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John Booth of Castleford With Gregg Johnson

John Booth of Castleford

Interviewed by Gregg Johnson


John has kept pigeons most of his life and has kept them from being a young boy as his father Harry Booth kept and raced pigeons on the allotments in Normanton where John said at the time when he and his Father raced them as H Booth & Son. At the time there was 15 other flying fanciers on the Allotments, and they flew in the local club of Garth House Working Men’s flying club where they flew and still now in action. The Normanton South Road Federation the partnership flew well with numerous federation wins and positions with a Great federation, successful 1964 Le Mans federation win. John was only 14 years of age at this time and pooled this bird that was an old Sashart chequer cock. A few of these were also present in loft were Harry had these for years. John pooled this pigeon up to five shillings and won John £20 which he was delighted with. John said he still remembers and smiles about it today.


John Booth


In time John started working as a young man and became a well-qualified Building and Mining Surveyor working all over the UK. He still helped his father with the birds on the allotments with great success still coming through in the club and federation. The birds were of the Janssens strain which originated from Harold Hart of Lancashire where they flew on the old bird Natural system. With John now working and getting a wage he treated himself and his old man to some Janssens from the famous Louella Stud where they were quality. The Masserella family at Louella obtained the Janssens direct from Arendonk. John informs me some of these were also reds in the kit he purchased which in time created some great pigeons for him. The lines of these old Red Janssens are still in the loft today and they also blended into the old Harold’s Janssens and started to blend more winners out so regular federation wins came through.



John in time Married his Wife Freda who is the Daughter of a farmer Jack Carter with a very large active Cereal growing farm with a few Beef cattle in Townville Castleford, so no shortage of pigeon corn was a problem for John. In time John had four children and progressed more in his career but still kept and helped with the pigeons. In 1992 Johns father sadly passed away and in the year before Harry passed away they topped the Normanton fed from Nantes with a blue Jansen cock he was the only bird home on the day in the federation and was clocked at 19-00 hrs from a 7am liberation. John still kept the pigeons on the allotments, but it was hard with working away and with the family. In his last flying race at the allotment John won 9th Normanton federation 1st Normanton gold ring 1993 from Portsmouth winning £500. On the same day John was 4th Northern Classic club from Picauville Young bird where both these scoring birds were young birds paired together flying back to a young bird in the nest bowl. In time Johns wife and father in Law struck a deal with things being good for all the family. With Johns in laws getting older it was decided to extend the farmhouse to add another house section on were the in Laws would live and John and his family move into the Farmhouse and sell their family home. John still lives there to the present day and now his son has built a new house for his family and now runs the farm keeping it a family run farm, so john moved the pigeons to the farm garden. John took down the allotment lofts after his last Normanton 1993 season of his Late father and erected these at the farm, so things were easier for John with the birds on his back garden. John even broke out all the race team and got mapped out by the local clubs and then started flying as John Booth now at Townville. He joined two new clubs of Brotherton HS and Weldale FC and in his first flying season with broken birds he held his own and the following season he topped the Castleford Federation flying in his new club of Weldale from Sartilly in France. This win was with a big red Jansen cock and with the young birds topped he the mighty (GYA) Great Yorkshire Amalgamation, many club wins followed in both his flying clubs. The following year being 1996 John decided to fly the widowhood system and knowing his Janssens could easily fly the channel he obtained some Hermans from, at the time the famous Ward Brothers near Pontefract where they were winning everything. John purchased these for the fast up and coming sprint inland races which suited the widowhood system and moving with the times he achieved many federation and club wins from the word go. The Janssens were doing well in the channel races things were going in the right direction. John made many friends and would swap and have a few birds to cross into the old Janssens with a few Cattrysse from close friend Les Stuckey of Normanton. There were also a few Delbars from the famous Brian Clayburn that worked well into the old Janssens. There were 12 pairs of the old Janssens on the natural for the channel races and 12 widowhood cocks & hens for the inland sprint races. The Central Yorkshire federation and Castleford Federation both raced in the (GYA) where in time wins occurred for John. The Central Yorkshire federation started were John has been a member ever since it began till now in the 1996 season. His local club Brotherton joined and regular federation and positions were obtained in both federations. There were wins in both inland and channel races. Then in 1999/2000 John purchased a new 24ft loft with tiled roofs and loft corridors were he and his now farming sons built on extensions and aviaries onto the lofts and things started to move up a gear with him joining the National Flying Club the North East 700 mile championship club and the Northern Classic Club. John and the pigeons were now settled at this new location were John has achieved some great performances as well as maintaining club and federation wins where I will go to these later. John achieved some great 600 mile plus results but found it hard still busy at work with the birds coming home on days in the week after either Sunday liberations or in midweek liberations or two day races going into the working week so moved away from these races. Now that he is retired, he is more focused on these races again more than ever.



