NORTH ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP CLUB
by George Wheatman
Berwick Sections 2014
The numbers may be smaller as the years have passed, but the quality remains as high as ever - just look at the class oozing from the section winners of the first race of the North Road Championship Club season from Berwick, won for the second successive year by the Huttoft, Lincolnshire, partnership of Jackie Barker, Darren Kingswood and their new associate Shane Hannah.
Two hundred and fifty six members sent 2, 709 birds, and this is a significant entry from which to produce the winner, let alone also time the second bird. The Lincolnshire partnership did just that on velocities of 1878 and 1870, in addition to taking seventh, 36th, 42nd and 43rd open places.
As was revealed in the original report of their success, they were within a whisker of equalling the record of Geoff and Bridget Clare who won the Perth races in 1981 and 1982 with the same pigeon (Champion Lucky) as the Barker, Kingswood, Hannah 2014 runner-up had won the race the previous year. What had escaped my notice was that the Clares, now embarking on their second season of pigeon racing in Australia and beginning to get encouraging results, had repeated the feat in 2009 and 2010 when the same hen bird was the winner for them on each occasion.
The Berwick race was difficult for some after a day’s holdover. The strong easterly winds encountered for much of the journey made it a bonanza for those sections in the east of NRCC territory, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk in particular.
That meant difficult conditions for inland fanciers, despite which many of them responded with impressive performances. So let’s have a look at the section winners some of whom changed from the provisional results once the race secretary received accurate details from clock stations:
SECTION ONE H TAYLOR and SONS, EASTWOOD
The provisional result suggested that the winner of this section was Ernie Gregory who has enjoyed open success from Thurso (2002) and Fraserburgh (last year) but, in the final analysis the first two places went to Dennis Taylor, Ernie’s Eastwood clubmate who still competes under the title of H Taylor and Sons, as a tribute to his late father and brother.
The Taylors have been no strangers to success at the highest level, winning the King’s Cup from Lerwick in 1990 and taking 1st and 2nd open Perth in 2008. The winner of the Perth race had been named Albi, in memory of Dennis’s late brother, but it mysteriously disappeared from the loft a couple of years ago. One day Dennis noticed that it was missing, but has no idea what happened.
It was a 1-2 section this year from Berwick, a triumph that came as a welcome boost for 68-year-old bachelor and retired shopfitter Dennis as he continues to recover from major heart surgery.
The two birds came together and recorded velocities of 1564.6859 and 1564.5650, while the third-placed Gregory pigeon was on 1563.4017.
First across the line for Dennis was a four-year-old dark pied widowhood cock bird from his old family via Dean Skuse (FabryxBraspenning) which had won the Kimberley club two weeks in succession.
The second pigeon was a Ceuleman from double NRCC King’s Cup winner Frank Bristow, and this three-year-old blue widowhood cock was obviously in top form as it had won the Notts Federation from Whitley Bay the previous week.
Dean Skuse, says Dennis, also played a major role in his acquisition of this pigeon, passing on to him birds that he had ordered from the Bristow loft.
Dennis sent seven birds to Berwick, getting five on the day and the other two early next morning. He says he is the furthest west flying member of the section which makes his achievement all the more commendable.
After a slow start to the season as he recovered from his operation in February, the loft is now in good form, and Dennis says that he will be eternally grateful to friend Graham Foster who travelled six miles every day to look after the pigeons while he was unable to do so.
The fact that the birds soon got into full stride, after a slow start, was a tribute to the manner in which Graham looked after them.
On the Berwick race day, Dennis said it was “very, very windy, really bending the trees.” And the wind was in the west. He was surprised to win the section which he thought would go to a fancier in the Ollerton area.
Last year Dennis showed his consistency and ability to pick the right pigeon by pocketing the £1, 000 nomination.
SECTION TWO BARKER, KINGSWOOD and HANNAH, HUTTOFT
The outright winners, of course, took the first two places in this section which was hotly contested by Lincolnshire fanciers, with previous national winners in their wake.
SECTION THREE Mr and Mrs TONY and EDIE WOOLSEY, SPALDING
It was no surprise to many that Section Three was won by the husband and wife team, Tony and Edie Woolsey, from Spalding, for they are a partnership to look out for in whatever competition they are taking part.
The section winner was a grizzle widowhood cock bird given to Edie by local fancier Dave Duffy.
