“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
LOOKING BACK OVER THE YEARS (PART 28.)
Paul Stone of West Drayton.
I had a phone call from Paul Stone asking me if I could photograph his latest two champions! This was getting to be a regular annual occurrence, as he did the same in the year before after winning the Greater Distance Club from Barcelona that season. He had gone a step further and recorded 1st open Greater Distance Club Palamos (683 miles), with his champion dark chequer hen, ‘Trio’, being the only bird in race time. Paul also won 2nd open Greater Distance Club Barcelona (707 miles), with his scotch blue chequer cock, ‘Jock’, being one of only two birds recorded in race time and he was bred by Andy Ritchie of Scotland.
The season prior saw him record 14th open BICC, 1st Greater Distance Club Barcelona (707 miles) with his good Shepherd dark hen ‘Barbie’ and she was sent on the round about system. Paul had named his great hen ‘Barbie’ because when she came from Barcelona he had just lit the Bar BQ and says he was lucky to get her into the loft as the garden was filled with smoke! This game little hen had been a very consistent racer and only had two races that season from Lulworth and Alencon, before her Barcelona win. She was bred from a half brother, half sister mating and her grand sire won several good prizes, including 30th open NFC Pau.
Paul Stone was born in St Giles, Buckinghamshire and none of his family were interested in pigeons. The late Eric Missey of Hayes first introduced him to the sport and gave him his first pigeons. Paul remembers his first winner was a blue cock which won his first young bird in the Hayes NRFC. More or less since he started up in the sport in 1969, Paul has been a long distance enthusiast and tells me he has never really been interested in sprint racing. He started up in earnests with old George Burgess’ white and grizzle family, which were successful from the outset, winning races at club and Federation level. After a few seasons he obtained his first long distance pigeons from Jimmy Shepherd of Chichester and this is the family he races successfully today. Paul told me Jimmy Shepherd’s dark chequers are basically bred down from the old Norman Southwell bloodlines and are brilliant at the long distance on hard days. In the early years he flew north road and put up some good performances from Lerwick (600 miles) with the NRCC, and won 1st Federation Thurso (505 miles) and 1st section NRCC Berwick young bird nation. Paul tells me he won 1st open BICC Barcelona in 1997, 1st Greater Distance Club San Sebastian in 2001 and to win Palamos with the BBC is his biggest ambition today. His biggest thrill in his many years in the sport was when he won 1st open BICC Barcelona with the only birds in the UK on the winning day and winning an RPRA London Region Award.
Paul races nine pairs on the roundabout system and has a smart 36ft Blake’s loft, which has six sections, drop hole trapping, and an aviary for the stock birds. He thinks deep litter is OK if it is kept dry and has used it in past seasons, but finds it messy when exiting the loft. The Stone pigeons are fed on ‘Irish’ mixture all the year around and are given regular training tosses off the south coast through out the racing season. He says that is the art of successful pigeon racing, knowing how to feed and train the birds. The race birds are paired up at the end of February and are not broke down as he gives them as much training off the south coast as possible. He shows the cocks to the hens on marking night and they are left together for about 30 minuets on their return from the race. The local club and short BICC races are used for training for the NFC Tarbes, BBC Palamos and BICC Barcelona races, which are his favourite events.
He houses 15 pairs of Jimmy Shepherd stock birds and says he has too many breeders, but are mostly retired good racers and children of his best racers. The whole loft, racing and stock birds, are paired up at the end of February and only breeds about 18 youngsters to race each year. The babies are trained well along the south coast and some times are only give one race, just to educate them, as Paul is not interested in young bird races and wants them for long distance racing, later in their life. He has sent his youngsters over to France in their first year, but says he doesn’t any more because the losses are too great and it doesn’t prove any thing. When he bring in a new stock bird he likes to handle it and hates to obtain birds ‘blind’, with his main preferences being good type and winning lines. He maintains that you have to like a pigeon or they don’t seem to do well for you and has found racing latebreds is a complete waist of time, although they make good stock birds. Paul has sent the odd yearling to 550 miles, but this is not normal practice, with them normally going through to Nantes (300 miles) to educate them and into Pau as two year olds.
