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The Joe Murphy Column

The last of the 4 articles written by Scottish fanciers in the 1955 BHW Stud Book is ‘Finding Time’ by Stewart Brown of Condorrat Glasgow, which I will now cover.

When requested to write an article for the HW 1955 Stud Book I was relieved by the suggestion that I should do so as a long serving club secretary, as well as a fairly successful long distance racer, for I imagine the choice of a subject for articles of this kind must be a problem for most. So much has been written on all aspects of pigeon racing in previous Stud Books and then ‘Chairman’ and ‘Silvertip’ in their weekly notes tell everything there is to know about our hobby , and their knowledge is the result of practical experience over a long number of years.

General opinion has it that secretaries are very seldom good pigeon racers, perhaps the explanation is that they are too busy looking after the interests of their club to have time for their own, and therefore it’s not a job that many fanciers seek, rather is it a case of having it thrust upon them, for that certainly was the case with me as I was appointed at a meeting of the club, the Condorrat Homing Society, at which I was not present. Had I been I would not have accepted. I reckoned I hadn’t the time for it, but as that was 27 years ago I still hold the position, I must have found it somehow.

Our membership has varied a lot in that time, around 20 when I started, 7 only for a time during the war, and since them about 40 competing lofts with over 60 individual members, but the spirit of good fellowship amongst us has not varied during that time and there has never been one case of dispute or unpleasantness. Of course, as is usually the case, some do a lot more of the necessary tasks than others, but they don’t grumble and the others never criticize and our policy of keeping charges as low as possible and paying out only a small amount of prize money may account for the smooth working  of our club. Many of the members, the older ones especially look upon it as a medium for training their birds for the more important races such as the Midland Federation Open, the Central Combine event from Dol and the Scottish National Flying Club from Rennes and Nantes, and I can’t recall any one of these when at least one of them didn’t take a prominent position.

As the subscriptions are only 10/- (shillings now 50 pence)and birdage is 4 pence and 6 pence for ALL club races, there is no great accumulation of funds, especially with every rising railway charges and in addition to that we have our birds transported by lorry from the marking place, the local Memorial and Welfare Hall, to the station. We pay our £50 over the fourteen races and this more or less is the amount we derive from outside sources, and annual Free Gift Scheme for which we have only the number of tickets that can be readily disposed of by the members

There is also an annual show arranged which has always proved a profitable venture, mainly because of the enthusiasm of the members. It is open to their friends and our neighbouring clubs and we have an entry of from 300-400 birds. Just the ordinary racing pigeons are entered and so far we have been blessed by the absence of the Show Racer, not that I have anything against them as such, but shows such as ours is no place for them. On exhibition we have the winners of the various club races during the season and members birds which have scored in the Combine and National races. These create a lot of interest amongst the large attendance we always have. Club pools are only to 1/- (shilling 5 pence in today’s language) amounting to about £20 each race, and 5 per cent of these to club make a further income. Winners are paid out after clock checking except in ‘photo’ finishes, when they are held until velocities are finally calculated. In addition we have accumulator, K.O. competitions etc.

Secretaries appear to me to be either a very long time on the job or just one or two seasons, the former is because they have got used to it. Generally speaking the salary can hardly be the attraction and the latter give up before they have got properly broken in and devised a way of working that would leave them more time for their own birds during the racing season.

At that time of the year I am at work from 7 in the morning until about the same time at night, so make a point of doing all I can for the racing season before it commences. I make up lists of members’ names, etc., for the various purposes that will be required during the whole season, race ring envelopes and labels for the hampers for every race are got ready, also slips of paper, large enough for clock variation and velocity to be worked on, for each member with their flying distance in 60th of yards for every race. Such preparations save a great deal of time. I make up race results the night of each race, and following day I finish everything connected with the race in an hour or two. I then pack my case with everything required for the next marking night and when I return home from that I write up all details and work out proportion of pools and make them ready for paying out after the race the following day. This leaves me the necessary time to look after my own birds, not just cleaning out, etc., but ample time to sit amongst them and enjoy their company as I imagine all real fanciers like to do.

So much for the club secretary and now the reason for the honour of being asked to write this article- My success in the long races in recent years!!

