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BHW ‘Show of the Year’ (On Line) 2021.

I would like to start this article by thanking the British Homing World for their thoughtfulness in printing some ‘Show Racer’ articles throughout the winter months. The pigeon showing fraternity have had their 2021 season completely ‘wipe out’ and these fanciers have had absolutely no sport what so ever! The best pigeon paper in the world, as usual, stepped forward and at least gave these fanciers something to read. Well the annual BHW Blackpool Show weekend has come and gone, and because of the ongoing Covid problem the number one pigeon show in the UK had to be canaled. The Blackpool show committee put in a lot of hard work and put on a fantastic on line National event, which was a great success. The judges were: Colin Carter, Keith Mott, David Brown, Ron Lacey, Bill Harris, Geoff & Catherine Cooper, Terry Haley, Chris Gordon, Chris Sutton, Peter Bennett and Michael Mahr judged ‘Best in Show’. The ten classes attracted an entry of 474 birds which were competing for outstanding prize money, in spite of a free entry. ‘Best in Show’ was won by Coutts Brothers of Scotland, with the champion blue cheque cock, ‘King Louie’. These lads from Aberdeenshire are really ‘setting them alight’ winning at all the National shows in recent seasons. ‘Best Opposite Sex’ also went to Scotland, with William and Brian Massey winning with their good pied hen, ‘Olivia 21’. I had some good fun, judging 68 Show Racer old hens in Class 2.

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I received this email from David Trippett, the chairman BHW Blackpool Show committee’, after the event - On behalf of the committee may I offer you our thanks for judging at the 2021 on line event. It cannot have been an easy task to adjudicate from a photograph, not being able to handle the bird, or see the other side as well as ignoring the background, nevertheless the results I believe give a very fair reflection of the quality of the entrants and Michael Mahr, who judged the specials, commented upon how high a standard the winners were. I hope you will be pleased to know that this form of show was a solution to an issue which came upon us and prohibited us from meeting in Blackpool. While we can muster the volunteers, helpers and supporters, in my view, it will never replace the 'real thing' and I hope we can all look forward to congregating in Blackpool next year for our 50th anniversary. 

The virtual show has undoubtedly been a success, it attracted over 400 pigeon entries to the Show, three major sponsors, 25 trade stands and sponsorship for all 10 classes. The site attracted 3,500 users from 45 countries; with the Pigeon Post featuring the show attracted 2,500 readers. The Charity Auction raised £6,546 with The Massarella Elite Charity Auction starting on Thursday. We will need to wait for the final figures and whilst they will not compare with the physical event they should show that the venture was financially viable. So I thank you once again for being part of that success and look forward to seeing you in reality next year!

The ‘On Line’ show was a great success and a wonderful up lift for the show fraternity in these troubled times! The Coutts Brothers, Craig and Callum, of Alford in Scotland won ‘Best in Show’ with their champion young blue chequer cock, ‘King Louie’. He was bred from two blue chequers named, ‘Claire’ and ‘Bagheera’. ‘Claire’ was bred by Alistair Tankard and Craig said, ‘this hen has taken our chequers and blues to the next level. She has had such a good show career, being 1st or 2nd at the BHW Blackpool Show every year and also 1st at Kingdom of Fife Show, but an even better hen in the nest pan breeding winner after winner. This wonderful hen is the mother of the young cock that won the BHW ‘Show of the Year’ and is the grandmother on the father’s side. ‘Bagheera’ is a 2019 latebred bred out of a daughter of ‘Claire’. His first breeding season last year saw him breed five youngsters with them all being retained apart from one going to friends Roland & Jules Thresher. ‘Bagheera’ will hopefully continue and have a prosperous breeding career.

