“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Alan & Sue Thompson of Radstock – 1st open CSCFC Messac 2020.
It was great to see my good friends; Alan and Sue Thompson win the Central Southern Classic Club from Messac for the second time in the 2020 season. They are two of the nicest people you could hope to meet and two very hard workers for the sport of pigeon racing. I met up with Alan recently and he said, ‘what a lovely surprise it was to receive a phone call the week after the race from Clare Norman, the secretary of the CSCFC, informing us that we were the winners of the Messac race. The Messac winner is our three year old blue hen, ‘Classic Susie’ and she has been a consistent widowhood racing hen over the last two seasons. As a yearling she was 3rd section, 4th open CSCFC Messac (1,535 birds) and has won many other positions in the club and Combine. I was particularly thrilled as this was our second time we have won the Messac classic race. During the week leading up to the race I noticed the hens were flying a lot better, but ‘Classic Susie’ started to pair up to another hen. I didn’t want this so I removed the other hen and when I put the cock in just before basketing ‘Susie’ was all over him. Whilst waiting for the race birds to arrive we could see one heading towards us on line, well before the time we anticipated. It was the blue hen and she hit the board and ran in! It was a perfect trap, because if she had hesitated at all she would not have won. As it was she won on a decimal point flying 35 miles further than the second pigeon. I must praise my wife, Sue, for all she does for the sport in our area. She is Secretary of the RPRA SW Region, Secretary / Treasurer of the West of England SR Combine and Secretary / Treasurer of our local club Midsummer Norton. She also runs the marking station at Frome for the Central Southern Classic Flying Club and on top of that she is a great help with our pigeons’.
When I opened my British Homing World in the summer of 2012, I was highly delighted to see that Alan and Sue Thompson had won the Central Southern Classic Flying Club from Messac. These two very nice people are great workers for our sport and deserve every bit of success that comes their way. What great result! The Classic held over and liberated the 2153 birds on the Sunday morning at 06.45hrs a no wind situation at Messac. Alan and Sue didn’t just win the race they were several minutes in front and ‘skated’ it by a country mile. Well done to the Thompsons, a wonderful performance! I spoke to a delighted Alan on the phone after the race and he said, ‘most of you that know me are probably aware that I get involved in this wonderful hobby of ours as much as I can and have always tried to get involved with the running of the clubs I belong to, including the National and Classic. I remember when I joined my first club, the Finsbury Park & District HS in 1954, as a boy of thirteen and at the first race they asked me to collect the pool money. Members would write their pool pigeon on a small bit of paper. How things have changed. Sue and I moved down to Somerset 6 years ago from Dunstable and she is a great help with the birds and the running of the clubs etc. Our Messac winner is called, ‘Charro’, named after one of Elvis Presley’s films and is a widowhood cock having his third channel race this year. He has had a couple of minor club positions as a younger pigeon and has been more consistent this year. His sire is bred from two pigeons we had from Mark Gilbert of Windsor when we moved to the West Country six years ago, with the cock being a De Weerdt, grandson of ‘Emiel’. The hen being a daughter of ‘Southfield Supreme’, Mark’s Dax International winner. The dam of ‘Charro’ is a De Weerdt, given to us by Geoff & Catherine Cooper and is a granddaughter of ‘Emiel’. This season the birds were fed on Versele Laga Superstar Plus and Jerry Plus, with Homoform. We would like to thank Mark Gilbert and Geoff & Catherine Cooper for all the help they gave us when we first moved to the West Country and every one for all their phone calls and congratulations on our CSCFC win. Finally Sue and I would like to thank Clare Norman for all the hard work she does for the CSCFC’.
I first met Alan Thompson in the late 1970’s when he was a young man and lived, and raced his pigeons very successfully in Dunstable. A lot of years have pasted us both by until we met up again in 2010 at Frome in Somerset, when I was convoying for the Central Southern Classic Flying Club and Alan and his good lady, Sue, were in charge of the ETS marking at the marking station. The couple had been living in Radstock, near Bath for six years and are still racing their birds with outstanding success.
