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Flying Into The North West of Ireland Part 1




by Billy Knox

Part 1

The North West of Ireland has long been regarded as one of the most difficult areas in Ireland, if not the UK, in which to fly pigeons. Just getting your birds home from racing, never mind winning, is a feat in itself. They say it takes a good one to fly to this part of the country. If this is the case, then the North West has more than its fair share of good pigeons. Up here we are surrounded by mountains and hills, unlike our fellow flyers in other parts of the country whose terrain is more on a par with the Netherlands than the North of Ireland. You just have to sit on top of the Glenshane Pass and look down at the great plateau below. Not that we are in any way knocking anyone else, as we know some of the best flyers in the UK in recent times come from Northern Ireland. You only have to look at the records of men like Alan Darragh and Ronnie Williamson to see this. But the North West it seems has always been the poor relation when it comes to winning big races. Because of where we are geographically, unless the conditions, and by that I mean wind direction and weather conditions, are 100% in our favour, we will never be able to compete on level terms with the rest of the country, but we can sure try hard.

The North West has many great fanciers who, if they lived elsewhere in the country, would be top prize winners. But we have to make the most of what we’ve got, soldier on and be the best we can in our own wee corner of the world. It’s probably about time that the many top flyers now, and from the past got the recognition that they deserve.

Over the next number of weeks we will be taking a closer look at these men and keeping you up to date with any news from around the North West but first I'll take a look at how it all began.

The origin of the clubs

The modern era of pigeon racing in Derry probably stems from the formation of the Foyle RPS in 1969. At this time it became only the second club in the city, the other club being the Londonderry club, which is still going strong today.

In 1969, the Foyle club formed with its clubrooms at the Fairview club in Rosemount. It began with a membership of just twelve men (who were not angry) but mushroomed to a membership of fifty one in 1970. Indeed, at the time it was described in the Racing Pigeon as ‘the greatest triumph for pigeons in Ireland’. Until recently in fact, the Foyle club remained the biggest club in the North West and one of the largest in the mighty NIPA.

From its origins in 1969 and with an ever expanding city and population, the intervening years have seen the formation of three further clubs. The first of these was the Maiden City RPS, which was formed in 1976. Next came the Rock Flying Club which was formed in 1984. And bringing us right up to date, the newest club The Derry and District which formed only this year.

Is it too many clubs for one town? Some might agree, others might not. Maybe it’s more about strong well supported clubs which are sustainable rather than the actual number of clubs. Sometimes when clubs become too big, they then become too unwieldy and hard to manage. Smaller tight knit clubs are often a lot healthier and happier clubs to be a part of.

Apart from individual club results, the five clubs now make up the very strong City of Derry Fed and, with its neighbour Strabane, the North West Combine. Everyone likes to win in their own club but it’s an even sweeter result when you find out that you have won the Fed and the Combine as well. Here’s to the future then and to continued success for all the flyers in The North West and let’s hope we can keep writing our own little pieces of history and put the North West on the map where it belongs.   

In due course we will go back to the future and look again at some of the men who have made the sport in the North West what it is today and have raised the standards for everyone who hopes to compete. Sit still these days and you will be left far behind. To hope to compete these days, even at club level, you must strive to raise your game year on year. The racing game in the North West has been transformed in recent years and with everyone pushing to try to and improve it all augurs well for the future of the sport in the North West.

I came across a some old photographs of the Foyle club. The quality isn’t great as you can see, but I am searching hard to find some more originals. Try yourselves to put some names to the faces. The first is a picture of Foyle members from1970. The second is the unveiling of the Foyle club's new transporter getting ready for training in 1971. The third is of a Foyle presentation.

Foyle Club members in 1970

Foyle transporter in 1971

Foyle presentation


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