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  KEITH MOTT OF CLAYGATE

(BHW NATIONAL TREASURE)

 

 

The story of 45 years as a Pigeon ‘Fancy Press’ writer

 

I have been called a lot of things in my 45 year as a ‘Fancy Press’ scribe, but never a ‘National Treasure’! I must say how happy and honoured I feel to be even considered to be in that category. Really nice! I suppose I haven’t done too badly for an old musician who can’t read or write! I have been writing in the fancy press since 1972 and after all those years still enjoy doing my regular pages every week in the ‘British Homing World’. Since that first article in the BHW in 1972 I have cut out all my weekly articles from the paper and mounted them into books and now have cupboard full of book in the ‘factory’. I’ve got 45 years of my weekly articles, which amounts to thousands, stored in ‘mint’ condition in my office. How sad is that! I have a copy of every monthly magazine I have written in over the last 45 year stored away, which is a lot of books. I have thousands of my articles, photos and pigeon films, which I would think is one of the biggest pigeon ‘archives’ in the world today, all backed up on computers and hard drives. I’m a very tidy and organised person, with the ‘factory’ reflects that fact, and if I get a phone enquiry about an article or photo I did thirty of forty years ago, I can have up on the desk in a couple of minutes. It is written in my last will and testament that two people that I respect and trust will have the archive and look after it after I hang up my pen. That’s how important being a ‘fancy press’ scribe is to me. My ‘factory’ houses a lot of pigeon history and I hope it will be preserved.

  

I’ve had pigeons all my life and I think it now common knowledge now that I played drums in severally successful bands, including six or so years in the ‘Impalas’ in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Kicking a drum kit about all over the UK and music was my life at that time, but we always had a pigeon loft at the bottom of the garden. Myself and my younger brother, Phil, started keeping pigeons in our early youth and the Mott Brother’s pigeon career stared when we obtained a pair of birds, ‘Alma’ and ‘Charlie’, from a school friend, which were housed in a small rabbit hutch. Being a busy rock drummer and playing at all the premier venues all over the UK took up all of my time, but in 1969 Phil and I decided to do the job properly with the pigeons. We obtained some good stock birds and start racing, which we had never done before. We acquired some Kirkpatrick and Kenyon stock from the late Johnny Winters of Kingston, which formed the basis of the Mott Brothers loft, and we joined the now, disbanded Molesey & District H.S (Surrey Federation).

 

 

I don’t know what made me start writing in the pigeon fancy press, maybe it was because of the ‘love affair’ we had with the media with the band for so many years, I don’t know, but once I did that first article I was ‘hooked’ and haven’t stopped writing for 45 years. In those days there was no Internet or email, we used paper and pen, had the photos developed in the local chemist and posted the articles in to editorial office. The very first article I did in the BHW was the prize presentation, in the winter of 1972, for the old and now disbanded Molesey club and very soon after that had my own regular page in the Weybridge based Pigeon Racing ‘Gazette’, then run by Roy and Audrey Bishop. I remember a few years later on our own Les Parkinson had his own page in the ‘Gazette’ called ‘Says Les’ and we were both just young lads then. Later in the 1970’s I was judging at the Inter Counties Federation show in Hertfordshire and met Mike Shepherd for the first time. Mike worked for the ‘Racing Pigeon’ newspaper at that time and invited me to submit some articles and photos for inclusion in the ‘Pictorial’, which was then and still is today the premier glossy monthly pigeon magazine. Really at that time Mike was the man who took me to the top level of pigeon journalism and set me up for what I do in the fancy press today. Mike is my mentor and we have been good friends all through those many years! I have got many good friends in the pigeon racing journalism world, but another man I respect and consider a good friend is the former British Homing World editor, Cameron Stansfield. Cameron is a nice guy and his knowledge of long distance pigeon racing is second to none. Cameron’s dad, Brian, once told me that Cameron enjoyed reading my weekly articles when he was a young lad and all those years later he became the editor of the British Homing World! It’s a funny ol’ world! Recently I was talking on the phone to our Tracy Jones at the BHW office and we commented, I first knew her when she first joined the paper as a mere school girl and now she has two wonderful grandchildren. Where has all that time gone?

