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Homers Odyssey - 26-01-21

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Homers Odyssey

Irish National Flying Club update - The 2020 Irish National Flying Club season was totally written off due to the Covid -19 virus, which led to restrictions on the numbers of people gathering together. With no viable options available it was disappointing for the officials, committee and members that the six planned races had to be cancelled.

The management committee have agreed and approved that no subscriptions will be due in 2021 for those who were members in 2020.

New members are most welcome and the fee is £25.00 or €30.00 if you belong to a club and make application through your club, for any new members who are paying individually fee is £35.00 or €42.00. Application forms are on the website

No Annual General Meeting can take place at present due to the restrictions in place for Covid – 19.

The annual accounts have been audited and circulated to the management committee. The accounts will not be sent out at present to members, but will be before the Annual General  Meeting  when  one is arranged at a later date.  (Any member who requires a copy of the accounts urgently please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will forward them to you).

With no Annual General Meeting all officials and management committee’s will remain in place for 2021.

The 2020 proposed race programme will also remain with revised 2021 dates.  This will once again be subject to any restrictions in place. Skibbereen Old Bird Tuesday 25th May, Sennen Cove Yearling Nat Wednesday 9th June, St Allouestre Kings Cup Friday 2nd July, Plougastel-Daoulas or Lamballe Friendship Nat Friday 9th July, Penzance YB Grand Nat Wednesday 1st September, Skibbereen Young Bird Saturday 18th September.  The management committee plan a review of the situation in mid / end of March when hopefully they will be in a position to make informed decisions on the way forward for the 2021 season.

Please all stay safe at this very difficult time. Trevor Topping   I.N.F.C.  Secretary   16th January 2021.

At the present time the whole of Northern Ireland is in a control zone following outbreaks of Bird Flu. As each week passes, we hear more on the possible restrictions running till after Easter which this year is early April, the all-clear will be a long time coming. Last year it was not possible to have the INFC birds marked at the usual one centre in Lisburn and I think we need to be looking at what is possible to ensure some racing. A marking centre for the South of Ireland members initially agreed for the Skibbereen races as a trial can be put in place for all races, but so far, no idea coming forward on where to operate out of, and who will oversee and manage same. As far as North of Ireland is concerned, we need to look at where race marking is being done at present time and use this to our best advantage without going mad and setting up centres over the entire country. Where are the bulk of the birds being entered for competition, and where is the potential to increase the entry, and future membership. Things need to be made as simple as possible for the membership and potential membership, the one marking centre was the right move at one time but was always a drawback with many fanciers not prepared to travel long distances and wait in long queues for birds to be marked some-times, over quite a few hours. A fair number of the INFC members helped at marking centre in Lisburn and these same members could operate over the country as and where required in their own area. The reward for a suggestion of pre-entry and payment, something that the NIPA have been doing for years could be birds marked locally, it would not be possible to operate every centre as only one transporter would probably collect. I am sure something could be worked out to make things easier. We can only work out of areas where help is available and is on offer, and is secure. These views are just my own, not policy.

I spoke with David Black and the Single Bird challenge arrangements will be as similar years, deadline date 17th March for entries. Those who paid for 2020 will have a free go and new members just need to make payment to cover the race in 2021, hopefully we have one.

Subject to change his year’s prizes are £400, £250, £150, £100, £75 plus another five at £50, the Joe Doheny Perpetual cup to the winner and Framed Diplomas sponsored by Danny Dixon for the first three. Send all details to co-ordinator David Black, 11 Drumiller Hill, Dromore, Co. Down, BT25 1EP, any further info call - 028 9269 2713 or 07876 157706.

NIPA Update – With no AGM planned for 2021 until all restrictions on the holding of meetings have been cleared and no Secretary Report, Fred Russell has supplied each club with a Balance Sheet and Club Membership Form to be completed and returned as soon as possible and also enclosed an Order Form for Club Requirements. Please note the Membership fee is £34, and the Club fee is £31. Any queries on the Statement of Accounts should be directed to Secretary Fred Russell via E-mail for him to answer. The Balance Sheet is excellent following what was, a very-difficult year for our sport. We achieved most of what we set out to do, we could have done better and achieved everything. The General and Transport Accounts both recorded a surplus and there are many reasons for it. We had a grant from the Furlough Scheme, an increase from convoying charges and a large drop in the cost of fuel and driver’s wages. On the top of that we are doing our best to reduce other expenses.

