“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
A Three Borders Federation Special Feature.
The late Jim Rookledge of Epsom.
The Three Borders Federation sent 1,314 birds to Blandford for the first old bird inland race of the 2015 season and the new convoy, Gary Essex, liberated at 11.00hrs in a brisk West wind, producing a brilliant race for the member. A great start to the new season, with this the first race using the new transporter. The late Jim Rookledge and his pigeon partner, Ray Mearns, of the Esher & Dist. RPC had a brilliant race from Blandford, recording 1st, 5th, 8th, 9th Federation.
Jimmy Rookledge was advancing in years and carried on racing the pigeons that season in spite of the very sudden passing of his pigeon partner and the club’s dear friend, Ray Mearns, in February of 2014. Ray was a very good pigeon racer and had flown in partnership with Jimmy Rookledge since the 2000 season, and they enjoyed some wonderful success racing in one of the strongest clubs in the south of England. Ray was a great worker in the Esher club and if there was anything to be done, he was always there first to sort it out. Jim and Ray had obtained several outstanding Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons from former Esher member, John Barrett. The Epsom partnership had a wonderful 2014 season winning: (OB) 5th, 7th Federation Blandford (1,397 birds), 22nd Federation, 40th SMT Combine Fougeres (1,073 birds), 4th Federation, 7th SMT Combine Messac (1,160 birds), 9th Federation, 14th SMT Combine Nort sur Erdre (699 birds), 1st, 23rd Federation Yeovil (764 birds), (YB) 1st, 21st, 22nd, 23rd Federation Wincanton (1,693 birds), 12th Federation Taunton (1,471 birds).
The Epsom partnership of Jim Rookledge and Ray Mearns had enjoyed some wonderful racing success in recent season, flying in the Three Borders Federation, and have previously won 1st Federation Exeter, 2nd Federation Alencon, 2nd Federation Exeter, 2nd Federation Lulworth, 8th Federation Plymouth, 12th Federation Messac and 13th Federation Lulworth. A brilliant loft performance put up in a very strong Federation! Jim and Ray were both old hands at pigeon racing, forming their successful partnership fifteen years earlier after 40 years in the sport. They raced mainly Gaby Vandenabeele from Johnny Barrett, Medina Busschaerts and top-class Staf Van Reets from Paul Arnold of North Cheam. Two teams of widowhood birds were worked, one for sprint racing and the other for racing from the Continent. They raced both hens and cocks on widowhood and pair up on 10th December. They had several lofts, the main one being 18ft long, with three sections and open-door trapping. When I asked Jim how far he sends the widowhood racers, he told me all the way through to 450 miles and his best position was 1st Open Combine Alencon in the 2000 season. He and Ray raced a very basic widowhood system by training lightly up to the first race, then exercising twice a day around the loft, and the break down system until Tuesday morning. The partners fed a first-class Super Widowhood mixture and showed the hens on marking night.
Jim Rookledge liked all Federation racing, short and long, and he paired his five pairs of stock birds at the same time as the racers so that he could underlay the first round of eggs off the breeders. The 30 young birds he bred were trained hard up to 40 miles before the first race, then once a week during the racing season and raced the programme naturally to the perch. Jimmy raced natural for many years and said his best nest condition for a racer flying the Channel was feeding a big young bird or sitting fourteen day old eggs. Jim maintained that when he was selecting pigeons to breed from he had no special type, looking at only good performance pigeons and quite often paired winners to winners. Both Jim and Ray are no longer with us and are greatly missed at the Esher pigeon club.
Dave ‘Topper’ Taylor & son of Sutton.