He is not great fan of the ETS and says he would like to see the NFC go back to it’s old programme of two old bird races, Nantes and Pau, and one young bird race. When I asked him who was the best fancier in his area, he replied Gary Inkley, who is outstanding from 80 miles through to 550 miles every season. Paul never shows his birds, although he thinks they are a good type and would do well, he says after doing his job as a skip driver all day he can’t be bothered to take his birds out to shows on cold winter nights. He has bred several outstanding racers for other fancier, including 2nd open BBC Palamos and the sire of 1st open BICC Barcelona for John Nicholson, pigeons to breed Federation winners for Noel Mounce and 1st club, 3rd Federation, 5th Combine Bourges (580 miles) for Ken Dodd of Durham. Paul likes to see a nice coloured eye on a pigeon but says he is not a believer in the eye sign theory and never treats his birds for worms, canker or any other disease.
The late Brian Sheppard of Trowbridge.
It was very sad to hear of the passing of Brian Sheppard of Trowbridge in July 2019. What can you say about this ‘legend’ of long distance pigeon racing that hasn’t been said before; Brian won it all at the very highest level over many years in the sport and was a ‘history’ maker, being the first UK fancier to win 1st open International. He was a smashing man, with loads of character and was a great man to talk ‘pigeons’ with.
The 2003 Dax International marked the start of a new era in British pigeon racing, when two English fanciers were declared 1st and 2nd open International winners. The British contingent was very strong with the National Flying Club entering a very healthy 739 birds and it’s sister club, the British International Championship Club, sending a record birdage of 450 birds. John Tyerman and I convoyed the N.F.C. birds to Belgium to meet up with the International train, which carried the record 19,400 birds to Dax. Colin Bates, the N.F.C. convoyer travelled in the carriage with the British pigeons and liberated at 06.00hrs, English time, in no wind at the French site, getting up to north east en route. Only six game pigeons were recorded on the day of liberation in Britain and the first two were clocked by fanciers in the West Country.
Britain’s first ever 1st open International Dax (19,400 birds) winner was recorded by Brian Sheppard of Trowbridge and on the Sunday morning after the race, I made the 130 mile drive down to Wiltshire to visit his loft and see his champion, now named “Legend”. This game blue chequer widowhood cock was paired up on 6th December and after rearing a pair of youngsters, was put on the widowhood system when sitting six days on his second pair of eggs. Champion “Legend” had several channel races on his build up to his Dax International win, including training races from Picauville, two from Nantes and the Saintes National. This brilliant two year old cock had had lots of wonderful previous racing form. He recorded 2nd section B.B.C. Nantes and 2nd section, 6th open N.F.C. Saintes in the 2003 season, and as a yearling 34th open C.S.C.F.C. Cholet. Brian sent 11 birds to the Dax International, clocking Champion “Legend” just after 19.00hrs on the day, flying 507 miles, and two next morning, with one arriving home when I was at the loft. On “Legend’s” dam side he is off Brian’s old Pau family, being bred down from his N.F.C. Pau Merit Award winner, “Jingals”, and his sire was bred by Jos Thone of As in Belgium, from his champion cock, “Sumo”.
At that time Brian had been in the sport 60 years and started up at the age of eight with a pair of tipplers. He raced 25 widowhood cocks to his very smart 20ft. brick built loft and paired his race team in December. All his pigeons had to perform, with yearlings going through to 400 miles and his old birds flying Pau (550 miles). The cocks were put on the widowhood system after rearing a pair of youngsters, only being trained prior to the first race, and flagged around the loft for regular exercise during the season. The New Wiltshire Continental Club had lots of early races from Picauville and Brian used these events to get the birds ready for the main National races. He liked all pigeons racing, long and short, but told me he got his biggest thrill out of the long distance events.
Puddephatt Brothers of Crawley.
Near Gatwick Airport in Sussex was the site of the great National lofts of Colin and John Puddephatt. The brother’s loft had been one the leading outfits in National and Combine racing for many years, and must rate as one of the all-time greats. There third brother, Sidney, who had a big interest in the pigeons and had a major input with the birds through the years. I think it is common knowledge that the brothers split up in the late 1990’s and did race successfully at their own lofts in the south of England, but this article is an account of the early days of the Puddephatt Brothers.
The brothers grew up in Carshalton in Surrey and their father was a Canary and British cage birds fancier. They started up in pigeons in the late 1940’s with birds costing 2/6d each from Petticoat Market, but they all disappeared when liberated. Then they started up with real racing pigeons nearly 70 years ago and did well from the off with birds from local fanciers W. Pickering, C. Langley and G. Payne. As novices the Puddephatts were the seventh on the list to collect prizes at the club dinner and prize giving, with 37 members in the club. Soon after, John and Colin won the very strong Surrey Federation three years on the trot and their first club, the Hackbridge & Dist. HS was sending 400 birds most weeks. The first loft was made of second hand doors, which were all painted different colours.
