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The Supreme Pigeon Fancier

1898 -1954

by Joe Murphy

SNFC Presentation 1937

A few months ago I received a phone call from a Mr John Smith from Jedburgh; he had been given my number by a pigeon fancier in the area. He had been informed that I was steeped in the history of Scottish Racing Pigeons especially the SHU and the Scottish National Flying Club and had over the years highlighted the quality of Scottish pigeons and I was to be complimented on my contribution. At first I thought it was a ‘wind up’ but it wasn’t and to be honest as the conversation continued it became indeed a great honour to speak to this man.

John Smith’s mother was Jean Moore and her sister was named Carrie. Jean married Fred Smith who was to become one of Annan’s most respected footballers; he had pace; wizardry and scored goals for fun. Fred is still living in Annan and is now 98 years old and is remembered by the older generation as ‘One of the Best’ ever players. John Kirkpatrick was also a fine footballer and had played with Solway Star joined Workington Town and played it the North East League. His first marriage produced a boy Jack who moved to Rhodesia and in fact was captain of the international Rhodesian football team who played against Scotland in a friendly in Rhodesia. His daughter Hannah married Andrew Cowan through time became the secretary of Annan Homing Society. After the passing of his first wife John started to become friendly with Fred and Jean Smith and would join them on a trip to visit Jean’s father Mr Moore’s who lived in 105 High Street; he also was a pigeon fancier and had a large 40 foot loft out in the back garden; It soon became apparent that it was Carrie who was catching John’s eye and not Mr Moore’s pigeon and they married in the late 1940s.

When a young Laddie in Annan John Smith would accompany his mother and father to visit Aunty Carrie and Uncle Johnny at Galabank; as he grew up he became fascinated with the pigeons and would often cycle up to Galabank lofts to help out his uncle Johnny. These were special times for young John Smith and John Kirkpatrick looked on him as a second son. John was with his uncle Johnny when he won the Scottish national from Nantes and remembers this with love and affection. His aunty Carrie loved young John Smith so much so that she left him the Westminster chime clock that John Kirkpatrick received as a memento of winning the 1937 SNFC Rennes race in her will.  This Gold Cup winner Coronation Express won the race in record time and believe it or not on the same day that John Smith was born.

John Smith never kept racing pigeons due to work commitments he became an administrator in Cochrane & Co of Newbie Annan; and worked worldwide as senior manager for L.S. Starrett Co. Ltd in Jedburgh; finally finishing his working life as a retailer with a shop in Jedburgh high street. However his memory of the time spent with his uncle Johnny has never left him and the reason for his phone call to me was to see if we could meet up as he wished to present me with this Westminster clock. We arranged to meet at Stair Castle Hotel outside Pathhead and John asked me to bring my wife Margaret with me as he had also been informed of her contribution in assisting me over the years. We met for lunch and John (being the charmer he is) gifted Margaret with 6 red roses and a box of chocolates; we spent the whole day sitting talking and believe me it was indeed a great pleasure. There were times when the memories of John’s past caught up on him and he became overcome; however this was a true reflection of the man whom we had met for the first time and it endeared us to him. No matter how well he had done in life; deep down he was still the little boy who visited his uncle Johnny away back in the late 1940’s early 50’s and saw his national winners drop out of the sky. I took some photos of John with the Westminster clock that is inscribed Prize Granted by S.C.W.S Ltd Mr J Kirkpatrick Winner Rennes Race 1937.

This treasured memory of John Kirkpatrick’s early years has sat on a table in my living room since we brought it home and I look at it every day as it chimes every quarter of an hour and cannot believe that John Smith presented me with such a wonderful piece of Scottish Pigeon history; and I’m very proud that he thought so highly of me to do so. After our meeting I was on such a ‘high’ that I thought it only appropriate to do some research and compile an article on John Kirkpatrick. The reason for this is young fanciers like my son Kevin could read about this ‘giant of a man’ who transformed pigeon racing in his short life time; they could keep the article and revise some of the history of the SNFC as a memento of John Kirkpatrick. Nowadays we have fanciers creating their own part in the history of the club and to be part of the history and folklore of this great club is indeed a great honour.

