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Keith Mott writes...

THE SHOW RACERS OF GREAT BRITAIN

- PART 7

R.P.R.A. SOUTHERN REGION SHOW

I have been associated with the Southern Region Show for many years and have derived great pleasure judging at this great annual event through the years. This great event is one of my favourite one day shows, which is now held at the Hazlemere Community Centre, near High Wycombe. In recent years the Community Centre has proved to be a first class venue for this major event, having two large halls for the show and charity pigeon auction. My good friend, Ron Lacey, former President of the R.P.R.A. Southern Region, has run the show in recent years and prior to that Val and Tony Viccars were the show secretaries. I have attended the show most years, since it started at Ascot Racecourse over 30 years ago and in recent seasons have booked the judges for the racing classes for Ron. Years ago I used to show and won many firsts with my racing pigeons, which I always considered a good achievement, with the ‘red hot’ competition at the Region show.  After Ascot the show moved briefly into Basingstoke and then went to Slough for ten years, being run by the great Bob Arnold. I always remember Bob telling me that he had been in pigeons all his life, being taken tenderly into a pigeon loft at the age of ten days old, by his father, in 1920. Bob is a wonderful man and put a lot of hard work into the Southern Region Show through his many years as show secretary. The 2005 event had to be cancelled because of the ‘bird flu’ problem, but we are looking to the next show in November!

My ol’ mate, Ron Lacey, took over the job of show secretary several years ago from Val and Tony who had to step down because of ill health and I must say, Ron is doing a brilliant job. Ron told me he was President of the R.P.R.A. Southern Region for 14 years until he had to pack up through ill health. He has been in the sport for 55 years and likes only long distance racing. Ron has 13 natural pairs of mainly Hartog and Vandy pigeons, which says are never parted, with the nest boxes being closed to stop them breeding in the winter months. The old bird racers are lightly trained up to 30 miles and are fed a good mixture, which includes 50% beans. He had raced north road all his life until turning south road with the club four years ago and has won 1st. Federation Lerwick, with the bird on the day. Ron’s 30 youngsters are raced natural to the perch and has won the Young Bird Average several times in recent seasons. The young birds are trained up to 30 miles, the same as the old birds, and race the whole programme. Ron says he is a small team fancier and keeps no stock birds. He maintains that he would cut out all the big money in pigeon racing and the sport looks like it’s falling because there aren’t so many fanciers, but he thinks it’s as good as it’s ever been!      

MIDLAND SHOW RACER SOCIETY

The Midland Show Racer Society was formed in 1970 and the first A.G.M. took place at the ‘King’s Arms’ pub in Sutton Coalfield and amongst those present were A. & A. Baugh, who are still members today. The first secretaries were Mr. & Mrs. Clive, with Harry Showell as the President and the first shows were held at Weeford Village Hall, which became the Societies headquarters. Angela Noyce has been the secretary since 1993, with only two years break when Phillip Crawford did the job in 2002. The only original member left in the society today is Tony Baugh who is still showing, under the name H. Baugh & son. Angela maintains the society has enjoyed excellent showing in good company over many years, so it’s no wonder the club has survived all these years. The Midland Show Racer Society has 20 members on it’s books, but not all them show at the club’s shows, that is left to a small band of fanciers, who keep the society going. In recent years the show has been staged at Shipston and have attracted a  good entry every year. The society has it’s own trestles and show table tops, which were made by Phillip Crawford and his father, John, and the workers have the show set up in no time. Fanciers come from Wales and Scotland to compete at the Shipston event and three of the Best in Show winners have gone to the Championship Class at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show. Angela said, if her memory serves her correctly, she thinks the societies first champion was Jimmy Fitzpatrick’s famous red hen. 

A while ago I was invited to judge at the annual Midland Show Racer Society Show held at the local high school in Shipston-on-Stour, and I must say, this was an excellent venue with the show being staged in the gymnasium. The hall had a high ceiling and gave very good ventilation and light for judging the 500 birds. I asked my ol’ mucker, Gordon Marsh of Southwater, if he would like to make the 100 miles drive up to the Midlands with me and judge some of the racing pigeons. As I recently stated in another article, I bat for both sides and get as much fun from Show Racers, as I do from racing pigeons. Alan and Angela Noyce were the show secretaries for the Society and I must say they do a wonderful job on the Show Racer scene. Best in Show at the Midland S. R. Society event was a red Show Racer, owned by Society Chairman, Led Petty of Aylesbury.

Les was born in Greenwich, South-West London and grew up with pigeons, as his father was an outstanding fancier. His dad built Les his first pigeon loft when he was eight years of age and at that time they lived in Deptford, and his neighbour was a pigeon man. His name was Tom Sexton, who had a good team of dark pied Kenyon pigeons. Les recalls his first outstanding pigeon was a red chequer cock named ‘77’ and he was from a Barker hen loaned to him by his friend, Rodney Fothergill. This cock was almost unbeatable up to 150 miles, with his favourite racepoint being Exmouth and during his racing career he topped the Federation around 20 times. In 1988 Les settled in Bletchley and had a bungalow, with a lot of land and was an ideal garden for keeping pigeons, so with his fathers help, they built a large pigeon complex, which they operated as ‘Crest Lofts’. They purchased mainly Valentina Muller Janssens and set up a small breeding stud, selling young birds, via adverts in the fancy press and a stand at the main national winter shows. The Petty’s had some really enjoyable times and made some good friends whilst selling the birds. In 1994 Les had to relocate with his company, he was a construction site manager, which meant the end of  ‘Crest Lofts’. His dad was suffering from arthritis, so they decided to sell the breeding stock. Once Les had settled at his present address in Aylesbury, he erected one of the lofts from Bletchley and carried on racing in the Aylesbury Club for a few years.