The NIPA are preparing their new transport and trailer so far coats have included £20,600 in 2020 season and already in 2021 a further £20,000 has been paid out. It is hoped the transporter is ready for this season, with the new drag trailer, to follow on after that. The Capital Account now stands at £661,500 - this is not all cash and is made up of fixed and current assets. The Secretary thanked everyone who had assisted during 2020, and the majority of members for understanding the difficulties faced, and there were many.

Looking forward to 2021 the NIPA has put in place the race programme that was due to be flown in 2019, commencing second week of April and concluding with the Old Bird National at the end of June. At the present time it is hard to see a start in early April, we just need to hope for the best. Keep your birds housed and hopefully the bird flu will have moved away before racing is due to start. Members will be kept informed on any information regarding racing this season.

The Secretary finished his letter by thanking the RPRA and Irish Region (RPRA) for their gift of £6,000 to purchase three beautiful Claret Jugs to be raced for from St Malo and the Skibbereen Old Bird & Young Bird Nationals. They will be inscribed with the names of Sammy Thompson and the late officials of the NIPA Lyndon Boyle and Robert Reid. Photos will follow when restrictions are lifted.

A lot has changed from when Fred Russell was first installed as Secretary and going through some of the earlier results hand-written giving just 20 Open positions and 10 for each Section, with the overall birdage up to 30,000. Members are looking for a bit more than that now. It used to take the best part of the week to produce a result and now with help from Joey Vague we have the provisional result on a Saturday evening, and a copy of that sent to BHW to be included in the next paper. They also now appear almost immediately on various websites.  

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From a few years back at Premier HPS, a younger Anthony McDonnell and Fred Russell are on the left front row. 

In this new modern era we need to review the work requiring done and payments required, in recent years we have got to using E-mail a major step forward, as is now holding meetings via Zoom. Plans are being made to update and change the NIPA Website to make it user friendly I suppose, and also looking at a new result programme. The team of administration all need to be able to carry forward the administration to take us into the future. The RPRA new result programme was regarded by many as too complicated, but I know it was as easy as peas for some clubs. Mind you I was not one of those who managed to get it going myself. I had asked for those who made it look easy to contact me and give me their views, no reply.  My big point of merit with the RPRA programme was to be able to verify membership, distances and ring ownership. Although I don’t know enough about it, also it appears the programme sorted out data being loaded from ETS Systems to ensure that was correct and no rules being broke. In my view we should be going down the way of our own membership organisation, but I feel that view is a minority one. They develop the programme to what you require, and very importantly, have the back up for help and support. Those doing administration need to know how to make it work.

With having a website of my own I have had to learn how to make it work, administration needs learned, and although I am no expert yet, I am learning all the time. For the future I would think Centres will be linked via computer, results locally will be added as we go along, and no doubt we will move to On-Line banking to pay bills including the carriage charges. There is plenty to keep us all occupied. Very few ever consider the PR/Publicity, from my own point of view looking back on what was already done in 2020, renumeration works out roughly two hours per week. During racing that would not even cover Saturday evening never mind most of Sunday and the rest of the week. Very few would be aware of all that, only those who carry out this sort of work. Before results moved into the computer age, I typed up each NIPA result for publication, and that took up a bit of time. Fewer are even reading the news although now with the modern phone, most of the younger generation are able to call up the internet. The vast majority unfortunately are all Old Hands and very few would be using the modern technology. These comments are again only my own view and observations.

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Coleraine & County Derry RPS were a force in days gone by.

Randalstown HPS winners 2020 - The cups and trophies were won as follows: - Stewart Bros won – Tommy Cotter Trophy Highest Prize-winner, John Kyle Cup Best Ave first two old bird races, Combine Ave OB & YB, Bernard McKay Cup Best Ave first two young bird races, Inland Ave Old Birds 172 Points, BOCM Cup Old Bird Skibbereen.

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Ian Stewart of Stewart Bros, the major winners in the Randalstown HPS 2020.

John Millar won – Old Bird Average, Simpson Shield Best Ave St Malo and Talbenny YB Nat, J Millar Shield Best Ave third and fourth old bird races, J Shaw Cup Talbenny Old Birds, S Millar Cup 1st Bude, J Boyd Cup Cross Channel OB Average, P Marrion Cup Lowest winning velocity cross channel, Champion Old bird (03959), Cross Channel Average all races, Roy Magill Shield Most Points Old Bird 167 Points.