The Beginning

John Kirkpatrick was born in Maryport in Cumbria in 1898 and his family moved to Annan in 1912. His father, who kept pigeons, was a founder member of Annan & District Homing Society and John was always among his dad’s pigeons.

In 1924 John Kirkpatrick won his first prize card when he appeared on the Rennes result winning 32nd open result. Before winning 1st open SNFC Rennes in 1937 with his fabulous 3 year old blue chequer cock called ‘Coronation Express’ setting a record at that time with a velocity of 1559 yards per minute. He was named after the famous locomotive of that time which broke all rail records and here was a pigeon breaking the record as the fastest ever Rennes winning in the 43 year history of the SNFC which was established in 1894. Coronation Express flew Dol as a yearling being well up in the federation open result; the following year as a 2 year old he won 72nd open Rennes in a disaster. In 1937 he was paired up on the 7th March and yet by the time he homed from Rennes he was carrying 3 new flights and had in fact thrown his 4th flight in the basket. Since his first win in 1924 John Kirkpatrick gained 2 x 3rds; 4th, 2 x 5ths ; 9th,11th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 22nd, all from Rennes and a 7th, 21st, 39th, 40th, and 42nd from Nantes. John Kirkpatrick was totally convinced that distance birds should be fully tested as yearlings and his outstanding record from Rennes and Nantes consistently showed that his champions had previously scored from Dol as yearlings before achieving further success at Rennes or Nantes. In 1931 he was 5th open Rennes with a yearling hen that went on to win 5th open again as a 3 year old. His red chequer cock Galabank Lad flew Rennes as a yearling in 1933 when he won 11th open; he was sent back the following year and won 18th open; and would have been on the result the following year but was disqualified over a timing technicality. Galabank Lad raced from Nantes in 1936 and 1937 being 42nd & 59th open respectively; and as a matter of interest Galabank Lad flew the English Channel no fewer than 11 times. In 1939 the Rennes convoy were liberated at 7-10am into a west wind and it was not anticipated that there would be any pigeons on the day. However there was 3 arrivals into the Annan area; John Kirkpatrick times his first at 22.17 hours and then another in the dark at 22.58 hours. Bob Douglas timed in a bird to split the Kirkpatrick duo and to be 2nd section. For years; the constitution of the SNFC had been so worded that generally it was believed that the first fancier to win the Gold Cup twice would be allowed to retain the famous trophy. With many of John’s club mates going to bed that night in the belief that John Kirkpatrick had indeed won the trophy for the second time. However the following morning a wave of birds were timed into Central Scotland and the eventual winners were Anderson Brothers of Falkirk. To end any confusion; the clause was subsequently modified to make it clear that the Gold Cup for all time would remain the property of the SNFC.

Hard Work

John Kirkpatrick had a very special work engine and over a long period initially as a footballer with Workington Town in midfield, then as a master pigeon administrator, his attention to the detail of essential requirements in preparing pigeons to be at their peak at the end of June each year was remarkable. John was keenly aware of what constituted a long distance pigeon and with the outbreak of the war he had already established a remarkable family of pigeons. However like many of us he was not satisfied and was compelled by introduction of a series of successful importations. In 1937 the year he won the Gold Cup he was asked to attend a winter show in Galashiels and was introduced to a businessman from the local mill a Mr. Richardson who showed him a pair of Belgian rung Bricoux, a mealy cock and a red chequer hen. John Kirkpatrick was so impressed with these pigeons that he purchased them direct from Mr Richardson and what an investment this turned out to be. This pair proved to be without doubt the finest producers the racing pigeon the world has witnessed and believe me ALL subsequent Galabank champions can be traced back to this pairing.

