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2014 Quimper Friendship National



Brendan McLoughlin


The Irish National Flying Club Friendship National was flown from Quimper in France on Thursday 10 July. The birds were liberated at 6.15am in calm conditions. While there were some showers forecast for the east coast of Ireland the rest of the route home was to remain dry. However the main difficulty with the race was the fresh north westerly wind which the birds encountered on the way home. At the end of the first day there were no birds recorded and at the close of the race there were still only 11 birds home. I have heard of several more making home since. Despite the difficult season the entry was only slightly down on last year with 263 members sending 994 birds compared to 271 members sending 1,108 birds in 2013. The birds were racing for £4774 in pools and prizemoney with the Friendship National once again sponsored by Versele-Laga.

1st North section, 1st Open Mr & Mrs Suitters Doagh & Dist, Vel 600, Flying 473 miles, winning £1050 and the Friendship Cup

The winners of the Friendship National this year are Davy and Frances Suitters from Doagh & District. The Suitters are well known in distance racing circles in Ireland having been National Champions in 1998 and gaining many Open positions in National racing since. In the King’s Cup event two days before the Friendship they were 21st Open in the King’s Cup when only 40 birds were timed. The loft had shown good form during a difficult channel season when they were 1st and 2nd club from Truro and then 1st section C, 3rd Open NIPA from Penzance. Their National winner was one of two birds entered and is now known as ‘Champion Kelburn Lady’. She is a small to medium two-year-old blue cheq hen. Her last race before the National was the difficult Bude and she had flown Talbenny the previous week. She was sent to Quimper on her first youngster of the year.

The sire is from old bloodlines of Smyth Bros and Robin Herron. He is actually off the hen that was 2nd Open Old Hens National from Penzance with the Irish National Flying Club. The grand dam is ‘02’ who three times France including 47th Open Friendship National. The dam of the bird timed here is also bred of the ‘02’ hen when mated to a blue cock of club mates A & N Lewis. Training in the earlier part of the year is with Roy Fenton and Billy Bissett, but when the channel racing starts Davy and Frances train with Thomas Cairns at the weekends for the birds that aren’t racing on those weekends.

When talking to Davy we discussed young bird racing and Davy said they don’t push their young birds too hard as they are all natural and they usually only give them a few races for educational and development purposes only.

Davie & Frances Suitters

2nd North section, 2nd Open C & L Woodside Ballyclare, Vel 597, Flying 473 miles, winning £1347 and the British Barcelona Club Trophy

2nd Open this year are C & L Woodside Ballyclare only 3 yards behind the winner. This is another loft with a tremendous National record. Like the winners they are former National Champions having taken that accolade in 2003. They are also previous winners of the Penzance Young Bird National (2007) and last year they were 14th, 197th and 200th Open King’s Cup with the third bird winning a Hall Of Fame and followed this up with 9th Open in the Friendship National a week later. The pigeon timed here at 2nd Open is the very same pigeon that was 9th Open same race last year. The bird timed is a two-year-old blue w/f cock sent to the race sitting 15 days on eggs but given a youngster not long before basketing. His sire is from Wilf Reed, Monmouth and the dam is Leslie's 2007 Penzance YB National winner a Romain Legiest Janssen. The grand dam is from Billy Matthews, Ballybrack, Dublin, while the grand sire is off a cock that was 5th Open Yearling National for good friend Arnold Thompson.

The cock had only three races this year in preparation for the Friendship national, from Clonmel, Fermoy and Mallow. He was trained mid week with Roy Fenton and at weekends from Balbriggan with Ron Williamson. Feeding this year was Frazers Elite. 

Leslie Woodside

3rd North Section 3rd Open B McAvoy Banbridge, Vel 520, Flying 444 miles, winning £449

In 3rd Open we have a young fancier from Banbridge whose record this year speaks for itself. Last week I referred to Blaine McEvoy the King’s Cup winner as one of the rising stars in Irish pigeon racing circles. I reckon that Barry McAvoy is another rising star in the sport. This year alone he has been 1st Open NIPA Talbenny, 4th North Section in the Yearling National and now 3rd Open in the Friendship National. This is a record that anybody would be proud to have.

The pigeon timed is a blue cheq yearling cock that won as a young bird. This year it had all the inland races plus a difficult Penzance. He was sent to this race sitting 14/15 days on eggs.  He was flown on the widowhood up until the Yearling National and then paired in preparation for this race. Breeding is Delbar from good friend and club mate Patsy Burns while the dam is Van Loon from another friend and club mate, Mark Ewbanks. The birds are fed Beattie’s Champion Supreme throughout the racing and given minerals sand grits from Frazers. Barry’s birds only had two training tosses this year both prior to the first race and then they were flown around the house morning and evening. Barry asked me to thank Patsy Burns for all his help and advice over the years.

