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By George Wheatman

Fraserburgh 2017 will be remembered as the year Nottinghamshire fanciers Bill Bearder and his sons cemented their place in the history of the North Road Championship Club as they completed a hat-trick of open wins in this famous old club. Top fanciers. Top performances.

But it will also be remembered as a difficult, puzzling race for many, and one which still managed to produce outstanding section winners.

One, in particular, stands out. That was in Section I where James Boyd, assisted in Ipswich by his good friend Derek Upson, whom he describes as his “not so silent partner”, timed a four-year-old grizzle hen bird which had flown 13 hours 42 minutes to complete a flight of 411 miles, in ferocious winds, not only to win her section but also to take fourth open in a race where only one bird managed a velocity of more than 1,000 ypm, and that flying 84 miles less.

There have been some outstanding performances in the longer flying sections of the NRCC during my 15 years as Press Officer, but this must rate as one of the best.

James usually flies his hens on the widowhood system, but this game lady had paired to another hen and was sent to Fraserburgh sitting.

She has the bloodlines of Jos Thone, from pigeons James has had in his loft for many years, and Frank Bristow’s Wily Thas birds, and had flown Dunbar and Perth with the NRCC prior to the Fraserburgh.

James had, of course, won the section from Perth this year and that section winner was one of his second day pigeons from Fraserburgh. He sent 14 and had nine home when we spoke, but just the one on the day of liberation. And what a pigeon.

“I am delighted to have won the section,” he said, “and to come fourth open is like a dream come true. I feel as if I have won the race.”

Making his day extra special was a congratulatory telephone call from the High Priest of pigeon racing in Ipswich, the legend who is Peter Crawford, a man James holds in awe, and a text message from Frank Bristow, another member of the sport’s Royalty.

“Peter is a special man,” he said. “He has always been helpful to me, giving advice and expressing his opinion about anything I have asked him, but never imposing his views. It would be great if someone could capture the essence of this man for the benefit of the whole sport.

“I have had the privilege of being able to listen to conversations between Peter and Frank, and what an experience that is.”

The Fraserburgh success comes to James at a time when his loft is bang on form. He has won five of the first six races this season, and had included a Federation win, and has been the highest prizewinner in Ipswich Pigeon Racing Club in the previous two seasons.

He says a warm thank you to Derek Upson for the considerable part he has played in this success.

James did not compete with the NRCC last season and, being a previous section winner, had not been impressed by the almost dismissive manner in which he had been handed his winner’s card, in an envelope, after only the race winners had been saluted at the prizegiiving some years ago.

But he was inspired by the inaugural Day of Champions, at Spalding last year, when he accompanied Peter Crawford. It was enlightening, he felt, to see the section winners acknowledged and to go on stage to receive their awards.

“I left feeling that I would like a bit of that,” said James.

That left him determined to map out a plan which he hoped would be rewarded with success in the NRCC. Two section wins, and a fourth open, shows how well he planned the operation.

Aged 56, James had a 35-year career in the care profession, but now works as a project manager for a plumbing and heating company.

He has known the sport of pigeon racing pretty well all his life as his dad was a fancier, flying quite well on the south road using the widowhood system, but struggling to get his birds to fly 500 miles.

That is where James’ ambitions lie now, and he had a good NRCC race from Thurso last year, not an easy one by any means, and timed five of his 10-strong entry on the night, the arrivals battling against heavy rain.

He was not planning to send to Lerwick this year, but Thurso was again in his sights.

Meanwhile, Fraserburgh has given him lots of satisfaction.


Bill Bearder and sons Bill junior and Stephen, winners of Section A and open NRCC Fraserburgh                  -                   Shane Betts, winner of Section B NRCC Fraserburgh, with wife Liz.


 Pete and Teri Rodgers, winners of Section C NRCC Fraserburgh             -              Mick Moore, winner of Section E in the NRCC race from Fraserburgh           -             Mick Moore’s section-winning pigeon



John Hore, winner of Section H from Fraserburgh with the NRCC                    -             James Boyd, winner of Section I from NRCC Fraserburgh, with Derek Upson              -                  Keith Warnes with Scotty, his NRCC Section F winner from Fraserburgh.




John Hore is a 70-year-old Irishman who lives in the London commuter town of Hoddesdon, in Hertfordshire, and he is the Section H winner from Fraserburgh.

We all know that, over recent years of NRCC racing, this has been the section of valiant performances by brave pigeons, and here is another one to add to the list, a two-year-old widowhood hen which was timed in at 8-40pm after more than 15 hours on the wing. Velocity over 417 miles was 799ypm, and open position 71st.

John sent four – all hens, two of them a nest pair – and had 100 per cent returns, and all in “very good shape” on arrival home. “I was over the moon,” he said.

As I write, all four are bound for the ultimate north road test from Lerwick, from where John is a past section winner.