It is worth noting at that time Mr Richardson kept about 200 pigeons in 2 large 40 foot lofts and he had spent a small fortune on stock. Many Scottish fanciers at that time obtained birds from Mr Richardson and without being disrespectful to the man they had more racing success than he had with the same birds. John Kirkpatrick was a very frequent visitor to Mr Richardson after they stuck up their friendship. The Bricoux pair in 1939 produced the world champion ‘Galabank Supreme’ who was to become the keystone in Kirkpatrick’s pedigrees. This pigeon was brilliant on the road with his favourite nesting condition being feeding a big young HEN. However it was at breeding the he excelled and was indeed the sire; grand sire and great grand sire of many winners.

Kirkpatrick’s outstanding champions in distance races were in the main cock pigeons and he had a consistent policy of introducing top class hens from various sources to see if they fitted into his closely worked out breeding programme. Among those that succeeded was a blue pied Marriot hen from Mr Aitchison from Brampton near Carlisle; the sister of which had twice won the East Cumberland federation from Nantes. He also in 1941 purchased a Logan hen from Summer Brothers from Wrexham; which was logged as a grand daughter of Logan’s ‘1826’. Other introductions were a Barker hen ‘2716’ from L A Barker of Bridgewater; direct from Masonic Wonder and Masonic Cracker; he also obtained a Gits hen named Lady Margaret from the loft of Ed Clayon; and the famous 1948 bred grizzle hen ‘6498’ from Arthur Hill of St Just; Arthur had put up some outstanding performance into Cornwall after the war flying on the new East to West route from the continent. However one of the final successful imports was the red hen ‘5554’ from John Reid of Stenhousemuir she was of the highest quality as she was a full sister to Jock Reid’s 2nd open SNFC Rennes winner in 1950.

In 1948 with the resumption of channel racing John was 2nd open from Guernsey with a 5 year old red cock from Galabank Supreme Bricoux line. Three years later he was again 2nd open SNFC this time from Rennes with Galabank King he later won 35th open Nantes. His sire was the cock who won 2nd open Guernsey and his dam was a blue hen from the son of Coronation Express when paired to a daughter of Galabank Lad and the Marriot blue pied hen.

Kirkpatrick’s own words

Following his success from Rennes he was asked to contribute an article to the first issue of the Homing World Annual Diary (as it was called at that time) in 1938. He wrote ‘I felt it a great honour in being asked to subscribe an article in this the first issue of the Homing World Annual Diary. While I do not feel really able to do the occasion justice; I shall at least try to make this article as interesting as well as instructive. Let me say at the outset that this is no great infallible secret in being successful with racing pigeons; nor is there to my knowledge any elixir or magic potion. But I will now give my own methods of feeding; training and racing to a successful issue.

The first and premier consideration is the food; I feed the whole year round on a mixture consisting of peas; beans; tares; wheat; Dari and a little maize; but the quality of this must be assured and absolutely free from dust and dirt of any kind. The food at all times must be given at very regular intervals. Personally I feed three times a day during the long summer days; the times of feeding during this period are at 7am; 12 noon and 6.30pm. At the evening meal after the birds have had their usual corn; I give them a tit-bit in the form of seed mixture; which is 25% Millet; 25% Linseed; 25% Rape and 25% hemp. When the racing season is over and the days get shorter I feed twice a day; morning as early as possible and early afternoon. At this time I gradually increase the amount of wheat in the mixture until it presents 50% of the diet. I am a great believer in wheat; as I am convinced it is very beneficial during the moult and at this time I increase the seed mixture especially the linseed. I, at times feed the birds by hand, and never by hopper, and I may be classed a fairly heavy feeder; as I always give the birds a full crop at every meal, but I make sure there is never any surplus food lying about. I give green food via; lettuce; chopped cabbage; plantains; watercress; chickweed etc; whenever these are available; these I believe are great blood purifiers.

With regard to attention I give to cleanliness in the loft. I clean it out twice daily; morning and night; changing the water on each occasion and at the same time putting a little grit on the floor; this ensures the grit being always fresh and dry; and the birds seem to appreciate it better this way than in a trough or hopper.