Barry McAvoy with his son James

4th North section, 4th Open Friendship National P & C Swindell Newry City, Vel 484, flying 443 miles, winning £60

Paul and Courtney (aged 10) Swindell started flying from France in 2010 with Newry City Pigeon Club and for the third year running have had a fantastic race result in the Friendship National from Quimper. In 2012 they were 2nd, 10th and 74th Open while last year they were 4th, 37th and 42nd Open.  They also had a superb race last year’s King’s Cup taking 26th, 75th, 83rd, 104th and 120th Open. This year in three very difficult races from France they were 24th, 45th and 65th Open NIPA St Malo, 36th Open King’s Cup (only 40 birds in race time) and now 4th Open in the Friendship National. Their 4th Open bird here, now called ‘Tough Lady’ is a homebred latebred blue hen, carrying five nest flights. Paul also got another latebred hen on the fourth morning just outside the prizes, this one carrying six nest flights.

‘Tough Lady’s sire is their French cock while the dam is a full sister to Tom Marshall’s 4th Open King’s Cup hen. Her nest mate has also bred pigeons to do well from France. These two hens were obtained from Wesley Sawyers, Banbridge. Paul’s advice to anybody trying to fly their pigeons from France is ‘Don’t kill them with training, training, training up the road too often”. He said that he never trains in east/north winds. Paul wants to congratulate all the winners and their brave pigeons in a very difficult years racing, and he says he appreciates how hard the race controllers job is, saying “I would not want your job, good luck men”.

1st South section, 5th Open J Doheny Malahide & Dist, Vel 460, Flying 382 miles, winning £830 and the John Millar Transport Trophy for first member of the section not winning the Open

We go to another former National Champion Joe Doheny of Malahide & District for 5th Open and the first bird in the South section to win the John Millar Transport Trophy. Joe always had an interest in pigeons and looked after his uncle’s pigeons while he was still at school. He started to race pigeons in 1948. In the 1960’s he bought pigeons from Billy Walkingshaw and Geordie Barr striking up great friendships with both. Further pigeons were added from Bob Dunlop and Russell & Moffetts’s King’s Cup winners as well as John Kilpatrick’s ‘Galabank Prince’. These birds still form the basis of Joe’s stock and what a record they have, including National Champion in 1981 and 1987. He has won the King’s Cup twice, the Friendship National, the Miller Gold Cup twice and 8 French Derbies including 3 in a row in 1976, 1977 and 1978 (when there were only 5 timed and Joe was 1st and 2nd).

The pigeon timed here is a two-year-old blue cock that is down from ‘Tiny’ one of his King’s Cup winners. The breeding is fairly inbred from the family that Joe has cultivated since the 1960s from the pigeons mentioned above. This year this bird, with the other Friendship National birds was raced to a little loft at the side of the house which had 15 boxes but Joe only had 10 birds in it so that they were happy in their surroundings. He had three inland races and Penzance when he was 9 1/2 hours on the wing. Last year he was in Talbenny and the Yearling National. Joe doesn’t have any set training plan but the birds are trained to Wicklow if he is going there to visit his daughter.

5th North section, 6th Open S Milligan & Dtr Tyrella, Vel 432; Flying 438 miles, winning £324

We go to the Tyrella club just outside Downpatrick for our 6th Open bird to the lofts of Sean and Jennifer Milligan. Sean and Jennifer have taken a keener interest in National racing in recent years as their loft location isn’t best suited to inland racing. Last year in the King’s Cup Sean and Jennifer were 12th North section, 13th Open King’s Cup winning the East Down Combine for the 1st East Down Combine member. They had good results both last year and this year in the Yearling National. In 2013 they were 9th, 48th, 160th, 161st, 178th North section, 16th, 65th, 213rd, 214th and 233rd Open and this year they were 101st and 105th North section, 226th and 231st Open.

The pigeon timed at 6th Open here was clocked at 6.30pm on the second day and is a cheq pied yearling hen. This bird was in both the Yearling National and Penzance this year and came home fresh from both. She has always been a consistent racer but hadn’t any major positions until now. Her sire is direct Van Der Rhee while the dam is a cross between the ‘Scarecrow’ cock from Donnelly Bros Newry and a direct Geoff and Catherine Cooper hen. A darkened young bird last year she was sent to this race with the cock just running about with her. Feeding in preparation for the French races was Beattie’s Champion Supreme with peanuts added on the channel.