I was fortunate in securing birds, especially a cock and a hen from different sources, that have produced the birds for the job and I feel sure that there isn’t much more to it, for the majority of fancier nowadays manage their pigeons well enough to merit success. For years I did all and perhaps more for mine that I do now, but my successes were few and far between. In the case of those who do well at shorter distances only, it may be a case of their birds being stale through being too often in the basket prior to the longer distance events. I think 8 pairs all the birds necessary for a small loft, most I ever keep is 10 pairs, and breed twelve youngsters for racing and a further half a dozen in June in case they are needed, and they very often are, for young bird losses these days can be heavy and I think the average fancier around here is quite pleased to finish up with half his team, the result of so many birds on the road going in all directions. (Nothing any different from today 62 years later Joe M)  I have had pigeons, except for my time in the army in the first war, since I went to school, all sorts, of course, but started with racers after being demobbed and have never had the desire to keep a lot. My back garden loft is of the usual design, half open front with 3 inches air space right along the back, 6 foot deep with 3 divisions, 6 foot either end and 7 foot centre which has ten nest boxes, five from floor to roof, in each back corner. These I find a big advantage in a small loft, taking up so little of the floor space. At one time I scrubbed out weekly, now I do that annually, the two end compartments when I pair up, and the centre when I separate. I painted the inside more than 20 years ago and all it has had since is a dab here and there as required after the annual clean up. I scrape out practically every day in the year, in the winter by artificial light, but I don’t exactly slave after them. I miss the odd day when I have something else to do. The same applies to changing the water, and although they are fed at least once every day, I reckon they would take little hurt in the winter by missing an occasional day, for hens which I notice inclined to pair with other hens get nothing to eat for a couple of days now and again and these generally are good racers.

I shake a little lime from a tin over the floor and put a little sawdust under the perches and in the next boxes. This makes them easier to scrape and keeps down the smell.

I favour a pigeon of medium size or slightly over, fairly long cast with not too broad flights, and when handled you are at once aware that it has a keel, not necessarily deep, in fact I don’t like one that way, but certainly not the type referred to as apple bodied.

In the Scottish National Flying Club races since the war, I have been in the prize list every year and taken some good positions to in the Central Combine Dol 520 miles races. The same birds, also have won at the shorter distances and in 1953 I won the Midland Federation Averages over its fifteen races, Old Birds to Dol and young birds to Stafford 230 miles. In fact most of my long distance winners have won in previous years in both club and federation. I enter only two or three in each of the national races, but arrange to have at least one other in condition for each race as a substitute and make my final selection when I basket for the race, often the substitute has been my first home. A day or two can make all the difference and I prefer one that appears just to have brightened up prior to the marking day.

My birds are mated about the 10th March, all at the same time, and long distance candidates usually rear two youngsters in the first nest, pot eggs second nest then allowed to rear a single young one and I can depend on my hens laying again when that young one is 15 to 16 days old. It is taken away at 20 days. The old birds will cast a flight usually their second a couple of days later and seem to come right into condition then and go to the race sitting 10 to 12 days on eggs with the flight just burst through and very often the next flight is cast in the basket, a condition I like as I have had a good positions with birds returning with eight and a half flights in each wing. I believe feeding the single young one keeps them in better appetite right up to the liberation. I am of the opinion that those which haven’t fed for a time are not keen eaters until the eggs they are sitting are about due to hatch. This suits my own birds for they are not of the plump type, rather are they longish cast and not prone to put on fat, in fact my this year’s winner from the SNFC Nantes race flying 613 miles taking 1st west section 3rd open national, also 4th west section 19th open in 1953 has a fairly deep keel and always appears to be lean. I noticed he was always very keen on the maize in the mixture I feed, so with a view to getting a bit weight on him, I gave him each night after feeding a little extra that I had picked, grain by grain, from the mixture. A bit extra trouble but he always looked for it and I was happy to oblige. In his case as in most of my birds that have scored from across the channel, it was like begetting like, his sire won twice for me from Guernsey and Rennes, and his dame from Charleroi and they too were bred from birds that took good positions in the National races.

I like my candidates to be three years old when first sent and to give them usually two races before going to the Rennes race, first one 100 or 140 miles, then Worcester 270 miles and pleased if that should be at least an eight hour fly. For Nantes I send them to an extra race, Weymouth 373 miles. Between races I give a few tosses at 20 miles and never sent birds intended for the long races farther than that. My Nantes bird had in 1953, to tosses from 20 miles, raced from 140 miles, 20 miles toss, race 290 miles, 12 mile toss, race 373 miles, 20 miles toss and then Nantes 613 miles and he did so well that I treated him exactly the same way in 1954 and he did even better. (19th & 3rd open SNFC Joe M)

I never exercise round the loft nowadays, as I got fed up years ago waving my arms, clapping my hands and throwing anything I could get hold of to keep the birds from landing. Anybody seeing me must have thought I wasn’t all there, and I can’t see much sense on getting a bird in what you consider its keenest nest condition and then chasing it off.

The younger birds I give a mid-week toss whenever they miss a race. I leave the loft open when I go to work at 6-30am and my wife shuts up and feeds the birds at 1 o’clock, then I open up again about 7 in the evening and the birds flap about till I feed them a couple of hours later. Young birds are exercised twice daily and shut up immediately they drop, except when I start training, and I let them run out with the old birds in the evening. I think it teaches them to land more readily when they come singly for a race.

I feed on a mixture of peas, beans, tares and maize and the only addition to this is a little hard wheat of which the birds are very fond. I give it just any time I take the notion and they seem always to be on the lookout for it. Never do I give seed or any sort and the only thing other than corn they ever get is dry bread soaked with milk, some oatmeal added and dried off in the oven. This is given only after and on returning from the long races and my birds get only this and a little wheat for a day or two. Cod liver oil is given and I think it give just to be in the fashion, only during the moult – a little on the corn.

