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Keith Mott writes about winning fanciers past and present

The Champions of Yesteryear (Part 66)


The partnership of Peter Taylor and Jack Hedges was always one to be reckoned with, but 1986 saw them have the young bird season of a lifetime. Final event of that season was Fulham United F.C.'s Open race from Wadebridge, a distance of 215 miles to the partners' loft. Entry for this race was £10 per bird and 59 London fanciers entered 138 young birds. Peter and Jack entered their two most consistent youngsters, a nest pair of blue hens, 'The Bishop Hen' and 'The 75 Hen', of A. H. Bennett bloodlines and bred by their good friend the late Len Bishop. The race turned out to be a steady one with a South East wind and their two entries maintained their consistency, winning 1st and 2nd by a margin of 15 yards per minute and more than earned their keep by winning £1,223 in prize and pool money.

In the S.M.T. Combine race the week prior to the Fulham Open, 'The 75 Hen' had already indicated its form by winning £97 from Bodmin. It was in this race that a loftmate, ‘The Bodmin Cock’, won 6th open S.M.T. Combine (3,592 birds competing) after a really bad trap. That was another pigeon of A. H. Bennett bloodlines and again bred by Len Bishop. It should be emphasised that the 1986 young bird season performances gained by this partnership were obtained with a team of six pigeons, yes just six pigeons, no mob flying here. Five of the six were bred for the partners by Len Bishop and are all of A. H. Bennett bloodlines, the sixth bird, and the odd one out, is a grizzle, a gift from Keith and Betty Mott of Claygate which was bred from a sister of their consistent Denys Brothers grizzle cock 'Double Top'.

The partners both had plenty of experience with pigeons prior to coming together as a partnership, and like most fanciers learned a lot from experience. They both agreed

that there is a world of difference between racing old and young birds. Successful old bird racing requires a lot of patience. First and foremost the birds must be fit and to obtain this fitness the birds require training. It should be remembered that this loft raced the Natural system preferring to concentrate on the Channel events. Once fitness had been obtained observation plays a great part for as we all know that one cock will race better to 10 day eggs whilst another performs better when driving his hen, whereas some hens will put in a great deal of effort to chipping eggs. The permutations are endless. That is why old bird racing on the Natural system is such an art.

The partners' New Malden loft was 20ft long with four compartments and open door trapping was used. There was a separate young bird loft 10ft in length and consisted of two sections. It had a small flight attached to it which allowed squeakers to view their surroundings in safety before they first venture out into the wide world. Old birds were usually paired during the latter part of February. There were only three pairs of stock birds and these were paired at the same time. The partners liked to give their birds as much freedom as possible, they liked to see them wandering around the garden. It was during these open loft periods that the partners find it best to observe the birds, they said a lot can be learned about the team by this practice.

They both thought that many fanciers make the mistake of keeping too many pigeons, and getting them from too many lofts. They recommended to anyone just starting that they should go to one good fancier and obtain birds from him and learn his methods and a history of his birds.

Both Peter and Jack were convinced that one of the major causes of young bird losses is overcrowding; never breed more than you can house and train comfortably, and do not start training young birds until they go running. Once training started the youngsters were trained in stages up to 30 miles prior to their first race. Once racing had started they were tossed at about 20 miles as and when considered necessary. Because of the partnership's interest in Channel racing the old birds were trained consistently from the coast. All birds, both young and old birds were fed as much as they require. The only time this was varied was on marking days, when the food is reduced by 50%.

The partners both agree that one of the most important factors in the pigeon's year is the main moulting period if success is to be gained again the following year. The policy in this loft was to separate the sexes after the last race has been flown. At this time a little more Linseed was introduced to the food mixture. During separation the birds were only let out for exercise once a week and during this exercise period the bath was made available.

Whilst both of the partners obviously enjoyed their pigeon racing and were successful, they didn't just take a back seat. They were both clocksetters for their club, Surbiton Flying Club, Peter also did the job of Federation Delegate. There were no secrets in this loft just plain commonsense with an emphasis on observation.

Jack Hedges passed away several years ago and Peter sold up and moved to Wales, where he tried to race his pigeons, but had them wiped out by perigrine falcons, which took pigeons every day. After a few year of that he moved back to Surrey where he lives and races his pigeons in Guildford. The month of July in 2006 saw one of the hardest Bergerac (450 miles) races of all time in the South of England! The London & South East Classic Club and S.M.T. Combine were both at the race point on the same day, so my good friend Peter Taylor of Bellfields, near Guildford sent a small team with both organizations, with outstanding success. The liberations were into a strong North East wind, on a very hot Saturday morning and there were very few birds recorded on the day. Peter recorded his good natural blue hen, ‘Selina’s Express’, on the day at 20.37 hrs, and won 4th. open London & South East Classic Club, with only half a dozen birds home on the day of liberation. This beautiful pigeon was bred by David Williams of Chessington from a son of Eric Cannon’s 1st. open N.F.C. Sartilly winner, Champion ‘Culmer Marion’, which he purchased as a youngster at Eric’s dispersal sale in 2000, and a Janssen hen. This mating certain clicked, as Peter Taylor has a full brother to ‘Selina’s Express, which won: 71st. open L.& S.E.C.C. Guernsey, 63rd. open N.F.C. Guernsey as a young bird in 2002 and he is called ‘Orlando’s Express’. ‘Selina’s Express’ was sent to the Bergerac Classic sitting four day old eggs and she has some good previous racing form, winning: 2003: 87th. open L.& S.E.C.C. Guernsey, 2005: 31st. open L.& S.E.C.C. Pau. A wonderful hen! Peter’s bit of bad luck on that very hard Bergerac weekend was he got a pigeon at 08.15hrs on the Sunday morning from Bergerac and would have won the Guildford club by two hours, but the pigeon had no race rubber on her leg. This game little dark chequer hen, named ‘The Scotch Hen’, was bred by Jamieson & Simpson of Cleghorn in Scotland and she was sent to the S.M.T. Combine race sitting four day old eggs. She previously scored in L.& S.E.C.C., being clocked on the day from Bergerac and in 2005 returned from a race with cat gut tight around her foot, and lost her toe nail.

Peter Taylor has been one of my best friends for over 25 years and every one who knows him will tell you, he is a great out spoken guy, who ‘shoots from the hip’. A bit like myself, there is no ‘bull’ with our Peter and he tells how it is!




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