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Quimper Friendship National - July 2012



Brendan McLoughlin



The Irish National Flying Club Friendship National for 2012 was flown from Quimper in France. Scheduled for Friday 13th July, the race was brought forward to Tuesday 10th July due the bad weather forecast for the weekend. With the King’s Cup flown the day before, it was feared that the entry for the Friendship race might drop but it held firm with 227 members sending 818 pigeons to compete for £4828 in pools and prizemeoney. The Friendship National was once again sponsored by Versele Laga.

In recognition of the Olympic games this race was designated the Olympic Friendship National and Gold, Silver and Bronze medals were commissioned for the first three birds to mark the occasion. These are one off pieces and were highly sought after.

The birds were liberated at 7.30am in a light north-westerly wind, which was a good steadying influence on the birds. However by the time the pigeons reached Ireland heavy showers had developed and these were torrential in places. It was hardly surprising then that only seven birds were timed on the day but with the rain passing overnight there was a good return of birds on the second day.


1st Open A McAteer & Sons Ballyholland, vel 995, flying 436 miles, winning £537, The Friendship Cup and the Gold Medal


The winners of the Friendship National in 2012 are A McAteer & Sons, Ballyholland on the outskirts of Newry City. This loft had been in hot form approaching this race having been 2nd Open from St Malo with the NIPA ten days previously. Such has their record been from St Malo in recent years they may well have had doubts about the Friendship race moving from St Malo to Quimper this year but they had no cause for concern as their bird battled through torrential rain to time at 8.21pm, to lift the Olympic Gold.

As mentioned above the McAteer lofts have excelled from St Malo in recent years, having won section G in the NIPA three times in the last four years. In 2011 they were an incredible 1st, 2nd and 3rd section G, timing three birds in less than 5 minutes for the 431-mile fly.

The winning pigeon, now known as ‘Drumcove Olympic Gold’, is from the best lines available from Mick Conlon of Banbridge and Alan Darragh, Cullybackey. The Conlon birds are down from ‘Grove Hill Gold’, Mick’s Hall of Fame and Gold medal winner, while the Darragh pigeons go back to ‘Achievement’. Aiden tells me that the mother of the loft is a daughter of ‘Northbound’ and ‘Achievement’.

The sire of this year's Friendship National winner was 27th section, 97th Open Penzance Classic, followed by 23rd section, 63rd Open Penzance Classic and then 1st section G 10th Open Lamballe in 2009. The dam was 12th Open Old Hens National in 2006 and 142nd Open Friendship National in 2007.

Aiden McAteer

The Open winner is a two-year-old Blue hen that was sent sitting on a single small young bird. She had every other race on the inland programme, 1st Talbenny and Bude.  After that, she was trained three or four times from Arklow and Bray thanks to good friend Blaine.

The pigeons are all raced roundabout in the early part of the season and the cocks are sent one week and the hens the next, so that they have a mate to come home to. They are paired then with the French races in mind.

The McAteers clocked two more birds in the Friendship race to take 69th and 99th Open and have had two birds home from the King’s Cup outside race time. Feeding is from Frazers with Aiden being one of their first customers.

1st Open


2nd & 10th Open P & C Swindell Newry City, vels 989 & 843, flying 443 miles, winning £181, The British Barcelona Cup, the Silver Medal and the Henry Beattie & SonTrophy for best two-bird average


2nd and 10th Open are two birds to the loft of P & C Swindell. These two birds also win the Beattie Family Trophy for the best two bird average. Paul races with Newry City and lives about 3 miles north of Newry, not that far from the winner Aiden McAteer. The partnership consists of Paul and eight-year-old daughter Courtney. Paul has really dedicated himself to distance racing. It was in 2000 that he was 19th Open Redon and he has concentrated on flying the distance since then. The main breeds kept are Dave Goddard, Jim Donaldson, N. Black & Son and Tom Marshall plus some excellent Dutch birds. Both Paul's birds are yearlings and both were sent sitting 17 day eggs, the first a medium sized black pied hen called ’Queen of the Rain’ as she arrived in heavy rain. Her sire, from Dave Goddard is a son of "Arthritis" when paired to "Sophie". The dam is a direct Dutch hen being a daughter of the Barcelona Duiven 133rd, 144th, 219th and 98th National Barcelona. The bird in 10th Open called ‘Lady Courtney’ is a small blue hen bred from two Jim Donaldson pigeons. Her sire, a grizzle cock is from a son of the pigeon that was 1st Section 4th Open Tours when paired to ‘Reims Girl’ which won 3 sections and was runner up in two others with the S.N.F.C. while the dam is ‘Reims Girl’. The dam is also down from ‘Reims Girl’ making her very inbred. Both birds were well trained as yearlings and had the tricky Tullamore. This year they had two weeks training of two 30 mile, and two 90 mile tosses and then into Talbenny. They then had the open loft until three weeks before France when they had two 50 mile, two 90 miles, two 20 miles and six 20 mile tosses from the north. The feeding is all Framers best all Round Supreme up to 4 weeks before France and then Breed and Wean Supreme and Energy mix plus a hopper of beans. They have flax oil and wheat germ oil on the corn plus pink minerals. In the water they have Red Cell and B12.