My biggest difficulty is keeping strictly to never more than ten pairs is to have a fair proportion of younger birds included. I have lost only one bird in overseas races since the war and it’s not easy to discard old favourites that have done well, when the end of their racing days is in sight, but from club records I know that yearlings are essential for success in club racing, they win more than their share in our club out to Weymouth 373 miles.

In conclusion, I would advise young fanciers not to have birds from too many different sources and to try and get children or grandchildren from the actual birds that have won, for very often brothers and sisters to a champion are of no use.

Since I have always kept so few myself, I advise others to do the same the first step in that direction is to breed very few youngsters for once they are there and complete the young bird programme, fanciers are reluctant to part with any. And why turn what should be a labour of love into hard work?

Stewart Brown.


SNFC Award Winners

In my highlighting these in my column I received a couple of emails from winning fanciers with some information that I did not know about. The first is from Lewis McCalley who wrote ‘Hi Joe, Just a quick thank you for mentioning our young bird in your column this week. It is much appreciated and I'm looking forward to receiving the trophy you and your good lady have put up at the S.H.U show this coming Saturday. If it's not too much trouble could you give my public thanks to the Woodroffe Brothers-Albert, Dave and Fred in a future column? The hen was one I got from them in April this year. I've been fortunate enough to have had their birds for 3 years now and couldn't speak highly enough of these pigeons or the brothers themselves.  The Woodroffe’s have had a fantastic season being champions of Section 4 and top loft in UNC 2016, although to be fair they don't have many bad seasons, thanks again, Lewis McCalley’ The second email was from Pat Ward who won a Bronze Award in the SNFC this year and he writes ‘Hi Joe, thank you for your write up of my chequer hen SU12CA 2649 who won a Bronze Award with the SNFC (NOT 2648). Some more information about this bird, she was 1st Central section 2nd open from Ypres in 2014 with the Central Scotland 3 bird club flying 449 miles. In 2015 she was 1st Central section 1st open from Burbure flying 453 miles also with the Central Scotland 3 bird club. She also has club cards to her name. The bird was a gift pigeon from my good friend Jim Smith of Polmont and funnily enough 2648 was her nest mate who also scored at club level. Many thanks once again and regards Pat Ward’.

Good SNFC Birds

Continuing with this feature of highlighting good birds I now come to pigeons that have won their 3rd section and open diploma during the 2016 season. Starting with Joe Hunt of Dundee whose blue bar cock SU14DF 1256 won 8th section C 29th open from Eastbourne in 2015 flying 422 miles then in 2016 he won twice being 105th section C 428th open from Littlehampton a distance of 409 birds. He was then set up for his first channel race from Ypres and he won 21st section C 54th open flying 463 miles. Our next pigeon is also a blue cock SU13P 7757 raced by J Robertson of Edinburgh as a 2 year old he won 40th section B 49th open from Portsmouth flying 364 miles he was then set up for the Ypres race that was cancelled due to not getting into France and went to the substitute race from Eastbourne a distance of 387 miles and he won 21st section B 27th open. Then in 2016 he was entered into the Littlehampton race a distance of 372 miles and he won 67th section B 154th open winning him his 3rd inland national diploma.  We now move south to the loft of G Dalgliesh & son of Ecclefechan near Lockerbie whose blue pied cock SU13S 5415 has also won 3 times in the Scottish National. As a two year old he won twice being 4th section A 102nd open from Portsmouth a distance of 306 miles. He then went to the last old bird race of the season from Clermont a distance of 461 miles and won 3rd section A 15th open and in 2016 he again won this time from Buckingham a distance of 231 miles being 45th section A 118th open. To the above 3 fanciers we send our congratulations on the achievements with their birds and hope they continue to succeed in 2017.


Margaret and I attended the SHU Show yesterday 10th December and had a good time meeting up with lots of fanciers. The best in show was won by that wonderful husband and wife partnership of Alice & John Bell who’s very good pigeon also won best in show last year. This pigeon now goes forward to the Show of the Year at Blackpool 2017 and can compete for the Supreme Championship class and we wish them all the very best at this event. I have included a photograph of them with their winning trophy.


Alice and John Bell with trophy for Best in Show SHU 2016

Joe’s Joke

A married couple are out one night at a dance club. There’s a guy on the dance floor giving it large: break dancing, moon walking, back flips, and the works. The wife turns to her husband and says, "See that guy? Twenty years ago he proposed to me and I turned him down." The husband says, "Looks like he’s still celebrating!" -

Please continue to keep the news flowing;

to Joe Murphy

Mystical Rose Cottage 2 Flutorum Avenue

Thornton by Kirkcaldy KY1 4BD

or phone 01592 770331

or Email to joejmurphy1@gmail.com


or log onto www.elimarpigeons.com

www.fancierchat.co.uk www.pigeon-chat.co.uk

and www.Pigeonbasics.com - Pigeon Racing the Basics!

Who wish my weekly contribution portfolio on pigeon topics from Scotland

© Compiled by Joe Murphy





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