REV. T. A. B. SAWYERS & SON
INFC HALL OF FAME & TRIPLE MERIT AWARD WINNERS 2011 - Part 1
by Wesley Sawyers
My father, the late Rev. T. A. B. Sawyers was a Church of Ireland vicar who apart from looking after his pastoral flock had a passion for farming, racehorses and pigeons. Our partnership commenced in 1967 when I was 10 years old. Fantails, Tipplers and Rollers were soon replaced with some gift birds from the late George McCloy, the chemist from Kilrea, and life-long friend Alfie Greenwood from Cullybackey who gifted us on a regular basis the very best of his Billy Locke distance birds.
Wesley Sawyers (rt) receiving 3 Merit Awards for Rev T. A. B. Sawyers & Son, from Nigel Langstaff.
Moonlight Mannequin, the 1968 Kings Cup winner from Nantes for Billy Erwin of Ballymena, was the spark that ignited in an 11 year old boy’s imagination what it would be like to clock the only bird on the day in the INFC Kings Cup. Having seen the pied hen, that vision still remains with me to this day.
Results were nothing startling in those early days when my father moved parishes to Cookstown in Mid UIster. The rectory was an old Georgian building that had a large barn at the rear, ideal for conversion to a loft. The birds were soon settled to their new abode and what an environment it turned out to be. The lofts were only closed on a Thursday night so that the birds could be caught on a Friday for the race. Open hole was the order of the day, nest building was from what could be found in the fields and the birds bathed in the river. Survival of the fittest.
In 1971 the loft won 2nd Open, 1st North West Section Swansea Young Bird Derby smash, velocity 839ypm, beaten for 1st Open by .2 of a yard. Having waited all day for nothing, we were seated in the kitchen for tea with the blind pulled back when suddenly a blue w/f cock hit the landing board. The traps were closed; no ETS in 1971 and still no ETS in 2012! Having run 30 yards to the barn, up the steps into the loft, opened the trap and clocked to be 2nd Open is a very memorable experience for a 16 year old.
Schoolboy representative honours in hockey, Captain Irish Schools and full International volleyball honours also occupied the teenage years, however long distance pigeon racing was never far away from the mind and I vividly remember a mealy cock landing from Les Sables, 604 miles. The vision of the mealy will be etched in my memory for ever.
In 1986 a career move was made to Banbridge, Co Down when as a chartered surveyor I acquired an estate agency & auctioneering practice. There were 5 INFC Kings Cup winners in Banbridge then and there are still 5 today!
We introduced the Geoff Hunt of Westmarsh pigeons and these became a major contributor to the loft. They were the old Truman-Dicken birds, 600-700 milers, Bartholomew and Amigo lines which were crossed into our R&M Venner of Street introductions, which were basically the same Truman-Dicken lines. The Geoff Hunt/Venner birds were to produce 13th Open INFC Rennes 1992 and 13th open INFC Rennes 1995. The 1992 hen is a grandmother of my 2011 Hall of Fame hen Mourneview Helen, who has flown France 4 times taking 3 open positions: 107th Open INFC Messac, 134th Open INFC Vannes & 58th Open INFC Vannes. A son and a grand daughter of the Hall of Fame hen flew the Kings Cup in 2011.
Forty-eight open positions have been won by the loft in the intervening years, all from France, however 2010 was a particularly special year as 9 birds were clocked, 7 making the Open results taking 15th Open, 65th Open, 71st Open, 133rd Open, 137th Open, 173rd Open & 222nd Open, with 14 birds home in race time. The 15th Open winner Mourneview Gold Dust, a mealy hen, is a grand daughter of the original Geoff Hunt red cock of 1990.
In 2011 the loft won 58th Open, 119th and 244th Open with 11 birds home out of 14 sent. The cock that was 119th Open, Mourneview Lucky, returned with one tail feather and the mealy hen that was 15th Open in 2010 returned on the 3rd morning in 2011 with no secondary feathers in one wing. A Hall of Fame and three French Certificate of Merit Awards were won by the loft in 2011.
A son of N. Black & Sons’ Kings Cup winner has bred 9 French birds and a class Van Reet cock from Geoff Greenaway and the Champion Dolly lines of Paddy Burns have complimented the present family of birds, where the only criteria is that they must fly France to survive.
Good team performance have been obtained these past few years from the Sennen Cove Yearling National and the Kings Cup, including 87th, 203rd and 267th Open INFC Sennen Cove 2011. The 87th Open Yearling National hen is a daughter of our Mall Cook Jan Aarden cock paired to a daughter of Dolly - 4 times France when she was paired to an 11th Open Rennes blue cock.
Other lofts do well out of France with this family, including Donnelly Bros of Newry.
Feeding and supplements are obtained from Tom Marshall and Richard Donnelly. With the improved feeding and supplements that we now have, it is considered that French pigeons could fly, weather permitting, another 100 miles on the day into Ireland. Only then might we produce another Moonlight Mannequin.
Billy Erwin's Moonlight Mannequin - a source of inspiration for Wesley Sawyers... and many others. She was 1st Open INFC Kings Cup Nantes 570 miles, over 17 hours on the wing in 1968.
Our thanks to Wesley for penning the above and to Sid Collins and Brendan McLoughlin for forwarding the photos. Part two will follow, in which Wesley will go into greater detail about his methods. As an aside, I wrote to Billy Erwin back in 1983 with a 120 question questionnaire. One of the questions was: Which is the best bird you have ever owned? He wrote simply: 'Moonlight Mannequin - perfect in every way'. Cameron Stansfield, Elimar.