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Keith Mott

The Champions of Yesteryear (Part 45)


1st Open S.M.T. Combine Bergerac

When I walked into the postage stamp sized back yard of Eric Hartshorn's home and saw the loft which houses the 1978 S.M.T. Combine Bergerac winner, I had the shock of my life! The tiny racing loft was only 9ft long, 3ft wide and 4ft high, 3ft off the ground and housed only 12 racing birds and 2 pairs of stock birds. The few young birds which were bred each year were weaned in the young bird loft which was an extention to the outside toilet, being 3ft 6ins long, 2ft wide and 2ft 6ins high and after old bird racing has finished the young birds were transferred over to the main racing loft. Eric was a hard worker around the loft with birds looking fantastically well and the lofts looking spotless. The birds were trapped through Open Doors and a lime-sawdust litter was used on the loft floor in the winter but was removed for the summer. Eric said dryness with plenty of air was the most impor­tant factor in loft design and over-crowding caused `fly aways.'

Eric first became involved with pigeons in 1968 when he trained Billy Sheppard's birds. Then he became a full partner with Bill in 1969 and started on his own in 1971. The partnership of Sheppard & Hartshorn won lst Combine Wadebridge, with young birds, during its short forma­tion. Eric was a scaffolding supervisor and a scaffolder named A. Warwick bred him his first birds which were Ameels from Marsh & Bailey. Eric's first loft was a baby's cot which his daugh­ter had out grown and his brother gave him a lot of help in the early days. Eric joined the Mitcham Common which was one of the clubs he flew in at that time.

He had a good Shepherd hen off Tommy Woodcock in the early days. He said in his novice days he used to over race young birds and yearlings which is something he was very much against. He looked up to Eric Cannon of Wormley and Mr. & Mrs. Venner of Street, as the 'greats' and said Joe Bradford of Sutton was one of the local fanciers he rates very highly. Eric's family were bred down from the Epsom fancier, Len Graham’s Champion red chequer cock, ‘Early to Rise’ which was sold to Louella Pigeon World. He had introduced some stock birds from Mr. & Mrs. Venner of Street, Somerset, and said these birds had potential at long and short distances.

Eric raced on the Natural System because, if for the distance, you have the good fortune to own a good hen she is most reliable. He thought this country was getting ‘widowhood’ minded and in the right hands he thought it was lethal. Eric fed the Venner mixture which he believed was given to Mr. Venner by Mons. Slabbink. A titbit of flaxseed was given in moderation for the long races. Eric used to be very keen on Eye-Sign and used to judge lots of Eye-Sign shows, and he likes showing, taking more than his fair share of the cards.

Eric's pride and joy was his 6 year old blue chequer hen ‘Janet’ and, of course, she was the Bergerac Combine winner. She was a real nice handful, medium appled-bodied and she was a double granddaughter of champion ‘Early to Rise’. Eric sent her to Bergerac (3094 birds) in the S.M.T. Combine sitting 6 day old eggs but she was no stranger to winning as she previously won 9th Club Avranches, 2nd Club Niort, 1st Club Bergerac in 1975.

Eric said his most disappointing experience was in 1975 when next morning at 05.50hrs from Bergerac he found ‘Janet’ and her sister in the yard with several fresh droppings. He didn't know which bird he got first! He put the two rubbers in one bucket and recorded lst & 2nd Club Bergerac. Eric said he would like to see every club own its own clocks and members use a different clock each week. He also thinks that every fancier should only pay one R.P.R.A. fee each year, as we do today.

Eric tells novices that much dedication is needed to succeed and, above all, they must be good losers and modest winners. He also thought there is no substitute for cleanliness and condi­tion. When selecting producers he liked to see a good Eye-Sign and a round, short keel bone. Eric bred a few late breds each year but said he has yet to find a good one.

Eric Hartshorn, 1st. open S.M.T. Combine Bergerac. It couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke! I can be contacted on telephone: 01372 463480. See yer!





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