The Story of a Long Distance Champion

Rosary Beads-Bred & Raced by David Jamieson, East Calder


In the spring of 2011, in the East Calder lofts of Davie Jamieson hatched a pigeon the likes of which are few. Banded with the yellow ring marked SU11 CA 858, her hopeful owner was at that time oblivious to what exactly her future would hold.

Here we are some four years down the line where this hen, Rosary Beads, could be likened to the Messi of FC Barcelona or the Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. Great teams always have a star, and Davie Jamieson’s superb loft of racing pigeons is no different. Great and superb are two of the many similar words that could be used to describe Davie’s current team, these last few seasons have rarely seen them keep his picture out the paper or his name from peppering the results. Multiple SNFC section victories have been achieved and numerous top 5 and 10 Open prizes have been won, these from far away race points such as Newbury, Reims, Ancenis and Clermont. September 2015 saw him with fifteen pigeons on the Open result from the SNFC Buckingham Young Bird Open, a feat practically unheard of in the area in which he flies. The quality of stock and racers housed in these lofts is the stuff most fanciers will only ever dream of and this is a story about the jewel in the crown of astonishing achievements.

Rosary Beads was bred and hatched to a light chequer cock and a red hen, both of which could be considered blue blooded in terms of racing pigeon ancestry. The cock of the pair was the result of an arranged mating between two of Scotland’s finest multiple long distance performance pigeons of the era, his sire being a Scottish National Flying Club Gold Award winner for the late Dale Newcombe. A cock that was given the name Kardale Style - scoring five times at over 500 miles with the SNFC notching up 113th,15thand 55th Open in our Gold Cup race as well as 26th and 84th Open Sartilly. This fine cock was bred by Dale and like many of his prominent winners in the 90s and 00s his breeding was greatly influenced by the bloodlines of the John Ellis of Elphinstone pigeons.

John Ellis is most associated with the Lothian Pair, a blue cock and red hen that left behind a dynasty of winners. With terms like ‘Golden Pair’ and ‘Wonder Couple’ being so widely used in the selling of pigeons these days, it’s easy to see why they are often dispelled as myth. That being said Lothian King and Queen more than fit the bill. Their genes can be traced back to those John’s late father, JT Ellis of Haddington had in his loft- a blend of winning lines from; the McCabe Bros of East Calder, Willie Fairgreave of East Saltoun, the Piercey Bros of Spittal and Geordie Robertson of Cupar. The best known daughter of the pair Lothian Lass was somewhat of a flying machine winning a Gold Award with the following SNFC Open positions; 21st,8th,24th,11th,77th,248th and 128th. A son was gifted to Dale Newcombe and went on to breed none other than Kardale Clive’s memory the 1993 SNFC Gold Cup Winner when paired to a Gunn and Cheerie hen. Any cock and hen that bred a racer in the calibre of Lothian Lass would be considered a ‘Golden Pair’ in the eyes of many fanciers. When one considers that eight of her siblings won in SNFC Open competition  8th,9th,21st,22nd,29th,31st,35th,41st,42nd,63rd,66th,68th,123rd,129th,132nd, 153rd,176th,192nd,243rd,  between them racing 500-600miles, this could be considered a Platinum pairing. This line of birds not only won for John Ellis and Dale Newcombe,but impacted the lofts of many top fanciers including; John Bosworth, Tom McEwan,Mr and Mrs Smith, Richard & Jamie Combe, Jock Allan, Mr and Mrs Elliot, Joe Mullen,Joe Murphy and so on.

There is a reason I’ve gone into depth regarding the achievements of the John Ellis pigeons, when John decided to part with his pigeons Davie Jamieson was fortunate enough to acquire the entire team. Davie reckons around 70% of his present day team have the Ellis of Elphinstone blood running through their veins. He has expressed tremendous gratitude to John-the man he describes as the best fancier he has ever met and is indebted to him, not only for these tremendous birds, but for the advice and friendship he has given him over the years-completely altering his opinions on all aspects relating to the management and preparation of pigeons for long distance national racing. The list of top lofts winning with these bloodlines has only gotten longer since they have been in Davie’s hand as they’ve played a part in outright National winners for the top Solway flyers; Crombie and Mechan, Billy Smith and John Little.