With the end of the 2016 old bird racing season drawing closer the members of the Three Borders Federation sent 476 birds to Yelverton. A more perfect day could not have be picked for good pigeon racing than that Saturday in early June, with the convoy romping home in a light north west wind and making well over 1400 ypm. Dom McCoy liberated at 09.00hrs and the birds cleared the site brilliantly! I was very pleased to receive my weekly Federation result from our secretary, Bryan Poulton, and see my great ol’ mate; Dave ‘Topper’ Taylor of the South Downs club had won the Federation doing 1423 ypm. Dave and I have known one another since we were young lads and although we don’t see one another very often these days; we have always been good mates. I have great respect for our ‘Topper’, as a mate and great pigeon racer! He raced for many years with his wife, Jackie, and now races in partnership with his son, Ben, who is very keen and is a great worker in the Taylor pigeon set up. The week before this race the Federation were at Blandford and Vic Emberson of the Esher club won the Federation and ‘Topper’ was 2nd to him. One week later from Yelverton, Dave and Ben won the Federation and Vic Emberson was 2nd to them. LOL! Fantastic pigeon racing!
The Taylor family have lived at their present address in Sutton for many years and the loft set up hasn’t changed very much in all that time. ‘Topper’ was famous throughout the sport for many years for his brilliant performances with his Maurice Verheye pigeons, but he tells me, although he still has some of his original Verheye pigeons, he now races several other families, including the Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons. In 2006 his good friend, Frank Carson, gave him a complete round of youngsters and most of the 33 babies were Mark & Dick Evans / Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons. Frank’s youngsters have been brilliant, producing many winners including 1st section E, 3rd open NFC, 3rd section E, 5th open NFC and ‘Topper’s’ great stock, ‘The Paddy Cock’, which is the sire of many winners for the Taylor loft. Dave and Ben race 22 cocks on the widowhood system and these are paired up at the end of January. Normally the racing cocks rear youngsters before going on the system, but Ben tells me, this year they didn’t rear any babies and have been raced dry. The partner’s race a standard widowhood system, by showing the hens on marking night and the cocks get their mates for a minimum of an hour on their return from the race. ‘Topper’ told me, ‘we don’t break the birds down these days and haven’t used depurative corn for over two years. During the racing season the birds get ‘Gerry Plus’ in the first part of the week and then go on to ‘Super Widowhood’ mixture for the second half build up to the race. Nothing has been used in tour drinkers in 2014, apart from clean water and the birds get a mid-season canker treatment. Our cocks had five training tosses at the start of the season and since racing has started they have only had their regular exercise fly’s around home’.
At the time, on hearing that Dave ‘Topper’ Taylor had won the 1988 Young Bird National from Guernsey, I was highly chuffed, but not really surprised. I flew in the very strong Kingston club in the mid-1970 with ‘Topper’ and he has always been an ‘ace’ at young bird racing. When I cast my mind back to those days when ‘Topper’ and I were both foot loose and fancy free, I can remember him winning the Surrey Federation from the inland race points and winning the Kingston’s longest old bird race from Bergerac. Dave brought his Bergerac winner around my house to have its photo taken and he named the blue chequer hen, ‘Jackie’, after his then girlfriend. Now Dave and Jackie are a long time married, with a family and live in Sutton. Jackie was very interested in the pigeons and she got them in from training, changed the drinking water three times a day and let the old birds fly out in the mornings.
David’s father was a pigeon fancier, racing in the Kingston club with outstanding success from 1963. Dave started to take an interest at the age of seven and remembered his dad’s original stock birds cost £2-50p each from a fancier in Chicklewood. He had been in the sport over 25 years when he won the Young Bird National and said at that time that he could still remember the fantastic performances being put up by the C. H. Besant & sons partnership in the strong Kingston club. His dad’s loft was 18ft. with bays and bucket traps, and says his ‘Heinz 57’ strain raced well. Dave clocked his first pigeon in for his dad in 1967, a grizzle he recalls, and won the Surrey Federation.
