Established 1979 Company Number: 11693988 VAT Registration Number: 284 0522 13 +44 (0)1606 836036 +44 (0)7871 701585

Rev. T. A. B. Sawyers & Son





by Wesley Sawyers

I got my love of sport, competing, winning and losing, from my father the Rev Tom Sawyers who was a Church of Ireland Vicar. Apart from his flock, he was interested in farming and most sports, including horse racing and pigeons. He was a director of Coleraine Football Club, who play in the Irish League. I am told that on a Saturday he always had a prayer with the players in the changing rooms before they went on to the pitch and if any of them were sent off he had a different prayer for them when they came back to the changing rooms! He always kept a few broodmares and had a horse in training in England with Frank Carr at York.

The Truman-Dicken birds, the base of our family, were first introduced when the late Jim Biss, Hillside lofts sent over Amigo, the grizzle cock who was half-brother to Bartholomew. Amigo was 2nd Barcelona. Subsequent introductions included a cock called the International, again from Jim Biss, being a son of Black Velvet - 1st Perpignan 600 miles when paid to L’Oscura - 1st Barcelona & 2nd Marseilles. Amigo and the International were gifts from Jim Biss, for whom I conducted two public auctions in the 1980s and 1990s. Always looking for top distance birds, a g.g.son of Knightsdale Lady - 6 times Palamos 657 miles was purchased, also a son and daughter of Hermana and Hermano of Fear Bros plus a son of ‘The Conqueror’, the 1000 mile record holder into Scotland.

13th Open Rennes, 15½ hours on the wing as a yearling. Grandmother of Mournview Helen, my Hall of Fame and Merit winner 2011.

In 1990, two grandsons and a grand daughter of Bartholomew were purchased along with other top birds from Geoff Hunt of Westmarsh. Bartholomew was 24th Palamos and sire of 1st Barcelona, 2nd Palamos and 2nd Lourdes. His sire was Barcey Boy - 5th & 10th Barcelona and 16th Palamos when paired to Mrs BB. His half brother was Amigo. A weekend was spent in the company of the late great Geoff Hunt and his wife Annie in Westmarsh, where I handled literally dozens and dozens of distance birds. I also conducted an auction for Geoff at Paulton Rovers, Bristol in the mid-1990s.

The search for distance blood continued with introductions from R & M Venner of Street together with more recent introductions from top-class national fanciers. Genes are the priority when bringing in a bird. If the family tree is right, good birds will keep emerging. If you keep progeny testing all the time, you will find the breeders as well as the racers.

Every year try a cross, you cannot stay still. Pair winners to winners or performance birds to performance birds. Inbreed and cross for hybrid vigour and cross back into your family to find something very good. Never put two crosses together or you will lose quality and vitality. Always have a gene bank bird to keep the family. Breed for speed and stamina. In today’s distance racing you need speed, a sprinter that can race 5/600 miles.

I only look at the eye for health, nothing else. I have no fads other than good feather quality at all times.

I prefer the greater challenges of channel and national racing. Racing overseas into Northern Ireland is very hard. The birds need to be extra special to be able to cope. The Irish Sea is very intimidating for a tired pigeon on its own having flown all day.

My birds are paired mid-February after all treatments have been carried out; birds must be 100% healthy before pairing up. After the first round the race team are separated before the hen lays again in order to hold the wing moult.

I always look forward to the spring and summer as I rise at dawn every morning in order to get 1-1 ½ hours’ fly twice a day, cocks and hens. The birds are flagged. I sit on the garden seat, listen to the thrush that sings to me, do my paperwork for the office and have 6 cups of tea. There's no phone and no secretary. It's just me and nature.

These past few years I have done only limited training before racing as I want to keep the birds fresh. Training is intensified leading up to the nationals with numerous tosses, always into the wind, up singly or in twos. A favourite toss for me is Portrush, where my mother lives. It is approximately 60 miles north of my loft in the opposite direction to the race points. If a pigeon can’t fly Portrush it’s no good to me. I would think it great if the local transporter on a daily basis would decide to toss in the opposite direction to the wind, be it north, south, east or west.

In the two weeks before the Kings Cup I remove every bird that is not going to the race, for more air, and nothing is allowed to disturb the Kings Cup birds.

My favoured nest condition for France is sitting 12 day eggs. Every bird in my loft is bred for the job, though they may not be good enough so they have to be sent subject to fitness, health and form. You will soon find out your breeders as well as your racers.