The majority of their pigeons are Ceulemans, most of them direct, with a few Maurice Mattheus, and Tony likes to bring in a few new pigeons every year, often acquired on a trip to Belgium, and usually Ceulemans these days.
Edie is a knowledgeable pigeon fancier, and plays an active role in the partnership and they are keen members of the Midlands Social Circle, and enjoy taking part in the annual exchange of pigeons within the Circle. They have been married for 55 years.
They sent 20 birds to Berwick, and had two missing on a day when, Tony said, the weather was OK in Spalding, just marred by a little drizzling rain and a strong west wind.
Aged 75 in August, Tony still works three nights a week as a lorry driver, but is planning to retire this year although, as befits an ex-Para, enjoys good health.
Last year was a particularly good season for the Woolseys as, from various sources, they picked up 147 diplomas and 37 trophies something of a consolation for Edie whose favourite football team, Manchester United, has not been as successful as usual in recent times.
Tony was brought up with pigeons as his dad was a fancier. After a break, he re-started in the 1970s with pigeons from the late Danny Grange, an excellent fancier who was formerly with the Bourne club. He reckons, however, that the Ceulemans are the best pigeons he has ever had.
This latest success from Berwick supports this view.
Tony and Edie Woolsey
SECTION FOUR DJA ROBINSON and CA GOSLING, NORWICH
This is another section where the final result is different from that shown in the provisional result, with the hopes of S Parsons and Sons being dashed by a tremendous performance by another Norwich loft, that of DJA Robinson and CA Gosling who timed three birds within seven seconds to take the first three places in the section.
What was it we said about quality? Here it is in all its glory.
This partnership, highly rated in the pigeon racing world, is a real family affair. David Robinson and his daughter Alison Gosling might be on the nameplate but vital contributions come from David’s wife Janet, and Alison’s husband, Carl.
They live next door to each other and the impressive lofts spread into the two gardens.
They sent 12 to this Berwick race which was difficult for some, but not for others, and had all 12 home within 54 minutes. They actually entered 17 but, on seeing that the weather forecast predicted strong winds, decided to keep the entered yearlings at home.
The three section leaders came together, bang on line, from the North East. All were widowhood cocks, the first being a two-year-old blue of Ronnie Williamson, of Ireland, lines with a winning velocity of 1820ypm.
The second was a five-year-old chequer pied with six or seven firsts, and lots of other healthy placings, to its credit, and rated the best racer currently in the loft.
To complete the photo finish came a two-year-old dark chequer Busschaert(Louella Eagleson lines)xRonnie Williamson.
The Robinson & Gosling team
David is no stranger to NRCC success, and enjoyed being an open winner from Fraserburgh back in the year 2000, then racing as D and J and A Robinson. The current partnership has also won the section from Thurso, and had many other good positions, including winning the section three times in one year.
They have started this season in good form, already having had three club wins.
Now 75, David has enjoyed the sport for 60 years but, unfortunately, he has lost the sight in one eye, and the sight in the other is seriously impaired.
He says it is “terrific” having his daughter living next door. He gives Alison credit for doing 60 per cent of the work, and the ever-willing Carl is a great asset especially when it comes to training the young birds before he goes to work. “They never complain and are really good,” he says. “They are both at work so have a busy life. My wife helps out all the time, and cleans out twice a day all the year round. It is very much a family affair, and that is lovely.”
Most of the Berwick returnees were scheduled to go to the second NRCC race from Perth, but the yearlings were again being saved for future battles.
They had a brilliant day not only in the NRCC, but also taking the first three places in their Federation.
All this comes at a time when David says they are re-building after suffering the loss of top pigeons from Fraserburgh a couple of years ago.
The weather at Norwich on race day, he said, was quite nice, a bit overcast and not really windy.
The Robinson & Gosling lofts
SECTION FIVE MISS M JUDD, RAMSEY
Rarely has a loft dominated a section as this one has done over recent years. The inland nature of their situation is highlighted by the winning velocity of 1442ypm but, whatever the conditions and whatever the distance, this is so often the destination for a winning card and many more birds in a supporting role.
I have tried many times in the past to contact the fancier responsible for these seemingly never-ending successes but, sadly, without luck, and consequently the loft and obviously top quality pigeons do not receive the accolades they deserve. Again, however, in conditions that did not help, this is another “well done.”
SECTION SIX E ALDRED and SONS
More flying of the highest quality here into Lowestoft. Sent 25 and all home within the time it takes to complete a football match. You can almost hear the smile in Paul Aldred’s voice when he says: “We like a west wind in Lowestoft.” The section-winning velocity of 1797ypm proves the point.