Back now to this chequer cock, the sire of Rosary Beads, and a little about his dam. This was a hen of great class; I’ve heard many who handled the bird remark on how she was one of the finest birds they’ve ever seen. Known as the Cholet Hen, Davie obtained her at the clearance sale of J & J Keir of Thornton in Fife. As a 600 mile racer she was every bit the champion winning from this distance on four occasions over three different race points. She won 11th and 60th Open Chenoise, plus 5th Open Tours with the SNFC, before going onto win 3rd Open SNRPC Cholet and earning her retirement.  Her breeding is the very best Fife had to offer being down through the Keir’s 4th Open Rennes Hen My Little Lady as well many of the reference pigeons of John Traill of Thornton, who went through a spell in the SNFC’s longest race the likes of which has scarcely been seen before or since. Over the course of four seasons in the mid - 1990s he was able to amass 1st,8th and 30th Open Niort at 690miles as well as 1st,2nd and 30th Open Nantes at 620miles. A true legend of long distance racing into Scotland. After reading the performances and heritage of the Cholet Hen it should come as no surprise to hear she has been a phenomenal breeder in East Calder, in fact she is the pigeon Davie Jamieson hails as the best he has ever obtained.


Much like Rosary Beads’ sire her dam is also of immaculate long distance ancestry, a 2007 late bred red hen, her sister is recognised as one of Davie’s best breeders. This outstanding nest pair are bred from birds Davie purchased from his name sake (no relation), the late Matt Jamieson of Annan. The sire of the pair in particular is a bit special and was the pigeon Matt Considered to be the best in his loft at the time. Being three times in the first 22 Open SNFC including 4th Open from the Alencon Gold Cup, it’s simple enough to see why. The Jamieson brothers of Annan are as synonymous a name to pigeon racing in the south of Scotland as Johnny Kirkpatrick and Blue Blitz. Yes, the names of John and Matt Jamieson are considered household, with four National wins between them and a string of 2nds and 3rds etc. there have been few better over the Scottish National Flying Club’s long history. A point I found quite interesting and a little coincidental in this instance was when Matt Jamieson won the Nantes National in 1969 with Border Star, the runner up was none other than Haddington’s JT Ellis.  With pigeons so deeply rooted in top long distance bloodlines it is little wonder a pigeon like Rosary Beads has appeared in Davie Jamieson’s loft.

On to the champion herself and her young bird season, Rosary Beads is described by her owner as being a fairly attractive young hen, one of a few eye catchers amongst his 2011 youngsters, but little more than that. Not part of his darkness team, a pleasant pearl eye turned in her head and she saw out the federation programme with no remarkable proficiency. At this point it’s worth noting that she, as with all Davie youngsters, was given no training prior to entering the first race of 50 miles. To expand on that point, none of Davie’s pigeons young or old are ever taken a training toss at any time. They are expected to exercise well round home and fed in such a way that encourages this. Friends of Davie’s have watched his birds roaming miles from home and with the lack of training by road and a light, carefully thought out diet this becomes habit. The only time they are in a basket is to race.

Although showing no real signs of racing talent as a youngster, Davie liked the look and breeding of Rosary Beads enough to take youngsters from her as a yearling. This is not something he usually practises, preferring for the most part to breed off his stock birds and prize-winning racers. As a yearling racer she went through the same procedure as the majority of Davie’s birds at this age, it’s usually a case of a handful of inland races down to the English coast then they are left to mature out for the following season. There have been instances in which Davie has sent yearlings over the channel if they have what he’s looking for come the time. One such example is a red full sister of Rosary Beads which as a late bred took 26th Open SNFC Ypres, a distance of just under 437 miles, in what was only the pigeons fourth time in a basket in her lifetime.