The Taylor’s loft in the 1980’s was a very neat affair, with ‘Sputnik’ traps and a flight for the stock birds. The loft was well ventilated and dry, with no litter on the floors, but scraped out every day. The main family housed was Maurice Verheye, with some Busschaerts and Van Wildemeersch pigeons. At that time nearly all Dave’s stock came from his friend, Peter O’Connor of Kingston, who was an outstanding fancier in his own right. Peter had several good National positions, including 17th open NFC Guernsey in 1988 and his dad, the late John O’Connor, won 1st open SMT Combine from Plymouth in the late 1970’s. The sire and dam of Dave Taylor’s National winner, ‘Whitby Girl’, were both bred by Peter O’Connor and they were a Verheye brother and sister mating. In my 45 years as a pigeon writer and photographer I have handled countless National and Combine winners, but Dave’s, ‘Whitby Girl’, was something special. Her eye, feather and balance in the hand were very outstanding and would win in the show pen. On her build up to the Guernsey National she had one race from Blandford and then into the National feeding an eight day old youngster. She won the National by 23ypm clear, with 10,416 birds taking part, lifting several trophies and £1,014. A fantastic performance! The second bird on the clock from the Guernsey National was the Verheye / Busschaert dark hen, ‘Whitby Wonder’, and she chalked up 93rd open. This game hen was really badly injured when very young and the National was her first race of her life.
The Taylor loft at that time was paired up in early March and all racing was done on the natural system. The birds were trained between 20 and 50 miles whenever ‘Topper’ thought they needed it and I remember him telling me the Verheye pigeons were good up to about 350 miles. The loft housed eight pairs of stock birds, twelve pairs of racers and about thirty babies were bred each season to race. Although Dave flew natural he fed like a widowhood racer, with depurative Saturday, Sunday, Monday and the mixture got heavier as the week progressed. He never fed beans, but a lot of maize at the end of the week. He said at the time that he liked his old birds to go to races sitting six to ten day old youngster and this nest condition was ideal for the longer distance races. ‘Topper’ never showed his pigeons and maintained that the hot and smokey conditions in most show halls are very bad for the birds. He never bred late breds and tells new starters in the sport to purchase quality and not quantity.
Dave and Jackie had won the Federation several times and were premier prize winners in the very strong Sutton & Cheam club. Some say that the Taylor’s performance from the Sartilly National in 1990 was even better than when they won 1st open NFC Guernsey with ‘Whitby Girl’ in 1988. A total of 9,341 birds were entered in the race which was liberated at 07.30hrs in a 10 mile an hour head wind from the north. Needless to say, the race turned out very hard with many fanciers returning their clocks empty. ‘Topper’ entered a well prepared team of 30 birds and got seven on the day of liberation, recording six on the clock, winning 6th, 7th, 15th, 49th, 75th and 285th open NFC Sartilly. A fantastic performance, by a brilliant young bird racer! The Taylor’s also recorded their good blue chequer white flight cock, ‘Whitby Prince’, to win 77th open NFC Nantes (11, 306 birds) and lifted £565. ‘Topper’ won over £2,000 in National Flying Club races in the 1990 season. As I’ve previously stated, I’ve known Dave a long time and he is a great guy, and a brilliant pigeon fancier!
Reg and Richard Maybey of Virginia Water.
The loft that set the Surrey / Berkshire pigeon fancier alight in recent seasons was that of the late Reg Maybey and his son, Richard, who raced in partnership with their wives, Jocelyn and Silvie. The pigeon racing at the Berkshire loft was very much a family affair with Reg and Richard being a father / son partnership and another important part of the team was family member, Harold Coleman, who had been helping out with the very successful pigeon management for over 20 years. The partners won the Three Borders Federation four times in one season and also won the Berkshire Federation four times, and to topped off a brilliant season by winning 1st open SMT Combine (3,174 birds) Messac. The Combine winner was the two year old widowhood blue chequer cock, called quite plainly ‘The Combine Cock’, and previous to his Messac win he recorded several premier positions including 1st club, 5th Federation Yeovil. On the first race of that season Reg and Richard put up a fantastic performance by recording 1st, 2nd, 3rd Three Borders Federation and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Berkshire Federation on the same day. The partners won 1st Federation eight times in that season. Brilliant pigeon racing!