The Puddephatts Crawley loft set up was fantastic and were sited in John’s very smart garden in Ifield. The four pairs of stock birds were housed in a big wire flight divided into four compartments, one for each pair to guarantee pedigree of the off spring. The stock loft housed mostly the Puddephatts retired racing champions. The brothers housed their 60 young birds in a smart 12ft x 6ft loft with open window and landing board trapping. The main old bird racing loft was 24ft x 12ft with pantiled roof, grilled floors and open door trapping. The family of birds was traceable back to the late 1950’s and were all old strains at that time, including Vandie, Westcott, Hansenne and R. W. Beard. Later introductions in the early 1970’s were Jamis pigeons and these were Sion and Delbar crosses. More introductions in 1980 were made of the old Hampshire strain of Norman Southwell and Mr. & Mrs. Eric Cannon of Godalming.
Puddephatt Brothers topped Federations, Combines and Nationals for many years, but to look at the tip of the iceberg, here are a few of their best birds: ‘Puddephatts Pride’, dark velvet cock, 1989: 1st sect A, 2nd open NFC Pau, 1988: 1st sect, 1st open EECC Chateauroux, 18th sect A, 147th open NFC Pau (on the day of liberation): ‘12175’, blue chequer hen, flew Pau three times recording, 1981: 1st sect A, 2nd open NFC Pau (on the day of liberation) and dam of 1st open Combine Bergerac: ‘The Painter Hen’, blue hen, 1993: 1st sect A, 14th open NFC Pau: Champion ‘Section Leader’, blue chequer cock, 1st sect A, 16th open NFC Nantes, 1st sect A, 172nd open NFC Nantes: sire of 1st sect A, 2nd open NFC Pau, grand sire of 1st open Combine Bergerac, great grand sire of 1st sect A, 2nd open NFC Pau. On my visit to the Puddephatt’s loft they said ‘Leader’ was a once in a life time pigeon and his bloodline ran right through their successful long distance family. ‘The Old Grizzle Hen’, 3rd sect A, 28th open NFC Pau (as a yearling): ‘The Pau Cock’, blue chequer cock, flew Pau five times and his best position was 4th sect A, 39th open NFC Pau, lifting £850. The brother’s prize list was endless, winning the ‘Langstone Gold Cup’, for best average in all NFC races in 1978, six times on the trot first in the longest old bird race and seven times 1st open in the East of England Championship Club.
All the birds were paired up the second week in March and raced on the natural system, with long distance racing in mind. After many years Combine racing, they started to concentrate on long distance National and Classic races. Most of their good work was done in the middle of the season, June and July, and when the birds were on their second round of eggs they started short training off the south coast. The racers got an open loft and were sent to their first race generally the second week in May. Race birds got three or four Channel races in the season depending on the distances. After the 250 miles stage they placed a jar of Beans in all the nest boxes, this was on top of the general feed of a good mixture.
The brothers raced only the south route in the National Flying Club, British Barcelona Club and London & South East Classic Club. They believed in lifting old birds straight into 300 mile Channel races and quite often young birds didn’t race the year of their birth, but were thoroughly trained and sent straight over the English Channel as yearlings. They only raced the National and Classics, and said if you are a member of a local club and you race every week you lose concentration on the main events. John and Colin liked their old birds to race through to Pau (539 miles) and some of their young birds to go to 297 miles. The old birds were trained from the south to east up to 60 miles and the youngsters went mainly south up to 45 miles. Colin said their favourite condition for birds being sent to the long distance was a cock feeding a big youngster and just looking at his hen, calling to nest, and a hen feeding a small baby, due to hatch or sweeping to the cock after separation.
They told me they would ban widowhood racing in this country because they believed it was the cause of fewer birds and fewer fanciers in the sport. The Puddephatts rated Eric and Pat Cannon of Wormley the best fanciers and said their outstanding record over many years proved it. John said they practiced inbreeding and line breeding and seldom bred late breds, only the odd one or two off the top racers for stock. When selecting breeding birds they had to measure up to the brother’s likes when in the hand, with good balance, strong back and very silky feathering.
The loft’s top positions recorded in the mid 1990’s when I visited Puddephatt Brothers were: 1995: 6th sect A, 46th open NFC Pau, 1st SW sect, 4th open L&SECC Guernsey, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 18th sect. BBC Bordeaux, 1994: 3rd sect A, 28th open NFC Pau, 1993: 1st sect A, 14th open NFC Pau. The loft had recorded the first bird into Sussex from the Pau Grand National for three consecutive seasons. Brilliant pigeon racing!
