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“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.

 

LOOKING BACK OVER THE YEARS (PART 6.)

 

George Gauntlett of Thornton Heath.

 

My idea of a really great pigeon fancier is one who shows outstanding consistency year after year. So often you hear of fanciers who hit the jackpot by winning something big and then are never heard of again, winning nothing before or after their one hit success. George Gauntlett must be regarded as one of the great fanciers as he had been at the top level for many, many years, but he did hit the jackpot in 1982 by winning 1st London & South Coast Combine from Le Mans with 5, 800 birds taking part. He had come close to the jackpot many times, winning the Croydon Federation 16 times, also he raced in the very strong Selhurst club, the biggest in the Croydon Federation, sending 400 to 500 birds to inland races. The highlights of the Gauntlett loft’s 1982 season were: 1st club, 1st Federation, 1st Combine Le Mans, 1st club, 1st Federation, 30th Combine Tours, 1st club, 1st Federation Exmouth, 1st club, 12th Federation, 28th Combine Le Mans (2), 1st club, 3rd Federation Blandford and 2nd club, 14th Federation Seaton. George told me at that time, to win the Selhurst club you had to more or less win the Federation, that’s how strong it was.

 

 

George had been in the racing pigeon sport for 44 years at that time, other than the five years during the war, when he served with the Sherwood Rangers tank regiment and fought with them in the European campaign. His first birds were bought from a Mr. Howard of Thornton Heath, paying six old pence for a little blue chequer hen and an old shilling for a blue chequer cock, which he called ‘Farmer Giles’. From these two pigeons, George bred winners and won good Federation positions in the old Crystal Palace Federation. George won his first race when he was 15 years old, with a blue grizzle, which Mr. Howard gave George as a youngster, as a reward for taking his clock to the club on a Saturday night. This cock won Georges first race from Christchurch flying 86 miles in 90 minutes. At that time George thought this was the greatest pigeon in the world, until he lost it at Dorchester the following week. His first loft was built by his father who was very interested in the birds and it was 8ft x 5ft and the tin fence of a sports ground served as the back and there was no floor. He said in spite of that he had a happy and contented family of racing pigeons.

 

George Gauntlett’s team in 1982 were Delwiche with the odd cross, which were housed in two lofts, a 14ft x 8ft racing loft and a small stock loft with an aviary. In 1966 before the death of Mons Delwiche of Surrey, he purchased a pair of youngsters from each of his four pairs of stock birds and these were the base of George’s successful family of pigeons. He was always looking for something better, but up to that time had not found any thing as good as the Delwiche pigeons. The only exception to this was the Billy Sheppard of Mitcham pigeons. Billy lent George his Combine winner to breed from and these crossed well with the Delwiche bloodlines. The Delwiche pigeons were mostly kept pure and raced brilliantly up to 300 miles, and he never had a good one past that distance. He did try a Van Riel / Delwiche cross which bred George a double Bergerac (450 miles) winner.

 

George’s Le Mans Combine winner was his good Delwiche mealy hen, ‘Miss Softee’ and she was sitting ten-day overdue eggs when she won. After some time at stock this game hen began to lay soft shelled eggs, so was put back on the road in 1982 to win the Combine. Her sire was the good Delwiche mealy cock, ‘Gauntlett’s Boy’, which had won: 1st club, 5th Federation, 39th Combine Le Mans, 3rd club, 13th Federation Blandford and 4th club Le Mans. He was retired to stock in 1981 and bred another Federation winner besides ‘Miss Softee’. George was also trying a few Janssen pigeon at that time and won the Croydon Federation in 1982 with one he called ‘The Janssen Cock’. This was an Andre Berte Janssen, both parents being purchased from Louis Massarella and won: 1st club, 1st Federation, 30th Combine (4,904 birds) Tours in 1982.

 

 

For the last three years George had used the ‘moon’ mating system and paired up about the 27th February, finding this fairly successful. George raced on the natural system, as he liked to race the hens and said on the widowhood system a lot of good hens are wasted. He said, woe betide the fancier who lets his hens deteriorate. He had visited Belgium a few tears earlier and called in on some of the top loft over there at that time. He was impressed with the regimentation, but found they were all very business-like in their outlook on the sport. He has tried both inbreeding and linebreeding and said at that time, he was trying a brother / sister mating, which was producing some good racers. He preferred to use a cross to invigorate the bloodline, but always paired the offspring of these back to the Delwiche pigeons to keep the base line intact. When crossing he looked for eyesign and preferred the offspring of the crossing to carry a Delwiche type eye to that of the cross. He didn’t breed late breds as h thought they needed that much more attention.

