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Mccartan & Woodsides Revisited




Reports by Clifford Browne

McCartan & Woodsides Revisited

It was 12 months almost to the day since I had called with the Crossgar partnership of McCartan & Woodsides and on that occasion it was to report on their success of 2013, when they had won the East Down Combine Fanciers of the Year award and it was a great pleasure to me to make the return trip to their lofts early in January 2015 to update my report of the previous year, as they had again won East Down Combine Fanciers of the Year in 2014. This partnership formed some 30 years ago in 1984 is a three-man team consisting of Liam Woodside senior, Darren Woodside and Paul McCartan and they race in the East Down Combine through membership of the Crossgar club with the lofts being situated just beyond the village of Kilmore, which is just south of the town of Crossgar in the beautiful Co. Down Countryside.


Much of what follows is a repeat of the previous year’s report, for the Partnership have in most cases changed very little of their management system which had brought them success the previous year, although, I mentioned last year, their thoughts were turning towards the longer races. A look through the 2014 results show that they are well on the road to success in that direction, when you see some of the outstanding achievements of the 2014 season which had contributed to their winning this prestigious award for the second successive season. The following are just some of the successes achieved in 2014, won with the East Down Combine, for they also compete through Killyleagh with the NIPA.


The 2014 EDC results include Old Birds:

1st & 2nd open, 1st & 2nd West Section EDC, 1st Talbenny (2047 birds)

8th Open, 7th West section EDC, 2nd Talbenny (1557 birds)

10th Open 4th West Section, Bude (1783 birds)

1st, 3rd & 5th Open 1st, 3rd & 4th West Section EDC, Penzance (1290 birds) and 1st, 3rd & 4th Penzance Classic

2nd & 3rd Open St Malo Derby (only 19 birds in EDC in race time)


In the Young Birds the lofts achievements included 1st Open in the 2nd Young bird Skibbereen Derby and West section wins from Tullamore, 1st Mount Charles and 2nd Mount Charles.


In addition they won the following trophies in the EDC:

The Kilpatrick Cup for 1st Talbenny, The McCausland Cup for Penzance, The H & S Muckle Cup for the Penzance Classic and the Skibbereen Cup for their success in winning the 2nd Skibbereen Yb Derby. They also won a number of average cups in the Combine

The D Logan Cup, best average Penzance OB and 2nd Skibbereen YB

The North Region Cup, best average over the 4 Channel races

The Newcombe Cup, best average over the last 4 OB and the last 2 YB races (a difficult one to win)

The E Hardy Mem. Cup, best avg last Ob and the last Yb race

The Marie Cromie Mem. Cup, best avg YB inland Derby races

The H Morrow memorial cup for EDC Fanciers of the year


In addition they were EDC Old Bird Channel Champions and also Young Bird Champions in both open and section. They also won both of the Combines Meritorious awards for (1st Talbenny & Bude) and (2nd Talbenny & Penzance).

For my write-up on their 2013 performances I asked Paul & Darren for what they considered their two top-performing pigeons of that year and you may recall that they picked out their now very famous blue cock, Mr Gibb, as he was bred for the partnership by Ian Gibb and is a Van Tilburg. A four-year-old, this blue cock had a tremendous racing record starting with his top performance of 1st Open EDC Skibbereen OB Classic 2013. The second pigeon they chose for that year was a light blue chequer cock which won, amongst other things, the 2012 Old Bird Skibbereen Classic in the East Down Combine and is a Gaby Vandenabeele, which they obtained from the nearby Harmony lofts of John & Viv. Abernethy. Paul, Darren & Liam were also 4th open & 32nd open with their next two birds in that stiff race.


The partnership of McCartan & Woodsides have a tremendous record from Skibbereen, for again in 2014 they had success from this race point, winning 1st open from the second Young Bird Derby and they had already on previous occasions won the J Ringland Classic three times from this race point. They have also won the INFC North section from here, not to mention numerous other positions won from here.


For the 2014 season’s success I again asked them to select two pigeons and both of these were hens. The first a blue pied four-year-old now named Dawn Surprise for her magnificent performance from St Malo Old bird Derby, when, arriving at 4.39am on the second morning of the race, she finished at 3rd Open, with just two birds on the first day to beat her. The partnership then timed a second bird later that second day for 4th Open in a race which saw only 19 birds home in the Combine in the three days of the race.


The second bird that they selected was a three-year-old blue hen, the winner of the Penzance Classic and the Combine Penzance.  In addition to this, she had excelled from the three other Channel races of 2014 and was the winner of a meritorious medal for the loft with her performances from the Channel. In fact this loft won both the Meritorious medals from this year’s Channel programme.


I hope you will agree that this is a very impressive list of performances from a loft which has many pigeons that they can count on to give a good account of themselves.


