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Keith Mott writes about winning fanciers past & present...

JOHN & ALICE BELL

OF CATRINE IN AYRSHIRE

 

The NEHU show is one of the premier events in the showing calendar and was held in South Shields back in November, and I must say it is one of the best one day events on the show calendar. I was invited up to the north-east and this time judged Best in Show and had to sort out the 20 class winners, which was a great pleasure with the quality of the birds being 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. I picked out a very nice red Show Racer young hen and after much deliberation over the 20 superb winners I gave Supreme Champion to the red hen and Best Opposite Sex to nice blue chequer racer, which was owned by Eric Yule & son of Scotland. The Supreme Champion was owned by John and Alice Bell of Catrine in Ayrshire and they have won at many National shows through the years, including Supreme Champion at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2007. This wonderful red ‘doo’ had everything in the hand, outstanding feathering, balance and nice dark eyes, my perfect pigeon. I judged at the Blackpool Show in 2007 and John and Alice won one of my classes with a blue Show Racer hen!

 

John finished with racing pigeons and concentrated solely on Show Racers in the 2006 season and won the Hurlford open show, recording his first Best in Show with a Dark Chequer cock bred from his ‘Old Silver Hen’. The following January this wonderful looking cock went to the BHW ‘Show of the Year’ at Blackpool and won ‘Supreme Champion’. Alice told me this was the best day of their Show Racer life, to win the Supreme prize on their first attempt. It was a dream come true!

The Bell partners had three open show wins in the 2007 season, four more in 2008 and went on to win Reserve ‘Supreme Champion’ in 2009. In 2010 John and Alice had three major open show wins and so went to Blackpool with three birds in the Supreme Champion class. On entering the Winter Gardens on the Saturday morning they were amazed to see that their yearling Blue Chequer Cock had won his class and Best in Show, so was their fourth candidate in the Supreme Champion class. This cock’s nest mate won Supreme Champion and he was BIS, Reserve Supreme Champion. John told me he didn’t think this had ever been achieved before, with a nest pair winning the two premier prizes at Blackpool on the same weekend. These two champion cocks were bred from a seven year old blue chequer cock bred by Darren Gibbons and he said, ‘it goes to prove that old pigeons can still breed champions’. John and Alice have enjoyed a very successful 2011 show season, winning four open shows and have qualified for the ‘Supreme Champion’ class at Blackpool in January 2012. With a lot of hard work this family of winning Show Racer has been formed from four pairs of original stock birds and the Bell partners told me it is well worth the effort when you win at the very top level with your own family of birds!

 

I asked John how he started up in pigeons and he told me, ‘I started with racing pigeons in 1974, at the age of nine and my first birds came from local fanciers, Eric Wilson of Mauchline who gave me two cocks and Sonny Mathieson who gave me two hens to mate to them. A year or so before that a friend of mine got some pigeons and I got hooked on them when I visited his garden. My parents agreed to allow me to keep some birds and with no experience I raced the whole young bird programme in 1975. I won my first race the following season and scored at the mighty Scottish National race from Rennes (552 miles), and I must say it was a great feeling! To breed and race birds that can race from France to Catrine, Ayrshire in the west of Scotland is a great buzz, as it is a very hard place to race pigeons too’.

 

John flew his birds until the 2000 season when sadly his friend and mentor, Louis Campbell, passed away. He was always keen on showing his racing pigeons and took then to events all over Scotland, where he was very successful in local and open shows. The Bell loft had four racing pigeons that had won open shows in the same year with over 500 birds competing, at that time, and qualified for the Supreme Champion of Great Britain class at Blackpool and won Reserve that year. When ever he went to the big National shows he would spend long periods of time looking at the Show Racer and thought how great they looked. Alice used to go with John to the big shows and she also took a liking the wonderful looking show birds, so they both decided to get a few and give proper showing a go. The first Show Racers were brought in, in 2002 and quality specimens proved very difficult to obtain. He was lucky to know, Raymond Murphy of Cambuslang in Glasgow, who was a very good showman who was going out of the sport, and was having a clearance sale. John visited Raymond’s loft and purchased a five year old silver hen and her son, which was a three year old silver blue cock, both being top quality. Other birds were obtained including a young blue chequer cock from Darren Gibbons of Grimsby. In the 2002 season the ‘Old Silver Hen’ won three big open shows and her son, the silver blue cock, won two classes at open events. John and Alice went to the RP ‘Old Comrades’ where the young chequer cock won his class and went on to win the Best Young Bird at the Scottish East Region Society Show, then went forward to Blackpool to represent the Society in the BSRF class. The 2003 season saw more good success with several open show wins with racing and show birds. John told me that Alice was very instrumental in the success as she spent a lot of time with the birds and made them very tame. They responded really well to her and sit on her head and feed from her hand. John maintains making her a full pigeon partner was one of the best things he ever did, as she manages the loft when he is working, cleaning out and feeding the birds.

 

John and Alice have two 24ft x 8ft lofts, which have a nice 3ft wire flight running along the front so the birds can get out in the weather and bath, and these are cleaned out by Alice twice a day. John works long hours and says a lot of loft management is down to his partner, which includes cleaning out the lofts as many times as ten times a day on the build up to big shows. He maintains this cleaning out is very important as the birds don’t have to be lifted and pulled about to clean their feet on basketing for the shows. Alice told me that if the bird’s feet are not cleaned on basketing day they look nice and powdery and not an unnatural pink. The birds are bathed at the beginning of the week and no litter is used on the loft floors. John mixes his own corn and this has a big maple pea content, and the birds are never fed condition seed. The pigeons are never fed maize prior the going to show, as Alice maintains it makes the candidates loose and messy in the pen. The twelve pairs birds are mated up in late February as the partners like to enter two open Society shows which are after the Blackpool show at the back end of January. No stock birds are kept as all birds are shown and about 60 young birds are bred each, which are brought down to about twelve just before the show season begins. John told me, ‘I enjoy judging and have no favourite colour, when judging or in my own loft. I just love good quality Show Racers, what ever their colour! Showing is very hard work and to get a team ready for a big National event it can take up to a month to get them right. Our best ever Show Racer is the Darren Gibbons blue chequer cock and although we don’t keep stock birds, he is our main breeder, being the sire of many winners. I’ve lost count of the many open shows he has won and he has also won several times at the RP ‘Old Comrades’ Show and the BHW Blackpool Show. I would like to finish this article by saying how important Alice’s hard work is to our good success with our Show Racers. She is a wonderful pigeon fancier’.

That’s it for this week! I hope my readers have enjoyed our article on John & Alice Bell. They own one of the top Show Racer lofts in the UK at this time.

 

TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT.