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by George Wheatman

Dunbar 2017 round-up

On the Monday morning after the previous day’s North Road Championship Club’s opening race of the season from Dunbar there was a bricklayer in Norwich twirling his trowel with a flourish.

Andy Woods was still on a high after being announced the winner of this close, competitive race. Actually, his name on the result should appear alongside Kevin Batch because the friends race in partnership, and the winning bird was timed to Woods and Batch Loft 2, which is at Andy’s home and managed by him, thus giving him the bragging rights.

Woods and Batch Loft 1 also appear high on the result. This is managed by Kevin at his home, and Andy reckons the two birds came together but Loft 1 – just up the road – had trapping problems.

“Kevin’s pigeon came with mine,” said Andy. “If they come through the city I can see his pigeons heading for his loft just down the road. That is what happens if there is west in the wind, and there was a lot of west on this occasion. He had a bit of a trapping problem, and I didn’t.  They would come across the Wash and I thought they might be a bit quicker.”

As it transpired, the yearling blue chequer cock bird, now named Roscoe, was quick enough to win this Belgica Deweerd-sponsored race, 281 miles to Andy’s loft, but, initially, he thought he would have to settle for second place, satisfied to some extent but disappointed at being so close to the top prize.

Things changed later in the evening when a ‘phone call from Leroy King confirmed that he was, in fact, the winner, squeezing just in front of Louth’s Richard Mamwell whose feelings moved in the opposite direction – elation at heading the provisional leader board, then disappointment at losing such a close race, but satisfaction that his birds had done him justice.

The winning bird is a Heremans Ceusters-cross, flown on widowhood, and was gaining its first-ever win. He was bought in Norwich’s much anticipated breeder-buyer sale from Wayne King, but Andy knew what he was bidding for as the bird’s grandfather, the highly-rated Rossi, is in the Woods and Batch Loft 1.

Kevin Batch & Andy Wood 1st Open NRCC Dunbar

He was not sure, however, that it would live up to its potential after taking a week, as a young bird, to come home from the Berwick breeder-buyer race.

A good winter, and early season club races, enabled Roscoe to recover from that set-back, and now he will be tested again in the second NRCC race from Perth. Only after that will its future racing programme for this season be decided.

Andy said that, as he sat in the garden waiting for his birds, he was comfortable that they were in good condition. Proof was that five of the first six races with the Norwich and Norfolk club had been won by his loft. The other one had been won by the partnership’s other loft. Of the 15 he sent, however, six were still missing the day after the race, four of these being yearlings.

Andy is 45 years old and has been in the sport since his early teens. Kevin is the “senior” partner at 55, and also started as a teenager, so there is a lot of experience invested in the partnership which is in its second year.

Each manages a loft at his own home, but they exchange birds, ideas and everything related to pigeon keeping, and enjoys pigeon-related outings. They both work hard at the sport, and Andy says: “If you don’t put the work in, you don’t get the rewards. We train hard.”

There is plenty of competition within the partnership which helps to keep up standards.

Section A

Section A winner was timed into the Nottinghamshire colliery village of Newstead to the loft of Nuttall and Son, 70-year-old Derek and 45-year-old Ryan.

“Dad does all the work, I just help a bit,” said Ryan.

Their winning bird is an experienced, and consistent, three-year-old chequer hen flown on roundabout. She had collected a number of cards during her racing career, but never a first place until excelling in this Dunbar race.

She is, however, made for the job, being bred from Peter Fox pigeons (son of Dream) and birds from Dean Skuse (Bankrobber).

This win means that the Nuttalls have topped the section with old birds from every section except Perth, and have their fingers crossed for that race this season.

Conditions from Dunbar were not in their favour, and that was one of the reasons they were pleased with the result. They sent 12 and had eight on the day, three more returning the following morning.

Their main ambitions lie with NRCC racing although they consistently do well in their Blidworth and Pinkston clubs.

Ryan Nuttall, of the Nuttall and Son partnership winners of Section A in the NRCC’s Dunbar race

Derek has been a fancier since he was a lad, but Ryan did not get the pigeon bug until he was 30 years old. He recalled that he had taken his dad’s pigeons training and they were not back when he returned, so he waited and watched them come home. He was hooked after that, and the partnership has worked well over the years, especially as they both live in the village.

While Derek is retired, Ryan is a delivery driver for glass supplied by his sister-in-law’s business.

