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Tommy Shawalegend

Tom Shaw

Tommy was a living legend in North Staffordshire and in a sparkling career won the Federation's sprint averages more times than he cared to remember but it was in the teens of occasions. This is some record that will stand forever and is even more amazing when many of these victories were recorded when the N S Fed were sending between 10-15000 pigeons. Yes, Tom was a great fancier and credit to our sport. My thoughts are with his son John and his sister at this sad time.

Mike Lakin with an article a couple of years earlier.



Tommy Shaw & Son

   One of North Staffordshire’s Finest


   It was whilst visiting Tom Shaw recently that I got the motivation to put together this article. You see Tommy is not only a fantastic sprint flyer but he is also a very interesting and gregarious character. Once Tom starts to talk to you the pigeon based tales simply flow like the local river Trent. I got to know Tommy well when we often met up in the back garden ‘den’ of the Late great Dennis Burton of Fenton who was a great mate of mine and in a fabulous racing career Den won the North Staffordshire Federation Combined Averages on no less than 6 occasions and this was in the days when very few raced the cross channel races with the National clubs. Yes in those days the ‘Sentinel Cup’ awarded to the federation’s Combined Averages winner was the ‘holy grail’ of pigeon racing for Potteries based fanciers and no wonder as the birdages for races was often as high as 15,000 plus for inland events and 5-6,000 birds  entered in the shorter races flown from France.

  At Burto’s loft I got to learn a lot about Tommy Shaw and his pigeons. Birds like ‘Rambo’, Stitches and New Hayes Johnny which we will talk more about later in this piece. I often think that the word legend is often used too lightly but in my opinion Dennis Burton, George Litherland and Tom Shaw are certainly Potteries fanciers worthy of this title.

 Anyway back on track continuing with this article to highlight Tom and his son John. Tom won’t thank me for telling readers but by the time you read this piece he will be an octogenarian. It’s alright Tom not many will know what one of those actually is! I find this quite amazing that someone of this age can still not only compete but often beat the opposition. I should point out here that Tommy carries out all of the day to day work and John is the trainer. Over the last 40 years the partners have won the North Staffordshire Federation Inland Averages umpteen times. The truth is Tommy doesn’t know the exact number as he isn’t the World’s greatest record keeper but he is confident that the averages have been won on more than on dozen occasions. In the early days as previously explained the birdages were often in excess of 15,000. With a federation that at the time boasted a membership of more than 40 clubs.

  People will no doubt assume that the Shaws compete with an army of pigeons when in fact nothing could in fact be further from the truth because the race team is comprises of 18 cocks  and their normal weekly entry is usually 8-12 pigeons. So it is clear that the motto ‘Quality rather than quantity’ is adopted here.

  People shouldn’t think that the partners can only win from the shorter race points as over the years their birds have performed well  from the Channel races as well but it is true to say that Tom is an absolute ‘terror’ from the sprint races. I am aware that the pigeon World tends to look to mainland Europe for the best fanciers and pigeons but believe me in truth no one would be able ‘turn their back’ on the Shaws of Stoke on Trent. As this story unfolds I am sure readers will also be convinced that Tom and John are a little special.

  I’m sure that readers will be keen to learn of the origins of his pigeons. Well Tom has never been afraid to put his hand into his pocket to get hold of what he considered to be superior pigeons. Some of these purchases didn’t ‘cut the mustard’ and so today the loft is based around introductions made nearly 40 years ago from Maurice Verheye of Oeselgem and Willem Geerts of Schilde. From these two fantastic Belgian fanciers Tom got stock that have gone on and made him and his son John living legends in North Staffordshire.