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Prize presentation from a few years back, current secretary John Millar is front left.

F & J & G Dickey won – Young Bird Average, Most Points Young Bird, G Lynch Cup Best Ave fifth and sixth young bird races, J McKeown Cup Talbenny Young Bird, S McComb Cup Fermoy Young Bird, Champion Young Bird. 128 Points.

Houston Bros won – Fermoy race in place of Penzance. J McNeill & Son won – Clanmore Cup winner of Saint Malo Old Bird National.

Old Birds

07/06/20 Tullamore Stewart Bros vel 1406 10th MA Combine. 13/06/20 Gowran Park Stewart Bros 1st & 2nd vel 1251 11th MA Combine, 20/06/20 Corrin (1) Stewart Bros vel 1845, 02/07/20 Corrin (2) J Miller 1st, 2nd & 3rd vel 1355 14th MA Combine, 06/07/20 Skibbereen Inland National, 11/07/20 Talbenny J Miller 1st & 2nd vel 1291 7th & 15th MA Combine, 15/07/20 Skibbereen Yearling National, 19/07/20 Bude J Miller 1st & 2nd vel 1065 4th & 11th MA Combine, 25/07/20 Fermoy Comeback Houston Bros vel 1527 1st Combine. Penzance in Cornwall was to be the race point for the third channel race of the season. Because of poor weather on the day of liberation and the following day it was decided to bring the birds back to Ireland for a race from Fermoy in County Cork. The birds were liberated on Saturday 25th July at 08.00am in a westerly wind. Best bird in the Mid Antrim Combine this week are Randalstown old hands 85 year old Bobby and 79 year old Allen who make up the Houston Bros partnership. They timed their 2 year old widowhood cock at 11.45am for the 195 mile fly to their lofts situated off the Antrim line close to the Ramble Inn. Breeding is their old distance lines with a touch of Verheye. A good win for the brothers who have previously won 1st and 2nd Open NIPA Tramore, a number of years ago. 30/07/20 St Malo OB French National J McNeill & Son vel 1485 5th MA Combine.

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From a few years back Houston Bros with their wives, still winning today topping the MAC from Fermoy when the birds were brought back from Penzance.

Young Birds

08/08/20 Mullingar Area Lib (1) Stewart Bros 1st, 2nd & 3rd vel 1281 17th, 20th & 22nd MA Combine 48/1615, 15/08/20 Mullingar Area Lib (2) Stewart Bros Vel 1270 11th MA Combine 52/1521, 23/08/20 Roscrea F & G & J Dickey vel 1667 10th MA Combine 49/1453, 29/08/20 Gowran Park F & G & J Dickey vel 1158, 06/09/20 Fermoy (1) F & G & J Dickey 1st, 2nd & 3rd vel 1247 12th MA Combine 42/1008, 12/09/20 Talbenny YB National F & G & J Dickey vel 1304 8th MA Combine 38/201, 12/09/20 Tullamore Comeback, 19/09/20 Fermoy (2) F & G & J Dickey 1st, 2nd & 3rd vel 1108 19th MA Combine, 19/09/20 Fermoy 5 Bird F & G & J Dickey 1st, 2nd & 3rd vel 1097 11th MA Combine

No Randalstown results for Skibbereen Inland OB National, Skibbereen Yearling National and Tullamore YB comeback. Thanks to PO Mervyn Eagleson for the results and info.

Mid Antrim Dinner report - For this week I will stay with 1976 season and some local coverage of what was the big Cullybackey Flying Club. With upwards of 100 members, their wives, families, friends, and guests attending the annual dinner and prize distribution of the Cullybackey Flying Club, it was Full House” notice at the Adair Arms Hotel in Ballymena on Saturday night. The attendance was a marked improvement on former years and must give satisfaction and encouragement to the new secretary John Blaney who put in a tremendous amount of effort and endeavour in the arrangements for this social occasion. Thanks are also due to the local businessmen and shop owners for their unlimited and much appreciated help during the season.

The principal guests were Mr & Mrs Jack Irvine from Ballyclare, Mr & Mrs Tommy Harper and Willie and Michael Reynolds from Harryville. Mr James Anderson chairman of the club spoke in glowing tones of the performances during the past season of Tommy Harper who had an unbelievable sequence of winning achievements from Weymouth, Dinard and Rennes.

