A TRIBUTE TO DENNIS TAYLOR OF EASTWOOD.
I was saddened when I received a text from Matt Bentley to inform me that our good friend, Dennis Taylor of Eastwood had passed away on 21st July. Dennis had had heart problems for a few years and passed away with an infection in his heart. He was a brilliant pigeon racer and was a second-generation pigeon man, with his late father, Harry, also being a very special pigeon fancier for many years. Dennis and I met up at the Blackpool Show every year for a catch up; I’m going to miss that. Dennis was a smashing, happy person and would help anyone out!
One of highlights of the recent racing season for me was when I saw my ol’ mate, Dennis Taylor, in the British Homing World and to read the news that he had won 1st and 2nd open NRCC Perth with 3,374 birds competing. We go back a lot of years and to read that news was just brilliant! In recent years Dennis had raced his pigeons on his own after his brother, pigeon partner and best friend, Albert, passed away. In recent seasons Dennis had won many 1st Federations and had been premier prize winner several times, but to win the North Road Championship Club for the second time is the icing on the success cake. It would have been great if our Albert was here for the win and it’s nice that Dennis had named his latest NRCC National winner ‘Albi’ after his late brother.
Dennis had never looked back, winning everything in front of him with his widowhood pigeons, since he took early retirement from his shop fitting job in the mid 1990’s. The two Perth pigeons came together, but Dennis wasn’t impressed with their time, expecting them faster in a strong North East wind and was happily surprised they were well up in the reckoning on his phone verification. The three year old blue cock, ‘Albi’, had had some good previous form winning 1st Midlands Two Bird Club Thurso as a yearling and was bred down from Frans Van Wildermeersch bloodlines, originally obtained from Sid and Kitty Reeves of Swadlincotes in the mid 1990’s. I visited Sid and Kitty, with Albert Taylor, when we were making a ‘Many Miles with Mott’ video and Albi liked their birds and obtained some stock from them, which the Perth National winner was bred down from.
Albert Taylor was a good friend and we travelled great distances together around UK, whilst making my 'Many Miles with Mott' pigeon videos. I first met him in 1995 when he rang to congratulate me on my first two 'Many Miles with Mott' videos, saying in his blunt way, that they were the best pigeon tapes he had seen. He said they had one thing wrong with them, they didn't feature any north road fanciers. My reply was that, if he could arrange some premier Midlands north road loft visits, I would come up to Nottingham for a week and feature them on our No. 3 video. The result was Albert arranging that video tour plus several other 'Many Miles with Mott' video projects and we became great friends. We had some great times together, going on several long video tours of Cumbria, Scotland and the Up North Combine areas together and we enjoyed every minute, of them. He had a big influence on the production of several of the videos and, when I finished after video Number 18, I know he really wanted us to carry on and produce even more.
Albert worked at a Nottingham brewery, as a clerk, all his working life and on taking early retirement several years ago, started writing for the Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Borders in the British Homing World. Albert and his brother Dennis had been in the sport since 1956 and before them, their father was also a pigeon fancier, from 1927 until the Second World War. Albert became interested in pigeons at the age of 15 when his father brought some fantails home and, with help from local fanciers, he started to race with gift birds. The brothers joined Eastwood & District FC and won their first race in 1958 from Lerwick (500 miles). The pigeon that won their first race was a cock that cost 15/- (75p) and it raced to a loft made of orange boxes and fish boxes, with lino on the roof! Dennis said that Larry & Michael Gaunt of Heage, their great friends, have been an enormous help through the years and a lot of their best bloodlines came from the Gaunt loft. An early mistake made by the Taylor Brothers was to send good birds to races they should never have gone to, just to keep in club averages. The 1990 season saw Albert & Dennis win one of the greatest races in north road racing, the North Road Championship Club Lerwick King's Cup event. The brothers were new members of the NRCC in 1990 and their winning pigeon, which they called ‘Tame Red’, won the King's Cup at their first attempt. This was after one of the longest holdovers since the early 1930s from this racepoint, some 10 days in the basket ‘Tame Red’, one of a. batch of 28 young birds bred for the brothers by Larry & Michael Gaunt of Heage, was clocked after just over 13 hours on the wing. This champion cock was quite a character and was so tame he walked up Albert's arm and stood on his shoulder. ‘Tame Red’ bred many premier winners and only died a few years ago at 14 years of age. Dennis always said his biggest thrill in his time in the sport was seeing the NRCC secretaries, Ian & Marie Johnson, walking up the garden to verify ‘Tame Red’ as he was probably going to be the out right King's Cup winner. ‘Tame Red’ proved to be a champion at stock, breeding countless premier racers, including the blue cock 03040, which won in 1997: 72nd Open Lerwick NRCC and in 1998: 18th Open Lerwick NRCC, 1st Federation Lerwick, winning over £1,200. A wonderful pigeon!
Dennis Taylor’s main racing loft was 32ft long, with open-door trapping and four sections, all for widowhood cocks. I was very impressed with how light and roomy the sections were: Loft white was used on the floor, which was cleaned every day. Dennis raced both widowhood and natural systems and maintained that the widowhood cocks won more prizes for him each season. Dennis was a retired shop fitter and was the main loft manager when the brothers raced together and really enjoys pottering around and cleaning out. Albert always told me he thought old birds start racing too early and young birds finish too late, in the year. Dennis insisted that young birds should have more short races and fewer long ones, as they were still on the learning path.
The second racing loft housed the natural racers, stock birds and young bird team. Most of the Taylors' pigeons originated from Larry & Michael Gaunt, but there were also Verheyes, Lefebre Dhaenens, Jan Aardens and Bras Penning, which had been highly successful. The old birds were paired up in February and Dennis bred about 70 youngsters each season. The two lofts were built well off the ground, which he thought was very important in good loft design, to ensure that they stayed dry and well ventilated. The widowhood cocks got only four training tosses before the first race then were flown out around the loft twice a day. The young birds got about 10 training pitches up to 50 miles before the first race, then one midweek toss during the season. The Taylor brothers tried the darkness system for one season but didn't like it. Back in the mid 1990’s Dennis told me his favourite condition for birds was for them to be sent natural to the long-distance races, sitting 12-day-old eggs. Dennis mixed several Belgian corn mixtures together to form his own racing corn and maintained that the birds benefit from every single thing in the mix, rather than feeding them just one grain. He uses more maize as the distance increased. The lofts were scraped out 365 days of the year and Dennis said that deep litter may be alright for some fanciers but was not really for him. Dennis was a great lad and a 100% pigeon man. He was a great friend and will be sorely missed. Dennis Taylor R.I.P.
KEITH MOTT (July 2020).