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RPRA Southern Region Show 2017.


The month of November saw fanciers make their annual drive up the M40 to High Wycombe for the RPRA Southern Region Show, which is one of the high lights of the show calendar in the South of England every winter. I was judging again this year, with my granddaughter, Katie, stewarding for me and my good mates, Steve Howard and Richard Nicholas, were also judging, so we all went to the show in Steve’s car. It was great to be back at the Southern Region Show after a season lay off from judging because of my ‘dodgy knees’ problem.

I had two great classes of pigeons to judge and picked out two wonderful Show Racer blue chequers to win Classes 1 and 2 and they then went on to win Best in Show and Best Opposite Sex for John and Alice Bell of Catrine in Ayrshire. This year’s show held at the Hazlemere Community Centre turned out to be one of the best ever, with over 550 birds entered. The entry for this wonderful event was from all over the UK, including Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, and several of the judges commented on how high the standard of the birds entered was. The funds raised by the show were donated to the Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Prostrate Cancer charities. Dom McCoy and his friend, George Koritsas, purchased a load of big tubs of ‘Respro Sani Dry’ loft floor dressing at well under wholesale price from Phil Gardener and sold it at the show, donating all the profit to the charities. Dom had a live green parrot on his little stand at the show and that created some interest on the day.

Richard Hummerston of the Guide Dogs for the Blind was present at the show and he had his 15 year old dog, ‘Drew’, with him. She is a Yellow Labrador x Golden Retriever and is a retired breeding bitch, with 20 of her 25 puppies becoming Guide Dogs for the Blind. She was retired in August 2007 and had to be spayed to save her life, after a very difficult time giving birth to her third and last litter of pups. What a wonderful dog!


At the age of 86, my good friend of 40 years standing, Ron Lacey, has finally decided too stand down as Southern Region Show secretary and it is now in the very capable hands of Peter Gretton of Brighton. Peter is used to this type of work, being the secretary of his local Federation and serving on the RPRA Southern Region committee for many years, and must say he made marvellous job of the 2017 show.

But Ron being Ron and one of the workers, he could not stay away and is at the show still helping out where he can. When I say that Ron is one of the sport’s great workers, it is an understatement; he has spent a life time working for the RPRA and the sport of pigeon racing in general. Peter Gretton and his band of helper work hard every winter and put on one of the best shows I visit! We don’t seem to mention Peter’s band of stewards and workers in the annual write up, whom year in and year out work tirelessly to put this great show on. I don’t know their names, but we always ‘tip our hats’ when we meet up each November and it’s them same ol’ faces every year working so hard on this great event. Well done to you all!


Best in Show was won by a beautiful blue chequer hen owned by John and Alice Bell of Scotland. John & Alice travelled the 400 miles from Catrine in Ayrshire for the High Wycombe Show and were also Best Opposite Sex with her half-brother, also a beautiful blue chequer. These two winners are brother and sister to ‘Bell’s Young Supreme’, the winner of Supreme Champion at the 2016 BHW Blackpool Show and all three were sired by ‘Bell’s Supreme’, the winner of Supreme Champion at the 2011 BHW Blackpool Show. What fantastic family of pigeons! In the five years that John and Alice have competed at the Southern Region Show they have won Best in Show twice and Best Opposite Sex three time, with their daughter, Nicole Bell, also winning Best in Show in 2016 with her wonderful mosaic cock, ‘Mervanic’. When I spoke to the partners at the show, they were highly delighted at winning Best in Show for the second time and said it was well worth the 400 mile drive down from Scotland. I judged two Show Racer classes at High Wycombe and the Bell loft won both of them and took many other firsts in other classes. A brilliant performance!