I mate up according to the distance I map out for my individual birds; the longest distance candidates being mated later than the others. The stock birds and yearlings are put together the first week in March and the others are mated at intervals in accordance with their programmes. Thus my ‘Coronation Express’ the winner of the SNFC Rennes race was paired on March 7th. It homed with 2 ½ new flights; the 4th having been dropped in the race basket. This was perhaps a little advanced, but it is, of course, evident that this proved no handicap. I do not care to have my channel candidates moulted beyond the 4th primary; as any further advance in the moult is; I consider; a severe handicap. Any fast moulting bird which I have, I delay pairing until the last week of March; as also my Nantes candidates, as our national Nantes race is usually the third week in July.


I always give my racers 5 tosses before they go into the first race – 9 miles; 15; 20; 30; 40 as I believe that to have a chance of winning, the birds must be thoroughly fit. We have all heard fanciers state ‘They jumped this right from the loft’; but how many times are these birds in the prize lists? They may certainly home; but to race to win they must have training and experience. I fly my bird’s natural system; although I may say I have tried various ways. I tried the widowhood system some time ago; but I was disappointed with the results as it was frankly the worst season I had for nine years. I do not wish to imply that the widowhood system is no good but the natural system appears to suit myself; and my birds are better than any other.

Immediately the racing season is over I separate the sexes and never allow them together again until the mating period. I also at this time lime wash and disinfect the loft; which I again do previous to mating. I also bathe each pigeon separately previous to separation; with a solution of sodium of fluoride; in Luke –warm water to which is added a little soap; this of course is only done on a sunny and warm day.

My loft has a southerly aspect and has fully one-third of the front lattice work; which ensures plenty of air and sunshine. In this district we have no traps; all lofts being built to the open door arrangement. When the doors of my loft are open the loft would appear to have no front whatever. The front has glass shutters which I use only on the occasion of heavy rain from the south-west as I like the loft floor to be always dry.

My birds have regular exercise twice daily; morning and night for half an hour on each occasion. The hens are exercised at noon for 45 minutes. This is imperative as like athletes, pigeons cannot compete with success unless trained to the second. As the races get longer; the birds exercise is extended to 40 minutes morning and night; the hens then have one hour exercise at noon. I have no difficulty in making my birds fly at home; but if the train service were convenient I would give my birds two tosses weekly; as I think these tosses would be more beneficial then the home exercise.

I race both cocks and hens with equal success and I very rarely send a mated pair to the same race; as I’m sure that a pigeon likes to see its mate when it arrives home. The best results I have had with cocks were when the hens were never raced at all and should I see a cock racing well to a particular hen; I always keep this pair together, not forgetting to give them the same nest box. As I have said; cocks and hens do equally well for me; as either sex sitting 8 to 11 days is in the best condition for the channel races and most of my successes have been gained with birds in this condition.

Late Breds

We hear some fanciers decrying late-breds; but the best pigeon I ever owned was a late bred; this was a cock bird and it won a 1st prize at every stage up to Bournemouth. Late breds as a class are generally despised; but I think this is the fancier’s fault and not the pigeons. If bred in July and trained 50 miles in September, then raced to 200 miles the following year with the old birds; they will on average show as good results as the birds bred in March and April. If I require a bird for stock I always like it to be bred in the end of July as I think the old birds produce young; stronger and truer to type; as at that time they are free from the worries of racing. All my youngsters are trained and raced right to the end of our club programme 186 miles. I have tried reserving half my youngsters after completing the training and although they seemed to develop into better looking birds than the others, I found the birds that had been raced as youngsters invariably proved much better racers. It would appear therefore, that race experience as youngsters is advisable. In regard to yearlings I am a confirmed exponent of racing yearlings across the channel; I do not believe that this is in any way harmful as the following will testify.