The Maybey partnership raced their old birds in two teams, one on pure widowhood in the Berkshire Federation and the other on the roundabout system in the Three Borders Federation. The racers were paired the same time as the stock birds in late December and the widowhood pigeons rear at least one youngster before going on the system. The racers started training three weeks before the first Federation race and were given ten tosses up to 35 miles. Richard told me, un-like most widowhood fanciers they continue to train for the first two weeks in the season and then they just got exercise around the loft twice a day. The roundabout racers were not broken down, getting a ‘Sports’ mixture all the time, but the widowhood cocks got depurative mixture for two days after the race as a brake down and then got the ‘Sport’ mixture for the rest of the week. Both teams saw their hens on marking night for about two or three minutes and on their return got their mates for about an hour, depending how tough the race had been. The partner’s very smart loft was the late Roy Bishop’s old Kidby loft which was sited at Weybridge and it was extended five years earlier, making it 65ft long and ‘L’ shaped. Reg maintained a loft must be dry and they used deep litter in the stock and young bird sections, with the old bird racers getting the floor boards scraped regularly.
Maybey partnership’s performances in the Three Borders Federation in that year were: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 21st Federation Wincanton (1,367 birds), 5th, 6th, 8th, 17th Federation Yeovil (1,837 birds), 7th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th Federation Kingsdown (1,703 birds), 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th Federation West Bay (2,027 birds), 11th Federation Fougeres (1,038 birds), 1st, 22nd Federation West Bay (1,691 birds), 1st, 8th Federation Messac (1,008 birds), 1st open SMT Combine, 3rd Federation Exeter (1,415 birds), 1st, 12th Federation Kingsdown (1,453 birds), 20th Federation Tours (825 birds), 13th Federation Portland (1,228 birds).
In that same season the winners of the London & South East Classic Club ‘Brooker Gold Cup’ were Reg and Richard, with their good yearling widowhood blue pied cock, called ‘The Gold Cup Cock’. His sire was bred by Orly en Dirk Pals of Bovenkerk and was purchased on trip to Holland in 2007. His dam was a Grizzle gifted to the Maybey’s by club mate John Waldron and Richard said, ‘I took a shine to this hen the first time I handled her at the club and John promised me that when she retires I could have her’. She was a 2002 bred pigeon who has scored over the channel many times, with her mother being a Combine winner from Nantes and her father was a purchase from Lier market in Belgium. The partners previously won the ‘Brooker Gold Cup’ in 2007 with their good blue chequer hen, ‘The Classic Hen’.
Reg and Richard bred 100 young birds each season, 50 for racing in the Three Borders Federation and the other 50 for the Berkshire Federation. Starting at 5 miles, they were trained on a gradually build up to 40 miles and were not raced on the darkness system, but kept natural all season. When they were weaned they went on to a ‘Breed and Wean’ mixture for a while, then on to their own light mixture of young bird and depurative. The old and young birds were all raced on supplements supplied by Ken Wise of Isleworth, from Travipharma and Natural Products. The partners had enjoyed many successes through the years with their pigeons, including 2009: 1st open SMT Combine Messac, 2008: 2nd open L&SECC Bergerac and 2007: 2nd open L&SECC Guernsey (OH). Reg said at the time, over the last few seasons they had specialised in sprint / middle distance racing, but in recent seasons had become members of the London & South East Classic Club and National Flying Club, so hoped to enjoy some quality long distance racing in the near future. Their family raced well up to Bergerac (450 miles) and in the last three seasons had won over 80 first prizes, including 18 times 1st Federation. Richard told me it was a great thrill to win the SMT Combine from Messac in 2009 and to achieve that allusive first after winning 2nd, 3rd and 4th open many times over the years. In their short time racing in the L&SECC, Reg and Richard had been very successful racing hens, with their main classic stars being ‘The Bergerac Hen’ and ‘The Classic Hen’. Both these two champion hens had put up fantastic results in the classic being raced on the roundabout system. I think their performances are well worth a mention with them winning: ‘The Classic Hen’: 2nd open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 5th open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 12th open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 23rd open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 55th open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 72nd open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 8th Federation Picauville: ‘The Bergerac Hen’: 2nd open L&SECC Bergerac (450 miles), 6th open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 15th open L&SECC Guernsey (OH), 108th open L&SECC Bergerac, 3rd Federation Kingsdown. Two fantastic hens!
