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Peter Taylor of Guildford.

The month of July 2006 saw one of the hardest Bergerac (450 miles) races of all time in the South of England! The London & South East Classic Club and S.M.T. Combine were both at the race point on the same day, so my good friend Peter Taylor of Bellfields, near Guildford sent a small team with both organizations, with outstanding success. The liberations were into a strong North East wind, on a very hot Saturday morning and there were very few birds recorded on the day. Peter recorded his good natural blue hen, ‘Selina’s Express’, on the day at 20.37hrs, and won 4th open London & South East Classic Club, with only half a dozen birds home on the day of liberation. This beautiful pigeon was bred by David Williams of Chessington from a son of Eric Cannon’s 1st open N.F.C. Sartilly winner, Champion ‘Culmer Marion’, which he purchased as a youngster at Eric’s dispersal sale in 2000, and a Janssen hen. This mating certain clicked, as Peter Taylor has a full brother to ‘Selina’s Express, which won: 71st open L.& S.E.C.C. Guernsey, 63rd open N.F.C. Guernsey as a young bird in 2002 and he is called ‘Orlando’s Express’. ‘Selina’s Express’ was sent to the Bergerac Classic sitting four day old eggs and she has some good previous racing form, winning: 2003: 87th open L&SECC Guernsey, 2005: 31st open L&SEC. Pau. A wonderful hen! Peter’s bit of bad luck on that very hard Bergerac weekend was he got a pigeon at 08.15hrs on the Sunday morning from Bergerac and would have won the Guildford club by two hours, but the pigeon had no race rubber on her leg. This game little dark chequer hen, named ‘The Scotch Hen’, was bred by Jamieson & Simpson of Cleghorn in Scotland and she was sent to the SMT Combine race sitting four day old eggs. She previously scored in L&SECC, being clocked on the day from Bergerac and in 2005 returned from a race with cat gut tight around her foot, and lost her toe nail.

Peter Taylor has been one of my best friends for over 40 years and everyone who knows him will tell you, he is a great out spoken guy, who ‘shoots from the hip’. A bit like me, there is no ‘bull’ with our Peter and he tells how it is! Years ago, he raced in partnership with his later friend, Jack Hedges, at his home in Burlington Road, New Malden and in 1998 moved to South Wales, to start his retirement from work, racing his pigeons in the valleys. He soon got fed up with that, when a pair of Peregrine Falcons living about a mile behind his loft, took his young birds every day until he had none left. He returned and set up home and pigeons in Guildford about fifteen years ago.

Peter races his birds on the natural system, but is always talking about changing to the roundabout system and races the pigeons of Eric Cannon, Brian Denney and Ced Allwright, with some quality birds being introduced from David Impett of Blackpool several years ago. He has a very smart 18ft. ‘Norton Timbers’ loft, with corridor and open window trapping. Peter tells me the most important feature of his loft is the roof vents, which he fitted himself and uses a play pit sand on the loft floors. He has two small lofts for the stock birds, but says over the next year or so, he wants to phase out the stock team and just keep racers. He normally pairs at the end of February and feeds his own mixture of peas, maize and small seeds. He is great believer in feeding pea nuts and trains his pigeons down the A3 to Portsmouth. The Taylor loft has put some good performances through the years, the best being 31st open N.F.C. Nantes in 1998 and 12th open N.F.C. Bordeaux, when our good friend, Bobby Besant won the race.

Going back a few years the partnership of Peter Taylor and the late Jack Hedges was always one to be reckoned with, but 1986 saw them have the young bird season of a lifetime. Final event of that season was Fulham United Flying Club's Open race from Wadebridge, a distance of 215 miles to the partners' New Malden loft in New Malden. Entry for this race was £10 per bird and 59 London fanciers entered 138 young birds. Peter and Jack entered their two most consistent youngsters, a nest pair of blue hens, 'The Bishop Hen' and 'The 75 Hen', of A. H. Bennett bloodlines and bred by their good friend the late Len Bishop. The race turned out to be a steady one with a south east wind and their two entries maintained their consistency, winning 1st and 2nd by a margin of 15 yards per minute and more than earned their keep by winning £1,223 in prize and pool money.