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Craig and Callum Coutts were born in Aberdeenshire hospital and are down the latest in a long line pigeon fancier in their family. Their great grandfather, Doug Lawrie and their grandfather, Jim Coutts senior were the first to have pigeons in the family, and Jim senior is in partnership with the lad’s uncle Jim, racing as J. Coutts & son. Their father is the well-known and very successful pigeon man, Gary Coutts, who was part of the Fitzpatrick, Fleming & Coutts show partnership. Gary was first involved in pigeons going into partnership with the lad’s great grandfather at age ten in 1977. In 1980 he attended the Edinburgh International for the first time and saw show racers and fell in love with them, so their great grandfather bought him a pair from J & R Scott of Dumfries. In 1983 he met Jimmy Fitzpatrick at the Dundee Show and after eleven years of friendship they decided in 1994, that Gary, Jimmy Fitzpatrick and Roddy Fleming would form their partnership. It is fair to say that they dominated the sport for years winning numerous major National and Society Shows. In 2006 Gary won ‘Best in Show’ at the Edinburgh International Show few years after the partnership split, but the friendship still remains to the present day. Gary learnt everything he knows about show racers from the ‘wee man’ and has passed his knowledge on to Craig and Callum. The Coutts Brothers both just followed their dad everywhere when he was pottering with the birds and both just got the bug quite quickly. Callum started his interest in 2005 at age nine when his dad took him to a few shows for a day out, although Craig says, he believed it was so he wasn't annoying mum. He started with helping dad clean the birds out and the bug just stuck from the first day and he has never looked back. The brothers obtained their dads stock and changed the name to Coutts Brothers, although their dad still has a very keen interest in the birds. Craig was a very keen darts player and was successful as a youth and Callum is a golfer, and is club champion at two individual course.

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Craig and Callum’s first show as a partnership was the NEHU Show where they had a first prize with a silver blue hen and their first club show was at Classic Show Racer Society where they won ‘Best Young Bird’ with a red cock. They continued their winning streak winning another two ‘Best Young Bird’ awards and a ‘Best in Show’ at the Society, ending the season with most points and reserve ‘Supreme Champion’, then going to the BHW Blackpool Show and winning two firsts. The brother’s first loft set up was a 24ft x 12ft loft with four 6ft x 6ft sections. All year round both cocks and hens had two sections each, then at breeding time they took the cock’s ‘V’ perches down and the inmates would have nine boxes in the two cock sections. Callum told me, ‘I can't recall of any major mistakes we made, as I think we both knew dad would have our guts for garters if we did’.

In 2019 they built a new loft which was a 24ft x 9ft structure. Craig told me, ‘we have seen a positive change to condition of the birds once this loft was up, as the loft is more ventilated and we have aviaries for every section which they love. We don't use deep litter as we believe Phil Gardner's winning ways sand dry is the best for the floor, as we scrape out morning and night. There is never a damp patch in our loft, as we believe that a dry loft and clear air are vital and simple factors to the pigeon’s good health. Also keeping stress levels down is important! We believe having a routine set up going into do things with the birds at the same time every day, especially feeding, also letting them out in the aviaries everyday keep the stress levels down, as the birds are calm because they know what's happening. These things can only lead to one thing which is success. Our birds are on the same feed all year round, with only a little differ for the three seasons breeding, moulting and showing. They only get fed once a day, with clean water at all times and only getting treatment if necessary, when we test our birds with avian diagnosis every few months. You wouldn't take Paracetamol if you didn't have a sore head! At breeding the birds get hopper feeding, as we believe it is very important for the eggs to be under their parents warmth all the time’.

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Coutts Brothers’ show team has been built up around only a handful of fanciers, their chequers and blues have been built up from Jim Fitzpatrick, Alistair Tankard bloodlines and the blend seems to have gelled together nicely. Their reds and mealies are built from Jim Fitzpatrick, Roland & Jules Thresher and Steve Wheatley bloodlines. They normally pair around 20 pairs up at the end of February, on a feeding of a 50/50 mix of Versele Laga Junior UK and Versele Laga Start Plus IC, which seems to work a well for the parents and youngsters in the nest. They usually take in one or two new stock birds every few years to freshen the blood in the family. Craig and Callum’s reds and mealies all go back to a 2013 bred red cock which has won numerus firsts and Championships himself and has bred at least one first prize winner with every hen he has been with. His grandchildren are continuing the pattern with first prizes being won at the Blackpool and NEHU shows. Two of the brother’s premier show pigeons are red chequers: ‘UT’, winner of ‘Best Opposite Sex’ NEHU Show 2019 and ‘Si Senor’ a premier winner at National and Society shows. On the chequer and blue side their most notable breeder would be ‘Claire’, bred by Alistair Tankard and she has been 1st or 2nd at Blackpool every year and many other wins in major shows. She has been a big part in bringing the chequers and blues to the standard of the reds and mealies, and is the dam of, ‘King Louie’ the 2021 BHW ‘Show of the Year’ (On Line) winner.