Class winners were: Class 1: 1st J. & A. Bell, 2nd L. Carter & son, 3rd Savage & Tyson: Class 2: 1st J. & A. Bell, 2nd Savage & Tyson, 3rd C. Reynolds: Class 3: 1st J. & A. Bell, 2nd J. & A. Bell: 3rd J. & A. Bell: Class 4: 1st C. Bullard, 2nd M/M B. Seward, 3rd J. & A. Bell: Class 5: 1st Petty & Crawford, 2nd C. Reynolds, 3rd Petty & Crawford, Class 6: 1st M/M Seward, 2nd J. & A. Bell, 3rd C. Reynolds: Class 7: 1st J. & A. Bell, 2nd M. Cook, 3rd M. Horner: Class 8: 1st J. & A. Bell, 2nd C. Reynolds, 3rd L. Carter & son: Class 9: 1st M/M Seward, 2nd M. Horner, 3rd C. Bullard: Class 10: 1st Winter Family, 2nd M/M Seward, 3rd C. Reynolds: Class 11: 1st J. & A. Bell, 2nd Petty & Crawford, 3rd M. Horner: Class 12: 1st Petty & Crawford, 2nd M/M Seward, 3rd H. Bogle: Class 13: 1st Petty & Crawford, 2nd M. Cook, 3rd C. Reynolds: Class 14: 1st M/M Seward, 2nd J. & A. Bell, 3rd Savage & Tyson: Class 15: 1st A. Winter, 2nd A. Winter, 3rd A. Winter: Class 16: 1st A. Winter, 2nd A. Winter, 3rd J. Smith: Class 17: 1st A. Winter, 2nd C. Gulliver, 3rd C. Gilliver: Class 18: 1st J. Hughes, 2nd A. Talamar, 3rd C. Gilliver: Class 19: 1st J. Smith, 2nd A. Winter, 3rd J. Prentice: Class 20: 1st A. Winter, 2nd M/M Upham, 3rd Winter Family: Class 21: 1st A. Winter, 2nd A. Winter, 3rd J. Prentice: Class 22: 1st J. Hughes, 2nd M/M Upham, 3rd A. Winter: Class 23: A. Winter, 2nd A. Winter, 3rd A. Winter: Class 24: 1st J. Prentice, 2nd A. Winter, 3rd M/M Upham. Trophy winners were: Best in Show - John & Alice Bell: Best Opposite Sex - John & Alice Bell: Best Show Racer - John & Alice Bell: Best Race Bird - A. Winter: Best 400 miles - A. Winter: Best Through the Wires - Winter Family: Best Points Over All – A. Winter.


Thousands of fanciers made the drive up to Blackpool in mid-January 2017 for the main event of the Show Racer calendar, the 45th British Homing World ‘Show of the Year’. Best in Show over all at Blackpool was won by a yearling Show Racer mealy cock owned by John and Alice Bell of Catrine in Scotland and when I spoke to John at the event on Saturday morning he said, that the partners were thrill to win Best in Show at Blackpool for the second time. The handsome cock is now named; ‘Anniversary Supreme’ is a Show Racer champion in the truest sense of the word, also going on to win ‘Supreme Champion’ of the Blackpool Show in 2017. This wonderful Scottish partnership were also runner up in the ‘Supreme Champion’ class with a full brother to their good two year old blue chequer cock, ‘Bell’s Young Supreme’, the winner of ‘Supreme Champion’ at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2016. The sire of these two champion cocks was ‘Bell’s Supreme’ and he was also in the ‘Supreme Champion’ class this time at eight years of age, and he won BIS (800 birds) at the SHU Show in 2016 and 2017. John tells me the partners have won ‘Supreme Champion’ at the BHW Blackpool Show five times and thinks it is a record. A fantastic achievement!


John and Alice Bell always have great success where ever they compete and  before their 2017 Blackpool Show success, they also had a brilliant 2016 Blackpool Show winning four first, several trophies and ‘Supreme Champion’. The Bell partnership started showing at Blackpool in 2003 and have won ‘Supreme Champion’ an amazing five times and have been runner up five times! This Blackpool success finished off a wonderful 2015/16 show season for them, when they had won several premier shows. That season’s ‘Supreme Champion’ was their good yearling blue chequer cock, ‘Bell’s Young Supreme’ and to qualify he won BIS at the RPRA Southern Region Show in November. I judged four Show Racer classes at the Region Show and John and Alice won three of them, with ‘Bell’s Young Supreme’ being one of those winners. This wonderful cock is a son of, ‘Bell’s Supreme’ the 2011 Blackpool ‘Supreme Champion’ winner and he in turn is a brother to, ‘Wild One’, the 2007 Blackpool ‘Supreme Champion’. What a fantastic family of Show Racers! The 2015/16 show season saw John and Alice enter seven open shows prior to the Blackpool show and they won six of them, including: Shildon Open Show, NEHU Open Show, Shildon BSRF Open Show, RPRA Southern Region Show, Clydesdale Open Show and SHU Open Show.


