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by George Wheatman


Nine of the first ten open positions in the North Road Championship Club’s race from Perth, sponsored by the Racing Pigeon, were taken by fanciers from the Nottinghamshire area, which has left many members scratching their heads bearing in mind the west in the wind.

Star performers were the winners for the second successive year, Mr and Mrs Brian Guilford, of Long Eaton, who were also fifth and sixth open, but it was a close finish in the final analysis as they beat past multiple winner Kevin Lawson, of Ollerton, only on decimals.

With the Guilfords also winners of Section A, we take a look now at the other section winners.

 Mr and Mrs Brian Guilford, open and Section A winners of NRCC Perth


Kevin Lawson, winner of six open races with the NRCC, calculates that he was beaten into second place from Perth by only six seconds, to add to his numerous runners-up positions.

He reckons that his and the Riggott and Richardson bird that were close up for third place must have come together.

His section-winning bird was a dark chequer Lambrecht, two years old cock bird, which had competed with the Federation the week before, also from Perth, and also a hard race.

“It is a good pigeon and has won before, and was first club and fifth Fed from Aycliffe this season,” said Kevin. “His brother has topped the Fed.”

The Lawson loft sent eight birds and saw then all come home, seven on the day and one the next morning.

“The first three were quite close together, and then there was a bit of a gap.”

The birds, not unusually for Kevin, had been in good form prior to the Perth race, and had won seven of the eight club races with a team of 30 cock birds.

Now 57 years old, and involved in the sport of pigeon racing for 37 of those years, he says that his team is mainly sprint orientated these days, but are flying as well as ever.

Over the years he has been one of the top fanciers competing with the NRCC and, in addition to the six open wins, many second places, and countless other leading positions, he has also won a yearling open.

 Kevin Lawson, winner of Section B, NRCC Perth


A welcome new name to the NRCC section winner’s enclosure is that of Vitor Martins, of Holbeach, who won the highly competitive Section C with a yearling widowhood cock bird which also topped the Peterborough and District Federation.

The winning pigeon has the breeding of an aristocrat, its father being a grandson of the famous Kannibal, when paired to a Van Loon hen. A chequer, it bears a resemblance to its legendary ancestor.

The mother of the winner was a survivor of a group of pigeons which Vitor acquired to launch his career in the sport in this country.

A native of Portugal, he had his first taste of pigeon racing on the family farm when his father was given two birds which caught young Vitor’s imagination.

The two expanded to more and to a taste of racing in his home country where pigeon racing is a popular pastime, but he could not afford a clock and had to run to other club members to time in – ironically an experience shared by two NRCC aces in his present Sutton Bridge club. Terry Winterton and John Lensen had to share a clock, placed strategically at the boundary of their adjoining gardens, when they first ventured into the sport in their teens.

These two fanciers are an inspiration for Vitor, now in his fifth season of racing in this country. “They are the men to beat, and it is a big challenge,” he said. “But they, and all the other members, have given me a very warm welcome to the club.”

The section winner, a chequer, has a striking resemblance to his illustrious grandfather, says Vitor, who also recalls that it flew well as a young bird.

Vitor came to England 14 years ago, speaking very little English. Now he speaks, and writes, fluently in English. He took a job on the production line of a factory; now he is in charge of the night shift. During that time he and his wife have purchased and renovated their own home in Holbeach.

He acquired his first pigeons in this country when a workmate had to give up the birds. He was persuaded to have a look at the birds, with no real intention of taking any home. The result? Vitor placed 20 pairs in a shed at home, and told his wife “I will just have a few pigeons.” Now he has 150!

But she doesn’t seem to mind, and gets really excited when her husband is successful in the races.

This is his fifth season racing, and his third season with the NRCC, so imagine his delight when he won his section from Perth, bearing in mind that there are many outstanding fanciers in Section C.

Vitor believes that working night shifts helps with his pigeon racing because it means he has a routine.

He flies widowhood, mainly with sprinters and middle distance pigeons, and on return from work, at 6-30am, lets out the hens. They fly for about one and a half hours during which time he takes his two dogs for a walk (Vitor on his bike, by the way) and, on return, takes the flag down and whistles in the hens. Then it is the turn of the cocks to exercise. They fly for about an hour.

Loft chores done, Vitor goes to bed at about 9-30 to 10 am. His wife, he says, works “posh” hours from 8am-5pm!

He gets up at 3-30pm and repeats the routine with his pigeons. “I train just before the season, and then don’t train again.”

The lofts are closed by about 5pm, and Vitor goes to bed for another two hours before it is off to work.

His work pattern includes working every other Saturday night, so it needs considerable dedication to keep to his routine.

Vitor is 37 years old and, through the week, feeds a lot of seeds, creating the mixture himself. He believes maize makes pigeons fat. Then they have two days on a Verselaga mix.

“I am fascinated by pigeons,” he says.

 Section C winner, NRCC Perth, Vitor Martins


Pigeon racing for Mark Smith is a relaxation from the back-breaking job of laying paving slabs, and he received a real boost by winning Section E in the NRCC race from Perth.

In partnership with his cousin, he sent three birds to what turned out to be a testing, and somewhat puzzling race for many, and timed a two-year-old blue hen, which was flying on roundabout, to finish first in Section E.

He is based in Braunstone, Leicester, and, at the time of speaking, his other two birds were not home. One, in fact, had been reported in the West Midlands “in a bad way.”

“It was a good pigeon in trying conditions,” said Mark of his section winner. “It was very rough and the trees were folding over, but the pigeon looked as fresh as a daisy.”

Mark, consistently successful in north road racing with the Leicester Federation, is 44 years old and is rarely out of the frame, having started racing in 2004.