The Maybey family were originally based in Hounslow and at that time, Reg had been in the sport about 40 year, with Richard coming into the partnership as a six year old ‘floor scraper’. Reg recalled his first birds were six gift squeakers from his good friend, Charlie Francis of Shepperton and the only other family member to keep pigeons at that time was Uncle Arthur who lived in Wellington Road, Hounslow. Reg’s first club was the Egham North Road RPC and won his first race from Leicester. Early mistakes were over feeding. The first loft was a 16ft x 8ft structure, with 12 natural nest boxes and was purchased from a man whose divorce story appeared in the Daily Mirror and News of the World news papers at that time! Reg tells me the fanciers who were doing all the winning locally in those early days were Fred Elliot, George Worsfold and the Besant partnership of New Malden. The partners got more and more interested in the sport and bought in some Vandeveldes, Delbar and Dordin pigeons which started to win straight away. A few years later a good Krauth hen was purchased from an auction at Ascot and she turned out to be a champion in the stock, producing winners every year, and then six Krauth youngsters were purchased from George Corbett to strengthen up the family. The Van Loon pigeons were introduced in 1989 when Reg’s wife, Jocelyn, purchased a pair from Clwyd Lofts at the RPRA Southern Region Show and they were called ‘the wonder couple’ as they bred many winners over the years. Reg told me one of the best performances in the early days was clocking early in the morning to win 1st club, 2nd Federation, 3rd open Combine Dax (550 miles).
Richard said, when they brought in new stock birds it was normally a bird that has caught their eye, but they did like a bold looking medium sized pigeon, with good feather quality and nice eye. The partners liked the eye sign as one of the characteristic of the pigeon’s make up. They fed the stock birds moulting mixture, with high protein mixture and 30% Barley. Richard told me, they were very fortunate to own several pairs of stock birds that were responsible for breeding multiple winners. The main family raced was Ludo Van Tuyn and he was a Belgium fancier who has had a lot of success with his family of pigeons racing in Thailand and Germany. Reg and Richard still had a few Van Loon, Luc Bart Geerinx, and Joop Hock and at that time had purchased some original Willy Thas.
Reg and Richard both worked in the Airfreight industry and the whole family were involved in making the team tick! Reg and Richard tended not to get involved with the politics of the sport, as they found their work stressful enough and viewed pigeon racing as a sport and a way to relax. They said, in their opinion the best local fancier was the late great Fred Elliot of Thorpe, as his results and achievement in the sport over a long period of time, with a small team of birds were second to none! They also said Mark Gilbert of Windsor had been exceptional over the last few years. Richard was asthmatic and told me the moulting time of the year is the worst for him, but never the less it was a very important time, with the birds being separated and fed on a good ‘Moulting’ mixture. At that time most of the birds in the loft were line-bred and the odd late bred was reared off the premier racers for the stock section. On looking over the information Richard had given me for this article, the thing that demonstrated the brilliance of their pigeons for me was the performance of their blue pied widowhood cock, ‘The 70906’, winner of 3rd Federation Kingsdown, 3rd Federation Wincanton, 6th Federation Lulworth, 15th Federation Exeter, 16th Federation Kingsdown and never scored higher than 3rd in the club, being beaten mostly by loft mates! Reg and Richard Maybey, a fantastic pigeon racing partnership!
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)