Before we take a look at what John has achieved over the years a few words on how he races. Nearly all his old birds on the widowhood system flying both cocks and hens with having the space he enjoys this but still keeps a few pairs on the natural system. John also enjoys flying some old hens paired up to young cocks in the young bird race section where they are sent to the nationals were John’s young birds only fly on the together system being left to do what they want together. Even so they are put onto the darkness moulting prevention system so this works well with the young cocks flying back to the old hens and the old hens flying back to the young cocks. John is playing his part in the sport and likes to help out where he can in the pigeon sport. Even though I met John myself many years ago on a German Pigeon trip I reconnected with John through collecting a lost stray as I run a stray centre. John rescued this lost Nottingham bird were I collected it from. He allows all year free of charge the Central Yorkshire and Normanton federation pigeon transporter to be stored at his farm in the barns. John also arranges the maintenance works through his farming mechanics connections. John’s farm which his son now runs with the family full time also grow’s and sell’s wheat Barley and green peas to local pigeon fanciers as well as stocking a few racing mixes at a very modest price to the fanciers. The two local club secretaries of Sherburn in Helmlet and Brotherton as well as a Normanton federation club delegate and the Northern Classic Brotherton Clock station operator and helps in all central marking. Also aiding the now large Yorkshire Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Combine he also aides and arranges a training service for the north east fanciers who are in the National flying clubs section N where they like to use the Central Yorkshire Federations central southern route programme for the National flying clubs races. This helps to train their birds for those National flying club races where they take and Mark their birds, again arranged by John and catered for by the transporter.




John has become good friends with these fanciers with one in particular with the partnership of  M Anderson & Sons and Bob Mckie of the north east were they have gifted John a few young birds that have flown well for John and are now breeding John some consistent birds. John has obtained some other birds over time to improve and moved with the times but still obtains some of his old Jansen and Herman lines. These other birds are off a very good hen that has produced John many championship Club and combine winning birds and the federation hen is a Sootjen which is a Full sister from Brian Clayburns Sun City South Africa one loft race winner. There are also some Lambrechts from the Bill Duckworth lines and some German Schlomers pigeons purchased at the Telford pigeon show that was held in 2014/2015. Plus a few gift or swapped birds with friends that have also done well.




