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Flying Into The North West of Ireland Part 2 The First Open Winner - Hugh Mcgowan




by Billy Knox

Part 2


We spoke before about winning the top prizes up in the North West. The chances as we all know are pretty slim to say the least. But, as with all things pigeon, there are, given the right conditions and of course the right pigeons, a few men who have created and added to the great history of pigeons in our small part of the world. It seems only fitting therefore that we recognise these fanciers for the part they have played, and are still playing, in the sport of racing pigeons.

Over the next few weeks we will look back at the history makers and pioneers of the sport in the city. We will look at how things have changed over the years. And we will look at today’s fanciers and the magnificent results still being achieved week after week, way up here in the North West.

Hugh with the last of his Harper pigeons

Records as we know are there to be broken, but history can only be made once. So, let’s start with the history makers and let’s start with Hugh McGowan.

Hugh, as few people might realise, was the first man ever to win The Open into Derry. Hugh’s open win came from Dungarvan, in 1976. Competing against 26,570 birds Hugh's winner recorded a velocity of 1,602 ypm. Back then, even to be a section winner was an achievement in itself. We have to remember that the section was nothing like it is today, as it also took in places like Coleraine, Cookstown, Dungannon, Castledawson, Coalisland and Portstewart.  So, to win the section, fantastic, but to win the Open, what a fly that was, and what a way to make your own little piece of history.

The pigeon in question, a blue cock, was from a Harper and McCartney hen that Hugh got from George McCloy of Kilrea and a Kenyon cock from Robert Smith of Larne.

Hugh has been in the pigeon game since 1957, and joined the Londonderry Club in 1960 which, at the time, was the only pigeon club in the town. When the Foyle RPS formed in 1969, Hugh was one of the founding members.

Super Red Harper Cock

Speaking to Hugh, he is still as enthusiastic as ever and his love of the sport is as strong as it ever was. He has never been a man to keep a big team of birds and tries to stick to about fifteen pairs, and breeds a maximum of thirty young. He believes the biggest mistake he made in the past was to breed and keep too many birds. He believes now that young birds should be trained as early as possible and that early breeding doesn’t really prove anything. He is really looking forward to this season and who knows what might lie ahead?

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