No wonder he says: “Distance racing appeals to me.”

The Fraserburgh performance was a boost for John after what he describes as a “not very good” season.

Born in Wexford, in south-east Ireland, he had pigeons as a teenager, but then had a long break when he moved to London in 1968. Working as an accountant, much of his spare time was taken up by his involvement with the Scout movement for 50 years, being a Leader for most of that time.

It was only when retirement loomed that his thoughts turned again to pigeon racing. In 2009 he bought himself a loft “off the peg”, and went to see that master of the sport, Ken Hine.

John got to know him well and bought ten young birds, and was gifted two which had slipped their rings.

He put these birds through a thorough training schedule, and raced them to 100 miles. And, guess what, he did not lose one of them. Must be the Irish magic.

He still treats his young birds and yearlings with respect, while competing in the Cheshunt club, where there is strong competition.

He says he has tried various racing systems and “got his knickers in a twist” before turning to hens on widowhood.

On a visit to the annual Blackpool Show, John met Peter Ayling and they have subsequently become friends. From that friendship has come advice and a family of grizzle pigeons for which John is extremely grateful.

Also at Blackpool, John picked up a Versele-Laga booklet, and now uses that as a guide to his feeding and treatment routine.

“There had been a lot of changes in pigeon racing from the time I was a youth to the time I took up the sport again,” he said. “There are a lot of things I am still learning about.”

He likes to do as much as he can to give his birds the best possible chance, and that is why he has been making the 220-mile round trip to Boston, Lincolnshire, to give his Lerwick candidates a training toss. Theory behind this is that he believes club racing from the likes of Peterborough and Newark does not give the birds the best line from Lerwick. He believes that becoming familiar with the eastern part of the country could help them on the later stages of the journey.

One snippet of welcome advice from a respected club member was the observation that John was not sending his birds to races often enough. Performances improved after heeding that advice.

He says his birds don’t fly well around home, and he hesitates to take steps to keep them on the wing for fear of disturbing neighbours with whom he gets on well. Ironically, his pigeons exercise well in the winter.

John has been a member of the NRCC for about six years, and he has ambitions for further success with the organisation.




Mick Moore has given up annoying people by digging up their drives or the roadways. He has retired from working for the Gas Board where his work entailed searching for pipes underground.

Now 70, he has a part-time job which is more constructive – helping a friend erect fences, or making gardens look smarter.

He has also more time to devote to pigeon racing which has been his passion since the age of 11.

That extra time with the birds has just helped Mick, of Braunstone, Leicester, win Section E of the NRCC race from Fraserburgh.

It is not the first time he has taken section honours, having experienced this on three occasions previously – from Lerwick, Dunbar and Fraserburgh.

This time, however, he was only one step away from taking top open position, finishing second behind the Bearder family.

While the winning velocity was 1015ypm for 327 miles, Mick took second with a velocity of 967 over 352 miles.

John Ghent, living nearby, nipped round to see Mick and reports as follows:

"Mick's bird is a 2 year old cock known as The Wishing Well Cock, which has taken some minor Fed positions in his fairly short racing career, but nothing to write home about.

“He is a Paul Stobbs Soontjen pigeon and its parents are now responsible for three Fed winners from just six babies. If Golden Pairs do exist, then this is one! He is raced on a modified widowhood/roundabout system and had a 14 hour fly from Perth with the NRCC before he went to Fraserburgh. Mick would like to congratulate Bill Bearder on his Open winning performance on this tough racing day."

Mick is a member of Braunstone Premier club, the same as Mark Smith the NRCC section winner from Perth this year.

He sent nine birds to Fraserburgh, and had six home – three on the day and three the next day.

This was the first race he had won this summer.

He keeps about 100 birds –“too many,” he says – and is grateful for the help he receives from his wife Chris, who is fond of all animals. “In fact the older she gets, the softer she becomes,” said Mick, who has built a kennel in the front garden to house a stray cat Chris took pity on. “Luckily it has become too fat to be any bother to the pigeons,” he said.

Mick likes to have his hens out for exercise at 6am, followed by the youngsters, and then cock birds, and he likes his race birds to have regular training, two a week at 30 miles.

He is a long-time NRCC member, and a loyal supporter of north road racing.

“I was over the moon to be second open, and to win the section,” he said.




Keith Warnes, one of the formidable contingent of Norwich-based members of the NRCC, won Section F with a two-year-old chequer widowhood cock bird to brighten his season which, he says, had not been going too well.

Not that Keith is often starved of success. He has had plenty of that in his 35-year racing career, in particular being a familiar name on the NRCC results.

Indeed, back in 2010, he was within a whisper of being open winner from Perth, beaten by clubmates Barren and Frew by only seconds.