 

George wasn’t a corn faddist, but said it has to be clean and as cheap as possible. He gave the birds Red Band, occasionally vitamins in the drinking water and a homemade conditioner. He was a lazy trainer, and nothing bored him more than chasing down the road after a day’s work to train pigeons. He found that ad they came into condition after a few races they exercised well around the loft. He liked youngsters to have plenty of short training tosses on the loin of flight, although one of his best young bird seasons, he won the Federation ‘Young Bird Average’, was when his mate was taking George’s birds training to Stevenage (north road) on a Wednesday afternoon. He was a believer in the eyesign theory and took it into consideration when he was pairing up. He felt eyesign had been abused a bit by eyesign shows, where fanciers without the necessary knowledge went judging. George said Albert Witty was a keen eyesign man at that time and he had spent an afternoon with him at his home in Yorkshire and found him very knowledgeable and interesting. At the time of my loft visit George had served as club chairman and Croydon Federation president for nine years, but finally retired because he found his birds were lacking his attention.

 

Another star bird in the Gauntlett loft was the Delwiche red chequer cock, ‘George’s Choice’, which had some of Billy Sheppard’s Combine winner blood in him. ‘George’s Choice’ had won: 1st club, 1st Federation, 2nd Combine (6,095 birds) Tours, 2nd club, 11th Federation Seaton, 4t club, 11th Federation Blandford and was retired to stock at the end of 1981 to breed two 1st Federation winners in one nest, including ‘Red Devil’ a Federation winner from Exmouth.

 

He had a lot of respect for his West Croydon mate, Jim Maynard and said he talk a lot of pigeon sense. George rated his good friend, Ron Wasey, winner of 1st open NFC Pau Grand National in 1981, as the best channel racer in the area. At the time George said, with the quality birds and the work Ron puts in he would not be surprised to see him win the National again. The following year Ronnie won 4th open NFC Pau and then went on to win 1st open Pau with the London & South East Classic Club. George used to be a keen show man but found that the pigeons being used for showing seemed to be affected the next racing season. He would rather have his pigeons on their perches than in a stuffy smoke-filled room.

 

 

Dave & Maureen Lurkins of New Addington.

 

The name Mr. & Mrs. Lurkins had been at the top of the Surrey Federation and SMT Combine result sheet for many years. I first met Dave soon after he won the SMT Combine in 1974. He started up in pigeons in 1970, racing youngsters in the New Addington Flying Club and becoming the second highest prize winner, lifting one first, two seconds, plus other prize cards in the club and a 2nd in the Surrey Federation. Dave then flew in the Monks Hill FC, winning countless firsts and top prize winner every year until 1975, when he packed up the sport. Dave told me at that time that he had a young growing family with money being tight and decided that he had to pack the pigeon racing up. The break did the Lurkins a lot of good, but it wasn’t the same without the pigeons, therefore Dave’s wife, Maureen, started up in 1976, racing youngsters bred by local fancier, George Humphries to a small shed. Maureen did outstandingly well winning Four seconds, three thirds, four fourths and runner up for the ‘Young Bird Average’ and ‘Novice Points’. At that time Dave was the secretary of the Monks Hill club. In 1977 Dave’s good friends, Brian and Wally Gillam talked him in to starting up again and several of his original birds were bought back. Dave and Maureen formed their pigeon partnership and raced widowhood in 1977, with only a small degree of success. They decided the widowhood system wasn’t for them at the end of 1977 and the next year had a fantastic season racing on their old natural system. They won ten firsts, eight seconds, eight thirds, seven fourths and lifted 17 trophies, plus 1st Federation, 2nd Federation (twice) and 5th Federation. They won all five channel races in the Monks Hill FC, from Rennes through to Dax (550 miles) and racing in the very strong West Croydon HS won: 1st club, 4th Surrey Federation, 4th SMT Combine Vire, 1st club Laval, 1stclub Angers, 3rd club Niort. An old family friend, Reg Chappell of New Addington packed up pigeon in 1969 and gave Dave eleven pigeons of the Janssen and Delbar strains to start him up; these eleven birds were the base of Lurkins’ family at that time. Before catching the pigeon bug, Dave was a keen footballer and used to play as many as four games in one weekend. Dave told me, Ronnie Roe, the Addington open race ‘ace’ helped him a lot in the early days and taught him the art of breeding, feeding and training the birds.

 

 

The partner’s very smart three section racing loft was 17ft x 5ft and the birds were trapped through open doors and drop holes. The loft housed 20 pairs of racers and 40 young birds which were bred each season, and a sand deep litter was used on the loft floor. The birds were paired up in mid-February and were hopper fed with beans and maize, plus a little trapping mixture. All birds were raced through the programme, but some youngsters were stopped when it came to the young bird channel event.