 

Although I don’t ever profess to be a professional photographer, I’ve always loved taking photos and shooting film, and that has always been all part and parcel of my work in the fancy press. Many years ago my good friend, Eric Cannon, kept telling me I should be taking pigeon portraits and using then with the articles. I was a carpenter all my working life and made my first pigeon photography box on a building site on a cold winters day at the end of the 1970’s, with the sole purpose of enhancing my pigeon article and it is a practice I still carry out today. Nothing looks better than an article with plenty of quality pigeon photographs! I had nine cameras at one point, all average, but all good enough; I think to do my fancy press job. In recent years I re-mortgaged the house and purchased a very expensive camera which is only used for pigeon portraits and never leaves the house. For some time now I’ve had ‘photo shop’ on the PC and spend many hours working on that doing the photos, but I must add, not cheating. In my opinion, the greatest pigeon photographer of all time was the late great Anthony Bolton of Barnes. I knew Tony well and he produced fantastic pigeon photos all those years ago, with no digital cameras or ‘paint shop’. He was the master! In my opinion, the best today is my ol’ mucker, Peter Bennett, another brilliant pigeon photographer. I’m not good enough to carry these two guys camera equipment! These days with my new camera the photos in the articles have improve a lot and I spend many hours in the ‘factory’ working on the ‘photo shop’, so much so Betty sometimes thinks I’ve left home! I love making up the pigeon montages, which I think has taken my fancy press articles up to a new higher level.

  

I think I must have been the press office for every organization I’ve belonged to over the years and in the 1990’s I was press officer for the National Flying Club. My good friend, John Tyreman, and I served on the NFC committee for several years and one of the highlight of my writing career came in my time as NFC press officer. John Tyerman and I roomed together when we travelled for the National Flying Club committee meetings and in 2003 we convoyed the Dax International birds to the waiting train in Belgium, when Brian Sheppard of Trowbridge won the race with his wonderful blue chequer cock, Champion ‘Legend’. When the members of the NFC sent their birds to their first International race, no one really knew what an outstanding success it would be and that British racing history was in the making. John and I were in the NFC delegation that went to Belgium to negotiate our National taking part in its first International race, and then we convoyed the birds to the train in Belgium after marking. The day after the race, as NFC press office, I made the 150 mile round trip drive down to Trowbridge in Wiltshire to do the article on Britain’s first ever International winner, Champion ‘Legend’. On my return home from Trowbridge on the Sunday, I had to write the article by hand and get the photos developed, as I had no Internet them. The whole sport was waiting for that article. I can remember the motor bike couriers coming to my house on the Monday morning to pick up the article and photographs to take then to the fancy press offices for publication the following Friday. That Dax International marked the start of a new era in British long distance pigeon racing and John and I were very proud to be a part of it! I served on the London & South East Classic Club committee for over 15 years and was press officer and a Life Vice President for most of that time. Reluctantly at the end of the 2008 season I retired after eight good years as chief convoyer of the London & South East Classic Club, which took me to all the major race points in France, including twice Tarbes and six times to Pau. I loved convoying and could write a book about my experiences while driving the pigeon transporter on the continent. My work with the Classic was brilliant and provided me with many quality and exciting articles and films for many years. At the 2010 AGM of the London & South East Classic Club I was given the great honour of being elected in as the new President.  The Classis was very close to my heart and I put a lot of work in to the club over many seasons, and had the pleasure of running many Phone-In fund raising squeaker auctions, which realised in excess of £20,000-00 for the transporter fund. I have served all my pigeon racing life on committees and been at the cutting edge of pigeon politics all that time and on most occasions I have finished up getting my ‘arse’ bitten. I felt very honoured and really enjoyed my three years as President of my beloved London & South East Classic Club. Now that I’ve hit 66 years of age (2017), I keep clear of pigeon clubs and pigeon ‘politics’ and do what I have really enjoyed doing for the last 45 years, keeping a few pigeons, photography and writing quality articles in the pigeon fancy press. Another writing highlight for me was in 2008 when DEFRA visited my home in Claygate. Since the outset of the ‘Bird Flu’ problem in Europe several years ago the sport of pigeon racing and showing has had to suffer several crippling restrictions and temporary ‘blanket’ bans to its general functioning, in some cases with catastrophic affect. Peter Bryant, the general manager of the RPRA at that time, had been in constant contact with DEFRA in one form or another since day one and had been our ‘champion’ on this major problem of restrictions on our sport and in some cases had gained us races we probably would not have had, especially from France. Peter had represented us, the pigeon fancy, brilliantly. Peter, had been asking DEFRA to make a visit to a pigeon loft, so they could see first-hand how we keep our birds and talk to a fancier to gain information on how our sport operates. DEFRA decided a loft visit and a chat with a fancier would be a good idea and Peter Bryant emailed me, and asked if I would host the meeting. As always, I was more than happy to help! If I could say or do something to get the restriction eased and improve our state of racing and showing, it would be great. I have visited thousands of pigeon lofts in my 45 years as a pigeon scribe, but this one to my own loft must rate as one of the most important of them all! The officers were David Middleton, who corresponded with Peter Bryant over our pigeon restrictions most of the time and Balazs, a DEFRA vet who came from Hungary. They were at my home for just under two hours and they never stopped talking about pigeons for the duration of their stay. I did the article on the DEFRA visit to my loft, which had to be approved by the Government Press Office, after which it appeared in the fancy press the following week.

