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"On the banks of the Lee" - 10-03-21

cork coat of arms    "On the banks of the Lee"        cork coat of arms

Over the years Cork has been a county blessed with its fair share of top class fanciers, the likes of some we will never see again. Although some of these elite fanciers have now moved on from this world, fortunately a few remain.

Living on the edge of the great Blackpool valley is where one of these elite fanciers can be found, he is the great Tom Cahill. Tom is married to wife Martha and between them they have a family of 5 daughters and are also blessed with several grandchildren.  A retired businessman, Tom is very well known and respected not just locally but throughout the county and beyond.

As a young boy Tom set out with grit and determination to earn his crust and with that in mind Tom decided to leave his beloved Emerald Isle and with that he ventured across the Irish Sea to the United Kingdom. Eventually Tom found his way back and life on Irish soil began again.  Upon settling back in Tom started the process leading to a lifelong involvement with the great sport of pigeon racing and the rest as they say is history.

From the start Tom was eager to get going and he very quickly joined a club not just any club but the great Northern flying club in Blackpool. Over the years Northern flying club was truly blessed with some of the greatest fanciers and long-distance fanciers in the south of Ireland. Once Tom gained membership he very quickly got actively involved in the club and over the years to his credit Tom has held every position on the committee up to and including the title of President. Currently Tom races with the Cork Harbourview RPC and I'm sure Tom enjoys his pigeons today as much as ever.

Tom Cahill is widely recognised as a superb fancier and is renowned for his success at the distance racing but it has to be acknowledged that Tom is equally a very competitive fancier from the start of any programme to the finish. Tom is well known to all in pigeon circles and is particularly well known for having achieved something very special.

Tom Cahill displaying another one of his fabulous team
Tom Cahill displaying another one of his fabulous team

In 2009 Tom was to grab all the headlines with a blue cock later named Danny Graeme by winning the Sennen Cove National with the Irish homing union National Flying Club recording a velocity of 1981ypm, a record flying time into Cork. Amazingly 3 weeks later while this National result was still only sinking in something that dreams are made of was about to happen. Flying from St. Malo a tough race point in France, Tom once again rose to the top and not just did Tom clock, he clocked in style winning his second National in only 3 weeks and also in this process Tom captured the famous Miller gold cup.

Danny Graeme Sennen Cove National winner for Tom Cahill
Danny Graeme Sennen Cove National winner for Tom Cahill

Tom is not a big team flyer by any means keeping a tidy amount to suit his needs. Everything within Tom's loft is done as naturally as possible with the deep litter system being adopted and natural immunity encouraged. The electronic timing system (ets) is now the preferred method of timing used in the lofts and Tom likes a small to medium type pigeon for racing. Tom, to his credit, has managed to produce a few very consistent pigeons to perform on the big stage. Personally speaking I couldn't let the 2021 season arrive without mentioning Tom Cahill. Last year, 2020, another wonderful performance was produced from the Cahill lofts and the destination once again being St. Malo. On this occasion another blue cock was to arrive in very good time (7hrs 39 mins into Cork) and indeed gave Tom a right good scare as Tom informed me that the cocks flying time wasn't too far out from the year he won the Miller Gold cup.  This blue cock now named Charlie Dylan by Tom’s grandson held his own and was to win 1st section D Cork/Waterford and finish in a very respectable 10th open National with the Irish Homing Union National Flying Club. The pedigree of this blue cock is exceptional to say the least.

Tom Cahill holding Charlie Dylan his 2020 St
Tom Cahill holding Charlie Dylan his 2020 St. Malo pigeon and alongside Tom is his smiling grandson Dylan.

Sire is Tom's 2009 National Sennon Cove winner Danny Graeme. Danny Graeme is sire and grandsire of many birds Tom has timed out of St. Malo and the Kings Cup. The stamina, heart and character shown by Tom's pigeons is second to none. Tom has raced many a good pigeon over the years and another example would be when Tom entered and timed in from St. Malo. Amazingly 10 days later the same pigeon was again sent and timed in from the Kings Cup race taking 1st club, 2nd fed and 71st open Kings Cup. Another of Tom's candidates in recent years would certainly show no fear of water. This particular pigeon Ihu10s86138 was also a son of Danny Graeme and would go on to fly the Kings Cup for Tom on four occasions being recorded in the INFC result two years from the four times sent with a 1st club, 2nd fed and 235th open INFC National to his credit.