Due to work commitments he was finding it difficult to train the birds and be at home on race days and was considering calling it a day. In 1998 he met Phillip Crawford who gave Les his first Show Racers, he found the management of these fitted in with his work, so made the change from racing to showing pigeons. Les and Phillip’s friend, Paul Rogers decided to sell his team of Show Racers, so they purchased the whole team. Les says, these birds were some of the best Show Racers, he had ever seen and are the basis of the team he is showing today. His loft set up is now entirely Show Racers with two lofts laid out in a ‘L’ shape. Consisting of one 24ft. x 9ft. loft, divided into three compartments with a full length corridor and the other loft being 36ft. x 6ft, divided into four compartments with an aviary running the full length. All the compartments have deep litter shavings on the floors and the corridors and aviaries are where the birds are bathed. He has been a member of the Midland Show Racer Society since taking up Show Racers and is at present the Chairman of the club. His advice to anyone coming into the Show Racer side of the sport to buy the best quality loft you can afford and says his 24ft. loft was purchased in 1998 and is still in superb condition today. They should purchase their initial stock from one or two people that are doing well. Buy the best that they will sell and you can afford. Do not purchase odds and sods from all over the place. Les says, remember, failure to prepare is to prepare for failure!

N.E.H.U. ANNUAL SOUTH SHIELDS SHOW

The annual N.E.H.U. show was started 80 years ago and was held at the Peterlee Leisure Centre for over 20 years. The centre was a very good venue for a major show and when I last attended the event three years ago the halls were packed with well over 2,000 visitors. The show was run for many years by former N.E.H.U. secretary, Alfie Rothwell, and show manager, Colin Allison of Redcar. This wonderful show has now out grown the Peterlee Leisure Centre and in recent years has been staged at a perfect venue in South Shields. In recent seasons the show has been run by the current N.E.H.U. secretary, David Power, and I must say, David has being doing a wonderful job in pushing this show to even greater things in the last few years. Fanciers showing at South Shields are competing for a wonderful array of N.E.H.U. Trophies and there is an auction of top class pigeons, with the proceeds going to the British Fanciers Medical Research.

I have judged at Peterlee twice, but about four years ago had the pleasure of being asked to travel to the North East of England to judge Best in Show. David Power sent me the letter, kindly inviting me and I must say, I was doubly keen to take him up on his invitation, as I had tasted the atmosphere of this brilliant one-day event twice before, having previously judged in 1998, when Alfie Rothwell was the Secretary of the Union. The N.E.H.U. show is one of the premier events in the showing calendar and David Power informed me that the entrance fee at the first show in 1925 was 6d. (21/2 p.). The Saturday was the big show day and as always the turn out was a major success with 30 trade stands and over 700 birds in the pens. The N.E.H.U. South Shields Show is the best one day event on the show calendar and always attracts a massive crowd, with the leisure Centre being packed to the rafters! When I judged Best in Show, I had to sort out 20 class winners and the quality of the birds was brilliant. They were a mixture of Show Racers and Racing Pigeons and I took my time, so as to enjoy this great honour bestowed on me, to the fullest. The second pigeon to hand was a wonderful blue chequer racing hen and I knew she was the one to beat. I also picked out a very nice red Show Racer cock young bird, but in the end gave Supreme Champion to the hen. She was owned by George Bennett of Edinburgh and had won at the Edinburgh National Show the previous weekend. This wonderful ‘doo’ had everything in the hand, outstanding feathering and eyesign, my perfect pigeon. George told me she was a Van Bruaene / Busschaert cross and won a major position from Maidstone (359 miles).

George Bennett is only a small team man and races his 17 pairs on the natural system, keeping mainly the Kirkpatrick family. He has always had pigeons, being in partnership with his father when he was a lad and started racing on his own at his Edinburgh address in 1995. He pairs up in March, trains hard and starts racing in April. He feeds the same quality mixture all the year round and likes showing, as it gives him an indication of how the birds will be for the following racing season. He races 40 youngsters on a semi-widowhood system and they are not put on the darkness system, so left to mature naturally. He sends his young birds through to the National (214 miles) and in the 2002 season had eight young bird races, won seven of them and won four times 1st. Federation, plus five times 2nd. Federation. Brilliant pigeon racing! His father, George Bennett Snr., likes sprint racing and he won the Federation ‘Gold Cup’ in the 2002 season.

David Power has been the N.E.H.U. secretary for six years, taking over from Alfie Rothwell when he retired and told me he really enjoys the job. David is so dedicated to his job at the Union and works very long to ensure the smooth running of the office. The N.E.H.U. has 7,000 members and distributes about 210,000 rings. He has been a pigeon fancier for over 40 years and won his first race in 1966 with a gay pied hen, from Welwyn Garden City. He maintains he is a channel racing fancier, winning at all stages through France and has won the very strong Newcastle Federation. The Power loft flies the natural system and the main family kept is Mr. & Mrs. Ray Callender / Busschaerts. He has been a great friend of Ray’s for 30 years and says the Callender Powderhall Busschaerts win right through to Bourges (570 miles). He told me that with his young family and the long hours he puts in at the N.E.H.U. office, he has no real system with his pigeons, but just enjoys racing them when he can. His wife, Helen, is a great help with his pigeon racing and he prefers young bird racing, winning the Federation with them in recent seasons. His smart loft is on the same gardens as the 2002 ‘Queen’s Cup’ winners, Jimmy and Keith Derbyshire. I was invited to judge again at the 2005 N.E.H.U. Show, but it was cancelled like my other major shows with the ‘bird flu’ problem.

That’s another Show Racer special behind us, next week we are having our eighth and last in the current series and will be featuring the great showman, Roland Thresher. I can be contacted on telephone number: 01372 463480. See yer!

TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT

 

B.I.F.S.

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