With a yearling hen I was 5th open SNFC Rennes in 1931; with this same hen again 5th open SNFC Rennes in 1933. Another of my yearlings was my good red cock 900; which as a yearling was 11th open SNFC Rennes in 1933; 18th open Rennes in 1934; 215th in 1935 (disqualified); 42nd open SNFC Nantes in 1936; 59th open Nantes in 1937 having flown the channel 7 times; Rennes thrice at 481 miles; Nantes 543 miles thrice and Dol once over 450 miles. As a yearling my champion Coronation Express flew Dol in 1935 and was well up in the federation prize list. In 1936 he took part in the Rennes smash winning 72nd open. My good mealy 2376 Rennes six times; 3rd; 17th and 129th open also flew Rennes as a yearling when he took 17th open position. I have won other good positions in the channel races with yearlings and as will be seen from the above all my best pigeons flew the channel as yearlings. The older birds must race from Rennes and Nantes as all my racers must face the music as only the best are worth keeping and how otherwise would you find them except by the basket test. These are my methods; but I should point out at this juncture; that as we have been repeatedly told by ‘Chairmen’ in the British Homing World; observation in the loft pays a big part in the success of pigeon racing.

Advice for Novices

A few don’ts will not come amiss to novices who may read this article:

Don’t overcrowd – Don’t over breed – Don’t let your racers feed too many youngsters – Don’t overfeed – Don’t under train – Don’t be afraid to give your birds too many tosses – Don’t forget pigeons require attention 365 days of the year.

I feel I cannot conclude this article without paying tribute to Mrs Kirkpatrick; without whose help I feel sure I would not have attained the success I have; as the mid day feed and the afternoon feed in the winter rest with her entirely and on occasions I have been detained at work she has always done what was required in the way of exercising and feeding the pigeons. We cannot all be successful always; I may be your turn in 1938 wishing you all a happy and successful season John Kirkpatrick.

Galabank Prince - 1st SNFC Nantes 1952

Finest Achievement

In 1952 John Kirkpatrick was slowly dying of cancer first detected 3 years earlier and his health was not the best, however this did not prevent him from producing the six pigeons he sent to Rennes, according to one senior observer, they were the ‘best fettle’ pigeons he had seen in a lifetime. Prior to the Gold Cup event the world class racehorse trainer and jockey Sir Gordon Richards came up to Annan to view the pigeons. After viewing and handling the pigeons he flapped his cheque book on the coal box where the pigeons were basketed and said to John ‘Name your price’. John Kirkpatrick replied “Man you couldn’t afford them, there is a life times work in that basket’ and the six pigeons were subsequently dispatched to Rennes for the National Gold Cup race. John said that he believed the six pigeons he had sent to France were the best he had ever owned; however he was disappointed with the end result, although “Galabank Prince” won 40th open position he was not a happy bunny. John Smith says ‘He was a very competitive and never showed this in public however he was unsettled for a couple of days and blamed the poor Rennes result on a south wind and he claimed they needed a north east wind’. His family were shocked when he announced to everyone that ‘Galabank Prince’ & ‘Galabank Duke’ were to be sent to Nantes immediately after having flown from Rennes. John Smith continues ‘I will never forget the drama and excitement of John Kirkpatrick’s two pigeons in the Nantes race. By the way, John Kirkpatrick called John Smith (at 15 years of age) his ‘loft manager’”, but that was generous as he would say a better title would have been message boy, obtaining for him straw for the nest boxes and messages from the local stores. The Nantes pigeons were released first thing on the Saturday morning in a North East wind. John Smith can recall a long nervous wait until dark at 11pm, No pigeon’s home on the day into Scotland. John Kirkpatrick told young John Smith as he was about to leave the Kirkpatrick home, ‘You would be better set his alarm for 3am as we will get something in the morning’ and he did as he was told. The Sunday morning turned out to be a cloudy morning and it remained that way until around 09.00 am and suddenly the sky went blue and a pleasant day lifted the spirits. John Kirkpatrick had gone into the house to obtain something for his wife and John Smith noticed a dot in the sky and seeing the pigeon pull its wings back it started to drop down towards the loft young John shouted ‘It’s Galabank Prince’. The great pigeon was duly clocked in and John Smith was dispatched on his bike to the secretary Jack MacKay to find out if anything else had been reported into Scotland, No pigeons reported and as young John returned around about 10.00am he did not get the message out to uncle John as he looked up and there was ‘Galabank Duke’ shutting his wings coming into to land. John Kirkpatrick was elated to have both his pigeons back and when he heard the news from young John he was even happier.