They have always flown on the north road. They time their birds using a T3 clock but hope to be equipped with ETS in the near future.

They train twice a week, and allow the sexes to mix for 15 to 20 minutes before basketing, and leave them together for one or two hours after a race.

They have flown on the roundabout system for the past 10 years, and Ryan says that it suits them well. “We are having a good season so far,” he said. “They are flying well.”

Section B

The husband and wife partnership of Tony and Edith Woolsey are no strangers to success in the NRCC, and had another good day by timing the Section B winner to their Spalding loft, on a day when they took 1-5-6 in their Spalding club.

Their winning pigeon is a blue widowhood Ceuleman cock bird which Tony fancied and pooled heavily. They sent six, and got them all home.

“I have had the Ceulemans for six years and they are the best pigeons I have ever worked with,” he said. “They are pigeons you can trust.” He has birds direct and with the help of Frank Bristow.

“I study the methods of Belgium fanciers,” he added. “They are still ten years in front of us. My loft has been described as a Little Belgium by visitors.

“I believe in punctuality in my routine. When I say 8am, I mean 8am, not ten to or ten past.

Mr and Mrs Tony Woolsey, winners of Section B

“I use two vets and treat regularly for respiratory and canker, two days before every big race. I darken my widowhood cocks in the early part of the season, and they exercise really well around home. I train pre-season, but not between races.

“I start the season with 18 cock birds, and rear 30 babies. I have just two pairs of stock birds. Quality beats quantity.”

Tony worked as a lorry driver until the age of 75 but, now 77, devotes all his spare time to the pigeons.

“Winning is great, brilliant,” he said, “but the best thing about the sport is the social side and the friends you make. I get a real buzz when other fanciers do well with my pigeons, and quite a few have done that in various parts of the country.”

He said that he still follows tips from the late Frank Tasker, and takes particular note of the throat theory. “Frank taught me all about that years ago.”

How he treats his birds before a race depends on the weather. He introduces the hens after turning the bowls over and, usually, removes the cocks quite quickly. On return they can stay together for as long as 24 hours.

Consistency is the keynote for Mr and Mrs Woolsey, and, over the years, they have won from every race point, enjoying success at club and Federation level. And, of course, with the NRCC.

Section C

There have been outstanding pigeon fanciers in the Mamwell family for many years.

Sadly, death brought an end to the famous Mamwell Brothers partnership that won NRCC open from Perth\Arbroath in 2002, 2005 and 2007, and nowadays it is a third brother, Richard, who keeps the flag flying in the hotspot of Louth.

His prowess has already earned one open win, the young bird national of 2008, and many other prominent positions, including second open Thurso last year.

For a while it looked as if he would add another open win to his port folio as he was listed as the provisional winner from Dunbar. Later, closer scrutiny of timings revealed that he had to be content with second place which brought a mixture of disappointment and delight – because it is still no mean feat to finish runner-up against the level of talent the NRCC offers up in each race.

You sense that much of the pleasure that Richard gained from the race was because it was shared with his 24-year-old grandson, Tom, a late starter in the sport but who has now got the bug to such a level that the two are in partnership, keeping his granddad on his toes, no doubt, and bringing welcome help with loft chores as well as making a few useful suggestions along the way.

Now 65, Richard has reduced his working week to four days as a maintenance worker at Kenwick Park Golf Club, and invests that extra spare time into his pigeons, flying both north and south road.

He is, in fact, one of only a handful from this lovely Lincolnshire town who continue to fly north and with the NRCC, but they still manage to provide formidable opposition.

Richard sent 22 to Dunbar, and still had two missing when we spoke.  His section winner is a three-year-old blue chequer cock bird which had a good position from Perth as a yearling.

For two years he had flown on celibate, a system on which Richard’s birds have excelled over the years, but this season he had been flown on widowhood, not as well as hoped for, so Richard decided to try a new method. On the Saturday before the race, he paired six of his ex-celibates to stock hens, so that they were driving when sent to the race. We all know how well that worked, because there will also be a number of other Mamwell pigeons prominent in the finalised result, in addition to the open runner-up and Section C winner.

Richard Mamwell and grandson Tom, winners of Section C NRCC Dunbar

They were parted soon after return from Dunbar, so that the trick can be tried again for the Perth race.

The section winner is a direct descendant of a pigeon called Valiant which won the NRCC race from Arbroath for Mamwell Brothers in 2002, from an entry of 6, 111, and which has been responsible for some outstanding progeny.