Tom Cahill with his beautiful framed display
Tom Cahill with his beautiful framed display

The two years not recorded were unfortunately the result of coming home injured but credit where its due showing huge heart and determination to make it home. The Dam of Charlie Dylan Tom's 2020 St. Malo winner was as Tom informed me a present from his good friend Ger Mulcahy. Ger was a member of the Mulcahy bros partnership and to their credit they were really competitive excellent fanciers winning both on the land and across the water. Mulcahy bros weren't shy at National level either being National winners themselves.

Tom and the two paddies. from left to right Paddy Hickey Tom Cahill Paddy Kelly
Tom and the two paddies. from left to right, Paddy Hickey, Tom Cahill, Paddy Kelly

In closing on this section I would just like to wish Tom, Martha and all the family all the very best of health and happiness for the future . I would like to also wish Tom the best of luck with the pigeons going forward as I'm sure more success awaits. 

Tom with the famous Miller gold cup and on the right Eugene Fitzgerald Ihu president
Tom with the famous Miller gold cup and on the right Eugene Fitzgerald Ihu president.

Moving on now I'd like to introduce you to a fancier by the name of Jason Lewis. Jay as he is known to many I believe is evolving into a very good and capable fancier and last season Jason began to leave his mark. Jason is certainly no stranger to the sport because from time to time over the years he has produced some very good performances. Jason is originally a native of Youghal in east Cork. Jason came from a large family being one of 10 children. When Jason was around 12 years old he started to get very interested in the pigeons so much so that he decided to build his first ever pigeon loft. The loft was passionately put together and was constructed of Palletts Jason would manage to acquire. From there the pigeon bug really bit and dreams of bigger things to follow.

Jason Lewis a fancier with a bright future
Jason Lewis, a fancier with a bright future

Jason remembered as a kid going to the old carpet factory at night with his flashlamp in hand. The intension of the mission was to seek out any stray pigeon that might be caught up amongst the wild townies or bankers as we would call them. I'm sure this is how a lot of young pigeon fanciers started out at one time or another and I'm sure some will pause to think and reminisce of places like the docklands and the good old days of old. I'd imagine you will probably find similar stories around the world over. One gentleman by the name of Freddy Welsh who still races today in Youghal was back then and still today a very good friend to Jason. Freddy would help Jason out by breeding him a few youngsters come breeding season and this generosity and encouragement was then and now very much appreciated. Jason recalling that there was no fancy feeding around in those days and that was only 30 years ago. You were lucky at times if you got your hands on some maize, wheat and barley. 20 years ago Jason was to begin a new venture and a more urban move was made.

Roughly thirty miles from Youghal the Lewis family were to start over in a place on the southside of Cork City called Mahon. Jason was hardly in the door and his pigeon family was playing on his mind again. So the first chance he got a small loft was erected and more birds were added once again. Currently today Jason keeps his team of pigeons in a lovely 21ft loft housing an average of about seventy pigeons consisting of thirty stock birds and the rest would be for racing purposes. Two to three years ago Jason was very lucky to be able to acquire some of the very good Van de Bulke pigeons. Last season, 2020, Jason raced with the Irish homing Union National flying club and the featured Talbenny young bird channel race turned out to be a great day for the Lewis Lofts. 

On the day of Liberation Jason firstly timed a black chequer cock to record 1st section D  Cork/Waterford and also a very respectable 28th open National. Very quickly a second bird was to also arrive in Mahon and again at the Lewis lofts. This beautiful blue hen was to be right on the black cocks tail recording to take 2nd place in section D Cork/Waterford and again a very respectable 29th open National. So a great day for Jason being 1st & 2nd section D and 28th & 29th open National Talbenny Young birds. Jason is making great progress with his pigeons and also to add to the previous Jason also likes to enter the one loft races and he informed me that also last year he was thrilled that his chequer w/tip youngbird was to make it to the final race of the Wild Atlantic Way One Loft Race and out of over 800 birds liberated on the day gaining a very good position taking 40th place overall. Jason hopes to fly the full programme this year coming with the Irish homing union National flying club and the West Cork RPC. Jason also expressed to me that he would like to see things changing in Cork pigeon racing.