Galabank Prince won 1st open SNFC Nantes winning the Ellsworth Trophy (for the best average from Rennes & Nantes )on his own having won 40th Rennes a two weeks earlier, a fabulous performance by a pigeon and confirmed that John Kirkpatrick would become immortal as one of Scotland’s greatest racing pigeon fanciers of all time. Sire of Prince was a red cock a grandson of Coronation Express winner of 1st open SNFC Rennes 1937 he was also a grand son of 900 who flew the channel 11times best wins being 11th & 18th SNFC Rennes; and a grandson of the old blue pied Marriott Hen; whose sister won twice from Nantes for E Cumberland. Dam of Prince was a red hen from Galabank Supreme and Logan Hen bred by Summer of Wrexham.

Galabank Duke John’s only other entry in the Nantes race won 2nd open in what John Smith said was ‘the most wonderful day in John Kirkpatrick’s life’. After this event John Smith remembers the press announcing that Roy Rogers, the famous American cowboy and icon, was to visit Galabank lofts, the kids of Annan ensured a noisy and hectic period of time.

The racing career and breeding of Galabank Duke is interesting in the fact that he also flew Rennes as a yearling and again the following year where he won 13th south section 205th open. He went to Rennes in 1952 and like Prince was doubled back into Nantes. He was kept on the road and flew Rennes again the following year winning 70th open. The breeding of the Duke was as follows; his sire was an inbred grand son of Supreme; being from a half brother and sister mating. The dam of Duke was a red hen a daughter of 2nd Guernsey open; 1st section SNFC 1948 cock paired to a blue hen which was from a son of Coronation Express and a daughter of 900 and the Marriot blue pied hen. As said earlier the Duke was a brother to Johnny 3rd open Rennes for Wull Robertson. At stock the Duke was to prove a valuable asset to the Kirkpatrick family.

'Coronation Express' 1st SNFC Rennes 1937

Stud Book of 1953

John Kirkpatrick wrote; ‘at the outset; my advice to all novice fanciers and also to fanciers of experience is to read intently, read and observe; because it is by observation that success in pigeon racing comes. Observe the condition and bloom on the birds of your club champion when he brings his birds to the race marking and it follows that you will then realise that condition counts in racing or for that matter in showing; breeding or any other aspect of the pigeon game.

Now how does that condition come about? Not by haphazard methods or should I say lack of method. Even good food given carelessly or at any old time does not give proper results; which mean simply that regularity in all things is essential in pigeon practice. Regular attention; regular food; regular changes of water; in fact; I repeat regularity is the must we have never to forget.

Then next point to settle is the loft inmates; you must start right with good stock and what better than the stuff which is winning locally; although it may be difficult to persuade the local champion to part with birds which may eventually be competing against himself. If you wish to purchase out of your district; don’t be misled by advertisements in which the fanciers quote the hundreds of pounds  they win as they may be the case of the long pocket enabling those fanciers to pool heavily and thus taking large cash prizes even though well down the prize list. Much better to go to the man who has been winning for years and continues to do so; because he must have a family of pigeons; produced by himself; in which the will to win has been long imbued. He may not be able to give you a newspaper of pedigree proving that the birds you are purchasing have had a big winner in the family way back in the dim 1900’s; but what he will be able to give you is winners in the family within two or three generations at latest which is what counts; because I believe the winning genes must be kept alive and what better than by everlasting trial in which the weaklings rapidly disappear. One last word on this aspect; if your birds are coming from a district far removed from you own; please give the protégé of these birds at least 3 seasons in which to prove themselves as the new introductions have to become properly acclimatised and used with your methods. Yes; even if bred in your own loft; the first and second generation can have the habits and methods of the previous owners bred into them; strange but true!