 

One of Dave and Maureen’s top racers at that time was the yearling blue pied cock, Lucky Lew’, which handled medium, apple bodied. He was a Lurkins crossed with De Baere and had won: 1978: 1st club, 1st Federation Seaton, 1st club, 5th Federation Blandford, 1st club, 19th Federation Blandford, plus 1st club Seaton. ‘Lucky Lew’ was bred from ‘Danny Boy’, a blue pied cock, which was one of the partner’s best stock cocks and he was on the road, he had won three first in inland races. The nest mate to ‘Lucky Lew’ was another blue pied cock named, ‘Blue Boy’, and he had won 1st club and five times 2nd club. One of the best channel racers in the loft at that time was the 1977 bred Delbar / Janssen blue chequer hen, ‘Joanne Louise’, which had chalked up: 1st club, 6th Federation, 24th Combine Rennes, 1st club, 2nd Federation, 6th Combine Nantes. Terry Peart of New Addington won 27th open Young Bird National in 1978 with a daughter of ‘Joanne Louise’, bred at the Lurkins’ loft. Dave and Maureen bred Peter Baden’s 1978 Croydon Federation Dax (550 miles) winner and this game blue cock also recorded 4th London & South Coast Combine (3,485 birds). The sire of this cock was the Lurkins’ champion stock cock, ‘The Dutchman’, which was a Delbar blue cock bred by Scheemaecker Brothers and he was the sire of many premier winners for Dave and Maureen.

 

 

Dave wasn’t too much bothered about families of pigeons for the stock loft, if a pigeon was fancied it was introduced, regardless of the strain. He maintained at that time that he took each race as it came, but wasn’t too keen on channel racing, although he won more than his share from over the water, because some good pigeon is lost from France. The 12 pairs of stock birds were housed in an 8ft x 4ft stock loft and a 10ft x 4ft aviary. One of the ‘ace’ racers which had been put to stock was the Burgers blue chequer cock named ‘Davy’. This pigeon was bred by George Humphries for Maureen when she was racing on her own although only three years old; this cock was in the stock loft because he damaged his flights in the winter, after recording 1st Croydon Federation Angers and Niort. Another good racer in the breeding loft was the Janssen red chequer cock, ‘Maureen’s Boy’, on the road he won 1st club, 2nd Surrey Federation Exmouth and 1st club Rennes (twice). While in the stock section I handled the Janssen hen, ‘Maureen Patricia’ and this dark chequer was the Lurkins’ pride and joy being the winner of 1st club, 1st Surrey Federation, 1st SMT Combine Niort in 1974, taking many trophies including the Surrey Federation longest old bird race shield. Dave told me she was such a bad trapper that previous to winning the Combine she threw away four other races, recoding 2nd, 4th, 6th club when she was finally clocked. Since being put to stock she had bred many winners and I must say she handled like a dream.

 

Dave and Maureen liked a dabble in the National Flying Club races and a blue pied cock bred by F. Cullip of Croydon, named ‘Frank’s Promise’ recoded 9th section E, 66th open NFC Nantes for the Lurkins loft in the 1978 season. Dave said at that time his most thrilling experience was in the very first race he entered, when he recorded 1st club, 2nd Federation Exmouth and without Maureen’s help and support he would not have done so well with the pigeon racing. Dave told novices that they must learn to be a good loser f before they become a good winner. He liked half-brother / half-sister matings but would not go closer than that and prefers to pair up to type. At the time of visiting the loft of Dave and Maureen Lurkins they had flown four races of the 1979 season and won one first and two seconds, plus 3rd Federation.

 

 

 

Terry Peart of New Addington.

 

The New Addington area has always been a hot bed of outstanding fanciers and to stay on top of this group of ‘aces’ takes a lot of hard work and dedication. In 1983 I visited one of those fanciers in the form of my old mate, Terry Peart and although he hasn’t got pigeons today, he now lives in Hampshire and is a regular contributor to the pigeon fancy press with his excellent articles and photos.

 

Terry was then aged 34 and he was a premier channel racer, after only seven years in the sport. He had previously played football and showed Budgerigars but became interested in pigeons when he used to train birds for a few friends. His good friend, Dave Lurkins gave Terry a lot of help on starting up and all through his time in the sport. On starting he raced in partnership with Harry Buckman for one season, but after little success he kicked off on his own. His first birds were twelve youngsters from Harry Buckman which he kept for a couple of years with very few results. In those days he looked up to local ‘aces’ Dave Lurkins and George Wilkins for club racing in general and John Hewlett for the longer races. Terry told me at that time, all the New Addington estate had motivated and encouraged him with his pigeons. When in partnership he raced in the Waddon HS, but on the split joined the very strong New Addington Flying Club. Terry lost his novice status in the longest old birds race from Bergerac (450 miles) in his first full season and that started his particular interest in the longer races. What made winning this race more exciting for Terry was the fact that he had beaten the Bergerac ‘king’ Johnny Hewlett. His first loft was 6ft x 4ft, half boarded, half wired, painted in green and white stripes, which his wife called a seaside kiosk.

