NATIONAL FLYING CLUB
by Drew Callan, Press Officer
NFC Presentation Night - December 2013
The Tarbes winners B & P Winter
Saturday 7th December saw the good, the bad and unfortunately some of the ugly gather in Torquay on the English Riviera for the annual National Flying Club presentation night. The venue on this occasion was The Palace Hotel, a big and beautiful chunk of elegance overlooking the sea. I have to say that from the moment I stepped over the threshold I was very well looked after by a team of courteous and hard working staff and it certainly adds to the experience.
The evening for me kicked off with a quick drink with other committee members in the President’s suite and then we were all gathered together for the annual committee photo taken by Chris Sutton, who I learned during the course of the night, is a racing pigeon photographer (thanks for that info Sid!!). All I can say after being privy to a sneak preview is thank God for Photoshop and I would like to know what had caught my attention when the photo was taken? Chris also did the honours during the evening of photographing each of the prizewinners.
All the guests were then summoned to the magnificent ballroom to be seated before getting involved with an excellent 5-course meal, with the centrepiece being a very good piece of beef. Those unlucky enough to be vegetarian had I think chicken! The focal point in the ballroom was the incredible array of silverware that was on display which is competed for by members each season. A lot of these trophies go back a long way and a glimpse at some of the names engraved on them makes you realise how connected the winner is with pigeon racing history. When you stop and consider the effort that equates to collecting even one of these trophies then you really do have to take your hat off to the lucky few who stepped forward on the night.
With the guests now suitably replete it was time to sit back and enjoy the main event of the evening, and the presentation proceedings were started with a few speeches reflecting on the racing that members had experienced during the 2013 season and of course the all important reflection by the winners of the Tarbes Grand National race B & P Winters. It fell to son Barry to do the honours and he gave an impassioned insight in to how they prepared the bird and their philosophy and ideals behind their approach to national racing. It was also interesting and refreshing to hear him praising the team who deliver the races for the National Flying Club members, and he illustrated the excellent job they do by showing photos of the winning bird shortly after his arrival and then one taken 50 minutes later. In the course of doing each race write up I get regular comments praising the condition of the birds but it is still nice to see it being offered on the public stage. What also came across was the little bit of luck that is needed but which falls out of our control, as Little Gem was put on the sidelines following a hawk attack in one of the first training tosses of the season and as we all know from experience, it could have ended differently for this widowhood cock.
The Guests of Honour for the evening, who were seated amongst the fine array of trophies on the top table, were Mr and Mrs Farrow, loft manager to The Queen and Mr and Mrs Kevin Godfrey, Managing Director of Hartwell Motors. They were joined on the top table by Mr Paul Naum, our hard working Treasurer, Mr John Edwards, our charismatic Chairman and Mr Mark Gilbert, NFC Pinup and champion racer. Each of these gentlemen were being chaperoned by their beautiful wives. The honour of presenting the prizes was ably undertaken by the ladies on the top table and Mrs McGrevy the long suffering wife on the club Chairman Mick McGrevy. The evening is designed to celebrate and showcase the talent of the fanciers within the membership and as such it is only fitting that each section winner for each race gets an opportunity to step up and grab the limelight, and each in turn was amply applauded by a room full of people who are only too aware of the effort needed to top any of the sections within the club. As well as the various section and open winners who stepped forward, the club also awards for consistency throughout the season in the form of a range of trophies for averages and performances into a certain geographical area or at a certain distance. It can often happen that a fancier can win these trophies without actually claiming top spot in their section, the perfect example of this for 2013 being Mark Gilbert who stamped his class and authority all over the results during 2013 and this was reflected in the array of trophies that he secured. The highlight of the event was obviously the video of Eamon Kelly, Darren McFadden, Mark Gilbert and Nigel Langstaff doing a Christmas routine dressed up as Santa’s little helpers which I believe has now gone viral and it is only fitting that it gets the credit it deserves; but coming a close second was having 3 generations of a pigeon racing family stepping forward to receive the highest accolade available in pigeon racing within The British Isles - The King George v Trophy for winning the Grand National Race out of Tarbes with one of the best distance performances of the past 10 years. I can only guess at how the Winter family felt as the room rose to its feet and they found themselves being applauded by many top fanciers who strive for success in this race each and every season, but I know the hairs on my neck were on end and I hadn’t even sent to the race. I am sure the experience will give them the focus and drive to do it all over again in 2014!
During the evening Kevin Godfrey gave a short speech as Guest of Honour and spoke about the incredible sponsorship that Hartwells provided to the National Flying Club during 2013 including, of course, the motor car that was won by Daniel Seedwell. He also confirmed that Hartwells would be continuing their sponsorship in 2014 only this time they would be offering two motor cars for the membership to compete for in two different races within the NFC programme. The committee remain very grateful to all the sponsors and are very privileged to offer the members two bites of the cherry during 2014.
On a personal note, this was my first experience of a National Flying Club presentation and it by far surpassed any expectations I had before the evening itself. It was a slightly surreal experience for me as I tried to match up the faces of the winners to the multitude of photos I have received during the course of the racing season, and I am pleased to report that, in general, they were better looking in the flesh. I had said in previous notes that the presentation night was for all members to enjoy and that you shouldn’t just wait until you win a trophy to attend. I would like to add to that by saying that the evening is certainly something that all members should try to attend at least once as it is a wonderful experience. In closing I would like to thank Rob Rome for putting up with me on the journey there and back as we talked about love and loss and the benefits of a light feed, and Ray and Eric and their wives and Mr Christopher and his wife who we had the pleasure of having on our table for the meal. Finally, I had an enjoyable 5 hours on a very comfy old sofa talking to a range of fanciers whilst trying to avoid a wardrobe malfunction. I hope to see you all again next year when we descend on Harrogate.
The all conquering Winter family, 1st open Tarbes
Mr and Mrs Lewis with trophies won from Tarbes
Jason Ross, winner of 1st Open Saintes
Rob Rome, winner of 1st Section I Carentan
Mr Andy Parsons, winner of the NFC Certificate of Merit
Mr and Mrs Moody, 1st Open Cholet
Fagg and Nicholas, 1st open Messac
Mr David Coward Talbot 1st Open YB National with Mrs Farrow
Stuart Laws, winner of 1st National Carentan
Kevin Godfrey being presented with 1st Section I Cholet by Mrs Godfrey
Mark Bulled with Mrs McGrevy
Mr Chris Stevens, 1st Section D OH National
Mr Cosmin Talas, 1st Section F Saintes with Mrs Gilbert
Mr A Jones, a top Section J loft
Mr Cliff Sanders, 1st Section I OH National
Mr Eamon Kelly, winner of Section F twice in 2013
Mr Farrow being congratulated by his wife on winning 1st Section H YB National
Mr M Gilbert celebrating another successful season at national level
Mel & Sue King
Mr and Mrs Mabin, a top West Country loft with Mrs Godfrey