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In the SMT Combine race the week prior to the Fulham Open, 'The 75 Hen' had already indicated its form by winning £97 from Bodmin. It was in this race that a loft mate, ‘The Bodmin Cock’, won 6th open S.M.T. Combine (3,592 birds competing) after a really bad trap. That was another pigeon of A. H. Bennett bloodlines and again bred by Len Bishop. It should be emphasised that the 1986 young bird season performances gained by this partnership were obtained with a team of six pigeons, yes just six pigeons, no mob flying here. Five of the six were bred for the partners by Len Bishop and are all of A. H. Bennett bloodlines, the sixth bird, and the odd one out, was a grizzle, a gift from Keith and Betty Mott of Claygate which was bred from a sister of their consistent Denys Brothers grizzle cock 'Double Top'.

The Taylor & Hedges partners both had plenty of experience with pigeons prior to coming together as a partnership, and like most fanciers learned a lot from experience. They both agreed that there is a world of difference between racing old and young birds. Successful old bird racing requires a lot of patience. First and foremost the birds must be fit and to obtain this fitness the birds require training. It should be remembered that this loft raced the natural system preferring to concentrate on the Channel events. Once fitness had been obtained observation plays a great part for as we all know that one cock will race better to 10 day eggs whilst another performs better when driving his hen, whereas some hens will put in a great deal of effort to chipping eggs. The permutations are endless. That is why old bird racing on the natural system is such an art.

The partners' New Malden loft was 20ft long with four compartments and open door trapping was used. There was a separate young bird loft 10ft in length and consisted of two sections. It had a small flight attached to it which allowed squeakers to view their surroundings in safety before they first venture out into the wide world. Old birds were usually paired during the latter part of February. There were only three pairs of stock birds and these were paired at the same time. The partners liked to give their birds as much freedom as possible, they liked to see them wandering around the garden. It was during these open loft periods that the partners find it best to observe the birds; they said a lot can be learned about the team by this practice. They both thought that many fanciers make the mistake of keeping too many pigeons, and getting them from too many lofts. They recommended to anyone just starting that they should go to one good fancier and obtain birds from him and learn his methods and a history of his birds.

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Both Peter and Jack were convinced that one of the major causes of young bird losses is overcrowding; never breed more than you can house and train comfortably, and do not start training young birds until they go running. Once training started the youngsters were trained in stages up to 30 miles prior to their first race. Once racing had started they were tossed at about 20 miles as and when considered necessary. Because of the partnership's interest in Channel racing the old birds were trained consistently from the coast. All birds, both young and old birds were fed as much as they require. The only time this was varied was on marking days, when the food is reduced by 50%. The partners both agree that one of the most important factors in the pigeon's year is the main moulting period if success is to be gained again the following year. The policy in this loft was to separate the sexes after the last race has been flown. At this time a little more Linseed was introduced to the food mixture. During separation the birds were only let out for exercise once a week and during this exercise period the bath was made available. Whilst both of the partners obviously enjoyed their pigeon racing and were successful, they don't just take. They were both clock setters for their club, Surbiton Flying Club; Peter also did the job of Federation Delegate. There were no secrets in this loft just plain common sense with an emphasis on observation.

Reg & Helen Lorenti of Kingston.

Although the partnership was called Mr & Mrs Lorenti, Reg maintained that the partner's successful team of Channel racers was solely managed by his wife Helen and he was only a 'dog’s body'. It all began when their eldest son, Peter, persuaded his father to buy some pigeons for him when he was about 13 years old in 1973. Peter eventually gave up because he was unable to get the birds trained as the Lorenti's had no transport at the time. When Helen saw the birds being culled before selling the best, she stepped in and said that she would take over the loft and racing. Peter was a member of the Kingston club and Reg said it was simple to just change the racing title to a Mr & Mrs Partnership. Most of the members of the Kingston club gave her help and advice, with John & Peter O'Connor giving her youngsters and stock birds. The partners also obtained Kirkpatricks from Mick Worsford of Woking, who had won 1st Combine twice from Bergerac.

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The 1984 season saw Helen win 1st and 4th  SMT Combine from the very hard Le Mans race, with 2,086 birds taking part. The Combine winning pigeon was their good blue cock 'Blue Max' and he was bred from the late John O'Connor's Combine winning family of Busschaerts. The Le Mans event was the race of a life-time for the partners, also recording 4th SMT Combine with 'The Louella Hen', a Kirkpatrick grizzle hen bred Louella Pigeon World in 1983.