Colin said they had never tried deep litter on the loft floor, rather they enjoyed scraping out every day. The brothers fed a good variety of quality corn and bought it all at the beginning of the year, so the same corn was maintained right through the season. They fed a high protein mixture, plus conditioning seed and linseed. First and foremost a loft should have plenty of space for the inmates with no overcrowding, which causes fighting and unrest. Aloft should be well ventilated and be 12 inches off the ground for air flow and to stop any possibility of vermin from nesting underneath.
The late John Puddephatt of Ferring.
John Puddephatt raced on his own in the later years, with outstanding success in National racing, at his home in Ferring on the South coast. I remember received an email from John’s daughter, Lisa Turner, to inform me that her dad was packing up pigeon racing because of bad health. This was devastating bad news for our sport, as John Puddephatt had been racing and winning at the very top level for over 70 years and was one of the ‘legends’ of long distance pigeon racing in the south of England. After a long struggle with ill health he sadly passed away.
John Puddephatt must rate as one of the best long distance fanciers in the U.K., achieving a wonderful record in National and Classic racing over many years. The 2002 season saw him have a brilliant year racing in the National Flying Club, recording: 17th section A, 165th open Nantes (252 miles), 2nd, 8th, 29th, 36th, 44th, 45th, section A, 28th, 97th, 309th, 461st, 466th, open Pau (516 miles), 2nd, 9th, 27th, section A, 50th, 174th, 340th, open Saintes (351 miles), with only small teams being sent. A few more highlights of his success’ of recent seasons are: 2003: 3rd, 15th section A, 15th, 116th open NFC Dax, 5th, 6th, 7th section A, 78th, 85th, 98th open NFC Dax, 2004: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 12th, 26th section A, 6th, 19th, 25th, 118th, 186th open NFC, 135th open International (17,500 birds) Dax, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 10th, 14th section A, 25th, 45th, 47th, 70th, 103rd open NFC Pau, 2005: 1st, 6th, 7th, 13th, 16th section A, 11th, 78th, 84th, 138th, 166th open NFC Dax, 13th, 30th section A, 76th, 200th open NFC Tarbes, 2006: 11th, 30th section A, 677th, 725th open NFC St. Nazaire, 14th, 20th section A, 83rd, 132nd open NFC Bordeaux. John won the best average all NFC races in 2004 and several other premier NFC trophies in recent seasons. A fantastic loft record!
Through the years John had many outstanding performances flying in partnership with his brothers, Colin and Sid, but since moving down to the south coast, several years ago, he had raced on his own. John started in pigeons at the age of 12 and the brothers obtained their first birds from Club Row Market in London. The first pigeon, a red pied cock, cost 2s.6d. and was kept in a rabbit hutch, but when they let him out he cleared straight off, back to London. Their first racing stock were obtained from local fanciers and their first winner was a blue chequer cock, NU 50 D 6308, which won 1st club, 3rd Surrey Federation Dorchester as a young bird. John loved playing football, but gave it up when the pigeon bus arrived. The first fanciers who drew John to their performances were Charley Langley and George Payne of the Hackbridge D.H.S., when he came into the sport 70 years ago. The Puddephatts’ first racers were from Charley Langley, whose base family were R.W. Beard of Kenley and started racing in the Hackbridge club, which at that time was the strongest club in the Surrey Federation. The brothers’ first loft was built from second hand timber and John recalls the outside walls were made from old four-panel doors, which were all painted different colours.
After racing many years at his home in Crawley, John moved to Ferring, near Littlehampton, on the south coast. His loft was a 20ft x 6ft wooden structure, which had three sections and a tiled roof, which John liked because it lets out the stale air. He thought the ventilation was very important and had vents at floor and roof level in his very smart loft. Although he thought a dry loft is very important, he also maintained the inmates need plenty of room, so as to stop too much bickering. Regarding deep litter, he told me it works for many good fanciers, but he preferred to clean out as often as possible. John had always raced on the natural system and kept approximately 20 pairs of old birds, which included a few latebreds, kept in the loft for breeding purposes only. He kept his birds as near to nature as he could and paired up in the second week in March, with the long distance National races in mind. His racing team was more or less 30 birds strong and they were not over trained, and got very little road work. He said the birds did their best training work around home, they got in excellent condition, with his feeding and exercise system.