  

As part and parcel of my fancy press work, I have appeared eight times on the television with the pigeons, the first time was in 1984 and I have made countless appearances on the radio. My favourite appearances on the TV were two of his most recent, BBC ‘Inside Out’ in 2007 and Channel 5 ‘Extraordinary Animals’ which was screened in June 2008 and then repeated in February 2009. The BBC television producer, Ray Hough, sent a camera crew to the B.H.W. Blackpool Show to film me judging, which was planned to be linked up with a filming session at my loft in Claygate. The eight minute film, which also featured an in depth interview with my good friend Peter Bryant, general manager of the R.P.R.A., was for the popular BBC 1 show ‘Inside Out’ London. The programme went out at prime time on a Friday evening and featured many items of interest from the London and South East of England area. I have fond memories of the time I went to the Sky studios in Isleworth, to appear live on ‘Sun Rise’ and taking my two children, Caroline and Mark, who were only young at that time, and the buzz they got seeing the TV studio and sitting in the ‘green’ room. I’m always willing to front up to the media to promote and enhance our great sport, but I hate and will never get involved with what I call the ‘Trafalgar Square’ element of the media, who want to insult pigeons and the people who keep them. As I say, I’m always happy to appear on the national media, to tell them what a great hobby pigeon racing is and it’s not all Trafalgar Square, dirty street pigeons under the railway arches and pigeon droppings. I go on the radio live quite often and I always bring up about the birds of prey killing our pigeons and what a wonderful job pigeons did in the wars. It seems to me that most times I see pigeons featured in the national media, whether it is Television, Radio or in the Newspapers, it’s detrimental to our sport. I’ve now appeared on national T.V. eight times and on several occasions have turned down an appearance on national T.V. because I knew it was going to be a ‘micky take’ and detrimental to pigeon racing. I feel very strongly about this and I hate to see anything adverse about pigeons in the national media.

 

Pigeon wise the year of 1995 was a very bad one for and Betty and me. I kept having constant bouts of flu and coughs which got more and more frequent, to the point where I was having time off work, sometimes twice a month with ill health. After months of visits to the doctor, I was referred to a specialist at Kingston Hospital and they concluded that the problem was my pigeons. After discovering that I had the dreaded Pigeon Fancier’s Lung, I had to give up my beloved pigeons, after 25 years in the sport. Giving up the pigeons was the hardest thing I had to do in his life. After the clearance sale in 1995 I stepped up the writing and video side of my participation in pigeons and became even more involved in the sport. On giving up my birds I decided to carry on as secretary of the Surrey Championship Club, an office I had held for 9 years at that time and increase my hobby in pigeon journalism. My second bit of bad luck that year was an accident at my work as a carpenter. I fell head first ten feet through a rotten roof smashing my nose and right elbow on the concrete floor below. I had a stay in Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, and had two screws inserted in my shattered elbow. This set-back meant a year off work. They say when one door closes another one opens and from the sale of my small team of birds I could afford to purchase a professional standard camcorder which I had always wanted, and the time off meant I could make some pigeon videos. Well, four camcorders and two cars later we had produced 18 highly successful 'Many Miles with Mott' videos, which in turn producing many articles on premier fanciers for the British Homing World. In 1998 I built my very successful ‘Rabbit Hutch’ loft system, which proved to be ‘Pigeon Lung’ friendly and returned to racing pigeons to my garden in Claygate. While I was in Scotland shooting 'Many Miles with Mott' Number 12, I visited the Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow, home of the British Fancier's Medical Research Unit, for a one to one video interview with Dr Gavin Boyd, the pioneer of research into pigeon fancier's lung. There is pigeon racing after pigeon fancier's lung and prizes can be won racing to rabbit hutches! I am always amazed at the great interest which has been shown in my old ‘rabbit hutch’ loft system over the years. I've had countless phone calls and letter from pigeon lung sufferers from all over the world.

