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by George Wheatman

Thurso 2014


Even on the darkest of days, there is a light shining somewhere.

And so it was on Saturday when the North Road Championship Club staged its final old bird race of the season from Thurso.

The glorious sunshine on one of the hottest days of the summer descended into gloom and despondency over many lofts, the majority of those competing in fact.

But, here and there, that sunshine retained its sparkle nowhere more so than around the Boston home of Carl Upsall who achieved what NRCC chairman, Brian Garnham, described as a “fantastic” win.

Carl’s own description was “incredible” but he was including not only the winning pigeon, but the four other yearlings which were safely tucked up in their loft while so many other fanciers waited in vain for an arrival on the day. And he was thinking of another yearling which arrived early next morning to give him the first six places in his club, Boston Central RPC, and ensures the name Upsall and Frost will be spread liberally around the final result.

I say Upsall and Frost but Carl is the only one in the partnership now, as Trevor Frost integral to many past successes has left to pursue other interests, although he can claim to have played a part in this latest triumph because most of the birds were racing back to a loft which he made.

Reflecting on the race with a wry smile, no doubt, will be Carl’s dad, Bill, an ace fancier until his retirement from the sport a number of years ago, for he, too, won an NRCC race from Thurso, back in 1977. They were vastly different races, though, as Bill’s winner was doing nearly a mile a minute for the 400 miles, while Carl’s took nearly 11 and a half hours.

Nevertheless, a family double to celebrate and, Carl believes a better performance than when he won the NRCC open race from Perth, as part of the Upsall and Trigg partnership, back in 1991.

Carl remembers his dad’s win very well although, as a young lad, he did not take a great deal of interest in pigeon racing. Now things are different but one suspects that Bill has been consulted on various matters over the years.

Carl has suffered health problems this summer and has not registered as many wins as he has become accustomed to, but hopefully this win will be a big boost to help towards his recovery.

Carl Upsall and Reece

The winning pigeon is a medium sized blue chequer cock flown on widowhood.

Carl takes up the story: “He is bred in the purple, containing Soontjen bloodlines from the great Micky Betts, and Daykin bloodlines via Dr Geoff Richmond.

“The sire is a gay pied cock, son of The Doctor when paired to a light blue chequer hen of Daykin x Betts blood.

“The dam is actually his sister from a previous year.

“These two birds contain the blood of The Doctor who was the same way bred as the 1st Section Midlands National Flying Club for Dr Geoff Richmond, and came to Boston as a Midland Social Circle exchange pigeon. This bird became a great source of pleasure to Trevor and I, winning from Whitley Bay, Fraserburgh (2nd Fed, 5th open NRCC), 1st Stonehaven (EMNRCC), 1st Perth, 1st Berwick, and many other positions in the first six, scoring up to Thurso.

“The dam was The Special One, bred from a son of Mick Betts’ Pied Angel when paired to a daughter of Superblue. The cock was a loan bird from Micky’s stock loft.

“As you can see brilliant bloodlines..

“As a young bird the winner was sent to every young bird race, winning third club Whitley Bay and 6th club Berwick.

“This year he has flown the Peterborough and District Federation programme up to Berwick, only missing the first week, and has scored 6th Berwick, 2nd Newton Aycliffe, 1st Alnwick and now 1st Thurso, all of these performances in his last four races. Incredible.

“Due to my health, I had not realised that until today.

“He is the only cock in the loft whose box is covered in, and he seems to relish getting behind the cover with his hen.

“The four yearlings timed on the day all flew to what we know as Trevor’s loft, and this shed was shut up by 8pm with all the yearlings flying to it home.

“At 0522 the next morning, the only other yearling I sent homed to the main loft to complete their season.

“This bird was lost from its first race last year and ended up in Walsall (reported after the season ended) and good friend, Pete Norton, picked him up and kept him until the Doncaster Show when he was returned to Boston. This bird was then nursed through training this year, and has scored several times, proving that they don’t always have to be good at young bird racing.

“After a good moult, I expect big things from this one next year.

“I must thank Geoff Richmond and Micky Betts for letting me have the birds to achieve this success.

“Special thanks also to Terry Appleby, Cliff Edwards, Ray Knight and Andy Kirkman who trained my birds for me during my recent illness could not have done this without you all.

“Young Reece (Carl’s grandson) helped too, dragging me down to the loft when my interest was missing.”

There was a convoy of approximately 2,000 for this race, and just over 50 verifications on the day, and 140 altogether over the two days.

Four sections were represented in the first six places in the provisional open result, and the likely section winners are:

Section One Mr and Mrs A Richardson, Newark (the 2011 open winners from Lerwick); Section Two Upsall and Frost,

 Boston; Section Three PJ Palmer, Stamford; Section Four Terry Roughton, Wisbech; Section Five, Miss M Judd, Ramsey; Section Six J Buckle and Son, Stowmarket; Section Seven Pat O’Sullivan, Enfield; Section Eight KR Chenery, Felixstowe.

All the section winners, except the last two, timed on the day.

NRCC chairman, Brian Garnham, a man who so often takes the brickbats but rarely the bouquets he deserves for all the hard work and enthusiasm he puts into the organisation, was sounding a little deflated after the race.

In fact, “disappointed, gutted and mystified” were the three words he used to describe the outcome of a race that started in glorious conditions in Scotland.

There was, he said, never any doubt about the liberation; conditions were good. There were various theories about what created such a hard race; there was a south-east wind which can bring about de-hydration, but weather maps show a change of wind direction in various places, down to no wind at all which, of course, is not the favourite condition of the pigeons.

There was little, or no, racing in Scotland so no possibility of clashing.

One pigeon competing in the race was reported on the day after entering a loft just south of Edinburgh, about halfway through its journey home to a loft well known for timing pigeons from distance races on hard days, and the Scottish fancier who reported it said that it was flown out, and no way would it have completed the race.

But he observed that, because there was no Scottish racing, the NRCC birds were probably the only racing pigeons on the peregrines’ menu that day.

Then there was the heat, one of the hottest days of the year.

Whatever the reason for the difficult race, and theories abound, it has left the chairman “very disappointed” and it is no consolation that there were equally hard races from the south on the same day.

Nevertheless, as ever, there were those who surmounted the obstacles and turned in some excellent performances.

No-one more so than the winner, Carl Upsall. “Fantastic,” repeated the chairman.