During the period of old bird races is when observation pays dividends; study each individual race for each bird has its own favourite condition when it will do its utmost to break all records to get home. For instance; my old red cock; Galabank Supreme; a real champion and winner of over 40 prizes never failed to win when feeding a big hen youngster. Needless to say; I did not let him impair his fitness by feeding the big youngster which; was done for him by other birds or failing anything suitable; by myself. Study your birds; therefore; if you want your name at the top of the prize list’. (This still applies to the present time and I have preached this for a number of years in my Joe Murphy Column).

Nearing the end

The following year 1953 John Kirkpatrick was very ill and in the Rennes race of that time his friend Wull J Robertson won 3rd open Rennes with a 4 year old red chequer cock called ‘Johnny’ bred by John Kirkpatrick and in fact Johnny was the nest mate of Galabank Duke; and he was to prove very momentous at stock. This was a great boost for John whom I have said was not a well man and was approaching the end of his life. However he received another feel good factor when he timed in a 2 year old red hen Galabank Queen to win 1st section 3rd open Nantes. She was bred direct from Galabank King when paired to a grand daughter of Coronation Express and the red cock Galabank Lad. To round off the old bird season his dear friend Wull Robertson timed in to win 65th open Nantes and won the best average for the two SNFC race.  Wull had achieved some outstanding performances in the SNFC from as early as 1923; he won 5th open in 1925; 2nd open in 1927; this hen produced a notable pair of pigeons; the cock won 2nd open while the hen arrived a few minutes after him to win 3rd open from Rennes in 1931. At this time Wull Robertson raced to a modest back garden loft and many famous fanciers visited his home as he was considered by many as one of Scotland’s finest flyers from that pre war period. He was also a very adventurous fancier; and had pigeons home from San Sebastian a distance of over 800 miles to Annan on two occasions. One of these pigeons was called ‘Carnera’ named after a famous boxer of that time; and this pigeon was the only bird recorded in to Scotland from this event. So you could see how a friendship was established as John Kirkpatrick had the greatest of respect for Wull Robertson’s achievements and he had set the standard that Kirkpatrick wanted to achieve.

After a four year illness John Kirkpatrick who was ill and in bed sent for young John Smith; when he when into see Uncle Johnny; Kirkpatrick asked his wife Carrie to give him £20 (a lot of money in those days in 1954). He said to young John ‘I want you to go out and buy some fishing tackle’ in those days you did what you were told by your elders and John carried out his wishes. He says ‘This was typical of the man Joe he was a giant in every sense of the word’. John Smith became a very good fisherman and on the 55th anniversary his aunt Carrie’s passing he arranged to have a special Salmon Fly created by the famous Borders Gun Room, owned by Shaun Twight at St Boswells in the Scottish Borders. The fly was created by Iain Wilson and matches the colours of “Galabank Prince”. The first fly to be tested on the famous River Tweed by a gentleman from Warrington, produced a 21 pound salmon. The name of the salmon fly is Kirkpatrick’s Fancy and I have enclosed a photograph of this fly to let fanciers see it; John Smith has the original and he kindly gave me one of the last batch he had made which is a wonderful gesture by this man. I’m not a fisherman but I have placed this ‘fly’ in the unit in my living room and I will show this off to any fishermen friends who visit my home.