Mr Jack Irvine thanked the club for their kind invitation to Mrs Irvine and himself and wished the club every success in the future. Mr Harper replied for the visitors. With speeches kept to the minimum and formalities over we came to the presentation of cups trophies and prize money won by the members during the year at club competitions. These were handed over by Mrs Irvine and with a really outstanding season in both old bird and young bird events it was a fitting tribute for the Tullygrawley lofts of Russell Bros to see them first up to the table being premier prize-winners with over £86, their winning team being in the prizes on 27 occasions. I would highlight their 2nd and 11th from Dinard in France and 1st, 2nd and 3rd from Skibbereen as their outstanding achievements.

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Ballymena Mayor Alderman Sandy Spence presenting Russell Bros with trophies at the annual dinner in 1978, Secretary John Blaney is middle back.

Second highest in the cash awards was the ever-consistent Willard Reid with over £24, included 1st Sect B & 2nd Open from Okehampton. Still in with the leaders was the clubs 1975 Champion Tommy McAlonan who wins the 1st Club in Dinard O B Derby, and a good position in the Section B winning £160. With more time now on his hands to attend to his own pigeons E G Leckey had one of his best seasons for some time. With 3 x 1sts and other minor positions he was fourth up to the table winning over £18. He also had a 1st Sect B winner in the young birds from Arklow.

With no birds in race time from Weymouth in the club, some of the trophies were not won but the following members all had silverware to take home. The R McIlwaine Trophy for the Best Ave 3 Derby races T McAlonan and he also won the Old Bird Derby Cup. YB Derby Cup won by George Glenholmes. YB Ave and YB Points Cup won by W Reid. Novice Cup Haverfordwest won by J Martin. Spence Cup Inland Ave won by Russell Bros. G McCloy Trophy Haverford won by T Mairs and T Kilpatrick Trophy for Okehampton won by W Reid. Luke & Lyle Points Cup OB & YB won by Russell Bros and Willie Reynolds presented the Harryville Show Cup to Russell Bros who can pen a winner as well as race one.

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The top table at Cullybackey presentation at Tullymore House in 1978 with wives. From (l) Len Russell, Tommy Harper, Sandy Spence, James Martin, Alfie Greenwood and John Blaney.

Since the inception of the Cullybackey Flying Club which started with only a handful of members it has grown rapidly to its present strength of over 50 members and is the largest club in the Section B of the NIPA. This has been entirely due to the efforts of Mr & Mrs Leckey and although Ernie has now relinquished the position of Secretary he still gives his unlimited support to the club. In appreciation of his long-standing service and devotion to the fancy and his club the members took this opportunity to present Mrs Leckey with a Silver Tea Service and Ernie with a wallet for which EG in his own amicable way thanked the members. One of the club’s founder members Alfie Greenwood made the presentation. James Martin Provincial of the BHW penned this report, lovely text.

A few memories of Cogry by Milne Mairs -

The loss of top flyer Davy Suitters will be felt in the Doagh Club in County Antrim, as the Mr & Mrs Suitters partnership was one that brought the spotlight on the club with many outstanding performances right through to becoming INFC Champions in 1998 and winning a French National. His presence will also be missed in INFC circles where he was a well-respected committee member.  The Suitters loft won the INFC Friendship National in 2014 when only 11 pigeons were clocked in racetime from Quimper, it doesn't get much harder than that, and their winning bird a Blue Cheq. Hen named 'Kelburn Lady' was a great pigeon.  The Kelburn name comes from the Kelburn Park Housing Estate a mile or so from Doagh at Burnside ,where the loft was situated on the banks of the Cogry Burn that flows past what could be described as the village green.  Just a few hundred yards down the road sits the now derelict Cogry Mill where many from this area once worked, with quite a few living at that time just across the road from the Mill in a little terraced street known as Cogry Square.   Quite a few pigeon fanciers were among the residents of Cogry with a couple of trophies recently found in a house at Kelburn Park dated 1899, and when the Mill closed some moved up the road to the new housing at  Kelburn Park , with a number of lofts erected beside the river, all within a 100 yard. Stretch.  Some raced in Doagh Social, others in Springvale HPS just up the road and at least one in Ballyclare & District HPS, about three miles away.  The Secretaries of both the Ballyclare and Springvale clubs namely John Robinson and Jim Topping both had their lofts here, with John being one half of the Turkington & Robinson partnership.  A & C McGrugan and Turkington Bros were another two lofts at Kelburn Park that I can recall racing in the Springvale club when I was a member in the 1970s. 