When younger, he used to keep rollers and tipplers, a section of the pigeon fancy for which he feels particular sympathy as they continue to lose so many birds to the burgeoning population of sparrowhawks – also a big problem to racing fanciers – especially as nest boxes are being placed around the area, encouraging them to breed.

Mark says that, in general, he likes the shorter races as he is too impatient to wait for arrivals from the long races.



David Hicks is a man who lives and breathes pigeon racing. He has served the sport in a variety of ways since he became a fancier back in 1985.

His reward has been consistent performances, from sharing national success when, as part of the Hicks and Jeckell partnership he won the NRCC young bird open in 1990, right up to the present day when he won the highly competitive Section F from Perth at the end of May this year.

In between, there has been a host of wins at club and Federation level, and many excellent positions in the NRCC.

Now 65 years old and, from his Norwich base running his own pigeon feed business, Norfolk Racing Pigeon Supplies, he is as delighted with the Perth section win as he is with his many past successes.

Always competing from the north, he has regularly been the highest prizewinner in the 22-member Costessey club, David timed his section winner from Perth at nine minutes past two and, by 3-30pm, had six of his 15 entries home. By Sunday he had 14 safely in the loft.

The bird that did the business is a blue yearling Vandenabeele widowhood cock bird which was one of six youngsters from  Middlesborough fancier, Brian Leacher.

The same bird was 34th open, 9th section NRCC Dunbar.

“It is not a nice looking pigeon, not at all,” said David. “He lives in his box all day, kept in the box, because he does not like other pigeons.”

The contact with Brian came when one of David’s pigeons ended up in his loft. It was a pigeon which had been timed from Lerwick, but went astray from Thurso, and subsequently has been breeding the goods in Middlesborough.

David flies both cocks and hens on widowhood, and is enjoying another good season.

He is a big advocate of Ad Herb products which, he says, contribute towards his success.

He has 10 to 12 pairs of stock birds, including a number of direct Van Dyckes, and pigeons from Syndicate Lofts and Premier Stud. David is also particularly pleased with a purchase he made from the Natural Breeding Station when on a trip to Belgium – 10 Beverdam Janssen which cost him £250.

His working life has embraced being manager of a large garden equipment business, and working as a school caretaker.

David Hicks, winner NRCC Perth Section F 


They never fail, these long-flying members of Section H. One, or more,  of them always turns up with a special performance.

This time it was Ken Surrey, of Dagenham, who turned up trumps with the section winner plus timing all three of his entries. There were only five day birds at his clock station, and he had three of them.

“I had the perfect race,” said Ken. “I sent three and had all three in the clock on the day.” He flies 367 miles from Perth.

His section winner was a four-year-old widowhood cock bird. “Not outstanding, but a really consistent pigeon,” said Ken. His half brother was the next timer.

They share the same mother which is a Jan Aarden.

Now 73 years old, and retired after 46 years in the building trade, he is one of those men who seems to have pigeon racing, retirement and, indeed, life sorted.

He is only a small team fancier, having cleared away all his lofts except a 20-foot Petron which, he says, he bought several years ago “when I had a bit of money.”

This gave him back more of his garden, and his contentment comes from being in the garden (“it is only a small one”, he says), tending to his pigeons and keeping an eye on what they are up to, often from behind the curtains in his home. “They tell me a lot about themselves,” he said.

He has been a member of the NRCC for about 15 years, but says he wishes he had joined 25 years ago. “I am all the time trying to talk people into joining,” he said. “They treat us very well at the Cambridge marking station, make us very welcome. Jack Shelley does a great job. It is a 50-mile drive, but well worth it.”

In recent years he has introduced birds from the House of Aarden, because he believes that you need their kind of toughness to fly NRCC races into London.

One of Ken’s sons, Steven, is a successful fancier now based at Wisbech. “He is his own man, and much more dedicated than I am,” said his dad.

Another son is involved in the horse racing scene.

Ken has been a fancier since 1960, when he was just 16 years old, and is a member of the Dagenham Invitation club where, he says, secretary Roy Alliwell does a great job.

His Perth birds flew four club races before going the NRCC Dunbar, were given a week’s rest and then sent to Perth. He keeps only 16 cocks for racing, and allocates just six of them for NRCC competition.

He did not send his Perth birds back to Fraserburgh because they had had a hard 12-hour flight, and he had noted the weather forecast. He hopes to compete from Thurso.

Over the years, Ken has done every job in the club. Nowadays he just likes to relax, enjoy his pigeons and his garden, and, no doubt, will still be taking a great deal of pleasure from that Perth performance. He certainly should be.

He admits: “I could not have wished for a better race.”

In keeping with maintaining his low profile, Ken politely declined the opportunity to have a photograph published.



Section I is another of the tough, long-flying NRCC sections which has produced outstanding performances by special fanciers over the years.

James Boyd, from Ipswich, is now a worthy member of this elite group.

James Boyd, winner of Section I, with his “silent partner” Derek Upson (left)

Not only did he win the section from Perth, flying 357 miles, but he went on to achieve something even more remarkable when he won the section from the next race, 411 miles from Fraserburgh, and, moreover, take an incredible fourth open.

The Perth winner was a four-year-old grizzle hen flying on widowhood, but I will write more about 56-year-old James, who is assisted in all sorts of ways by the man he calls his not-so-silent partner, Derek Upson, when looking at the Fraserburgh section winners, because his performance in that race was one of the highlights of NRCC racing.

He did not compete with the NRCC last season, but was inspired to have a real go this year after visiting the Day of Champions prize giving at Spalding.

No doubt equally inspirational was the company of pigeon racing legend Peter Crawford.

More on James and his eye-catching performances next time.





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