Let’s take a look at some of Johns highlighted results starting with the National FC 6 X Section K wins plus good open results the first good performance was with a blue Janssen widowhood cock In 1997 that achieved 4th section K 200th open in the NFC out of 10,000 birds entered at Nantes and also duplication back won the North East 700 mile club and in 1996. This same Janssen Louella line cock prior to this race was 5th Castleford federation with only 5 birds on the day in the federation and clocked from Nantes in 1998. This same cock was 3rd North section Midlands National FC 23rd open at Nantes. Now to the section wins the first section K win was from Pau in 1999 flying 717 miles. John achieved 1st section K 18th open with a Louella Jan Aarden, John purchased his father at the Blackpool show from Louellas Jan Ardens X with a gift Busschaert hen from Johns friend Ronnie Williams of Normanton, John swapped some of his Janssens to try a few of Ronnie’s Busschaert’ s. He was sent on the widowhood system and flew Pau twice before this performance, a great pigeon as a widowhood cock. John bred very few young birds off him which he regrets now so it all is not about the stock loft as we say. The next section win came in 2001 with 1st section K and 4th open NFC old hens Guernsey flying 305 miles, she was a one year old hen paired up to a young cock bird sent sitting ten day old eggs in the young bird section. She was of a Jansen hen John purchased from Freddy Hall of Worthing crossed with an old Osman strain cock which came from Harry Child of Dewsbury who was famous for the old Osman. 2006 Sennon Cove NFC flying 313 miles 1st and 2nd section K and 36th and 37th Open NFC. The first a blue Herman hen sitting 10-day old eggs, the second a gift Herman hen on Widowhood which John swapped some of his Hermans for some of Geoff Chapmans Hermans from near North Mansfield. John was introduced to him by workers on a building site near Mansfield that John was working on, so they started talking pigeons and swapped a few young birds. 2010 Messac NFC 1st section K 19th Open this was with a blue widow cock flying 407 miles bred out of a Belgium blue cock John brought to try from off a pigeon bus trip from visiting Luc van Hoke of Ostend Belgium the mother was the blue hen that was 4th open NFC Guernsey out of the Freddy Hall Janssens crossed Osman Cock 2011 Fourgers OH NFC flying 371 miles 2nd section K 8th open with a blue Jansen hen living in the young bird section sitting 10 day old eggs paired to a young cock. 2014 NFC Messac flying 407 miles. John achieved 1st section K 195th open with a widow hood hen which also flew this same Messac race in the NFC for three years consecutively and scoring well in all so in 2015 she was 7th section K 20th open and in 2016 19th section K 465th open she is of Johns old Janssen based family crossed with a Brian Clayburn Soontjen her father was a home bred Janssen based created cock John bred for stock out of two North East 700 mile club winners paired together. He was paired to a hen which was a full sister to Brian Clayburns Sun City Million Dollar one loft race winner. She has become a very consistent bird winning many federation cards and also breeding good birds for him. John has achieved many other good Section position results in the NFC and has even achieved 9 x wins in the North East 700-mile Championship club. Other high performance wins include a 2016 young bird Northern Classic club win from Carentan pus 4 x seconds in the Northern Classic club from the shortest race of Yeovil to the furthest race the club flies of Poitiers There are many top 10 positions achieved in the Northern Classic club as well. Also, in 2016 he won the Normanton federation gold ring race from Carentan winning £4,000. In 2018 he won the very large Yorkshire Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire combines old bird race from Carentan with a widowhood hen which was bred out of the German Schlomer stock birds he purchased at the Telford pigeon show. Also for the last three seasons John with his close friends Les Stuckey and Frank Burnley have entered a kit of six young birds to the RPRA one loft race and in 2016 they won the second hot spot race from Appleton where they won £500 plus pools. This was a home bred bird by John from his old faithful lines that he created over the years. Also, John represented the UK in Brussels, Belgium in the Olympiad pigeon show 2017 with one of his Lambrechts that qualified for this event she was a mealy hen.



Some questions I asked John.

Q1. John what do think the sport needs to help it progress in the 21st century with trying to encourage new people to the sport?

It’s unfortunately the sign of the times with younger people’s life styles different to how they were years ago I think with what the RPRA is doing operating the schools loft races is a great operation to help the issue. However I believe maybe the retired generation may take on the hobby of our sport up more easily after finishing with work and maybe try and encourage a retirement hobby programme or a scheme of a retirement club to have a loft race programme of some sort. Also in encouraging ex fanciers to restart is another great opportunity and I know the RPRA have launched a scheme programme for this which I hope will be a success and also to try as and were ever possible to always advertise our sport and I strongly believe that anyone who keeps racing pigeons or is setting up or restarting with pigeons and is in a clubs flying radius must never be refused membership unless something was of a violent or of a cheating nature nobody should be refused to race pigeons.


Q2. John do you believe in eyesign?

I do not believe in the eyesign theory and have seen no proven facts to back this theory up as much as a pigeons eye is beautiful to look at and I do look at my birds eyes when in the hand I do not use the theory to pair my birds together or on how and what races to send them to.


Q3. John do you think that the young bird sickness can be prevented with all the rumours and tips and advice out there you hear to give your birds to prevent this occurring?

I think that almost every fancier at some point has probably experienced this but I do believe that it cannot really be prevented I have experienced the sickness before and then treated the birds with what was advised by a pigeon vet though for a few seasons now I have not had the sickness it could occur again at some point in a season I have tried certain products but how I keep my young birds is they are vaccinated for PMV the first time they are entered into the young bird race section and then just received fresh water daily and when training starts and racing I do like and recommend the Avitestin Rohmfried which all my young birds receive when they are racing and the old birds receive Rohmfried Avidress in their drinking water with the young birds after their period in the young bird section I try not to treat them for any problems unless they occur were I do prefer in using a dropping test Kit if I believe a problem is there and then take up the vets advise to treat the correct detected problem but I never treat for prevention my preferred vet which I use is the Belgica pigeon vet services.