Kirkpatrick Fancy

Passing of a Legend

John Kirkpatrick passed away a few months after the old bird season of 1953 and his good friend Wull Robertson died the same year. Kirkpatrick’s wife Carrie decided to race the Kirkpatrick pigeons for one more season. The pigeons were managed by the families’ great friend Wullie Graham who had helped her husband during his later years. Competing from Rennes in 1954 the final season of the famous Kirkpatrick Galabank Lofts; Mrs Kirkpatrick timed in a 3 year old blue chequer cock to win 3rd open Rennes and the pigeon was aptly named Galabank Remembrance; which had flown Dol as a yearling; then Rennes as a 2 year old. He was bred out of a Barker hen purchased from Barker; and his sire was from the famous Hill of St Just grizzle hen 6498 crossed with the immortal Galabank Supreme.

The Kirkpatrick birds were sold by auction on Saturday 11th December 1954 the world famous Galabank champions were convoyed to the ZION Institute, Hulme Manchester for the sale by John Smith’s father Frederick Anderson Smith, who was a top footballer in his day and generous Scottish Tenor supervised the day.

The late Lou Massarella purchased the top four famous Kirkpatrick champions. On studying the Kirkpatrick sales list Galabank Prince 1st open Nantes went for £125; Duke 2nd open Nantes went for £200; Galabank Queen 3rd open Nantes went for £105; Galabank Remembrance 3rd open Rennes £145. Two other pigeons made upwards of £100 lot 5 a brother to 1290 Galabank Remembrance; lot 6 a full sister to Remembrance made £100. Like the present day auction sales there were some bargains to be had and on in particular that caught my eye was Lot 22 sire Galabank Remembrance dam 4041 sold for £20 while other children from Remembrance like Lot 21 made £37.10s.


I hope I have done some justice to the great man John Kirkpatrick and to John Smith; it has indeed been a great pleasure for me to go over the memorabilia that John Smith left with me and I will photocopy this and retain as a keepsake of this wonderful area in Scottish Pigeon folklore. I have tried to obtain a loan of some pictures to go with this article however the source who has some would not loan these out which is a pity as it would have made a difference to the story. I have endeavoured to enhance the pictures John Smith gave me by scanning them and touching them up in the hope they will reproduce and show you the readers the quality of pigeons John Kirkpatrick had and more importantly WON with. While spending time with John Smith in the hotel listening to his stories he told Margaret and I about his aunt Carrie timing in Galabank Remembrance the year after John’s death and this man was overcome with emotion and apologised. I told him not to worry as I believe this is a reflection of how John Smith loved his uncle Johnny, and he was a very genuine person. To have been in the company of John Smith and listen to him narrative about a legend like John Kirkpatrick was one of highlights of my life as a journalist for the pigeon press.

Joe Murphy & John Smith

When you consider that John Kirkpatrick was deprived of channel racing during the second World War from 1939 till 1945 when his team were without doubt in their ‘prime’ plus the fact the man passed away at the tender age of 56 years; one wonders what he would have achieved had he lived say another 10 to 15 years. The comments of John Kirkpatrick in the years books of 1938 and 1953 are not far of the mark for pigeon fanciers at this present time; ok feeding; training; racing has changed; but observation; loft management; hard work and obtaining quality stock has not. Kirkpatrick kept it simple and tested out his pigeons, only the best survived and maybe the present day fanciers should apply this method. One thing for sure if I was living in the Solway area I would try his method of testing my yearlings at the Gold Cup race. Fanciers in the north of Scotland send their yearlings to Hastings on the south coast and this is the corresponding distance as John Kirkpatrick flew from Rennes all those years ago.

John Smith with the Kirkpatrick Clock

To John Smith both Margaret and I thank you for a wonderful day; it was indeed a day we will both never forget; and we thank you for the gift of the Westminster clock won by the ‘great man’. I will cherish this for the remainder of my life and this will be passed onto my son Kevin and hopefully one of his children will retain it as a pigeon fancier. This was indeed a great honour to receive such a ‘gift’ and I am without a doubt humbled by the generosity shown by John Smith and I hope he is happy with my contribution and may I wish John and his family all the very best in health and happiness for years to come.

© Compiled by Joe Murphy December 2009



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