Paul Swindell


3rd Open A Kelly Skerries, vel 927, flying 388 miles, winning £60, the John Miller Transport Cup and the Bronze Medal


Our Bronze Medal winner is Art Kelly from the Skerries club, who also picks up the John Miller Transport Cup for the first bird in the section not winning the Open. Art is a former National winner having been 1st Open from the Yearling National in 1997.  John timed his two-year-old chequer hen at 7.46pm in torrential rain. Art has called this hen ‘Paulette’ after his wife and her sister who wait for the pigeons with him. Art says they keep asking, “Where are they? The race is over, what’s keeping them?”

The sire of the hen is Hansenne from Terry Tregoining from Wales while the dam is off a son of John Catherwood’s ‘Rainbow Warrior’ when paired to a Maurice Mattheuws hen. The Mattheuws pigeons are the base of Art’s loft and all birds introduced must cross well with them or they won’t be retained. All Art’s National winning pigeons are either children or grandchildren of the Mattheuws pigeons.

Sent sitting on 12 day eggs to the Friendship National, she had all the inland races plus Bude. She had been a consistent racer and picked up a few club positions. The birds are only trained before racing begins when they are given a 30-mile toss followed by another from 60 miles and then its straight into the racing. Two weeks before the French races the birds are given five single tosses from Arklow, which is about 55-60 miles.

She was raced natural as a young bird and had 5 races and all yearlings are expected to do two channel races. The birds are fed beans and peas from local farmers and occasionally some are sourced from Sandyhill Stud. Art timed a second bird at 6.03am on the second morning to take 38th Open.



4th Open R Williamson Bondhill, vel 923, flying 457 miles, winning £559


The name of Ron Williamson is probably one of the best known throughout the pigeon racing world. His results are legendary and the Friendship National is one from which he has a tremendous record, having been the outright winner two years running in 2004 and 2005 and then in 2006 he was 2nd, a position which he has now won on 3 occasions. This year he is again up there with the leaders at 4th and this is actually the third time that he has come 4th in this event. Add this to all the other outstanding results over the years from virtually all race points and you realise why the Williamson name is so well known.

From this year’s Friendship National in addition to coming 4th Ron timed four other birds in the result at 16th, 35th, 67th and 71st. The bird at 4th Open is a three-year-old blue Busschaert hen, crossed in with bloodlines of Bobby Law and Tommy Harper, with both the sire and dam bred off double National winners, so she was bred for French racing. Having reared a pair of young birds this year she went to Quimper sitting 14-days having already flown Talbenny and Bude this season, and through to Bude on her previous two seasons. In addition to her race programme she had two training tosses each week.

Ron Williamson (right)


5th Open T Speers Malahide & Dist, vel 902, flying 386 miles, winning £162


Former King’s cup winner Tommy Speers is 5th Open in the Friendship National this year. Tommy picked up his King’s Cup win in 1979 from Rennes and almost had another win when he was 2nd Open King’s Cup in 2006 from Vannes, just behind R & S Malcolmson, Newtownbreda. Tommy timed another bird in this year’s Friendship National to take 81st Open.

Tommy timed a two-year-old chequer hen here whose preparation was slightly different in that she was sent sitting on 12-day eggs and paired to two cocks. Now on return from the race she didn’t go back on the eggs. Tommy told me that he had timed 5 birds in the St Malo Derby this year and they had all been sitting around the 12-day mark too and they all went back to their eggs.

She was raced well as a young bird and Tommy expects all his yearlings to fly a Talbenny and either Bude or Penzance/Sennen Cove. This year the hen had 3 inland races then trained 20-40 miles as often as the weather permitted.

