of Shot Wattle was a blue chequer Mr Johnstone won the national in 1898 and 1900. Shot Wattle was the first bird to win and fly Rennes on the day and he was 8 years of age when he won. My father sent the sire of Shot Wattle to a fancier friend in America and he bred a lot of good birds from him over there.

When the First World War broke out in 1914 my two older brothers had to join up and later I had to go also. My father was left to look after the few birds on his own until the end of the war. When I came home early in 1919 I set about building up a family of pigeons. I introduced a pair of Gits a blue chequer cock and a blue hen they were from the late Tom Taylor of Blackpool Gits stud. At the same time I got a pair of Hansenne from E Clayton of Preston also a blue chequer cock and a blue hen. They were more silky feathered birds. The following year I got a pair of Soffles from Mitchell Brothers of Bolton Lancashire about this time I got a blue chequer cock mostly Toft of Liverpool blood. I paired this chequer cock to a hen of old Shot Wattle blood and I bred a hen 1920 which was 3rd SNFC in 1923. The three pairs namely Gits, Hansenne and Soffles all bred birds to win from Rennes. A hen from the Soffles was 10th SNFC Rennes in 1924; a son of the Hansenne pair was 28th & 35th open Rennes in 1925 & 1926. The Gits pair also bred birds to win from Rennes. Tom McCowie got birds from all these birds and bred a lot of winners amongst them being a blue cock that won 1st west section 7th open Rennes in 1937. He was mostly Hansenne with a bit of Shot Wattle blood. Tom McCowie had a blue hen from the Gits pair that bred a lot of winners he used to say he could pair it to a jackdaw and bred winners. About 1931 I bought a pair of birds from W Berry of Macclesfield the old Osman blood at that time Berry had one of the best lofts in Britain. The two birds I got were nest-mates a red cock and a blue chequer hen. A son of the cock was 51st open Rennes in 1934 in a very hard race when he recorded a velocity of 697 with 4353 birds competing. The hen of the pair bred a chequer hen to win 19th open Nantes in 1934, and the Osman blood was blended through the whole loft.

In 1937 I got the light red hen from J Rawson of Galston; she had previously been twice in the prize list time in day of toss from Rennes. I settled her and sent her back to Rennes to win 80th open with 4119 birds competing this being three times Rennes on the day and three times in the prize list. Her mate was a chequer bock bred in 1933 Osman, Gits he was 160th open Rennes in the same race with 4119 birds. He was also a prize winner in 1939 from Rennes he had flown from this race point 5 times up to 1939. When he was 12 years old I gave him to John O’Rourke and he bred him a pied hen that did well for him, the Rawson hen was Gits and Toft blood. Four of the 3 Guernsey winners in 1950 all had some of the blood of the 1937 Rennes pair in them. I also introduced other odd birds now and again to blend in with my own birds. I got a pair of Gits with my own birds from E Clayton in 1949 they were from his best but I did not care much for them and I disposed of them and did not keep any from them.

Robert McGhee got eggs and small youngsters from me at various times but I did not take note of their exact breeding.  I am pleased to know that they are still turning out winners. I hope you can manage to follow my notes as I’m a bit shaky at writing. I was 78 in January (This was in 1978) I hope I have not bored you with all this in the letter and I will close wishing you a good season that will soon be with us Yours Sincerely Andrew Paton’. My thanks to Norrie McNeil for allowing us the opportunity to read such a personal letter and one of great interest I may add. 

In the Pigeon World of February 25th 1950 I found a quote in Recollections of ‘The Good Old Day’s’ from the Ayrshire scribe Annick Lad (R Kennedy) who wrote; One of the worst disasters I can recall in the Federation was the 1913 old bird race from Stafford. The birds were in the baskets from Thursday to Thursday and those that did get home were in a sore state. I believe it was this disaster that put paid to that grand race and National winner Shot Wattle, which belonged to Tom Paton of Galston. I remember timing in a little pied cock that day and it still remains a mystery to me how it did it as both its eyes were almost closed and its head swollen out of shape. But it is very pleasing to know that this sort of thing would not be allowed to happen today.


When you think of the conditions these pigeons endured in the early 1900s and the performances they put up it blows your mind away, as they must have been ‘super pigeons’ of that there is no doubt. Nowadays our birds receive a greater deal of attention and in some instances are pampered a little too much. One thing that will never change and it has stood the test of time is the ‘Race Basket’ is how you will know if you have a good pigeon or not, every bird makes its own record in racing and to be honest this is its pedigree. As I grew up it became obvious to me that pedigrees are only a piece of paper and are only as good as the man who wrote them. If he is an honest man then you know that your pigeon is bred from such and such a pair, while far too many would tell you that the bird was off there champion and anything can be written on a pedigree form. In my latter years of racing I was fortunate to purchase or be gifted direct children from winners and this is how I built up my team. When I sold up all the gift birds were offered back to their original breeders. The point I’m trying to get across is that it is not what is written on a piece of paper that’s important; to know that the bird is bred direct from the winner is of more importance. However I have to point out that because it is direct from the champion it will automatically breed winners because they don’t and in some instances it is the grand children who turn out to be the best. Not all the top classic winners have left their mark in the history of a strain and in many instances they have not even bred a winner and more crucially they have not had any impact on a family of pigeons. Hence we never hear of them again however there are some like Shot Wattle mentioned above whose offspring continued to win even after he was lost at Stafford. Again my thanks to Norrie for the letter and information on the Ayrshire fanciers and I hope they take up the challenge of joining the SNFC and racing with us in 2007 now that they have a marking station in the area.   

Please keep the news coming to Joe Murphy, Mystical Rose Cottage, 2 Flutorum Avenue, Thornton by Kirkcaldy, KY1 4BD or phone 01592 770331. email address is joejmurphy@tiscali.co.uk 9/3/7


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