  

Writing is what I do and still enjoy it, even after all those year. In recent years my big involvement in the writing and photography side of the sport has prevented me from racing my birds properly, but have enjoyed the breeding side of pigeon racing and producing winners for others. The 2017 season has seen me retire from racing, but I will always have a few pigeons at the bottom of the garden to play around with! I admit my competitive edge has diminished over the years and I get my enjoyment from other aspects of the sport these days. My work in the fancy press over many years has been a gate way to me meeting some of the all times greats of the sport, which I have always considered a wonderful privilege that I have enjoyed very much. I have made many good friends through my writing and some of the nicest people I have met in the sport work in the fancy press, and must added, I have worked with all the fancy press editors through my 45 years doing articles and thinking back they were all quite fair when it came to putting those red pen lines through lines in my work. Writing is not every ones ‘cup of tea’ and it is nice to see new scribes joining the fancy press on a regular basis.

 

I started my own ‘YouTube’ channel on the Internet in March 2016 and on 21st January 2017 the channel reached the magic one million (1003,493) views worldwide stage, in only its tenth month since going live. To say, I’m blown away by its massive success in such a short time, would be an understatement! We have built up to averaging 10,000 views a day worldwide and it now hosts over 1,500 subscribers. Brilliant! In the beginning the ‘YouTube’ channel took over my life and I couldn’t edit and get films on it quick enough! If I don’t put footage on every day, I got complaining message from all over the world, asking me to put more on. At that time I got 320 short films on the channel and that was all my ‘Many Miles with Mott’ archive of films, so I could then have my life back to normal. My massive archive of films is the result of many years traveling around Europe visiting and filming hundreds of the very best fanciers and their lofts. I have mixed it up well on the channel, with loft visits to racing and show racer fanciers, visits to National Shows and loads of good pigeon race liberations. I have been going out from time to time recently; too visit premier lofts and shows, with the sole purpose of making new films for the YouTube channel and for new fancy press articles. We have made 30 new films in recent months and the channel now hosts over 350 videos produced by myself. I’m not going away for weeks on end like I use too, to get films and articles, but will enjoy a 50 miles drive for a loft visit, or pick some up if I’m away for some reason. It was a hard slog for those first three months editing all those films, but I’m glad they are now out there on the internet giving people pressure. My son, Mark, suggested I put the films on the Internet and set the YouTube channel up for me. I don’t think he knew what he was starting! If you want a look at the channel, just go on to YouTube and put my name in (lower case) or the name of the item you want to view, and it should all come up.

 

The true ‘National Treasure’ is my wife, Betty! With my massive commitment to the sport she has put up with a hundred times more disruption in her life with pigeons over the year than other pigeon fancier’s wives. She had seen me go away for weeks on end on pigeon matters, sitting at a computer in the ‘factory’ doing pigeon articles and photos for hours on end, had thousands of pigeon fanciers phoning me day and night, and through the years the countless fancier visiting our home in Claygate to have their birds photographed, and leaving all their mess and shaving all over the carpets. A fraction of what she has put up with in those 45 years has finished many other ‘pigeon’ marriages! I will say that I’ve always known where to draw the line and have always put her and the children first. We always try and get away for an annual holiday with the kids and in our marriage there has never been man’s work or woman’s work, we both worked full time and have always shared the household chores. My Betty is the greatest person I’ve ever met in my life; a true ‘National Treasure’ and I must thank her for putting up with a ‘pigeon maniac’ for all those years. Love you, babe!

 

 

KEITH MOTT

(www.keithmott.com).

 

 

 

 

 

B.I.F.S.

Report Stray Pigeons Here
strays@rpra.org