When the Mairs family moved to live at the Ballyclare end of the Cogry Road in the late 1960s my father and I both joined Springvale and we were then joined a few years later by younger brothers Trevor and Alan, so we had four family members racing to four different lofts against each other all to the same address. This meant three of us took our clocks in on race days knowing before we got to the club that we certainly weren't going to win. Trevor gave up the pigeons after a couple of years returning to golf where he and Alan went on to be low handicap players at Ballyclare Golf Club half a mile up the road.  Alan raced very well topping the Section from the NIPA YB Channel Derby ,as it was then, on one occasion.  

Some top sportsmen emerged from the Cogry area in the 60s and 70s with the name Turkington prominent in boxing , pigeons and football. In the mid-sixties boxing brothers Henry and Billy Turkington came to prominence, boxing out of the Coe McConnell gym near Doagh, and going on to be very successful in Irish Amateur Boxing circles.  These two, particularly Billy, were fearsome punchers leaving many opponents staring at the ceiling ,with those in the ringside seats getting a good look at the pattern on the sole of their boxing boots.  Coe McConnell was a member of Doagh Pigeon Club and I first met him when he was asked by Ballyclare based athletic club East Antrim Harriers to be the guest starter at their annual Parkgate to Ballyclare road race. This was my first race for the Harriers and as I waited for the start Coe asked me if I was interested in boxing, and invited me to come over to the gym sometime as he thought that I could be a welterweight as I had a good reach.  I didn't take him up on that offer , reckoning that the only person needing a good reach may be my corner man reaching for the smelling salts to bring me back to my senses.   A number of years later I built Coe a new loft front but by that time I think he was out of the boxing business. The Turkington Brothers who were members of Springvale in the 70s were Mervyn and another Henry, with Mervyn being a talented footballer who was on the books of Ballymena United at one time. This was a path I also took when ex Liverpool and Everton centre forward  Dave Hickson signed me after a trial on a snow covered Showgrounds pitch.  A couple of months later he went to manage Bangor ,also an Irish League club in those days. They must have been having goalkeeper problems as a week or two later the Ballymena Reserve team trainer took me to the side at a training session to let me know that Dave had been in contact to ask if they would let me sign for Bangor. I opted to stay where I was but travel problems to training put paid to my time at Warden Street ,something I regret, and it would be 9 years later before I played there again, this time for my hometown club Ballyclare Comrades.  Ballymena and Bangor supporters may have had a lucky escape there .  In those days summer football was very popular with 7 a side tournaments offering monetary prizes to the winning team attracting teams with good class players.  I have a picture on my wall of the Little Linfield team that won such a tournament in Antrim in the early 70s, with no fewer than 4 Cogry men in the team. I was in goal with a  three man defence of Rodney Turkington, Mervyn Turkington and Davy Turkington , the forwards being Kenny Higgins, Billy Heany and Wynard Higgins and 4th Cogry man Maurice Agnew as sub, Mervyn ,Maurice and myself all pigeon fanciers. One incident in that final that made me laugh was when Mervyn attempted some fancy footwork right in front of our goal almost allowing our opponents to score, Davy less than impressed asked him what the bleep he was doing ,with Mervyn asking Davy what he would have done. Davy replied " see those nettles over there", pointing at a huge bed of nettles about 40 yards away, " if that had been me they would be looking for the ball in those nettles now".

Henry, who now races in the Kells club as does Maurice Agnew, recalls an NIpa Penzance race in 1980 when he had a Mealy pigeon in great condition and really fancied it to do well, come race day sure enough a Mealy was spotted  coming over the Old Mill right on line folding it's wings heading straight for his loft. As he reached for his clock the pigeon veered to the side straight on to Turkington & Robinsons landing board to win 1st Open NIPA, with the tens of thousands of pigeons entered.   Incredibly the same loft topped the Open the following year again from Penzance velocity 898 ypm ,I would think that has never been done before or since, brilliant racing by Artie and John.  Ballyclare & Dist. had a membership of up to possibly 80 members in the 1960s and Secretary John Robinson had his work cut out to produce a handwritten result which he pinned on the notice board every race marking night.  Such was the crowd that gathered at the notice board that John usually had to elbow his way in to get to the board  occasionally asking why they were all so keen to see that they had finished closer to the bottom of the list than the top. John was a great secretary who didn't suffer fools lightly and many were the AGMs that he would sit looking out over the top of his glasses as all and sundry voiced their opinion on this and that subject. When they all had their say he would push his glasses back up and quote some rule or other that rendered all the suggestions non-starters.