Q4. John what in breeding with your pigeons do you look for?

I believe in performance and consistency with my birds and strongly prefer in having winning old retired racers from out the race team in the stock loft to breed out of and use to try with any new obtained stock I may bring into my lofts and I strongly believe and have paired winners to winners but everyone’s theory is different this is how I do my breeding and I do not believe in pure breed pigeons all breeds and strains have some introduction in them and will require some introduction at some part in the flying seasons.


Q5. John what are your feeding preferences and ways?

It’s quite simple how I do this my young birds from when they are weened and till they are placed into the old bird section team receive 25% of the Johnson & Jeff super widowhood mix with the rest of the 75% contains wheat Barley and Green peas off the farm that’s it nothing else only some Johnson & Jeff conditioner trapping seed to trap the birds or a sprinkle in the feeders on a race or training flight return. The old birds are fed nothing but the full Johnson & Jeff super widowhood mix corn and if the birds are getting ready for the long channel races, I will add sunflower hearts and the trapping conditioner seed to their regular feed. During the winter months and moulting season, they receive the young bird mix I feed that’s it on feeding.


Messac Hen

Q6. John what is your preferred racing system? I strongly believe in training as we in the area are Very lucky to have a good reliable training service were in the race season this operates three days a week to Ollerton down the A1 which is about a 40 mile training flight were unless the weather is bad and one or two flights are cancelled or some birds are tied or have come back from races or training flights late or channel marking days the birds don’t get sent apart from these circumstances then the old bird team and the young bird team will receive 3 x a week 40 mile training flights which I strongly believe in and while the service is there I will use and support it. I have had good racing results flying both widowhood and natural so hence this is why I race both but most and the majority are on the widowhood system the young birds are flown on the darkness System but are kept together to pair up and do as they please and always I introduce some old race hens so young cocks can pair to and race back to and the old hens can be sent in the NFC national races being also regularly trained with the young birds and raced.


Q7. John do you believe in paying high prices for pigeons and follow pedigrees like certain fanciers do?

I believe a pedigree is a nice thing to relate to but I strongly believe in seeing performances with my own eyes and for paying high prices for pigeons I have in the past but now and for now a number of years I have not paid huge amounts for birds you always need to obtain new stock at times to improve but only gradually and now my preference on obtaining any new stock apart from a odd few stock birds I like to purchase some young birds to race were I can see the performances with my own eyes and at the end of some successful racing they may end up into the breeding stock loft with the already mostly proven ex performing racers so this for me is a preferred system I use I would not pay high prices anymore due to the bird of prey problems I occur with racing and keeping my birds as of in the 2019 season I lost 12 old  birds that were all  first prize winners in racing I lost either In exercising flights around the loft or training or racing flights and I also lost 3 young birds racing that had all won races and shown good future results and even others returning injured on top of the 15 lost so it gives me a different look at the cost of things in my own mind.


Q8. John what are your aims in the sport?

Now that I am fully retired my main aims are of the long distance National races with the NFC but I still really enjoy every race and enjoy any win from 50 to 700 mile races I enjoy my everyday weekly club and federation racing as well as the national and championship club races I just love and enjoy racing my pigeons I also really enjoy participating in the winter period shows were I enjoy showing my birds and have enjoyed good success in showing at the annual Blackpool show winning 2 x classes the first 500mile hens handling the second 300 mile hens handling plus other prizes at Blackpool and socially being involved with fellow pigeon fanciers as well as attending the annual Blackpool and Doncaster pigeon shows and if the wife lets me I enjoy a lads weekend trip to Belgium Holland or Germany on a Ernie Goodyear pigeon coach trip every few years from time to time when I can for a social catch up.


John is a fancier that sends to as many races as he can and supports most racing events and regularly achieves good consistent federation positions in both his local federations and in most events he participates in so John thanks for taking part in our article and let’s hope racing our pigeons can start as soon as possible after this awful Corona Virus pandemic all the best

The Rat Man...