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“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT

 

 

Jill & David Fisher of Bideford

 

 

We all made the drive up to Blackpool in mid-January 2016 for the main event of the Show Racer calendar, the 44th British Homing World ‘Show of the Year’. Everyone anticipates and looks forward to this wonderful weekend in Blackpool, not only for their annual fill of ‘pigeon fun’, but mostly to meet up with good pigeon friends. This year’s event attracted a show entry of 2,000 birds and Roy Musto had the job of judging the special this time, including Best in Show. Best in Show over all at Blackpool was won by a young Show Racer mosaic cock owned by Jill and Dave Fisher of Bideford in Cornwall and when I spoke to Jill after the event she said, that the partners were thrilled to win Best in Show and this performance was their best to date. The handsome cock is now named, ‘Valentino’ and is a young bird champion in the truest sense of the word, winning: BIS South West SRS young bird show, then 1st in the all winners class to be nominated into the BSRF class at Blackpool, to win that and Best in Show. A fantastic achievement!

 

 

Both Dave & Jill Fisher were born and brought up in and around the Bideford area and Jill’s dad is Mervyn Patt, an old friend of mine and he has been a pigeon fancier all his life. Jill’s first pigeon was a dark chequer cock given to her by her dad at around the age of three or four and she followed her dad into pigeon showing and initially entered Children’s classes at a very young age. Jill was later told that she apparently had the knack of always recognising her own bird at the show, much to her dad’s amusement. All through her childhood, Jill had pigeons and when she reached her teens, Mervyn provided her with a three or four pairs and a spare compartment and later her own loft to keep and look after her own birds.  Family friend Percy Mitchell was also there on hand with a couple more birds to help with the mix and Jill was by then entering the open classes and one of her memories was of winning BIS at a Devon & Cornwall show at the age of 16, with a mealy hen. When she started work, other teenage interests in boys, music and clothes unfortunately distracted Jill from her birds and meant that she took a break from them, although she always had an interest and enjoyed the odd trip to a show with her dad when he was judging and needed a steward. In the mid 1970’s, dad had also started a racer stud and by the late 1990’s had run a stand at the Blackpool Show for many years on which he sold mainly racers, along with the odd few show racers.  Around 1998, Mervyn asked Jill if she could help out on the stand as one of his normal helpers could not make it.  She went and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially when it came to the few show racers that dad had included on his stand.  She joined her dad again at Blackpool the following year and this time took along husband Dave as an extra pair of hands was needed. It was at the Blackpool stand in 2000 that Jill first saw an eye catching dark chequer show racer hen of her dad’s that she found she could not bear to put into the sale pen.  Jill spent the whole of Saturday with the sale pen write-up for that chequer hen in her pocket.  That Saturday night was the turning point and after much discussion, Jill and Dave decided to have a go at keeping a few show racers themselves, starting with a certain dark chequer hen! As a youngster, Dave was a keen football player and played for the North Devon team while he was at school and later played on his work’s football team. Jill has been in the sport 50 years overall, although there was a 20 year gap in the middle and for Dave it has been 16 years. Jill has never raced pigeons and has kept Show Racers only.

 

 

I have known Jill’s father, Mervyn Patt, for well over 30 years and when I asked her about his past, she said, ‘Mervyn was brought up with pigeons in the family and his very first birds were a couple that his father gave him when he was just a toddler! Mervyn and his father kept pigeons for a few years until the War and moving house meant that they had to give them up for a while but just a few years. Later Mervyn was back into pigeons, starting again firstly with a few Tipplers and other breeds, before he started to develop a small racing team. Mervyn remembers that at the time corn was rationed to just 7lbs a week and having to supplement the birds' food with a little rice. Being a business man in the making, a young Mervyn was over the moon when his Granddad suggested that he had could sell one of his Tipplers for a princely sum of £3, after he had only paid one shilling and six pence for it! Timing in the birds was a challenge in those early racing days as the only clock was owned by a neighbor and so a sprint down the road to the clock was also required on race days. As a 14 year old Mervyn started to race in his own right as a junior and had a particularly good start, winning five out of the six races available to juniors. Mervyn's good mate Peter Kendall won the 6th of the juniors' races that season. After a stint in the Army doing his national service, my dad continued with the racing, although he laughs that his father did manage to loose a lot of his pigeons while he was away in the Army.

Even though his dog chased her cat and he was truly in the ‘dog house’ for that, Mervyn married Margaret, the girl across the road, in 1955. Mervyn continued to race his birds until they moved house in 1964. At the new house, the position meant that racing was never easy and, although he continued for a while, involving all the family, my dad steered himself more into the Showing side of things and developed a good team of Show Racers. One particular breeding season during the mid-1960's was a very fraught one for my dad when his little girl, Jill, decided that it would be good to try and help feed the show racers by herself and then, while the birds were off their nests eating, she took all the tiny (un-rung!) youngsters plus any un-hatched eggs for a nice little trip around the garden in the empty corn bucket.  Jill could never quite understand why her dad did not seem that pleased when he came home & discovered what had happened!! My dad encouraged all four of his children, Jill, Jeanette, Michael and Denise into pigeons; each were given their own “pet” pigeon which they could enjoy taking along to the shows and entering in the Children’s class. Not all four children were totally “pigeon wise” in those early days …when something happened to a young Michael’s red chequer cock “Steve”, it was quietly replaced by a dark chequer hen.  When Michael questioned his dad as to why his ‘Steve’ looked different, he was told that it had moulted of course and had changed colour. Dads are always to be believed, so it was quite a few years before Michael realised that something very strange had happened during that particular moulting season! Extra pocket money was also to be earned by the children in helping to clean out the lofts.   Dad was always ready with an up-turned bucket for them to stand on if the traps or perches were too high to reach with the scrape!