Another character from the area was Bobby McCullough who in his younger days was a champion cross country runner and keen pigeon fancier in the Doagh Club. Bobby was good company and spent many Saturday mornings helping my father to do jobs about the house and garden at our bungalow on the Rashee Road, no prizes for guessing what the subject of their conversation was about as they worked.  Some very good long distance performances were put up over the years with National and Derby wins into the area.  Mr & Mrs Suitters Ouimper win was as far as I know the only INFC French race won but in the 1970s Davy Bates won the NIPA Dinard Derby whilst racing in the Springvale Club, with my father 2nd Open to complete a one two for the club.  The King's Cup is a race that many aspire to do well in and the closest anyone in the Doagh or Springvale clubs has come to winning it was in 1969 when McAdam Brothers of Doagh were 3rd Open from Nantes, and also Hugh Irvine & Son of the Springvale club 3rd Open Rennes in 1978, with the next best being noted distance man Robin Duddy on the Rectory Road who was 4th Open in 1994  from Rennes  with Turkington & Robinson's 6th Open way back in 1961, flying 600 miles from Les Sables.  The Irvine loft was located in Ballyclare and Hugh was the father of well-known auctioneer and pigeon fancier Jack Irvine who was also 3rd Open King's Cup in 1974 flying to the same loft. Jack's son Shaun also took an interest in pigeons as a teenager and raced in Springvale as one half of the Irvine and Martin partnership, with young Martin his next door neighbour also a teenager. This young partnership actually topped the NIPA Open from Haverfordwest on one occasion with 19.000 plus pigeons competing with Sandy Mairs again 2nd Open.  

Robin Duddy, who actually races in the Ballyclare Club, won the INFC Penzance Young Bird National and Jock Wilson the INFC Yearling National racing in Springvale, were two outstanding performances that I can recall in my time, 

The Springvale club no longer exists but Doagh has many excellent pigeon men who frequently appear prominently in NIPA and INFC results. Anthony and Norman Lewis 2nd Open Friendship National Quimper, Brian and Elaine McNeilly 2nd Open Sennen Cove Yearling National are two that come to mind,  then there's William McClelland INFC fancier of the Year a few years back. Campbell McGrugan one of the stalwarts of the Springvale club has also won the NIPA Old Bird French National St Malo.   The smallest pigeon I ever owned came from A & C McGrugan when they had a sale back in the 1970s, she had flown France for the McGrugans and bred me a Dinard prize winner in her first nest.  In the 70s with the Ballyclare club having a 15 bird limit a number of fanciers joined Springvale who didn't have any limit as far as I remember and there were some who doubled over into the club. Flyers of the calibre of Billy Cummings, Andy Agnew and Davy McNeilly saw to it that you had to be on your toes to win the club back in those days. Over the years many many top performance have been put up by fanciers in the Doagh and Springvale clubs so apologies to all those who are not mentioned in this article. 

Back in the day in Cogry many practical jokes were played on some fanciers with Jimmy Cowan the butt of some of them. On one occasion a taxi driver who lived in the Square built a big wooden garage to house his car, which put an idea into the head of one of the local fanciers who gathered up a few accomplices to lift Jimmy's small loft and carry it into the garage under cover of darkness.  The next morning they hid out of sight as Jimmy came whistling up the garden with water and corn bucket in hand coming to about 20 yards of where the loft should have been before actually realising it was gone. As he started to look left and right to see where it was audible laughter reached his ears, whereupon the parentage of those behind the bushes was called into question as Jimmy turned the air blue.  Poor Jimmy was also reputed to be less than generous when feeding his birds, reckoning that when he threw a handful of maple peas on the floor they only bounced once.

The housing at Cogry was eventually levelled to the ground and sometime later private housing was built leaving no sign of the original little hamlet that now only exists in the memories of those old enough to recall it. Milne Mairs. 

“Champion 80” by David Black -

A pigeon that is three times in the Open result of the King’s Cup receives a Hall of Fame award, a pigeon that does the same in the Friendship National receives a Triple Award and a pigeon that does the same with the NIPA Old Bird race receives a Silver Award. However, any pigeon that is in the Open result in each of these three races doesn’t receive any special award.  The following are the racing and breeding details of one such a pigeon. It’s a five-year old, Blue Ch Hen GB 16 D 04980, simply called “80” and raced by Harry Silcock of Dromara HPS and bred by N. Black & Son.