Rueful Keith said at the time: “Perhaps we should have deadheats in pigeon racing because this was as near as you could get to a deadheat.”

There have, however, been plenty of good times since, both north and south, and in one-loft racing, to make this experienced 60-year-old fancier always one to look out for.

His Fraserburgh section winner not only topped the section, recording a velocity of 935ypm for the 371-mile trip, but also took a highly commendable seventh open position in a challenging race.

The bird responsible for lifting Keith’s spirits is bred from a Jan Aarden hen and an old cock of Krauth lines which has won from Lerwick, Thurso and Fraserburgh.

The section winner had been his first timer from Perth, and his second from Dunbar, as it has emerged from the shadows this season.

Keith is a member of the strong Cosstessy club, and is also secretary of the south road club.

He sent 12 birds to Fraserburgh and had six home at the time of speaking, plus one that homed successfully from a 250-mile single-up toss from Berwick from where it had been reported.

Keith said he had been behind pretty well every week in club racing this summer and the Fraserburgh performance was a welcome boost.

He timed in at 5-10pm, after the bird had had 20 minutes short of 12 hours on the wing. His next timing was 2 hours 20 minutes later, but still managed fourth place in the club and was in the top 100 open NRCC.

For 27 years Keith has worked for a company which makes packaging for bakeries, and a reminder of his prowess as a fancier is the time when he won all nine young bird races at club level.




A class act in NRCC racing is Pete Rodgers, of the Mr and Mrs Pete and Teri Rodger partnership, and he re-emphasised his credentials by winning Section C from Fraserburgh, on a day when the odds would have been on the outright winner coming from this section if wind direction was the deciding factor.

In the event, Nottinghamshire fanciers defied those odds, suggesting that it was something other than the strong wind which decided the route taken by the competing birds.

Pete was 12th open but the next Section C competitors did not appear in the open result until Terry Winterton at 21st and Mr and Mrs Brian Garnham at 22nd. Pete’s second bird was placed fourth section and 24tn open.

The section winner is of Jos Thone x Red Barcelona breeding, and is a two-year-old red cock which was also 9th section, 22nd open Perth this year. He is brother to the hen which was 8th open Lerwick last year when there were only nine birds home on the day, and also brother to the hen which was Pete’s second bird from Lerwick, on the second day.

The chequer cock which was fourth section, 23rd open Fraserburgh was also 4th section, 5th open Dunbar this year.

This husband and wife partnership has won NRCC open from Thurso, been runners-up from Lerwick and Saxa Vord, and taken 1st and 3rd young bird national.

This was from two different locations in Norfolk, and subsequently they enjoyed success in the mighty Up North Combine when they moved back to Pete’s native north east.

Now they live at Burgh le Marsh, within breathing distance of the bracing Skegness sea air, where Pete has collected together some of his old bloodlines to continue the success with Alford North Road Club and the Peterborough and District Federation.

Now, however, he is looking for new challenges, and his NRCC racing days may be nearing an end as he is training his young birds from the south this summer, with the aim of tasting the bigger variety he feels that the south road can offer, particularly the wider choice of long distance racing which is what he favours.




While some pigeon fanciers enjoy the hobby with the blessing and backing of their wives, and some brave the wrath of partners who are more anti than pro their participation, Shane Betts depends completely on his wife for enabling him to continue in the sport. So it is appropriate that his Section B win from Fraserburgh should be dedicated to his wife Liz.

She is a non-fancier, but has still agreed to look after the birds while 58-year-old Shane looks after the family finances by working wherever his field of graft in the utilities demands. At the moment he is working four and a half hours drive away in Bristol, surfacing in Spalding, Lincolnshire, on Friday evening and returning to the south-west on Sunday evening.

You could say that he is a fancier by remote control.

No wonder he wishes to say a big thank you to Liz.

She lets the birds out for exercise, and carries out the feeding regime according to Shane’s instructions. He leaves different coloured cartons of feed to be given on different days.

At the weekends he catches up with the loft chores, and enjoys the racing. In fact, it has been said that the only place you will find Shane at the weekends is in the pigeon loft!

He says he loves the sport, in which he re-started in 2010, after also having pigeons from 1982 to 1993.

His Section B winner from Fraserburgh was a yearling blue widowhood cock bird which had been showing signs of coming into form during the previous two or three weeks.

It carries the bloodline of Syndicate Lofts and Roger Morris, the Syndicate Lofts’ birds coming from Steve Bryant, of Bristol.

Shane sent four to the race and this was his only timer.

Competing with the Spalding Tulip club in the Peterborough and District Federation, Shane is pleased with the way the current season is going as he has not been out of the first six in club races.

“I am still trying to build a team,” he said, “but I was over the moon at the Fraserburgh result.”

Does this, I wonder, mean a bonus for Mrs Betts? I forgot to ask whether the pigeon was well pooled.













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