This outstanding pigeon carries the old Janssen blood from Roger Lowe, of Reading.

Coming back to the hen that he was driving, meant that there was no delay in trapping for the section winner.

Richard competes with the cocks on the north road, preparing them for NRCC racing by sending them as trainers with the Peterborough and District Federation. He races hen birds on the south road where he is also having a good season. He is not concerned if the hens pair together, indeed they often go to races sitting four eggs in the comfort of nests dug into hemp straw.

Just to show the vagaries of pigeon racing, Richard’s bird that was second open NRCC Thurso last year did not make it home under its own steam from Dunbar. It was reported by a shop keeper in Mablethorpe unable to make the final few miles home, and is now having a period of rest and recovery.

Section E

It is fitting that one of the organisation’s hardest working officers, treasurer and race secretary, Ian Bellamy, should time the Section E winner into his Peterborough loft. He usually spends race days being more concerned with other fanciers’ timings, and transferring verifications onto the website’s provisional result.

At least, from Dunbar, he had the satisfaction of seeing his own name among the leaders.

Ian’s section winner was a three-year-old blue Soontjen cock bird, flying on roundabout, and bred from birds obtained from Derek Parr, of Ireland.

NRCC race secretary and treasurer, Ian Bellamy, with his winner of Section E

It has always been a consistent pigeon, and regularly among the early arrivals, but this was its first win. Preparation had included all club races early in the season.

Ian sent ten and had nine home on the day but described arrivals as being “gappy” – not only in his own loft but also in the verifications received.

This was a welcome success because he had not been too pleased with the form of his birds so far this season.

Sixty-four-year-old Ian, who has been a fancier since he was 14,  fits his pigeon racing round a busy working life, as well as all the work he does for the NRCC. He runs a precision engineering company, which provides employment for five people plus himself, and training involves a 5-30am start to ensure that he is back in time to start work.

Perhaps that is why he is looking forward to retirement in about three years time, hopefully with the chance to manage his pigeons at a more leisurely pace. On NRCC days he rarely sees his own birds arrive, as he is taking verifications from others, and Mrs Bellamy acts as look-out.

Section H

Tony Calverley, of Dagenham, was the winner of Section H, with a small blue yearling hen flying 327 miles. She was on widowhood, and is of Vandenabeele breeding. Some of the birds are bred down from stock obtained from M and D Evans.

Tony, a 58-year-old former booking clerk on the London underground is now retired because of ill health, and says he turned to flying the hens on widowhood (he also flies cocks on widowhood) because flying natural was not bringing the results he was looking for.

Tony Calverley (right) and Lenny Jenkins with the winner of Section H

There was much more motivation on widowhood. The race team are all yearlings this year as he tries to build a new team, and the hens are paired to old stock cocks.

Supervising the widowhood hens is Lennie Jenkins, an experienced fancier who had to give up his own birds when he moved home. Tony describes him as “a silent partner, but not that silent because he makes a lot of noise.”

He says, however, that this section win is down to Lennie, a fancier for 40 years, but they bounce ideas off each other. Neither of them drive, so arranging training for the birds is difficult.

Tony says that they managed a couple of tosses before racing started, and a 40-mile toss on the Tuesday before the Dunbar race. He sent 10 and had six home when we spoke. They had five races as babies and three or four races before being sent with the NRCC, where, although a member for about ten years, he has not competed for a couple of years.

He has been a fancier since 1988 and has enjoyed plenty of success at Combine and Amalgamation level during that time.

The plan was to send the section winner to Perth, along with some other loftmates, but then keep them for another year since they are only yearlings.

He also has some Padfield pigeons for the future.

“Basically I have always been a sprint man,” he said, “but now we are also looking at longer races. It is a learning curve.”

Section I

The winner of Section I was enjoying her first race with the NRCC. Not a bad way to start!

What’s more, 28-year-old Vicki Hymus, racing her dad’s pigeons, was also runner-up in the section.

Based in Great Oakley, a village between Harwich and Clacton, Dad Bob has, at the age of 60, suffered a bout of health problems, hence Vicki has taken over loft duties and flies the pigeons with the help of advice from Bob, who has been a fancier since 1992.

