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Around The U N C 13-04-18


“The Original” Around The Up North Combine

“Happy Retirement - Helen”

By Good Corn

   I was both shocked and pleased at the same time when I received an email from Helen Edwards, saying she was retiring from the British Homing World on 27th April after enjoying working 14+ years in the Editorial Department. I got to know Helen a bit more over the years, after she often contacted me for a special Christmas article or a write up for the Stud Book. She would always say it's that “nagging Lady again”. I never ever thought that of Helen, I thought of her more of a driven Lady that wanted the best for the British Homing World readers. I would often call in at the Scribes room in the Winter Gardens at the Blackpool Show weekend, to have a chat and a coffee with Helen who I always found to be a very nice Lady. We had struck up a very good understanding over the years whenever something was not quite right with my articles, with the understanding being “Helen was always right”. The pleasing part for Helen, is she can enjoy what she calls “me time” and I hope she enjoys every minute of it, for the very wonderful Lady deserves it. I wish Helen a very long and happy retirement and thank her for all the help she has given me over the years.  

   Each year the residents of Skinningrove build a themed structure on the beach to celebrate bonfire night, the tradition first began some 32 years ago as a one-off “Village Arts” project attended by around 200 people. Over the years the theme has being Goths, Sea Creatures, Alum Industry, with the centrepiece being a huge wooden Yorkshire Coble, The Olympics, a stadium, Disney-Grove, a castle. The Saxon Princess, the hero and the dragon, and Creatures Of The Deep, a Lobster. The bonfire committee and whole of the Village of Skinningrove are involved in collecting wood, building and fund-raising for the event, which takes around 10 months to organise the big night from start to finish. Local businesses donate materials to help build the bonfire and without these very kind people, the bonfire night celebrations in Skinningrove with have long fallen by the roadside. I have seen the committee spend very long hours in the various work places making things for the bonfire theme over the years, which are also attended by the villages adults and children, the kids do more than their share in helping to get things ready for the very important night of the year, the very willing kids are so proud of their end product.

   The committee decided that the 2017 bonfire night theme was going to be “Pigeon Grove”, committee member John Roberts put a lot of thought into the very special event. John who is also on the committee of the history group, said the feature was aimed to give recognition to an activity that's part of the social fabric here. Pigeon fancying has been an integral feature of East Cleveland for well over a century, and it's still popular today,". John contacted me to ask if he could come along to our Pigeon headquarters one basketing night to see what was involved in the sport, I loaned John some Up North Combine handbooks from the 1950s to the present day, so he could do a bit of research on the sport. I put together the list of Skinningrove's 1st Up North Combine winners, which included the years, race points and birdage. Now I have got you wondering, what that has got to do with building a bonfire. John took photos of the members at the Club House and loading the transporter, he also arranged loft visits for the public, to let them see what is entailed in Pigeon racing. John asked which Club members would be interested in letting people at their lofts, I said everyone would offer their help but as we did not know what the weather was going to be like on the two dates of the loft visits and not knowing if any of visitors had walking difficulties, it would be best to pick lofts close to the roadside, so they were not climbing the banks and hills to some of the lofts. Mr & Mrs Ian & Liz Purver, Tich Richards and Granddaughter Alice and myself were going to be the three main lofts, with Tommy Evans and Mike Prokopowicz being the two reserve lofts.

Building of Pigeon Grove.

   Starting at our loft, I gave a talk on Pigeon racing, starting from the pairing up, breeding, exercising, training, feeding and racing methods. I was also open for any questions the public wanted to know about pigeons, with a number of questions being asked. On the second loft visit, I noticed a Gentleman from the first visit. John asked if it was okay for some University Students to attend the second visit, with them wanting to film the talk, I had no problem with that, as like the rest of the Skinningrove members, we were only too happy to help the village. I was well pleased with the turnout on both loft visits, which produced two very enjoyable afternoons. The annual bonfire themes really brings the very best out of the village folk, who have had more than their share of heartache over the years. Losing loved ones at sea over the years and the two massive floods that happened in the space of a few months, that really rocked the village. But at the end of the day the families of Skinningrove got through it, where many, many others may well have crumbled. 

   Local artist Steve Iredale took two weeks to build the Pigeon feature for the 2017 event, with numerous of people saying what a fantastic job Steve had done. Over the years Skinningrove's bonfire night features and fireworks display has expanded to attract crowds of around 5,000 people, with the event being free. All the people of Skinningrove want in return for a fantastic and very enjoyable night is donations in the jars that the people of Skinningrove stand holding in various places on-route to the sea front display. Some people who attend the bonfire nights believe the events are funded by the Redcar & Cleveland Council, the Skinningrove bonfire committee relies on donations and fund-raising events to keep the must see event going. Once the money stops coming in, then the very popular event will go down the pan. I have heard of people attending the event from as far afield as Leeds, these people really appreciate what the good people of Skinningrove provide. Because of the very large crowds and the very high volume of cars in the village, Police and helpers are always on duty to direct the traffic to the temporary car parks.