  As we chatted the expression on Tom’s face took him back in time to those early days in the 1970’s when he got to know Maurice Verheye so well. You see Tom just like myself believes that to get the very best pigeons you must get to know the man you are hoping to build your own colony upon. It should be borne in mind that the best fanciers get a lot of visitors knocking on their door and so it stands to reason that when you are a friend that you will get birds from the very best stock that are available. This is surely excellent advice. Tom told me that he visited Verheye several times buying a couple of birds each time. On one occasion he couldn’t help but notice that Maurice’s old dog was ‘on his last legs’ so on his next visit he took with him a young Jack Russell pup which he had acquired from a friend of his. When he gave him the present Maurice was lost for words but his delight was clear. He invited Tom to select a bird in return from a kit of ‘summer young’ and Tom selected a beauty which was from his Oude Merckx x Jempy. He must have selected wisely because after Maurice said that he had hoped that Tom wouldn’t have picked that particular bird!

  It was a delighted Tom who on his next visit to Maurice to see that he had his new pup companion closely by his side and Maurice had called him ‘Tom’

 On the same trip Tom had ordered youngsters off Willem Geerts who in the 1970’s and 1980’s was an absolute terror and ‘Emperor’ of the Antwerp Union. Whilst there Tom noticed a few late youngsters in a small aviary and he asked Willem’s son Serge if they were for sale as he had spotted one that he had taken a ‘shine too’. Serge went to ask his father and he said ‘’as you have bought the others you can pick one’’. So Tom gave him the number of the bird he wanted and Serge took it to his father in the house. Tom’s eyes opened wide as he continued his tale. ‘Suddenly all hell broke loose from within the house and Serge came back saying that his father said he couldn’t have that one but to pick another as the bird was a son from ‘De Seppe’ and ‘Kleinen’ ‘ With a chuckle Tom told me that he replied to Willem that ‘if he couldn’t  have the youngster that he didn’t want the other birds!’. So with a good deal of huffing, cursing and puffing Tom was able to take the bird.

  After he got back Tom told Maurice the story and he replied ‘’Tom never be frightened to cross good ones’’. So the following year the Shaws coupled the gift off Maurice with the son of ‘De Seppe’ from Geerts and Maurice’s words were ‘bang on the money’ as a host of champions emerged from this pairing including ‘Rambo’ who won 24 x 1st prizes and topped the fed 5 times. ‘Stitches’ who won 6x1st prizes in one season which won the partners a European award for his efforts and ‘New Hayes Johnny’ who chalked up 17 x1st prizes and 4 more federation wins. With these birds Tommy Shaw and Son had no fear of anyone in the sprint events. ‘Truly Golden Pigeons’ that ensured a rich harvest which has still continued right up until the present time.

 To highlight this point in 2014 Tom and John won the R.P.R.A. Short Distance Award with a lovely two year old Blue Cock which John has christened ‘Blusain Bolt’ and looking at his racing C.V. the bird is well worthy of the title. Readers may wonder what level of performances are necessary to gain such a prestigious National award. Well let’s take a look and all will be revealed. 3 times 1st N.S.Federation with birdages up to 4,692. 5 x 1st Federation West section and then followed up with a 3rd federation placing just for good measure.

 Tom explained that his latest ‘Super Star’ is still predominantly of his old faithful Verheye breeding. With his father being a son of the last bird that Tom got from his old buddy. This bird he called ‘Danny’ because he actually got it from Maurice’s son in law Danny as at this time Maurice’s health was deteriorating with dementia. This has caused great sadness to Tom. Even so and obviously though he was badly debilitated Maurice told his son in Law that the bird for Tom must be a good one. This was surely the case because the sire of ‘Usain’ has himself topped the federation on four occasions the last time being just five days previous to my visit with 1st Federation from over 4,000 birds from Bath which is nearly 115 miles to Tom’s loft. I would like to add that he was also 2nd Federation in the race. This giving ample proof that once again the Shaws birds are still on the boil in 2015. The mother of the Award winner is back to the old Verheye x Geerts lines that have performed excellently for the partners.