The birds

So what of the birds themselves? Well the basis of this loft would be Soontjen and initially these were from birds from Frank Sheader and Colin Gibson, but over the years other families of sprint-type birds have been added from Ian Gibb, John Abernethy, Paul Byrne of Bally Brack and Gus Janssens from Kevin Rooney and each have made a contribution to this loft’s performances.


I mentioned last year that the partnership had been turning their thoughts to distance racing, so with this in mind, they had obtained birds from Ron Williamson, David Black (N Black & Sons), Brian Denney and Matt Murphy. Looking at the loft’s Channel performances and especially their St Malo results, it looks as though they are well on the road to success in this area and I look forward to hearing of their continued success in this area of our sport.


The birds housed are mostly blues, blue cheqs and pieds with a very occasional red coming down from their old Mealy Cock. Birds were in the main medium sized although some of the distance birds were medium-to-small.


Now to refresh readers on this partnership’s lofts and systems.


The lofts

The main racing loft, as can be seen from the photo, is roughly L shaped and is a timber structure with 14 sections each 8 foot, making the total length in excess of 100ft. To the left of the main loft is a smaller shed, which is used to house a small team of natural young birds. The stock birds are housed in the yard at the back of the dwelling house and this loft is also a timber structure, some 30ft in length. There are aviaries on the stock loft and both the small natural young bird loft and on the end of the main racing loft which houses the racing hens in winter and the Darkness young birds in the racing season. Now, although a total some 250 birds are kept, of which some 50 pairs are retained for stock, the one thing that I did notice was there was no overcrowding and most of the cock sections that contain nest boxes have fewer residents than boxes supplied. I arrived just after the lofts had had their annual spring clean and all sections had been thoroughly cleaned out and a blow torch applied. They were then given a new coat of paint and then fresh shavings were put on the floor, as the partnership keep the birds in semi-deep litter most of the time.


The system of management

The partnership’s year begins with pairing up the birds on the third weekend in January and this I could see would be quite a task, given the number of birds kept.


The partnership breed around 120 young birds for themselves and many more for Charity sales, and other people. The majority of their own young birds are raced on the darkness system, with a small team placed in the small natural loft.


The old birds are closed in the lofts in the winter months and it is during the month of February that they are again let out to exercise around the loft. Old birds are all raced roundabout and are exercised twice a day around the loft for about 45 minutes each time, with of course cocks being exercised separately from the hens and, unlike other forms of roundabout, the hens and cocks return to their own sections throughout the week, with the hens only being allowed into the cocks on the afternoon of basketing. All birds trap on race day through the one trap, so only one ETS pad is needed and the birds soon become accustomed to which section they belong in, but to ensure no confusion birds from each section have a different coloured marker ring.


Staying with old birds, before the first race the racers receive 4 to 6 training tosses from around 20 miles and, once racing commences, training ceases. Around 70 birds are entered in each week’s race and the partnership have found that with racing and this form of home exercise, this is sufficient to keep the birds in winning form. The exception to this system would be birds earmarked for the French races and in 2014 in the weeks leading up to the French Nationals & Derbies, these received extra training in the comeback races that they compete in with the NIPA through the other club in which they race in Killyleagh.


Young bird training commences some two weeks before the first young bird race with 2 or 3 tosses per week from around the 14-mile mark.



I have already mentioned that the lofts are thoroughly blow torched at the start of the year. During December birds are given a paratyphoid preventative and then, before pairing up, the birds are wormed and they are also given a respiratory preventative and finally they are dosed for canker while sitting eggs. Old birds are vaccinated against Paramyxovirus annually and the young birds are vaccinated twice as youngsters. Probiotics are given regularly in the water but the partners’ motto for all things pigeon is ‘keep it simple’.



In the winter period the birds are Hopper fed initially with Beattie’s Moulting Mix, but towards the end of the winter, barley is added. Then, during the racing season, the birds are hand-fed on a Mariman’s Mix. Cocks are not broken down between races but the hens are fed a depurative to which a portion of barley is added on Mondays and Tuesdays and the partnership stressed that it was also important that the hens got out to exercise every day even if for some reason the cocks had to be kept in.


With performances like those recorded by this loft this, article is merely a snapshot of the basic components that make up the factors which has enabled the partnership of McCartan & Woodsides to reach the top in the Combine and stay there and I have underlined their motto of ‘keep it simple’. However, in conclusion, can I say that this partnership are very dedicated and work hard at the sport which they love and their success is well deserved.

Once again, I enjoyed spending the afternoon in the company of these top fanciers at their loft in the heart of the beautiful Co. Down countryside and, on behalf of Albert and myself, can I just say thanks to them and the wider family for their hospitality. Last year I concluded by saying ‘I am quite sure this will not be the last major award for this loft’. Well, I didn’t have long to wait: EDC Fanciers of the Year in 2014. What will 2015 bring by way of success to this loft?