Jason Lewis beautiful Black cock 1st section D CorkWaterford and 28th open National Talbenny with the ihunfc
Jason Lewis beautiful Black cock 1st section D CorkWaterford and 28th open National Talbenny with the ihunfc

Jason Lewis blue hen 2nd section D Cork Waterford and 29th open National Talbenny with the ihunfcjpeg
Jason Lewis blue hen 2nd section D Cork Waterford and 29th open National Talbenny with the ihunfc.

Jason feels that there are too many clubs racing different roads and feels that we should all try the one road together. Jason would like to see one club on the northside and one club on the southside. Jason feels that this would be ideal in order to reduce fees and with the prospect of better racing it might help encourage younger fanciers to join the sport. Jason also wanted to express his sincere thanks to Herbie Thorpe (Former Kings Cup winner) from Proudstown pigeon supplies for the top class pigeons that Jason purchased and for the constant supply of Beyers pigeon food. Jason informed me that he feels the feeding prices are too high down here so he travels up to Herbie every two weeks and brings down the best of feeding for a price that suits. Jason also added that he thinks going back to his theory on the one club in the Northside/Southside of Cork City would benefit everyone and the birds especially as they would be bigger birdage and if it is possible then try and get all the birds linked with the Munster Federation. All pigeons would then be liberated and all the birds would be heading down the country together like in the days of old.

40th open for Jason Lewis from the final race in the Wild Atlantic way with over 800 birds
40th open for Jason Lewis from the final race in the Wild Atlantic way with over 800 birds

Jason, I feel, has a huge future in pigeon racing and I can see him going from strength to strength. I wish him well in his pigeon pursuits and I'd also like to take the opportunity to wish Jason and his family all the best for the year ahead.

Over the last few months and years Cork has lost a few great pigeon fanciers. Not alone were they great fanciers but were all great servants of the sport in one way or another.  Sadly we cannot bring them back but hopefully we can honour them by doing our best to keep pigeon racing alive. When the story of time is told a name that will always be spoken of in the highest regard is one of Corks greatest fanciers.  He was a well-known gentleman by the name of John Kenny of Colmcille Road. John was a superb fancier and excelled when it came to the distance racing. John was one of the old stock and would have saw and experienced in terms of racing better days of old where pigeons would frequently be raced and timed from race points such as Thurso in the North of Scotland which John himself had also conquered.

The late great legend John Kenny
The late great legend John Kenny

Thurso averaging around 500 miles to fanciers in Cork city was the channel race that a lot of the long distance fanciers use to aspire to and I suppose still do today. John was especially well known to everyone involved in pigeon racing and also not forgetting his beloved dogs which he also managed with great success and with clinical expertise. John was a very liked and respected gentleman and I still remember like yesterday stopping by the front wall to have a brief chat with him. 

John Kenny and his wife Breda behind what must be said a spectacular display of trophies
John Kenny and his wife Breda behind what must be said a spectacular display of trophies

John Kenny proudly holding in his arms his granddaughter Jade
John Kenny proudly holding in his arms his granddaughter Jade

John's son i.e. John Kenny junior still races pigeons today and continues the Kenny legacy into the future. John junior is himself a good hand when it comes to the pigeons and is always a name to listen out for come clock checking time. Stephen is another member of the Kenny clan being the younger brother of John junior. Stephen is also now following on in his father and brothers footsteps by getting involved with the pigeons and keeping the tradition alive.

From left to right John Kenny junior and the late John Kenny senior
From left to right, John Kenny junior and the late John Kenny senior

We wish him well and I'm sure Stephen will soon master the art that has been handed down to him by his father the great master pigeon fancier John Kenny. I can't forget to mention John's daughter Liz Kenny. Liz is a fiercely enthusiastic and passionate lady especially when it comes to the dogs and by god she certainly has the Kenny Dna. Liz I must say is an absolute lady and a credit to herself and her family. I would like to wish the Kenny family the very best of luck with both the birds and the dogs going forward and no doubt I'm sure their father will be watching over them. Rest in peace John Kenny.  Before I move on I'd also like to thank Liz for taking the time to speak with me recently.