There was a strong Scottish dominance of the ‘On Line’ Show with both of the top awards going north of the border! The racing and showing loft of William and Brian Massey of Rosewell in Midlothian won ‘Best Opposite Sex’ in the 2021 BHW ‘Show of the Year’ with their wonderful pied hen, ‘Olivia 21’.

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I asked Brian how his sport had been with recent Covid problem and he told me, ‘the 2020 season saw us win five firsts racing, Old Bird Average, Yearling Derby, Young Bird Knockout and Combine Average. When racing I believe preventative is better than cure! Mixing with birds and stress I believe it’s a must to be treating for canker and respiratory every couple weeks alternative! Any major problems get test kit and swabs, UK and German vets we use for these. Of course due to Covid we did not show in 2020 other than the online pictures, but 2019 was a great season in the show pen with eight 1st prizes at the Open shows and awards from stage being ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Best Racer’ Ayr NR Show, ‘Best Opposite Sex’ Clydesdale Show, ‘Champion Young Racer’ Fife Show, ‘Champion Young Bird’ Scottish Homing Union Show and all these shows were Blackpool qualifiers with 400 plus birds competing in the show. My most thrilling experience in the sport would be the 2015 BHW ‘Show of the Year’ and winning three firsts for me and my dad and then seeing three firsts for my son, Craig, in the young fancier, meaning we’d came down from Scotland and six birds from our loft were on the ‘Specials’ table at Blackpool. That was a buzz! In terms or showing our racers from 2010 to 2019 and last season showing with Covid, we have won the following major prizes: six times ‘Best in Show’ awards, ‘Best Opposite Sex’ NEHU Show, three times ‘Champion Young Bird’ Scottish Homing Union Show, four times 1st prize BHW ‘Show of the Year’ Show. We won many first prizes and awards but that’s the major awards for us’.

William and Brian race the roundabout system, but they lock the hens in the nest box and the only time they get out is for training flights or to race. They are boxed up with feed and water and normally keep an average of around eighteen cocks and twenty hens The training begins three weeks before racing begins and the old birds get as much in as the weather allows, trying to avoid Peregrines, but is mostly impossible, so they group train with the local lads from 12 to 45 miles. On one of these training flights they allow the yearlings to see each other when they return to try have the ‘penny dropped’ for the first race, that the rewards not just feed, but it’s the partners. The partners fly 63 to 360miles at club level and that’s their main goals at his time,  but they working on trying to get some channel racing out some of the birds and that will be 440 to 560 miles! They have two lofts, a 20ft loft running along back garden and 25ft running back up the garden and they have nine sections in total. The lofts have double doors and traps on doors for entry! The partners don’t like any deep litter and prefer to just clean birds as daily as possible.

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When I asked Brian about his breeding pigeons and young birds he said, ‘we have 14 pair stock pigeons and they are paired right after the Blackpool show along with race team. The stock pigeons we house are Dave Zerk from Cardiff and birds are exceptional Gaston Van De Wouwer x Greenix and they’ve hit the ground running! We’ve also got the Gaston lines from Ian Parsons, Frans Zwols Formula one lofts, but the biggest impact pigeons we’ve had the last couple seasons have been from G. W. P. McAloney of Airdrie. We breed around 80 and weaned into the darkness loft and the clocks set for 9am light to 6pm dark, giving nine hours light. They are given vaccination for PMV / Herpes / Adino when weaning along with a canker tablet over throat. I spend the first few weeks never changing the water, only topping up and every odd day I add Apple Cider Vinegar to container! They are weaned onto Marmian Variamix with added blue peas and stay on this for all of the darkness. We basket train birds for a couple days and nights with drinkers on the sides and feed tray offered. Road training them begins a good 4 to 5 weeks before young bird racing commences and I start two miles then quickly up to eight miles and I’ll keep at that point until they beat me home two times then up distance to around 30 miles maximum! I try to train as often as time or weather allows, then at least three or four times with local group trainer allowing birds to learn to break. We leave them to do as please at loft and they have access to four nest boxes and four bowls on corners and whatever takes to them can lay. I might introduce old hens to section if I feel needed! Young birds are raced from 64 miles to 270 miles with some birds being stopped  along the way depending on requirements we need for future’.