Vicki Hymus and her dad Bob, with first and second Section I

Vicki is no stranger to the sport as she works in a pigeon racing environment – for the Belgica pigeon clinic and the Racing Pigeon. Not surprisingly, the health of the birds has top priority in her philosophy, and there is no need to guess what products she uses. Vicki and Bob sent 12 pigeons on the 321 mile trip and got them all home, nine on the day and the other three next morning. The section winner is a two-year-old blue hen, which was their best yearling last year, flown on roundabout. This is the first year they have used this system. “We are still getting used to it, but it seems to be working out well,” said Vicki. “We try to make sure the birds are healthy and have motivation.” The loft is based on gift birds from Colin Rix and progeny of a Belgian stray which is producing good pigeons.The stray came into the loft as a baby, and tried to go home on a number of occasions, but was retrieved and went on to win as a yearling and is now a valuable resident in the loft.

Vicki has been 6th Essex Combine from Dunbar and enjoys north road racing, especially from Thurso (498 miles). She has never raced from Lerwick – yet.

With young birds, stock birds and racers the lofts are populated by about 100 pigeons, and giving a valued hand these days is Vicki’s 11-year-old nephew, Bailey, who is showing a welcome interest in the sport.


Convoyer’ Report

Convoyer Darren Shepherd has submitted the following report on the build-up, and liberation, to the Dunbar race:

After the short journey to Nottingham to meet up with the birds and load the awaiting Nottingham birds onto the feeder lorry we headed back to meet up with the main convoy at Wyberton.

With all of birds loaded successfully onto the transporter, myself and Merv set off at 13.15 heading North for Dunbar

During the four hour Journey I received general updates from race advisor Brian Garnham, on approach to Newcastle the weather was becoming somewhat misty by the time we arrived In Dunbar at 21.30 there was fog and fine drizzle in the air.

After finding the best position for the lorry which was nice and level following the water test I set about watering the birds which took roughly an hour Merv and myself bedded down for the night ready for an early start in the morning.

Saturday Morning I woke at 5am to find thick fog and drizzle, I checked the birds and all was well.  My first contact was with my brother Nigel in Leicester who had been out at 5.40 and said he found the weather there not too bad however a short time later I spoke with weather contacts in Darlington who stated the weather in their area was dreadful low cloud and cold.

5.50 am and good friend Geoff Wallace from Newcastle rang and reported poor visibility thick fog and had concerns that the weather in the North would clear  for us to race, however he would keep in touch.

6.00 am another contact in Berwick said they had low cloud mist and poor visibility.

I continued to make checks down the race line; in parts the weather was good but from Northampton heading North it was considered unsuitable for racing

6.30  am  I made contact with Brian again and we agreed to stay in contact but it was looking highly unlikely we were going to get a race.

7.30 am I informed Ian Bellamy that we were unable to liberate due to the poor weather, he said he would put a message on the website to inform others of the delay.

As the morning moved on the information being supplied by various contacts showed the weather had just not cleared enough to race so at 10.45 am myself and Merv made the call to hold over.

We decided to feed earlier than usual as we had new feeders made for the new lorry. Each crate now has two feeders placed in which are smaller than the old ones we used to use so it was a learning curve for us on our first trip. Once all the birds were fed we topped up the drinkers.

The weather did not break until 13.30 in Dunbar.



Here’s to a better day! Up at 5.00 am to check the birds the sky was 50-50 blue sky and the wind had moved to south west but thankfully no sign of the previous day’s fog and drizzle.

6 am Started to do the line checks on the race route and was getting much more encouraging information back.

6.30 am Communication with Brian and we decided there was a good chance of a race today but felt it would be more likely to be later in the morning.

7 am Following a few more calls to other federations who were also flying North to ensure we avoided any clashes

8.15 am The sun broke through I called Brian to inform him and agreed I would be in contact again at 8.30 am

8.30 am I contacted Brian again to inform him my intention to liberate at 8.45 am .Brian was in agreement with this decision so Merv and I cut the strings turned the buttons and prepared the shutters in the down position.

8.45 am came and Merv pressed the shutter release button. The liberation was videoed by myself to show the way the birds were released and that they were all clear and heading for home.

Ray the secretary was then informed of the liberation time and  also sent the recording which he put on the website

The NRCC’s next race is from Perth on Saturday May 27th, with marking on Thursday May 25th – a day earlier than in previous years.  Marking at Wyberton Social Club will be between midday and 1-30pm.

A plea from chairman Brian Garnham is that fanciers refrain from using straw in the baskets as this causes a mess at the marking station.







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