The sire is from Brian Denney, Yorkshire while the dam was on loan from George Horner, Ballyclare. Tommy feeds beans and a mixture, which are sourced locally.

Tommy Speers


6th Open & 7th Open G O’Reilly & Son Malahide & Dist, vels 886 & 880, flying 389 miles, winning £266


This year’s King’s Cup winners Gerry O’Reilly & sons Derek and Niall hadn’t time to come down to earth following the King’s Cup win when they put up another magnificent performance here with two birds timed within six minutes to take 6th and 7th Open in the Friendship National - remember there were only seven birds timed on the day in this race. Having won the Harkness Rosebowl from the King’s Cup they very nearly made it a double but were just beaten by P & C Swindell for the Henry Beattie Trophy. 

Their first pigeon here timed at 8.23pm was a two-year-old red hen. The rain clouds were thickening when this one arrived and the background was so dark with the heavy showers that they were able to pick up her white flights some distance from the loft. She is a sister of their third bird in the St Malo Derby this year and was sent sitting 10 days. 

The breeding of this one is VanOuwerk-Dekkers, who races in Belgium and is a winner of the Perpignan National. She was sent to the Friendship race sitting on chipping eggs. Like the King’s Cup birds she had two races this year, from Pilmore Beach and Mallow and then trained from a northerly direction, from just outside Dundalk. The O’Reillys gave their young birds no more than one or two races and sometimes they don’t get any at all if the weather isn’t suitable. Last year this hen had three inland races then Talbenny and Penzance.

The second bird to the O’Reilly loft was another two-year-old hen, this time a blue. This one came from a different direction than the first, in what would seem to have been in an effort to avoid the showers. Derek was completing the paperwork on the first bird when this one arrived six minutes after the first one at 8.29pm. They went on to clock two more on the second day, the first at 9am for 58th Open and the next at 3.25pm for 93rd Open and a Merit Award, this one having been 36th Open last year.

The breeding of the bird at 7th Open is Tuplin Barker. She too had Pilmore Beach and Mallow this year prior to the Friendship National and as a yearling she flew Bude and Penzance from where she was 6th club.

Derek, Gerry and Niall O'Reilly


8th Open T McClean Annaghmore, vel 848, flying 456 miles, winning £161


In 9th Open is a loft having a tremendous run in the National races, that of Tommy McClean of Annaghmore. Tommy was 18th, 87th and 151st North section Skibbereen Old Birds, 37th North section, 67th Open Yearling National, 13th North section, 18th in the Kings Cup and now 9th Open Quimper. Remember also that Tommy was 7th and 32nd Open in the King’s Cup last year.

Tommy's bird is a yearling blue cheq cock. Having been raced natural all year he was sent sitting a two-day young bird. Raced on darkness as a young bird he had four races before being injured around the loft and stopped for the year. This year he had three inland races plus first Talbenny, then two 40 mile tosses per week and flown an hour night and morning. The feeding is all Frazers Champion Supreme with added young bird and Frazer Form plus a few peanuts. They have multivitamins in the water occasionally. He is bred from two direct Brian Tuplin Barkers, so similar breeding to the bird at 7th Open above.

Tommy McClean holding 9th Open Quimper


9th Open J Braniff Fortfield, vel 848, flying 462 miles, winning £458


In 9th place is Jim Braniff of the Fortfield club, which flies with the Ulster Federation. Jim had 2 entered in the race and timed his nominated bird, a four-year-old blue that had been a gift as a young bird from the late Jim Lennon who sadly passed away very recently, so the breeding is Jim Lennon. This hen was raced as a young bird and then unraced as a yearling and a two-year-old.

This season she was raced regularly and flew Talbenny, Bude, Penzance and St Malo Derby with the Ulster Federation where she finished 23rd Open, and then some two weeks later recorded this result from Quimper. Jim tells me that this hen was flying to the perch from Quimper after being separated as she had raced as a widowhood hen for the early part of the season. Jim having surplus hens raced some of them to the perch, which just goes to prove that “Many roads lead to Rome”. Regarding training, Jim says he doesn’t do a great deal and this hen would have had 4 or 5 tosses from Dromore but being a prizewinner in two French races in the one year says a lot for this blue hen.

Jim Braniff


Thanks to all those who helped in the completion of this report, especially Clifford Browne and Davy Black and to all who helped with photographs. Thanks also to Versele Laga for sponsoring the race, and to all those who helped at the marking station and clock centres.


Brendan McLoughlin

INFC Press Officer