The 1970's where a decade when Mervyn was showing in earnest with a young Jill doing her best to follow in his footsteps. Margaret was often heard to say that they could never go anywhere without a pigeon being on the end of it! The 1970's also saw the start of the ‘Ven Lofts’ Racing Stud, with the purchase of Van Hee Busschaerts and later the Stichelbauts and Kirkpatrick lines too. Mervyn's successful racing stud was behind some very well known birds, including his good friend, the late Freddie Elliott’s 1st open NFC Nantes winner, Champion ‘Euro Lad’. ‘Ven Lofts’ bred Fred Elliott’s 1st SMT Combine Rennes winner, ‘Euro Bird’ and in turn he was the sire of Champion ‘Euro Lad’. The 1980s / 1990's had seen my dad concentrate on the Racing Stud. But when I developed the showing bug again in 2000, and me and hubby Dave decided to give it a go. My dad was not far behind in getting back into showing and leading the way. Even though he is now in his eighties, he still enjoys the showing side of things, especially when he can enjoy a piece of cake or bowl of trifle (or both!) at the show and then has a red card & rosette to go home with’.

 

 

The partner’s current loft is 31ft long, divided into four 6ft x 6ft compartments, housing old cocks, young cocks, old hens and young hens separately. The remainder is split into two smaller sections, which can be opened up into one larger section as required. This extra space is used to house a few spare birds during the breeding season and acts as an over-flow, on the occasions where we have an in-balance in the ration of cocks to hens.The floors in each section are split between solid floor & grids. The grids are lifted and cleaned out at least once a week and the solid part of the floor is scrapped at least once a day. Along the front of the loft, each section has access to its own flight (traps) where the birds are bathed and enjoy the fresh air.  During the winter, Perspex sheets are used on the front of these flights to prevent any strong drafts from catching the birds and these flights are generally closed at night and opened through the day unless conditions are really bad. Under the flights in the four main sections are the next boxes, which are boarded up when not in use. Along the back of the loft there is a 4ft wide corridor which contains some pens.  This corridor is especially useful when basketing for a show as it gives plenty of space. Jill told me, ‘in a good loft design, I think it is important for both the birds and the fancier to be comfortable.  If it is a pleasure to be in the loft yourself, I think you are more inclined to spend more time looking after the needs of the birds. We have used various methods of deep litter floor covering in the past but our preference is for the floors to be bare and scrapped each day.  One of the many advantages of this is that you can instantly see any change in droppings’.

 

 

The Fisher partners keep 24 pairs of Show Racers and they are normally paired up in the first or second week in February. During the breeding season the birds are given a first class breeding mixture, with the addition of a strong mix of Maple Peas, Tic Beans and Tares. During the showing season the feeding is hardened up, so they are given mainly peas, beans and tares. The origins of our current show team were mainly from Mervyn Patt, but with crosses over the years from a few different show fanciers. Jill and Dave enjoy introducing a couple of new birds each year and experimenting with the results of crossing them with their existing team. They breed in the region of 45 to 50 young birds each season and Dave says they are very wary that for every young bird bred an old bird has to go, to keep the number manageable. Jill is currently Chairman of the Devon & Cornwall SRS and her occupation is in tooling sales and technical support for a multi-national connector manufacturer.  Dave’s occupation is a postman / driver for an Agricultural company. Apart from Jill’s dad, one of her sisters, Denise and also two of her nieces are interested in the sport and have a small team of their own.

 

   

 

When I asked Jill about advising new starters in the sport she said, ‘firstly enjoy your time with your pigeons in the loft and go to as many shows as you can and look and listen. Listen to all points of view and advice; some you may agree with and some you may not but after a short time, you will soon find what methods of keeping your birds suit both you and them best.  Extra tips from experienced fanciers will help along the way. When selecting birds to keep, remember that you are with them 365 days a year, so make sure that they pleasing to you first.  The judge sees them for the day but you get to take them home afterwards’. The Fisher partners keep a range of colours and of the birds in there is a family and are related to some degree. Dave told me, ‘we only breed late breds in certain circumstances, for instance, where there is a particular pair that we would like an extra youngster from or may be where the pair took a while to settle down or did not produce early youngsters for some reason. Most of our birds are fairly quiet and this is a real bonus in the show pen’. Needless to say Jill and Dave think the moult is very important and give their birds a general feed mixture at this time of the year. General cleaning and regular baths are essential and their birds are parted in June. Congratulations to Jill and Dave on their wonderful 2016 Blackpool success!

 

 

Well that’s it for this week!

I can be contacted with any pigeon ‘banter’ on telephone number: 01372 463480

or Email me on: keithmott1@virginmedia.com

 

 

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