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The Lorenti's started racing in the strong Surbiton club in 1987 and recorded 1st, 3rd, 4th club, 4th Surrey Federation, 7th SMT Combine Marmande (470 miles), the club's longest old bird race. The partner's Marmande winner was a four year old chequer cock called 'Sloucher' and he was half-brother to the 'Blue Max', which were bred from a brother to John O'Connor's Combine winner ‘John's Dream’. The partners decided to join the National Flying Club in 1988, sending two birds to Nantes recording 69th sect E with their good red cock 'The Red Baron'. After his Nantes (NFC) success 'The Red Baron' went on and won 1st club Niort in 1988. He was a direct son of Mick Worsfold's Kirkpatrick stock cock 'Sir Duke'. Two birds were sent to Pau (NFC), recording 66th open with the grizzle hen 'Rainbow Lady', bred by Mr Watkins of Rochester Way. Helen was highly delighted with her National performances and had purchased a new clock with her winnings. The 1988 season ended on a high note by winning the longest old bird race from Bergerac (450 miles), with their good hen 'Sunshine Girl'.

The main strain in the loft was Kirkpatrick obtained from Mick Worsfold and Louella Pigeon World and four late breds from the late John Carmichael. Helen and Reg had two lofts forming an 'L-shape and trapped through drop holes. The young bird section had an aviary so the youngsters could get out in the fresh air as often as possible. All birds were raced on the natural system and were trained from Winchester and Basingstoke with the 'Lucky Foreman' transporter. They raced 20 pairs of old birds and kept six pairs of stock birds, breeding about 50 youngsters each year. The stock birds were paired up in February and racers in March, with Bergerac in mind. The partners raced natural as the system appeared to be the one for distance racing and allowed hens to be raced. The Lorenti's had a go at North Road racing in 1984, recording several good positions including 2nd club Banff, with only two birds being clocked on the day of liberation.

Diet consisted of a good mixture of beans, peas and maize, trapping with Red Band condition seed. They put cod liver oil and garlic oil with brewer’s yeast on the corn and all these products they obtained from the health food shop. Helen and Reg rated Bob Besant of C H Besant & sons fame the best local fancier, winning out of turn year after year. The partners bred a few late breds which were mostly kept for stock. Helen said when picking stock birds well proven bloodlines were the main factor and not the look or handling of the bird. All the old birds were sent to the longest distances, including the yearlings. Reg said success seems to come through dedication. The harder you work the luckier you get! Reg and Helen were two really nice people, now living in the Midlands, I believe.

‘Pop’ & Roy Burgess of Kingston.

No matter if the race was long, short, hard or easy the pigeons of the late 'Pop' Burgess and son, Roy, were always to be reckoned with. The 1985 season saw them top prize-winners in London Columbarian Society, which was all inland racing, and win the longest old bird race from Bergerac in the very strong Kingston & D.H.S. (Surrey Federation). Pop was the worker in the partnership as the pigeons were at his house. He did all the loft management including scraping the lofts out every day of the year, a job which, he said, he enjoys. Roy was a self-employed decorator and lived a few miles away with his own family.

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Pop had been in the sport over 60 years and was a clock runner for the local fanciers as a 15 year old. The results and performances of Alf Baker of Wood Green, North London, were studied in The Racing Pigeon and ‘Squills’ in the early 1950s and on obtaining late bred stock birds from him, Alf gave them a lot of winning advice. The Burgess partnership started winning the very first season with young birds from the Baker stock birds. Pop was a born and bred Kingston man and the first club he flew in was Kingston North Road. Roy said apart from Alf Baker, Bobby Besant had been a lot of help to them, including helping Roy set up his widowhood loft in 1983.