 

 

One day in 1977 a stray youngster came into Terry’s loft and on contacting the owner, A. E. Jones of Worcester, he was told he could keep the Cattrysse blue chequer hen. That pigeon was then named ‘Stray Wonder’, and turned out to be one of Terry’s birds, kicking off her racing career by winning Bergerac and smashing his novice status. This game hen’s racing record was incredible winning: 1st club, 40th Combine Bergerac (450 miles), 13th section, 19th open NFC Pau (550 miles), 33rd section, 81st open NFC Pau, plus many other premier positions and well over £2,000. Terry said he was disappointed that his great hen didn’t get in the first hundred in the 1982 Pau Grand National and win the ‘Diploma of Merit’.

 

The Peart loft was a very smart four section 24ft x 6ft Kidby, with open door trapping. It had thirty nest boxes in the tree old bird compartments and was well ventilated. Terry didn’t keep lot of pigeons in his spacious loft, five pairs of stock birds, fifteen pairs of racers and bred forty youngsters each year. The loft was geared to channel racing with the stock birds being paired up the third week in February and the racers four weeks later. The birds were raced on the natural system with plenty of open loft; Terry maintained this kept the birds more contented. He liked to think of young bird racing as a means of education rather than racing.

 

Terry won Bergerac in 1982 with his yearling Cattrysse blue hen, ‘Miss Hunt’ and she was bred by Dave and Jan Hunt of Reigate. Another star of the 1982 season was the Kirkpatrick grizzle hen, ‘Brockham Ruby’, and she won 5th open BICC, 79th open International Hens, 486th open International (2,521 birds), Perpignan (613 miles). Another of Terry’s best performances was from Guernsey in 1978, when he recorded 12th section E, 27th open NFC with his good hen, ‘Lucky Eve’. Many good pigeons had been obtained from Dave Lurkins, including ‘Brockham Surprise’, ‘The Lurkins Cock’ and ‘The Lurkins Hen’.

 

 

Terry had won many major races and trophies in the South East Specialist Club and was top prize winner in 1981 and 1982, and the Peart loft’s total prize money for those two seasons was over £3,600. His main racing team was Cattrysse and Burger, with a few of his original birds which were the Soffel strain. Once the birds were paired up, he gave them same mixture right through the season, mainly feeding beans, peas and maize. Both old and young birds were hopper fed all the year round and given Red Band and Hormoform as a supplement. Terry hadn’t got any strong beliefs in eyesign but said there are some things he looked for when pairing up. His old birds were trained to the south coast as often as possible but being an H.G.V driver he took the birds wherever his work took him. Terry was the clock setter at the Monks Hill FC and the Croydon clock station for the National Flying Club. In the 1983 season he was the second driver and convoyer for the Croydon Federation and reserve driver for the London & South Coast Combine. He said the most important thing for novices must learn is to be a good loser. Terry advices new starter in the sport to go to a good local fancier for some youngsters and train and race them lightly until they get a strong team together. When I asked Terry who he thought was the best fancier locally he said without hesitation, it must be Ron Wasey who he said was a dedicated and successful fancier, who will be as successful as any NFC member past of present.

 

Terry showed a few birds just to support the local clubs but said the show room was the ideal place for new starters in the sport to lean about type. He left all the birds together until February as he found they moulted much freely if they are happy together. During the moult he made sure the birds had a bath at least once a week and in the winter months he added whet and tares to the racing mixture. Terry had never used deep litter, but said once he had paired up, he rarely cleaned out. He bred a few late breds and paired them to pigeons he intended to send to the long-distance races, so they always had a mate there when they returned from training and racing. Terry maintained he had never raced a late bred. At the time of my loft visit our Terry was a keen scribe for ‘The Racing Pigeon’ and was starting out doing pigeon photos. He had built himself a small shed to do his pigeon photos and he had a good look around my pigeon photography gear so he could simulate the system. The rest is history!

 

 

That’s it for this week! I hope my readers have enjoyed this look at these three champions of the Croydon area pigeon racing fraternity of yester year. We will be looking at some more very soon. To view some old video footage of some of these fanciers and their birds go on to my YouTube channel. I can be contacted with any pigeon matters on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email me on: keithmott1@virginmedia.com

 

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