Liz Kenny with her daughter Jade and friend Niamh embracing with Ms. Hotfoot a dog that was named after one of the late John Kennys good dogs
Liz Kenny with her daughter Jade and friend Niamh embracing with Ms. Hotfoot a dog that was named after one of the late John Kennys good dogs

Liz Kenny well prepared at the finish line presenting her dog with a much deserved bowl of water
Liz Kenny, well prepared at the finish line presenting her dog with a much deserved bowl of water

Another one of Corks great characters and coincidentally a very good friend of the Kenny's lived literally just around the corner from the Kenny family home. This gentleman has now also gone before his maker. He was a man by the name of Michael O'Connell from temple acre in Gurranabraher. Mick
as we all knew him was also a fabulous fancier in his time and he always loved his pigeons and the art of breeding and racing that came along with it.

The late Michael Mick OConnell a great gentleman and character
The late Michael Mick O'Connell, a great gentleman and character

Mick certainly knew how to motivate his pigeons for racing and a few years back he got his due reward by clocking in his good blue cock to win the Cork South Road club race from St. Malo in France and also had a very good blue and white hen to be timed from St. Malo also taking a very respectable open National position.  Mick was also a great character and the bit of craic was never too far away. Mick was also very well known in small bird circles and was an established small bird fancier keeping some superb specimens. Mick was also known for having one or two parrots in the house one whom had a few words of his own.

The late Michael O Connell proudly holding the blue cock which he timed in from St. Malo in France
The late Michael O' Connell proudly holding the blue cock which he timed in from St. Malo in France

On a personal note one of my last memories of Mick was when one Saturday morning I arrived to the side of the house as we used all do religiously. On arrival this particular morning I was met by a frantic Mick who was anxiously waving a tadpole net and pole in his hand. Mick was panickily walking up and down the terrace paths as I enquired as to what was going on. While checking the trees and gardens Mick explained to me that one of his beloved parrots had escaped out of the house. I believe the parrot was later found safe and well not too far afield. Mick was a very proud man and was an exceptional good family man and he will be greatly missed.  Condolences to Michael's family, may he rest in peace.

Michael OConnell with his lifelong friend Tony OMahony
Michael O'Connell with his lifelong friend Tony O'Mahony

Since my previous article the Cork pigeon fraternity have unfortunately sadly suffered another heavy loss with the more recent passing of the very well-known gentleman fancier Kevin Papazion.

The late Kevin Papazion happily giving the thumbs upjpg
The late Kevin Papazion happily giving the thumbs up.

Kevin was known to many as Pappy. I recall some of the older stock referring to Kevin as Pappy going back 20 plus years ago. Kevin was a passionate, devoted and dedicated fancier and loved his hobby very much. Kevin was also a great worker for the sport and held many different positions on committee's over the years. Again Kevin was another fancier who was well able to work his pigeons and they indeed responded to his methods. On the vast majority of weeks if racing was underway you were sure to see the name Papazion on the result list, nothing was more surer than that. Kevin a plumber by trade, was a gentleman through and through and was very well liked by all. Personally I always felt Kevin had a fantastic manner and was a very easy going and approachable chap whom you could easily conversate with.

An absolute gentleman
An absolute gentleman. The late great Kevin Papazion.

What we do in life echoes in eternity and I'm certain Kevin will always be remembered as a top class individual with a great personality. Kevin would oblige anyone at the drop of a hat with no questions asked. Kevin was also a great family man and he will be sadly missed by all his family and friends. Condolences to Kevin's family at this sad time, may he rest in peace.

From left to right. Barry Morey of the Morey Bros partnership, in the centre we have Brian O'Leary a lifelong friend of Kevin's and on the right we have Kevin Papazion himself. 3 great friends and club mates.

On a final note, we who remain to carry on the great pigeon racing tradition are now the future of the sport whether we like it or not. We cannot afford to look too far back. Time passes on, things change and evolution continues on its journey as it always has done, such is life. Through this natural process we find ourselves now in the position where it is up to us to continue what our fallen friends and ancestors have striven and worked so hard for. We should leave no stone unturned in pursuing this mission. A very famous John F Kennedy quote springs to mind but I would like to give it a little bit of a twist - 'Don't ask what your sport can do for you, ask what you can do for your sport'.

Alan Busteed