The partner's best performance at that time was 1st SMT Combine Niort (4,300 birds) with their good Baker blue cock 'Magic Man', which was put to stock after winning the Combine to produce six first prize­ winners. 'Magic Man' was a grandson of Alf Baker's ace hen 'Silver Gem', a breeder of many winners. 'Magic Man' in turn was the grandsire of another of the Burgess' best Channel racers 'Young Magic' and this handsome blue pied cock had won 1st club, 2nd Surrey Federation, 2nd SMT Combine Melle, 1st club Exeter and many other positions including ‘Best Old Bird’ in the club in 1980. The partner's 1985 Bergerac winner was their two year old blue pied hen 'Wally's Girl' and she was bred by the late Cobham Channel ‘ace’, Wally Dann. She recorded 1st club, 9th Surrey Federation, 16th SMT Combine (3,336 birds) Bergerac in 1985 and was 3rd club Bergerac as a yearling in 1984.

The old birds were split into two teams, natural for channel racing and widowhood for inland, which the partners flew Saturdays and Wednesdays. Their first loft, which was used for stock, was brick-built with a wooden front and their second, which was their main loft, was a Kidby loft which had been adapted for widowhood racing. Roy said the most important factors in good loft design were ventilation and a happy environment. Roy maintained that the widowhood system made the cocks eager to return from the race point to the loft and so for short inland races it is a much more competitive system for racing. However, he required hens for channel racing and so needed some on the natural system. Kempeneers of Derek Smith had been introduced into the loft and these were the birds doing the damage inland on the widowhood system. Pop said the secret of success in pigeon racing is in breeding and unfortunately many fanciers acquire second-rate stock birds. The Burgess loft housed nine pairs of stock birds which were paired in February with the 20 widowhood cocks. Channel birds were paired later, in mid-March, and about 30 youngsters were bred each year. The partner’s biggest thrill in pigeons was winning the Combine, which proved to be a very hard race with extremely high temperatures and not many birds home on the day in the club. Old birds on natural, including yearlings, raced the channel programme and young birds were flown through to the longest race. The partner’s most disappointing experience was in 1973 when they started widowhood and lost some very good pigeons. This put the partners off widowhood in later years.

Their best widowhood cock was their four year old blue Kempeneers 'The Kingstonian'. He had recorded five times 1st, four times 2nd and four times 3rd inland racing, lifting the pools 14 times in two seasons in London Columbarian. His brother, whom Roy calls 'The Brother', was also hot on widowhood, winning 1st London Coly Weymouth and twice 2nd London Coly Weymouth. Another Widowhood London Coly winner is a blue frill Kempeneers cock 'Trapper'.

The birds were fed on the best of Belgian mixtures with Red Band, garlic oil, brewers' yeast and another conditioner. The old birds were trained hard until the first race and then training stops for the widowhood pigeons although channel candidates went to a few inland races for training. Plenty of en route education was given to the young birds with lots of training. The partners adopted Alf Baker's eyesign theory which states that ‘all eye signs win races, but only certain eyes breed the winners’. Pop favoured hens sitting ten day old eggs for channel races and told novices to buy the best birds that they can afford and maintain their good health and fitness. Roy rated Bobby Besant the best local fancier and said he had tremendous stock sense and is tremendously consistent. Pop maintained that many fanciers come unstuck because they try to achieve results before obtaining the pigeon's maximum fitness and put fly aways down to overcrowding. The Burgess' liked a bit of showing and said in this field you must make double sure of fitness and overall appearance before placing birds in the show. They believe in line breeding and liked late breds for stock birds. The moult called for peace and quiet in the loft and they always feed extra wheat and a little linseed every day. They used floor granules in the lofts which are excellent if kept dry. At that time, Roy said the sport has progressed over the past 20 years but the politics and rules of some clubs are 50 years old and should be improved. There you have it, the late ‘Pop’ Burgess of Kingston.

Dave ‘Topper’ Taylor of Sutton.

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 young, 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 girl friend. 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.

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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. At that time 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 present loft is a very neat affair, with ‘Sputnik’ traps and a flight for the stock birds. The loft is well ventilated and dry, with no litter on the floors, but scraped out every day.

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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 23 ypm 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.

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The Taylor loft 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 he told me the Verheye pigeons are good up to about 350 miles. The loft housed eight pairs of stock birds, 12 pairs of racers and about 30 babies are 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 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 were liberated at 07.30 hrs 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, 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!

Well that’s it for this week! I hope my readers have enjoyed this look back at four Surrey area champions of yester year. We will be looking at some more very soon. To view some old video footage of some of these fanciers and their birds go on to my YouTube channel. I can be contacted with any pigeon matters on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email me on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.