Now living in beautiful Somerset the partners enjoy both sprint and long distance racing, with their best recent winners being: The 445 blue cock, winner of 1st club, 20th WOESR Combine (6,014 birds) Fareham, 3rd club, 14th section, 79th NFC Fougeres (9,434 birds), 1st club, 10th section, 14th open CSCFC Lessay (3,878 birds): The red 754 cock, winner of 1st club, 18th WOESR Combine Lessay, 27th section, 56th open CSCFC Messac (1,269 birds), 23rd section, 94th open NFC Tarbes 569 miles (4,035 birds): White Flight 447, winner of 1st club, 3rd WOESR Combine Littlehampton (2,747 birds), 1st club, 13th WOESR Combine Bedhampton (5,585 birds), The 705 blue cock, winner of 3rd club, 21st WOESR Combine Bedhampton (2,828 birds), 12th section, 56th open NFC St. Malo (8,809 birds).
Alan and Sue race 28 cocks on the widowhood system and pair the racers up with the stock birds at the end of January. The cocks are trained still paired up only four times at 12 miles prior to the first race and during the season are never broke down, being fed on a good widowhood mixture throughout the racing period. Sue told me they added little extra barley, hemp seed and ‘Homoform’ to the main mixture feeding and the racing cocks are fed as much as they want from hoppers on the loft floor. The long distance birds are raced through to Tarbes (569 miles) on the same widowhood feeding. Alan says, he show the hens on marking night in the early part of the season and the length of time the cocks get their mates for on their return from the race depend on how hard a fly they have had. The birds are never trained during the racing season and are exercised around the loft for an hour twice a day to keep them race fit. The partners told me, long or short races, the cocks stay on the widowhood and are never re-paired during the season. The main racing loft at Radstock is a 25ft three section structure, with 3ft corridor and this houses the racing widowhood cocks and their hens. Alan maintains the most important factor in good loft design is correct ventilation. He used deep litter on the loft floors for about four seasons, but found it too dusty and told me he thought it was not a good system for the fancier’s health.
The partners house their 12 pairs of stock birds in an 8ft x 6ft loft and the main families kept are Brian Denney, Deweerdt, Staf Van Reet and Soontjens. As I previously stated the breeders are mated up in January with the race birds and are fed on Versa Laga ‘Start Plus’ and ‘Homoform’, and Alan says it take a long time to establish a good team of stock birds. The partners like to line breed their birds and never breed late bred as their think they are a waist of time, and rarely make the grade. He breeds 50 young birds to race each season and they have their own 11ft x 6ft two section loft. The youngsters are put on the ‘dark’ system from weaning, being darkened from 18.30hrs to 08.30hrs every night and are raced to the perch. The babies are trained well after a period of good exercise around the loft and once they have their first race the training stops. They race every week if they are fit, through to the longest inland young bird race (130 miles) and some are selected to go to the National and Classic channel races. Sue said she thought the moult period is one the most important time of the pigeon year and their birds are part, and fed a good moult mixture in the winter months.
Alan had put up some great performances in the 60 plus years he had been in pigeon racing, but none so great as his 1978 Pau National performance, when he recorded 2nd Section E, 3rd Open. Alan put up this outstanding performance with 4,515 birds competing and he lifted the Patrick Trophy with a velocity of 1076ypm. The key pigeon was his three year old blue hen 'Blue Moon' which was of the Went Brothers, 'Steptoe' strain. Her dam was a grand-daughter of 'Steptoe', which was bred by H. Wooding of Enfield and Alan purchased this blue hen at a North London auction sale. 'Blue Moon's' sire was a four year old Went Brothers x Tommy Kilner blue chequer cock. 'Blue Moon' was a nice long distance type, being medium long cast in the hand and Alan said her good point was her very wide flights and strong wings.
Alan started up in the sport 70 years ago as a nine years old, with some fancy pigeons obtained from Petticoat Lane and his first loft was 6ft. x 4ft. put together with odd bits of wood. His uncle Arthur and his grandfather taught young Alan how to manage and train the pigeons and his first racing birds were obtained from local fanciers. Alan's first club was the Finsbury Park & D.H.S. and he looked up to one of the members, John Harvey, who won consistently at all distances. In the early days Alan said his biggest mistake was he used to put all his birds in one race, now he holds some back for the following race. Alan started racing at the age of 14 and won the first two races he entered. The first race was an open and the second was a club race, and he recorded 1st club, 3rd Federation. In his second season, Alan, chalked up 3rd club Berwick (300 miles) and 1st club, 43rd Open London N.R. Combine Thurso (500 miles).