  I did ask Tom if he knew what the basis of the Verheye colony evolved from. Tom said ‘’Oh yes but you must understand that Maurice spoken next to no English so I had to rely on second hand words from an interpreter. From what I was told as a young man Maurice wasn’t a wealthy man but earned a living as a carpenter. In his spare time he used this skill to do work on other fanciers homes and lofts. So if he wanted a bird he did the work taking a bird as payment rather than charging any money. The main basis were birds from  Desmet Mathys who had built up great fame with their fabulous ‘Klaren’ family. To these he added pigeons from another local champion Theo Gilbert’’.  Tom went on to explain that though he had built a great reputation as a sprint flyer his birds are well capable of giving a good account of themselves in races up to 300 miles and he continued by saying that he though preferred the shorter races because they could be raced on a weekly basis where as if you start racing in cross channel races birds must be rested. This is a problem to a loft that is made up of a small number of inmates. This reminded me of the saying that ‘if you try and juggle with too many balls that you are likely to drop them all!’ A wise stance in my opinion.

 On the subject of feeding now and in the racing season the partners tend to use the traditional tried and tested light feed in the first few days after their return from the last race in the form of a Depurative mixture then on the Wednesday and Thursday the birds get a Sport Widowhood mixture with small oil and fat enriched seeds given on Thursday night and Friday morning. The partners have used several different manufacturers feeds including Mariman, Vanrobaeys and their parent company Verse Laga and has achieved good results with them all. Tom confided that he always put a pinch of small seed as a treat in every box which the inmates get used to and expect after a few days. This encourages the birds to trap quickly when their exercise period is over. It is little things like this that can be the difference between 1st and getting no prize at all when a fast trap is essential. Especially when you realise that the partners still race using a T3 clock. Tom in fact is no lover of the electronic clocking system as he believes that it is an anti-social method of timing birds. I do understand and agree with Tom on his anti-social stance but still think it is the best and most accurate way to race pigeons. In a small loft like Tommy’s though when you have to get out of the way or have a bird impaled into your chest I do understand why the partners still prefer to use the old system and it showers even greater credit on them both. Another good tip is the fact that though the birds are normally fed in their own box the Thursday night ‘load up feed’ is offered in a trough communally because Tom realises that this eating in competition encourages the birds to eat more.

  With regard to the Shaws racing methods the birds get plenty of short distance training especially as young birds. John is in charge of the training flights with dad at home awaiting their return to ensure fast trapping which is so essential for success in the sprint events. I feel that this constant education from just 10 miles or so helps to encourage the Shaw birds to break from the main drag as they have learned and seen every yard of the ‘run in’ to their home. Tom says that the old birds need very little basket training once the season has started with perhaps one 25 mile spin two days before their next race. The hens are awaiting the cocks on their return but the cocks don’t normally get their mate when being basketed for the races but the inmates soon know the drill and home like ‘demons possessed’ on their return  on race days safe in the knowledge that their hen will be awaiting them. This probably emphasises once again why the Shaws continue to use the old T3.

 I did say that this is the normal method but Tom isn’t afraid of trying a trick or two to ‘freshen up’ things when it is felt that a bird is losing its motivation. In answer to my query of how this is achieved he just says it’s a matter of using ones imagination!

 The loft itself is a self-built brick building and is custom built to suit Tom and his birds being made up of small sections that helps to keep the inmates as tame as the proverbial ‘robin’. Everything is practical with a lathed internal door behind each sections main outer doors so that the birds can get the benefit of fresh air and sunshine when the weather is kind. The widowhood hens are housed in small darkened pens and when needed are simply released and they soon fly back into their boxes and await the return of their mates.

 The birds are predominantly blues and a few have a white flight evident. They are real beauties with nice apple bodies with plenty of pectoral muscle. The plumage is silky and rich in quality with the ‘one feather’ tail very prominent. In a nut shell they simply ooze quality.

 Tom gave me a couple of good tips for fanciers. The first was to be punctual with your birds. Feed and exercise them the same time each day because pigeons like regularity. I believe it is better to spend less time on a regular basis than be erratic.

 The second piece of advice was a tip that he got from his old pal Maurice Verheye  which is that the best breeding birds have when the under wing is inspected small squared (chisel like) feathers. Tom has also found over the years that this is good advice when selecting new stock.  

  That pretty much sums up Tom and John Shaw and their team as they prove that successes all about dedication and good pigeons which is easy when like Tom and John you have the necessary know how.

Mike Lakin

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