Sean and Jennifer Milligan

2nd and 3rd South section, 7th and 9th Open J Cullen Bray Invit, Vels 400 and 331, Flying 365 miles, winning £89 x 2, and the Henry Beattie & Son Trophy for best two bird average.

In 7th and 9th Open is the prolific loft of Jimmy Cullen, Bray Invitation and this was a dream week for him having timed four birds in the King’s Cup to take 3rd, 6th, 22nd and 25th Open when only 40 birds made the result. He follows that with two birds in the result at 7th and 9th Open with only 11 birds timed altogether and that out of an entry of only four pigeons in the Friendship National. A former King’s Cup winner having topped the result in 1992 from Rennes, Jimmy is always there when the going gets tough. In a difficult King’s Cup race in 2012 Jimmy had 5 birds in the prizes. Jimmy is one of very few who clocked in all three French races this year having been 14th/15th Irish South Road Fed from St Malo.

The pigeon at 7th Open is a two-year-old blue cock. As a young bird he was trained only and had no racing. As a yearling he was trained and raced in the inland races before being sent to the Yearling National from which he was Jimmy’s second bird. This year he had Mallow, Pilmore Beach and Barleycove. The sire of this bird is ‘Henry the Navigator’, which was Jimmy’s fourth bird in this year’s King’s Cup taking 25th Open.

Jimmy’s second bird taking 9th Open Friendship National is a four-year-old dark cheq cock timing at 8.45pm on the second day. This game bird required some stitches on his arrival home as he had been hawked. This bird contains the Stan Biss bloodlines on both sides. As a yearling he was flown to Penzance, as a two-year-old he was in Penzance twice and as a three-year-old he was timed from Portland when he was Jimmy’s second bird. Training consists of 60 mile tosses both north and south. For feeding Jimmy mixes his own corn and uses a lot of pellets.    

Blue cock - 7th open for Jimmy Cullen

Dark cheq cock - 9th open for Jimmy Cullen


6th North section, 8th Open J Greenaway Bondhill, Vel 337, Flying 456 miles, winning £114

In 8th Open is another loft with a tremendous record at National record level, that of John Greenaway of Bondhill. John has had another terrific season and was 3rd Open NIPA St Malo in another difficult race. The Friendship national pigeon as timed at 10.20am on the 3rd Day. This is another bird that was unraced as a young bird although it was well trained. This year it received some racing with Bude being it’s last race before the National. John gives the birds six tosses before racing and then they are flown around home. The only time they see a basket after the first race is when they are going to a race. Due to long working hours John can’t fly both cocks and hens morning and evening so the cocks are let out in the morning for an hour although they are not forced to fly. They are called in before John goes to work and are then flown for an hour in the evening. The hens are flown during the day.

The breeding is Capper Bros x John’s own breeding which contains ‘Iron Lady’, his Hall of Fame winner in 2002. A great grandson of ‘Iron Lady’ won a Gold Medal in 2013. ‘Millennium Lady’ is the same lines won St Malo with the NIPA in 2000. The grand dam of the Capper Bros pigeon won the Penzance Classic for John. Feeding is Beattie’s Champion Supreme and a new Jet mixture while peanuts are added on the channel.

John Greenaway

7th North section, 10th Open W Corrigan Loughall, Vel 328, Flying 456miles, winning £217

Willie Corrigan is another having a terrific season taking 5th Open in the King’s Cup and now 10th Open here. Willie of course was 5th Open in this race last year so he has a proven track record in difficult races. He also won three Merit Awards last year to add to his growing reputation for French racing.

The pigeon timed here is exactly the same way bred as the pigeon that was 5th Open in the King’s Cup. This one is a three-year-old blue hen timed at 11.30am on the third day. Breeding is all good old distance lines of Kilpatrick, Hagans, and Davy Strains which Willie has cultivated into his own strain over the years. Like the cock timed in the King’s Cup this hen had a few races in Ireland then Bude. The birds receive no training at all but are flown at home.  All birds are paired at the beginning of February and are raced Natural. There is no specific feeding given. The birds are given as much as they want of whatever Willie has at the time. Willie rears about 100 young birds and races around 80 Old Birds each year.  

Willie Corrigan


The only other pigeon in race time was to Wall Bros of Cork Federation taking 11th Open for an excellent result.

I would like to thank all who helped with photographs for this report. Thanks also to all who helped at the marking centre and the clock stations, and thanks again to Versele Laga for their continued sponsorship of this race.

Brendan McLoughlin

INFC Press Officer