Brian was born in Edinburgh in 1984, brought up in the small mining village of Rosewell Pigeons have always been in his garden with his father William having them, but his grandfather on his mother’s side was also a pigeon fancier and his mums brother is also a pigeon fancier and a previous  member of the W. Massey & son partnership. Brian’s grandfather on his dads side didn’t have much to do with pigeons, but he did allow him to have a pigeon loft in his garden and Brian was in partnership with him as W. Massey and Grandson when he was 11 years old and to young to join a club as a sole member. He then I moved into keeping stock birds at granddad’s garden and joined in partnership with his father and uncle as W. B. Massey & John Mackie and this partnership lasted until around 2005 then it was William Massey & Son. Brian has had small breaks away from pigeons when he was around 19 for a couple years then he went to visit the Edinburgh International Show, as his dad informed him he had won a first. He went up on the Sunday to look and ended up leaving the show with a pair of pigeons he had purchased while there and that was me back in the hobby. In terms of racing, the best birds Brian had were the Wildermeesch birds from Ian Parsons, which were fantastic pigeons that brought great winning to the early years, but he still remember them well, especially a cock named ‘3023’. He won in the show pen in a class of over 100 birds and at that age the shows where what he enjoyed most! When he was still in school he used to pick the brain of Marshal Winter, who was a club member and raced under the name of M. D. Winter & Daughter. It was Marshal who sold Brian a pair of pigeons that took him from club shows to major Open shows and he had immediate success! Larkhall Pioneer was his first big Open success in 1999, when the two birds he bought won the Cock TW and Hen TW. These two beautiful pigeons were a pencil blue white flight cock and a blue chequer hen, and these birds were bred by a partnership in Cumbria named Todhunter and Ismay. Marshal then gave him a contact to Rodney Ismay and these are the birds that to this day are still in his pigeons now! Early years he was always more eyes on the show side for the hobby. At that age there was a fancier who sold corn from his garage named Robert “Bobby” Carruthers Bonnyrigg, whose birds always drew his attention and was lucky enough to be shown around his birds a couple occasions. The late, great Bobby was a superb distance flier from 500 to 600 miles and his old strains looked as awesome, as they did race! Brian used to enjoy the show racers condition and the fanciers Fitzpatrick, Fleming and Coutts always had superb pigeons on show at the Open events that he entered. Also a Mr John Bell, now John and Alice Bell, was one of the first fanciers he looked up to at the Open shows with the standard of their birds in the pens. He still remembers seeing those reds and thinking wow, beat this man and I’ll do plenty of winning and still true to this day! Beat John and Alice you are doing extremely well!

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Brian’s wife Jennifer only shows a small interest in the birds regarding results, but she’d never go near the loft. His step son Craig was keen on them after visiting a show and he did have a couple birds for a year, resulting in Brian entering them into BHW ‘Show of the Year’ young fancier for him and he won three first prizes and ‘Best Young Fancier’ award! Brian’s daughter, Olivia likes the birds and likes to touch, but she’s jumpy when they move and isn’t keen. His son, Archie is very keen, but only just turning two years old, he walks up to loft and enters them while in garden and seems to enjoy them. Brian feels social media for pigeon fanciers should be a great tool to promote the sport, but he mostly reads negativity from comments seen! On the other hand, web sites to find info are fantastic and he spends many hours watching YouTube on racing subject! The birds of prey problem is massive and yearly worsening and he doesn’t see the end game with it.

Well that’s our BHW ‘Show of the Year’ report for this year. A bit unusual this time! A special thank you to the Blackpool Show committee and Richard Chambers of the RPRA for all their good work on the 2021 ‘On Line’ Show, it was great fun! See you all in Blackpool in January 2022!