The Thompson pigeons raced on the natural system in the early days and training started as soon as the youngsters were weaned into the young bird section, with 15 mile tosses every day up to the first race, and then they got two 15 mile tosses each week, with the shorter races being used to condition the long distance birds. The birds were not let out of the loft the day before a race and they got a bath on Sunday and Wednesday. The main families kept in those days were Tom Kilner of Horden, Co. Durham, Went Brothers of Enfield and a few from Frank Cheetham of Pontefract. Alan said the Kilner and Went birds were racing well for him at all distances and the few Cheetham pigeons he owned were only been tried up to 250 miles, but were coming well. He was keen on eye sign and maintained you can improve your stock by pairing up by their eyes.
Another of Alan's ace racers in the 1970’s was his four year old Kilner blue hen, 'Moody Blue', she was a wonderful handling pigeon, being medium appled bodied. This neat hen was late bred in 1975 and as a yearling, carrying six nest flights and won 4th club, 8th Inter Counties Federation Winchester and 5th club Niort (383 miles). She then went on to win 4th club Nantes (325 miles), 1st club, 1st Inter Counties Federation, 5th MC Combine Bergerac (487 miles), flying 144 hours on the day.
The main racing loft in Dunstable was 18ft x 8ft with two sections, 12ft for the 18 pairs of old birds and 6ft for the 24 youngsters which were bred each year. Three pairs of stock birds were housed in an 8ft. x 6ft. loft and all were cleaned out every day, as deep litter wasn’t used. A loft should be dry and well ventilated, Alan said, and there should be a lot more perches than birds on all four sides of each section. The racing loft had a corridor, with open door trapping and the feed was varied through the year, but was mainly beans, maize and wheat, with red band as a tit bit. The whole loft was paired up the third week in February and Alan was only really interested in channel racing. The youngsters flew the programme, but if he liked a youngster he would just train it and leave it at that until the yearling stage. The Thompson loft won the longest young bird race for three years on the trot, recording 1st, 2nd and 3rd club Avranches in 1978, with only three birds in the club in race time. The local fancier that Alan rated very highly is Jack Potter of Leagrave and he said he had been very consistent for many years, which is the name of the game.
'Kilner's Boy' a seven year old dark chequer cock, bred by Tom Kilner was another of the best pigeons at the Thompson loft. He handled under medium and long cast and had a wonderful record on the road, winning 1st club, 1st Federation Pontefract (twice), 2nd club Pontefract (twice), 2nd club, 12th Federation, 20th Combine Northallerton, 2nd club Nottingham, 2nd club, 10th Federation, 36th Combine Nantes, Flown Thurso 479 miles north and Bergerac 489 miles south, a really outstanding pigeon.
Alan was a toolmaker by trade and was the race secretary in his club, the Dunstable SRFC, which was the only club he raced in besides the NFC. Alan's favorite condition for racing was sitting 12 days when basketed and said he believes in line breeding. It goes without saying that Alan's biggest thrill in the 1970’s was when he clocked 'Blue Moon' from Pau after 16 hours on the wing, flying 587 miles. Alan said on the night of the first day, he heard there were birds timed on the south coast and this meant he had to time in before 06.00hrs next morning. Champion 'Blue Moon' dropped on the loft at 05.45hrs, a great performance.
Getting back to the present day, Alan had retired from work eight years previous and told me his partner, Sue, was very interested in the sport in general, and was a very big help to him in the management of his pigeons. They both helped out with the NFC and CSCFC marking at Frome, with Sue on the front desk and Alan doing the ETS marking. The partners were the secretaries of the High Littleton Flying Club and over the previous three years had done a lot of work running the now very popular Tours Young Bird National race. Alan’s all time most thrilling experience in pigeon racing was with a blue hen named ‘Sweet Harvest’ in the 1983 season when she recorded 2nd section, being beaten on a decimal point by the late great Peter Titmus, 17th open NFC Pau. This wonderful hen came in the darkness to be clocked at 21.31hrs on the day of liberation and flew the 589 miles in 16 hours. A wonderful performance!
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)