2014 IHU NFC St Malo winner
by Greg Mc
Last week I took a spin down to see Liam McCall, this year’s IHU NFC winner from St. Malo. Liam and his wife Gertie live in a bungalow about a mile south of Wicklow town, which is right on the east coast with a beautifull view out onto the Irish Sea. They have lived there since 1974, but Liam grew up in his parents’ house just a few hundred yards down the road. Liam told me he first got interested in pigeons at the age of eight or nine (there was no family interest in pigeons), he just enjoyed them and that was it, he was hooked. He and a friend collected tired racers which dropped for water around the Old Lighthouse on the hill down the road. He laughed telling me their parents had banned them from going down near the lighthouse, but that didn’t stop them. Their early loft was an old meat safe which they had in Liam’s parents’ back garden. The loft progressed, getting bigger using old crates they collected from builders’ yards etc.
Liam in his garden
Liam races in the Wicklow Club which up until the 2000 racing season flew the north road route with their longest cross channel race being from Thurso in Scotland. For the 2001 season they flew the south road for the first time, but due to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth the King’s Cup wasn’t raced for that year. In 2002 Liam raced his first King’s Cup with the INFC, clocking a 3 year old cheq hen, which was the first of 3 he clocked in in the 2003 King’s Cup from Messac. He clocked the cheq hen about 13.00 on the second day to finish 13th Open King’s Cup and at 16.30 on the second day he clocked a 5 year old mealy cock who finished 16th Open King’s Cup. This pair won Liam the coveted Harkness Rose Bowl for the best two bird average King’s Cup. The hen also received a merit award for her second time in the Open result. On the third day in 2003 Liam clocked his fantastic cock Red-Laddie to finish 20th Open King’s Cup. Liam recalled that only 21 birds were clocked in race time that year. In 2004 Red-Laddie was clocked to recrord 13th Open King’s Cup and in 2005 was 25th Open King’s Cup, receiving a Hall of Fame Award for his achievements. He also was 2nd in the Single Bird Challenge that year.
Liam normally pairs up the stock birds in the 3rd week of February and the racers a few weeks later. The racers (about 40) are all flown on the natural system with their first round youngsters being taken away around the time of his first race, which is usually the 3rd week of April. Older racers would be a few weeks after this, again normally starting about the 3rd race in the programme. By the 3rd week he would generally have the whole team on the road. He would love to have the birds on an open trap all day but due to hawks this just isn’t possible. Birds are flown out morning and evening with regular training hops, but only to about 20 miles no more. Gertie is a great help with the birds and will regularly bring them down the road, particularly when the young birds come around.
Feeding is Versele-Laga breeding mix with some poultry pellets and Hormoform added. Liam never rations the food and will feed according to how the birds are performing. About 50 young birds will be reared and he feeds them on a Gerry Plus mix, but again wouldn’t ration it. All young birds are expected to fly the land programme, about 5 or 6 races, and are then left to moult out.
Liam’s latest big winner is a 4 year old blue cheq pied cock, a gift bird from Ronan McVeigh & Son of Newcastle Co. Down. He is a Jan Arden and Sudgeon cross. Ronan and Liam have become great friends and have been swapping young birds for the last fifteen years or so. In 2012 this cock was 1st Club 1st South Leinster Fed from Talbenny and has scored a few times up the land over the years. Liam would like to thank Ronan for breeding him such a great pigeon.
Liam's latest big winner
The pied cock in close up
Liam only sends 2 year olds and older birds to the French races as he tried it with a yearling before to no avail. Although he did comment on the super results some lads were getting from yearlings out of the French races in recent years.
Liam would like to thank Gertie for all her help with the birds and also thank all the people who wished him well on his latest success. This August a benefit auction is being held in Wicklow in aid of Liam’s Granddaughter Chloe McCall and the response from people with donations has been nothing but astounding, a testament to the high regard lads have for Liam.
I really enjoyed chatting to Liam and hope others enjoy reading this about one of the great distance racers in Ireland, one of the very select few that clocked out of St. Malo on the day this year.
Elimar - August 2014