48 open positions have been won in recent years from France. In 2010 nine birds were clocked with seven making the open results. 15th open, 65th open, 71st open, 133rd open, 137th open, 173rd open & 242nd open INFC Vannes were achieved with 14 home. In 2011 the loft won 58th open, 119th open & 244th open INFC Vannes with 11 home out of 14 sent.

The Dolly lines of Paddy Burns have been introduced recently. Dolly is a class pied hen, winner of 28th open EDC Lamballe, 21st open INFC Messae, 33rd open INFC Messac and 40th open INFC Messac. Four times France and a Hall of Fame winner, 4 times on the NIGHT. In the stock loft I have 3 sons and 2 daughters of Dolly plus 3 ½ sisters. It is very important to note that the sire of Dolly is the son of a Geoff Hunt cock bought in Blackpool. So the Dolly lines carry my old Geoff Hunt blood and hence are crossed back into my own family which has the Geoff Hunt Bartholomew/Amigo base. My 2011 Merit award winner Mournview Kathyrn - 58th INFC Vannes 2010 open & 242nd INFC Vannes 2011 is from a half-sister to Dolly paired to a g.son of a Gold Medal winner. Paddy Burns very kindly loaned me Dolly’s dam who was paired to my gene bank cock, the sire of my Hall of Fame Hen - 58th, 107th & 134th open INFC Vannes & Merit Award winner. Something very special has been reared from this pair.

Another introduction that has crossed very well is the Mall Cook cock. He is sire to many good pigeons, especially on hard days, including 44th open INFC Penzance Yearling National, 104th open and 63rd open INFC Sennen Cove young bird national, 73rd open Lamballe, 109th open Portland, 36th open INFC Vannes, 205th open INFC Vannes and 153rd open Talbenny YB National, 87th open INFC Sennen Cove Yearling National. His sire was 44th open Welsh National New Pitsligo 424 miles and his dam was ½ sister to champion Supreme Endurance - 1st open Welsh North Road, 1st Welsh National, 1st Lerwick 604 miles. The Mall Cook cock’s bloodlines are De Smaragd II, Invincible Spirit and dtr of Vlekje.

A son of N. Black & Sons’ Kings Cup winner when paired to 2nd Open INFC Kings Cup has bred 9 birds to fly France and a class Van Reet from Jeff Greenaway, a son of the original pair, has bred Mourneview Lucky, four times France and Merit Award winner.

All the aforementioned bloodlines go into the gene pool to produce the next generation of French birds.

Around 80 young birds are reared, trained and sent to 3-4 races and then stopped. Once they are stopped I have my own fun on a Saturday because I let the young birds out for their normal fly into the NIPA batches that are going overhead. These are liberations of between 20-30,0000 birds. My young birds take all evening and sometimes Sunday to come home. It's great education for them, being taken up country and then having to come back on their own. My First toss for young birds is 20 miles approx. Never insult the intelligence of your young birds by taking them 2-3 miles first toss.

Young birds have to build-up their own natural immunity. Only perches cleaned in the young bird loft. No winter treatments of any kind. Colostrum is given to my young birds (a cow’s first milk after she calves) for 5 days, half colostrum and half water.

Alf Baker wrote in his book that if you have a sick young bird cull it first and then look at the ring. Don’t look at the ring first. I agree. Yearlings are raced through the NIPA programme, get 2-3 channel races and the Sennen Cove Yearling National. If they can’t fly the channel 2/3 times as yearlings, I've found they won’t fly France. I noted that 12 yearlings were recorded in the first 50 in last year’s Kings Cup including 1st & 2nd open so some yearlings will form part of my 2012 Kings Cup entry. The loft has already been 13th open INFC Rennes twice, with two full sisters, one a yearling that has subsequently become grandmother to the 2011 Hall of Fame hen. My final tosses for yearlings prior to the Yearling National are dawn tosses from Ballybriggan in the south and Portrush in the north.

Natural feed and supplements are purchased from Tom Marshall and Richard Donnelly and the birds are fed to appetite. I love barley, which is always a part of my mix. Barley grows great feather. The loft is a wooden structure, a replica of the late Sam Bell’s of Dundonald, who won the Kings Cup with Moatside Monarch. I figured that if the style of loft was good enough for a Kings Cup winner it was good enough for me. I view my loft as a gene pool of distance blood and my sole objective is to breed pigeons that can perform at the highest level.

Below are pedigrees/details of some of the pigeons on which my family is based.