THE ELIMAR INTERVIEW
JIM EMERTON CHATS TO RPRA PRESIDENT
RPRA President David Higgins
Can you outline the evolution of your interest in pigeons and RPRA procedure?
My interest in pigeons began when I was a teenager spending most of my time on a farm. I had a pair of tipplers which attracted a couple of strays and these were given to me by their owners. From that stage the interest grew and I eventually joined the local Guiseley North Road Club, enjoying success at all race points up to and including Lerwick. My first taste of disappointment was in the outcome of the ill-fated Faroes race which I organised in 1969.
The number one flyer in the club at that time was Guy Barrett and he encouraged me to become involved in the Yorkshire & Northern Centre, as it was in those days. I became its secretary in 1971 and have remained in the job ever since.
How do you see the main purpose of the RPRA in today’s hotbed of pigeon racing?
The main purpose of the RPRA remains unchanged from what was set down in rule 4 many years ago. The difference is that the present day Council has to apply those objectives to the new influences on the sport. Modern technology plays an increasingly important part and the whole sport becomes ever more business orientated.
Does the mental training from your old teaching career assist you in the objectivity needed when judging queries on the rules and political pigeon matters?
My early years working in education were spent in a special school for physically handicapped children where emphasis was on helping children to achieve their potential and helping parents to be realistic about what could be expected of their offspring. Later years were spent dealing with teenagers in a multicultural inner city school where conflict was often the order of the day. A great deal of time was spent in resolving disputes between students, between students and staff and between staff themselves. All this taught me to be objective in seeking the answers that provide amicable solutions to problems in education and these are skills that can certainly be applied to pigeon racing.
Are the functions of the RPRA Committee as transparent as they could be to the fancy?
I have been involved in many committees in pigeon racing over the years and I believe things are more transparent now than they have ever been. Nothing is hidden and decisions are there for all to see in the British Homing World and on the internet. Someone only has to sneeze out of turn in a Council meeting and it will be discussed in an internet chatroom before the day is out. There will always be exceptions; matters of a personal and confidential nature and sensitive business discussions will not and should not be reported.
Are we doing all in our power to popularise the pigeon racing sport?
The short answer to this is probably no. Over the years pigeon fanciers have taken the view that their very existence was enough to let people know about the sport and that a handful of people running around talking to children in schools was all that needed to happen. That may have been the case at one time but it now only applies in part. We are in a fast changing world with new technology speeding things up almost on a daily basis. Information is presented to people over the internet on computers and mobile devices in a highly professional way. We need to take on a more professional image if we are to stand any chance of surviving. Unfortunately spending on this type of service is not given a high priority by fanciers who simply want to race their pigeons.
What particular regional aspects are you responsible for?
The job of a Region Secretary covers every aspect of running the Region except chairing meetings. Maintaining records of the membership has in the past been a laborious and time consuming task but that has become much simpler in recent years with the development of the RPRA on-line database. It has also been made much simpler for club secretaries through the use of a membership tick list.
There is a constant flow of correspondence, much of which has now transferred to email. There are mail shots to clubs in the autumn, preparation of documentation for the AGM, for awards, for appeals and alongside these the accounts have to be maintained in good enough order to be able to produce an accurate balance sheet for the auditor.
Dealing with appeals is particularly important because by the time these arrive at the Region the parties are often at loggerheads. They need to be able to go away from the meeting feeling that things have had a good airing and that the decision reached by the committee is fair. Whilst as a Region Secretary I do not have a vote I do have a responsibility to ensure that decisions comply with the rules.
Do you have a personal penchant for international racing as the zenith of UK racing?
International racing is important because out of it come sound international relations and these are important for any sport. I personally have no real ambitions in international racing because a small loft in the middle of the north of England would require an enormous amount of luck to have any hope of success. I think the energy involved will be better spent on trying to compete successfully at a national level. Having said that I have every admiration for those who go on to succeed at an international level and would always offer them support and encouragement.
Do you like the fact of having helped so many people in answering their complex questions over the years?
Our house is not particularly large but we have eight telephones dotted around in different rooms, the reason being that there are calls at all hours of the day and night. Probably the most annoying ones are at 4.00am when a convoyer is stranded on a dockside with a job’s-worth office clerk refusing to let him onto a ferry with a transporter full of pigeons because of a wrong digit on a booking form. Many calls are from non-fanciers who have found a stray pigeon and whilst it might the tenth one of the day it is important to remember that this is probably their first contact with a pigeon and pigeon racing and so patience is important. The bulk of the calls are from fanciers experienced or otherwise and every enquiry is different in some small way. Most can be dealt with by referring to the rule book and explaining the procedure to be followed but very often the problems are down to the personalities involved and some of these present quite a challenge. An important thing to remember is not to become personally involved in the disagreements and to assist both sides to come to a solution, sometimes amicably sometimes not. At the end of the day there is a deal of satisfaction in being able to put the phone down feeling that a query has been answered or a problem resolved.
Do you have birds yourself?
Due to pressures at work and for family reasons there was a period when I had no pigeons but retirement from teaching has allowed me to get re-established. I built a small loft in the back garden which is big enough for sixteen pairs plus a section for young birds; no space for prisoners or stock birds - they will all have to work. To begin with we bought a few youngsters from a stud but they were a bit of a disappointment. More recently a number of friends have given us birds, the most recent of these being three late-breds from Brian Denney. These I hope will enable us to fulfil an ambition to race from Tarbes. If they don’t we will have had many hours of pleasure watching them picking around in the garden destroying Lesley’s plants in the flower borders!