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 his dark chequer cock, ‘Wild One’, 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 comes 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. Three of his Blackpool ‘Supreme Champions’ 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 enjoyed a very successful 2011 show season, winning four open shows and 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. Whenever 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 told me his best show racer is his old dark chequer hen, ‘Alice’s Celtic Lass’ and she has won many premier positions including: the Hurlford Open Show,  the Kingdom of Fife Open Show and the North Eastern Open Show, with over 450 birds entered. The beautiful hen has been a class winner at many open shows, even in 2014 at the age of seven, but she has been a champion in the stock section, breeding champions with different cocks each year. In the 2009 season she bread a nest pair of chequer cocks, one of them won Best in Show at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2011 and he also went on to be reserve ‘Supreme Champion’  at the same show, being beaten by his brother. The chequer cock’s nest brother won Best in Show at the North Eastern Open Show in 2010 and then won most consistent bird Scottish East Region Show Racers Society 2010 and the went to Blackpool, winning ‘Supreme Champion’ in 2011 and beating his nest mate. John said, ‘I don't think this has ever been done at Blackpool by a nest pair before. ‘Alice’s Celtic Lass’ also bread a chequer hen in 2011 and she won the Kingdom Open Show, and then went into the ‘Supreme Champion’ class at BHW Blackpool Show. The next year this hen went to Blackpool and won the Inter Society Yearly Hen Class and then went on to win reserve Best in Show. This great hen then went on to other top cards at the Blackpool Show. She bred a chequer cock in 2012 that won ‘Supreme Champion’ at the East Region Show Racer Society Show in 2013. He went on to win five firsts in the Society and was the most consistent bird award, and represented Scottish East Region in British SR Federation class at Blackpool in 2015. The champion chequer hen, ‘Alice’s Celtic Lass’, also bread a chequer cock in 2013 which won Best in Show at the North Eastern Open Show, then went into ‘Supreme Champion’ this year. As you can see she has bred champions each year with different cocks each time. Her father was a 2002 bird, with her mother being bred in 1997, so as you can see old birds can still breed champions Show Racers. ‘Alice’s Celtic Lass’ father was five years old and her mother was ten years old when I bred her and I hope she lasts as long as her mother did and still breeds champions’.


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 of 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, whatever 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’. John & Alice Bell own one of the top Show Racer lofts in the UK at this time.


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. Since the show went there in 1996, 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 35 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 late 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 was a wonderful man and put a lot of hard work into the Southern Region Show through his many years as show secretary. My ol’ mate, Ron Lacey, took over the job of show secretary a good few years ago from Val and Tony who had to step down because of ill health and I must say, Ron has done 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 60 years and likes only long distance racing. Now the show is in the very capable hands of Peter Gretton, who  made a wonderful start with the 2015 event.


Peter Gretton was born in Small Dole and has been in the pigeon sport many years, with one of his biggest interests being a Football referee for 25 seasons. In the beginning he lived in Upper Beeding where his next door neighbour, the late Bill Lee, had a loft of pigeons, and when Peter got interested he erected his first loft, and Bill gave him some birds. In his novice days, Peter says his birds got very little training and he could not look after them properly as he worked away from home most of the time. He did eventually go in partnership with his new neighbour in Brighton and has now raced on his own for the last seven seasons. His first winner was from Avranches in the Worthing club many years ago and tells me his best position was winning 1st open SMT Combine Messac, but has won the Federation many times through the years. He tells me his family of pigeons are ‘Heinz 57’, with most of them being Staf Van Reet and has been successful racing on the natural system in the longer races from France, which prefers to the sprints. Peter is only a small team man and houses his birds in a back to back loft set up, which is 16ft long, and has now installed the Unikon ETS. He feeds his natural racers depurative on Saturday and Sunday, with Widowhood mixture for the rest of the week and likes his birds sitting 14 day old eggs for the longer channel events. The 2009 season saw Peter have ago at the roundabout system for the first time, with one training toss midweek and he tells me he likes his old birds to race the full programme. The birds are parted for the winter months after the last race and every effort is made to ensure the birds have a good moult. He has 18 pairs of stock birds, which are paired up on 1st February and breeds 60 young birds each season to race. They are trained up to 25 miles and then raced on the natural system to the perch, and are made race the Federation programme. ‘Pedro’ tried the ‘dark’ system once and the following year found he was not getting the performance out of them birds. He is one of the sport’s workers and is secretary of the South Coast Federation and now of the RPRA Southern Region Show.


Well that’s it for this week! Congratulations to John and Alice Bell on their great success at the RPRA Southern Region Show. A Merry Christmas from Betty and me to all our many friend throughout the pigeon racing and showing world. Have a great time! I can be contacted with any pigeon matters on telephone number: 01372 463480.


TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)


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