Bonfire night view of Pigeon Grove.

   Pigeon Grove never stopped there for the committee arranged a special showing of “The Fancy”, at Skinningrove's Riverside Building, and inviting the people along by the way of thanks for their support and contributions to the 2017 event. Tea & Biscuits were available to all who attended the night, John had arranged notice boards in the room with photos of Skinningrove fanciers past and present, and the list of all the Skinningrove members, years, race points and birdage, who have won 1st Up North Combine. I took Hayden along on the night and I have to say he really enjoyed the film, which was followed by a short footage of the people helping to build the bonfire, and the burning of the bonfire and fireworks display. On behalf of the Skinningrove members past and present and the Pigeon sport in general, I would like to thank the bonfire committee for feathering our sport which often gets knocked for the wrong reasons, as their 2017 bonfire theme. Long may this great event that has given thousands and thousands of people great nights over the years, continue for many years to come.

The burning of Pigeon Grove.

   I would like to pay tribute to the late Richard, who was one of the first organisers of the Skinningrove bonfire. Richard came as a unknown 32 years ago but by hell he turned heads in the village, and stole everyone's heart with his down to earth attitude, friendliness and hard work. I will go as far to say, that Richard has to be the most loved stranger ever to set foot in the village of Skinningrove. Everyone remembers him on Skinningrove first ever bonfire night and he is and will still be remembered on bonfire night for many years to come. The folk of Skinningrove found a great friend in Richard, his memory lives on. Rest In Peace Richard, you did Skinningrove proud.  

Fireworks display before the lighting of the bonfire.


   Sadly, the East Cleveland Federation has seen the passing of three former members so far this year, with the deaths of Sam Hassock of Marske & New Marske, Bill Porrit of Staithes and Jim Hall of Skinningrove. Sam gave up the sport after the death of his Brother Keith, the Brothers were not a very successful partnership, but they always seemed to enjoy their Pigeons no matter how they performed. We still see fanciers like Keith & Sam that tend to their birds the best they can and get an extra buzz when they win or get a position. The Pigeon sport needs fanciers like Keith & Sam to help keep the game going, Rest In Peace Sam.

   Bill enjoyed enormous success in his time, winning numerous Club and East Cleveland Federation averages. Bill's continuous success won him a earth-shattering 4 x 1st Up North Combine Gold Medal winning performances, the very popular Bill became a Legend. His first Gold Medal winning came in 1970 from Lillers when there were 13,783 birds away. Bill completed his second 1st Up North Combine win in 1981 when he won 1st Up North Combine young bird Ashford National from an entry of 22,376 birds, Bill quickly achieved his hat-trick of 1st  Up North Combine  wins from the old bird Folkestone National in 1982 when there were 27,051 birds competing. Bill recorded his fourth 1st Up North Combine win in 1988 from the young bird Folkestone National from a convoy of 19,766 birds. Through his successful years, Bill often helped out on the panel at Pigeon Moots and also donated birds for charity sales when asked. Bill who left the sport a number of years ago after a lifetime of success, had not being in the best of health of late. Rest In Peace Bill

Friend and former Clubmate Jim Hall, who I have known all my life, started to help out at his Nephews Ian & Tubby Purver's loft a number of years ago, with Jimmy always being a great help to the Brother's, for he was never ever far away from the loft, which was always spick and span. I will always remember when Jimmy hit the dance floor at one of the Skinningrove West Bank's presentation evenings, the moment the Chubby Checker record “Lets Twist Again” came on, Jimmy was up there twisting away. His dancing surprised a number of the members for it was the first time they had seen Jimmy take centre stage on the dance floor.

Jimmy later helped out at Mike Lindsey of Liverton Mines loft, Jimmy would pack his bag and spend the whole day at the loft. There was a Bourges race where he slept in the cabin for the night, he was there waiting for the birds until 10.30pm, as Jimmy used to walk the 2 miles to the loft on a morning, he thought it best to stay the night on the allotment, so he was there at first light the following morning. Jimmy also helped out at Trevor Lancaster & Brian Garbutt's loft, also of Liverton Mines. Jimmy left the sport a few years ago, I can just imagine him now, sitting in his chair at home with that little smile on his face, remembering his happy and successful time with the Pigeons. Rest In Peace Jimmy.

   With that I will sign off, until next time. Any news to Good Corn 6 Boulby Drive Loftus Saltburn Cleveland TS13 4JN. Tel: 01287 643624 or Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.