In 2013 Rosary Beads turned two years old, by now she had the look of a bird that could do something of note. The fact she had never really shone up to this point is not something that deterred Davie too much. After all it is reasonably common for good long distance racers never to see a clock until sent a long distance. At the beginning of the year the usual procedure was carried out; the birds were paired in February then parted in April to be raced on a form of roundabout. This is the same for all the old bird racers in Davie’s loft before he re-pairs them for a chosen race point. The race point chosen for Rosary Beads this particular season was the Scottish National Flying Club’s longest race. Always a testing event, at times disastrous and in 2013 to be flown from a race point unknown to the club-Ancenis, convoying with the Midland’s National Flying Club. The race took place on the 6th of July with the birds being liberated at 0550. In years gone by 743miles into Scotland has been achieved on the day of liberation, so with the early liberation time day birds weren’t ruled out, even if it was just in hope rather than expectation. News filtered through the MNFC, with the bulk of their birds flying around 200- 300 miles less than the Scottish contingent, were having a sticky one-thus doubts began to form as to whether any pigeons would make it into Scotland by nightfall. There was one timed on the night and in hindsight if only one person was to get a bird on the day it was going to be Scott Irving Jr. for in 2013 his birds flew nothing short of magnificently. Scott clocked his superb chequer hen at 2121 eventually taking 1st Open, although I’m sure it wouldn’t have been an easy night-with timing in so close to race closing into Brydekirk there would always be the fear that someone further north could clock early the next day for the win. Someone did indeed time in 63 miles further north the following day, none other at Davie Jamieson-who clocked his first pigeon at 0446, but had to make do with 2nd Open just six yards per minute shy of the National winning pace Scott had set the previous night. Davie’s first bird was a 3 year old cock now known as White Mick, I’ve had the pleasure of handling this pigeon and would class him as absolutely magnificent. The race was still on, but the fancy had a time to wait until the next pigeons arrived. The third pigeon timed in the country taking 3rd Open for her efforts was the subject of this report Rosary Beads, at the time of 0801 she was a very good pigeon. To be 2nd and 3rd Open SNFC racing just shy of 600miles would do most people, but not Davie Jamieson for he was to time another of his entries as the cherry on top in the form of 10th Open, giving him 1st,2nd and 3rd Section D to boot. I have tried to find another example of a fancier with three pigeons in the first 10 Open from the SNFC’s longest race and I think I’ll be trying for a good while more.

After Davie’s success from Ancenis in 2013, the good chequer cock White Mick was, I can imagine, ever so slightly better looking to his eyes than Rosary Beads. This was to change at 2100 on the 7th of July 2014. Again the SNFC were at Ancenis with the MNFC, again it was an early liberation (0610), again Davie Jamieson and Rosary Beads were to the fore. Sent sitting 12 day eggs on basketing day as in 2013, this time she was to fly the 598 miles on the day of liberation-being the furthest flying pigeon in the race to do so. Beaten only to 1st Section by a super pigeon of Tam Fyfe’s she was to be 2nd Section D, 4th Open. I have tried to find an example of a pigeon to have finished twice in the first 4 Open from the SNFC’s longest race and again I think I’ll be trying for a good while more. That Saturday in July emerged a pigeon in the class of; John Bosworth’s Arleen’s Vintage (twice first 5 Open, three times first 15 Open Longest Race), Jim Sanderson’s Loan Frill Lady (twice first 7 Open Longest Race) and Jock Traill’s Nancy (twice first 8 Open Longest Race), fulfilling the ambition of a fancier who got his first pigeons as a boy in 1970 and his first SNFC diploma for 57th Open Sartilly in 1984. A real dream come true.

So what was next for Rosary Beads ?I remember reading the race report in 2014 in which Dr Lynch raised the dilemma faced by Davie- keep her going or retire her to stock? Fortunately the decision made in 2015 transpired to be the right one. With her preparation unaltered from the two years previous going to plan it was off to Ancenis again in early July for this long distance champion. It was this third crossing that brought her owner the most joy, despite the fact she never made it home on the night, arriving at 0518 made her the first pigeon timed in Scotland that morning and brought her the section win that had eluded her up until now. Her arrival only marked the beginning of a great morning in East Calder, for another hen was clocked at 0645 and a third at 0813. This saw Davie Jamieson finishing 11th, 15th and 20th Open and taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd from this race point for the second time in three seasons. I mentioned the legendary Jock Traill’s four year run in the SNFC’s longest race earlier in this report and when one considers Davie Jamieson’s 2nd,3rd,4th,10th,11th,15th,20th, and 41st from the equivalent race point over a three year period he has a great deal to be proud of.

Rosary Beads performances over this time have earned her a SNFC Silver Award of which will be hard to better. To summarise, this tremendous pigeon has won

2nd Section D, 3rd Open SNFC Ancenis (598 miles)

2nd Section D, 4th Open SNFC Ancenis (598miles)

1st Section D, 11th Open SNFC Ancenis (598miles)

A retirement well-earned and with youngsters and siblings of Rosary Beads already showing great promise, I’m sure we will hear more of this great hen as breeder.


As a closing thought I’d firstly like to thank Davie Jamieson for giving me the opportunity to compile this short report. Secondly I’d like to congratulate him on breeding and racing this long distance champion. Thirdly I only hope I have given her the credit she warrants and finally I extend thanks to Paul Bamford on behalf of Davie, his pigeons and friendship are greatly valued.

written by Lewis Mccalley