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Mccartan & Woodsides 2013 East Down Combine Fanciers of The Year




2013 East Down Combine Fanciers of the Year

by Clifford Browne

It was a bright December afternoon, after a morning of very heavy rain, when I headed off to meet up with the 2013 EDC Fanciers of the Year, the partnership of Paul McCartan and Liam & Darren Woodside who race in the Crossgar club with the loft being situated just beyond the village of Kilmore just to the south of Crossgar town itself. This part of Co. Down is known as Drumlin Country or as I remember from my school days countryside which from above looks like a basket of eggs, a Drumlin being a small hill. Whilst I had seen photos of the lofts over the years nothing had quite prepared me for the outstanding location of these racing lofts coming as I do from a background of a loft in the back garden of a semi so to see the location of this loft at the bottom of a field well away from the dwelling house which was atop one of these Drumlins was really something to behold.

The partnership, formed in 1984, were there to greet me and senior member of the team Liam Woodside I have known for many years through his long association with the East Down Combine being a Past President and for some years its Treasurer. Paul & Darren I knew through various reports I had done on some of their outstanding performances and as soon as introductions were over it was off across the field to see the lofts and birds. With all the recent wet weather Paul had advised against me wearing good shoes, sound advice as it is quite a distance from house to loft.

L-R: Paul, Liam and Darren at the stock 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’ in size 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 YB loft and on the end of the main racing loft which houses the racing hens in winter and the darkness YBs 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 with most of the cock sections containing the nest boxes having fewer residents than boxes supplied. I arrived on the day after the lofts had had their annual spring clean with all sections having been thoroughly cleaned out and a blow torch applied and then fresh shavings on the floor as the partnership keep the birds in semi deep litter most of the time.

The racing lofts - what a location!


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 Gill, John Abernethy, Paul Byrne of Ballybrack and Gus Janssens from Kevin Rooney.

More recently the partnership having been turning their thoughts to distance racing so with this in mind they have obtained birds from Ron Williamson, David Black (N Black & Sons) and Brian Denneys and Matt Murphy. The birds are mainly blues and blue cheqs although I did notice several grizzles and the very occasional red cheq.

Hens are housed here in the winter and the darkness YBs in the summer


The partnership’s year begins with pairing up the birds on the 3rd 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 through the one trap so only one ETS pad is needed and the birds soon become accustomed to which section they belong 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 and as around 70 birds are entered in each week’s race the partnership have found that between racing and 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 which are given many more training tosses, especially in the weeks leading up to the French Nationals and Derbies. Young bird training commences some 2 weeks before the first young bird race with 2 or 3 tosses per week from around the 14 mile mark.

A look inside one of the cock sections


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 their 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 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, being 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.


I asked Paul and Darren if they would take what they considered their top two pigeon for a photograph and the photo shows Darren on the left with their now very famous blue cock “Mr Gibb” as he was bred for the partnership by Ian Gibb and is a Van Tilburg. A 4yo, this blue cock has a tremendous racing record starting with his top performance of 1st open EDC Skibbereen OB Classic 2013.

1st Club, 1st West Section, 1st Open EDC Skibbereen OB classic.

1st Club Tullamore 342 birds, 8th Section F, 31st Open NIPA 24873 birds.
1st Club Clonmel 344 birds, 7th Section F.
1st Club Mount Charles 481 birds, 10th West Section 1991 birds, 18th Open EDC 5639 birds.
2nd Club Mullingar 326 birds, 2nd West Section 1417 birds, 8th Open EDC 4097 birds (Came with loftmate who won 1st Sect).
2nd Club Tullamore 418 birds,6th West Section 1932 birds (Came with loftmate who won 1st Club).
2nd Club Fermoy Classic, 15th Open EDC (Came with loftmate who won 1st Club).
2nd Club Rosscarbery OB National, 121st Open NIPA 6172 birds (Beaten by loftmate).
2nd Club Mullingar 388 birds (Beaten by loftmate).
3rd Club Skibbereen YB Derby, 10th Open EDC.
4th Club Skibbereen OB National, 19th North Section 3467 birds, 149th Open INFC.
6th Club, 14th West Section, 38th Open Skibbereen OB Classic.
6th Club Navan 373 birds.
6th Club Mount Charles 554 birds.


The bird Paul is holding is the 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 and Liam were also 4th open & 32nd open with their next two birds in that stiff race.

Paul and Darren with two of their best


The partnership of McCartan & Woodsides have a tremendous record from Skibbereen having won the J Ringland Classic 3 times and they have also won the INFC North section from here as well, not to mention other positions won from this racepoint. To give you some idea of how this loft performs, in 2013 alone they had 14 club firsts and these included 3 first open EDC, Skibbereen Classic, Talbenny and Tullamore and a Meritorious medal for 2nd Talbenny/Penzance with a bird bred by Paul Byrne of Ballybrack and in 2012 they were 6th Open EDC St. Malo. These are just some of the positions won by this very competitive loft and they are worthy winners of the 2013 Fanciers of the Year, a title nearly won on two previous occasions by them for they were the runners up in 2012 and 2010.

In conclusion can I just say thanks to the partnership and the wider family for their hospitality and a most enjoyable afternoon at one of the East Down Combine’s top lofts. I am quite sure this will not be the last major award for this loft.