His feeding was very complex, with him feeding mainly outside the loft on the grass, after exercise. He sprinkled linseed around the garden, keeping the birds busy looking for it and they got groats to follow, but not every day. The main corn used was Natural de Scheemaecker breeder mixture, with French maize, which was hand fed outside the loft. He used Hormoform two or three times a week. The old birds were raced through to Pau (516 miles) and this included yearlings, which were in excellent order. John said he had had some good results in the Pau National with yearlings, but they were not ‘caned’ on their build up to the race and don’t race inland. The birds were never abused in racing or breeding and early channel races were picked out for stepping stones into the Pau Grand National. Sometimes he would ask them to fly Pau twice in four weeks, with outstanding results, and he maintained this comes from the good long distance pedigree, followed by super conditioning. Regarding birds for long distance races, John liked cocks calling their hens to nest, after a few days separation, cocks looking at their hens after feeding a big young bird and hens sitting seven to ten day old eggs. He never raced his birds to small youngsters.
John’s own strain of long distance pigeons had been cultivated over his life time in the sport. He didn’t keep stock birds as such, with all the birds racing in one form or another. He didn’t have the room for stock birds, with the 16 pairs he brought with him to start up at his new address at Ferring, being housed at a close friend’s loft. If John brought in a new bird for a cross, it firstly had to come from a top loft that has done well over many years at long distance classic and national racing. He said he would go for a hen from a fancier’s best long distance cock and liked medium to small pigeons with good feathering and balance in the hand. John’s number one stock hen, a dark velvet chequer, bred by his good friend, ‘Gentleman’ Jimmy Shepherd of West Sussex and her sire won 1st Barcelona BICC, only bird on the winning day. She was also a direct daughter of Jim’s ‘Lady Di’ winner in the BICC Marseille race, also only bird on the winning day. There have been many premier introductions over the years and John said his brothers had played a big part in forming the Puddephatt long distance strain over the last 50 years.
John kept about 30 young birds each season, because that was the number he can house comfortably and gave some to charity sales every year. The Puddephatt youngsters were raced from France to get some experience of the English Channel. He held a few back and these were not raced, only trained along the south coast. He fed heavy on Natural Breeding Mixture, the same as the old birds and was not interested in young bird race results, apart from the NFC race. John told me the feeding had to be the best mixture he could afford. Training of the youngsters was from the about 30 miles west and 20 miles north, as he lived on the south coast. Regarding the darkness system, he said it seems to work well in racing, but he wondered if the birds were any good in the future life.
John was a retired painter and decorator and said his family took an interest in the pigeons. He had put up some brilliant performances through the years including: 1st section A, 2nd open Pau NFC, three birds clocked on the day of liberation, out of the six sent. In the NFC Bordeaux race he sent 10 birds, clocked eight on the day of liberation and recorded four in the first 100 open result. He recorded three times 1st open in the East of England Continental Club, twice from the longest old bird race and other positions in the NFC are: 1st section A, 4th open Guernsey (12,000 birds), 6th section A, 36th open Pau, 2nd section A, 28th open Pau, 8th section A , 97th open Pau and 2nd section A, 50th open Saintes. A brilliant fancier!
The Puddephatt pigeons had won at all distances and include Combine winners, and 1st Federation winners from France. John told me that his brothers have made a tremendous contribution to the success of the Puddephatt strain over many years and both are outstanding fanciers in their own right. He said he hadn’t got any pet theories regarding long distance pigeon racing, but thought it takes a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication to gain success in any sport, at the highest level. John’s biggest thrill was when he won 2nd open NFC Pau, but had many good memories around his Pau Grand National performances. He had an open mind on the eyesign theory and maintained that ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’, and eyesign worked for some and not for others. He enjoyed going to the winter shows in a judging capacity and liked a good get together at these events, with his friends. John had never held an office in the club, but worked hard on the basketing of the pigeons, which he enjoys very much. He told new starters in the sport not to run before they can walk and get some experience with the best pigeons they can afford. John said there were a lot of good fanciers who he respected, but thought ‘Gentleman’ Jim Shepherd was the best in the West Sussex area. His record in classic long distance racing had been first class over a long period. John was a firm believer in line breeding and some inbreeding, as this was the only way to maintain a good family of racing pigeons. ‘Pair the best to the best’ John told me. Linebreeding was ideal for a small team fancier, as they can’t have a lot of crosses and the latter don’t always work. John told me he tended his pigeons from the first day to the last day of every year and that’s why he had been one of the best long distance fanciers, for many years. There you have it, the late John Puddephatt, ace pigeon fancier and one of the sport’s gentlemen!
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)