The winning pigeon is a 2011 bred chequer widowhood cock of Plant Bros and Wall, Lunt and Green breeding, a pigeon that had won first club last year but, the year before that, had been reported in the North East when competing from Perth, and hitched a ride home in a box. “He got it right this time,” said Paul.
E Aldred and Sons is very much a family affair, said Paul with his brother and sister giving a hand, and following their late father into the sport. “Dad was the keenest of the lot, and very competitive,” explained Paul.
Successes in NRCC, Federation and club racing have been a regular occurrence and this 274-mile Berwick race proved that the loft is still one to be reckoned with.
They will be hoping for more NRCC victories this summer and wishing for more west winds.
John Aldred, and his son Jamie, of E Aldred and Sons.
SECTION SEVEN LING BROTHERS, BARKING
You can’t help but admire the performances of those London area fanciers who compete with the NRCC flying, as they do, some 100 miles further than many of their rivals, and often in changing weather conditions. Whatever is thrown at them they seem to take it on the chin, and then come back for more.
You can almost guarantee that there will be stand-out performances, and a fancier said to me, only the other day: “If I was starting out again, or building a distance team, I would be looking towards those London boys for stock.”
From Berwick, once again, conditions were not in their favour, yet there were performances to catch the eye, none more so than by Section Seven winners, the Ling Brothers, from Barking.
David (70), Henry (72) and Billy (76) are the partners, David and Billy living next door to each other, and Henry being a regular visitor from his home three miles away, especially since he lost his wife a little while ago.
Their oldest brother Terry, now sadly no longer with us, was also involved, but it was Billy who started the ball rolling by buying six pigeons from Louella for £80. Then the rest became involved, and it was not long before the rewards came along.
The brothers share the duties but, when David describes Henry as a good organiser, he may be hinting that he is not the best at cleaning out.
The section winner from Berwick was a two-year-old blue widowhood cock of Haelterman-Wily Thas lines which had won only minor cards before. Velocity for the 309 miles was 1410ypm, a flying time of 6 hours 20 minutes. Its father was a 13-year-old of the lines of Graham White’s famous Pied Star which was in the first 100 from Thurso for five years in succession.
Weather conditions at the home end were not very pleasant cold, overcast, no sunshine, and the wind was bending the trees.
Out of their entry of seven, three were back on the day, and two more later on, and David says they were all in good condition.
The partners fly a mixture of widowhood and natural, and the Berwick win emphasised their good start to the season. It was planned that the Perth team would be sitting when basketed and this team included the Berwick section winner.
The brothers compete in two clubs, Barking and Ilford, and this gives them access to Federation and Combine racing. They like competing at the highest level possible and have already topped the Federation three times this year. They also like the challenge of NRCC racing.
Ling Brothers are a fine example of the quality fanciers from the London area who uphold the status of north road racing. They don’t come better whichever direction is flown.
SECTION EIGHT GEORGE GIBSON and SON, IPSWICH
The Peter Pan of pigeon racing, Peter Crawford, due to celebrate his 85th birthday on the 28th of May, was pencilled in as the winner of this section but, in the final reckoning, he had to step aside for the in-form loft of George Gibson and Son, run by 65-year-old George himself these days.
Ironically, George is a big admirer of Mr Crawford’s ability as a pigeon fancier and of his continued willingness to work so hard for the club, but was obviously, and understandably, pleased to have won the section with a two-year-old blue widowhood Van ReetxJanssen cock bird which was no stranger to winning.
He sent 10 birds to Berwick and had them all home on the day when there was rain here and there, and a strong west wind.
George had started the season with five wins out of seven races, four of them being won by the same pigeon.
His father joined Ipswich FC in 1963 so that George could race the pigeons because he was not old enough to become a member himself. He has won Section Eight twice before, and has enjoyed success on both north and south routes.
He usually flies from a team of about 23 widowhood pairs and the basis of the loft is Bert Hession Van Reets obtained via Mr and Mrs Barry Laws and Derek Upson. Like many Ipswich fanciers he used to fly the old Westcott strain but, although they were good, he found that they were not keeping pace with the modern pigeons.
Trained as a cabinet maker, George is now retired after 33 years with Anglian Windows.
Although his son is no longer an active member of the partnership, he will help out when required, and wife Christine is a big support and will help in any aspect of the sport.