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“Champion 80” the winner of 4th Open Friendship Nat Lamballe, 139th Open Kings Cup St Allouestre and 258th Open St Malo NIPA.

Although Harry’s name is to the fore, his daughter Janice and his grandson Andrew look after the birds, Janice doing all the work and Andrew doing all the planning and taking all the glory. Janice and Andrew have been doing this for about 10 years now since Harry got his knee replacements. But sadly Harry had a bad stroke in October 2018 and now resides in Mountvale Nursing Home in Dromore but has been out to watch for the birds coming from the French races although he is no longer able to appreciate the amount of success the team have had, winning over £2,000 in their time in charge.

Since taking over, the team have had two top ten positions from French Nationals, 4th Open Lamballe and 10th Open Quimper Friendship National 2016 plus lots of other top National positions.  Much to their disappointment, they have been runner-up in two INFC cups, the Duddy Trophy to Arnold Thompson and the Darragh Cup to Donnelly Bros and they would dearly love to win an INFC award. They were very disappointed last year when there was no King’s Cup as they had a bird going for a Triple Crown (Young Bird National, Yearling National and King’s Cup) this one, bred by club mate Darren Aiken and was won in the raffle at the club dinner. There is also intense rivalry in the club, especially with the N. Black & Son and Russell Bros lofts.

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Harry Silcock holding his 4th Open INFC Friendship Nat Lamballe winner with daughter Janice and grandson Andrew.

Now unto “80”, her sire is a son of “Rocky”, 71st Yearling National and 5th and 8th King’s Cup, paired with a sister of “Margaret”, 1st Open Friendship National. Her dam is a daughter of Gold Medal Winner “Big Darren” when paired to the “44” hen,6th and 61st King’s Cup, this dam is also the grandmother of 2nd Open St Malo for Donnelly Bros and “The Tin Man”, 6th Open St Malo.

“80” was hatched in March 2016 and was a darkness young bird having one race from Gowran Park, 128 miles. As a yearling she had Corrin, 182 miles and Skibbereen, 236 miles. As a two year old Corrin, 1st Talbenny, 185 miles, Fermoy comeback, 175 miles and then was sent, sitting a one day young bird,  into Lamballe Friendship National, 436 miles, liberated at 6.30 am. This was a very tough race and was won by the “80” hen’s aunt “Margaret” timed by N. Black & Son at 6.40 pm. The Silcock team timed at 7.11pm, flying 12 hours, 41 minutes to be 2nd Section, 4th Open. Janice and Andrew were actually glad that Josh Hand, Skerries and G. O’Reilly, Malahide were 2nd and 3rd Open as they would have been devastated to being 2nd behind N. Black & Son. There were only 20 birds on the day.

As a 3 year old she had three Fermoys, 175 miles then into St Allouestre King’s Cup, 469 miles, sent sitting on a two day young bird. It was another tough race and “80” was 106th North Section, 139th Open, 167 birds in race time. The loft was also 89th and 105th Open.

In 2020 “80” started off in Tullamore, 103 miles, the two Corrins, 182 miles and then into the only French race last year the NIPA St Malo, 439 miles. This race, unlike her two previous French races, was very fast. Liberated at 6.30 am the winner was timed after 2 pm to Diamond Carson, Banbridge and “80” was timed at 3.49 pm to be 23rd Section D, 258th Open and was sent on chipping eggs. The loft was also 104th and 203rd Open. 1st and 3rd club.
“80” has now been retired and will be paired with her grandfather “Rocky” this year.

News and reports required - 

Remember I am doing club season reports and require info from the many clubs not already done. A few Loft Feature reports have not yet been returned, could I ask fanciers to send back the info as soon as ready. Do please remember it’s only a bit of fun nothing serious and something for fanciers to read and see how the successful lofts perform, something might be picked up to improve their own situation   We have the space available now running up until April when hopefully we have the all-clear to resume racing.  Local clubs covered so far include Ballymena & District, Harryville HPS, Kells & District and Randalstown, I will keep adding from my archive.

HOMER. Willie Reynolds

Tel/Fax: (028) 256 44683

Mobile: 07538 238364

Twitter: willie reynolds@homerbhw>

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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