“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
LOOKING BACK OVER THE YEARS (PART 35.)
The late Danny Moulton of Mitcham.
I first met Danny in the 1980’s and he was a very nice man to talk pigeons with, being consistently outstanding with his pigeon racing for many years. He passed away and the sport of pigeon racing had lost another great champion!
Danny Moulton had only been in the sport four years, starting in 1981, at the age of 35 and to say his performances had been outstanding would be an understatement. Mr. Dean of Garret Lane started Danny up, but the fanciers who drew his attention by way of their performances were Mr & Mrs Peter Hookins of Morden. When Danny joined the Wimbledon club the Hookins partnership won the first four races and since that time, Peter had been a great friend, always willing to help and advise him. When he first met the Hookins they were racing on the Widowhood system and they invited him to their home and lofts, he was very impressed with the whole system. Peter came to Danny's loft and helped him change it, so he could race on Widowhood. Peter also told him about feeding and preventative medicines. One of Danny's mistakes in the early days was over feeding.
Danny's Widowhood loft was 12' long and he maintained a loft must be dry, well ventilated and not overcrowded. He paired up the racers and stock birds at the same time in mid-February, and the widowhood was started on the second round of eggs between eight and ten days sitting. They were wormed, and then start on the breakdown mixture, which was fed up to Wednesday, then on to the good quality mixed corn. Training started two weeks before racing from about 20 miles then in stages up to 50 miles, before going into the first race. Danny kept eight pairs of stock birds, 16 Widowhood cocks and bred about 40 youngsters every season. He said some fanciers never visit the prize table because they only keep pigeons to send to races to home and not race, but enjoy just seeing them come home. Danny maintained they do this by choice and these fanciers are the backbone of our sport.
Danny was a paper seller and his first birds were of the Warrington strain, after which he introduced Busschaerts from Soderlund & Bradley and a grandson of 'Parkside Superman', winner of 1st Federation Selby the pigeons only race of its life. Danny called this handsome cock 'Parkside Producer' and had bred many winners from him including two of his best racing cocks 'Edward' and 'Daniel'. More Busschaerts were introduced from Goodall & Swainston including 'Champion Blew It' winner of 2nd Open Up North Combine (17,300 birds) Beauvais 380 miles and 1st club, 1st Federation Hatfield. The Warrington's flew well over the Channel, but the Busschaerts were the 'ace' inland racers. Some yearling Busschaerts were tried over the Channel in 1985 and recorded some good performances. One of Danny's best racers was a Herman’s cock 'John' which was bred by Peter Hookins and winner in 1983: 1st club, 9th Federation Weymouth. 1984: 1st club, 1st Federation Weymouth. 1985: 1st club, 1st Federation Weymouth; 1st club, 6th Federation Plymouth; 1st club Weymouth. 'Champion Blew It' had bred several winners for Danny including 'Done It' winner of 1st Mitcham Common Weymouth Open; 1st club, 2nd Federation Dorchester; 1st club Weymouth.
Danny's most thrilling experience next to winning his first race was winning the first Open race he ever entered, the Mitcham Common with 'Done It'. At that time Danny had three sons, six months, three years and six years old. The two eldest helped with cleaning out and feeding, although the baby was starting to grip a loft scraper very nicely! His wife helped as much as she could but with three boys it was very difficult for her. When Danny won his first race in 1982 his young son Edward, was in his arms when the pigeon pitched in. He dropped the baby in the play pen and clocked in. After that the bird was called 'Edward' and he went on to win five firsts racing. On showing the hen to the cocks on Friday night the racers were given hempseed, young birds were trained up to 50 miles for the first race after which they were tossed from 20 miles four days a week.
When Danny started in the sport, the first thing Mr. A Dean, a friend, gave him after his birds was an eyesign glass and at first he couldn't see a thing, but Mr. Dean showed him what to look for. He maintained a lot of people are fooling themselves with eyesign as good birds have good eyes and bad birds have good eyes, so eyesign must be used very carefully. The only way to test a pigeon is to race it. Eyesign can be a help in breeding and races up to 300 miles are won by most types of eyes, but long distance pigeons all have to have full eyes, it doesn't matter what colour, but most distance pigeons have reddish to brown irises. Danny liked his racers to carry a full wing whenever possible.
Danny rated Peter Hookins the best fancier in the area and said Peter is a pigeon fanatic. No job was too big for him. He travelled miles around the country to pick up more ideas about pigeon racing, making visits to all the top lofts. His dedication to his pigeons will ensure he will be at the top for many more years. He was always looking for new blood to improve what he has. Danny considered the moult to be an important time and he fed extra protein and a few oil seeds. He bred a few late breds from his best racers, single reared, and if they made the grade they were retained as stock birds or Widowhood hens. He only used deep litter in the winter and never when racing, he maintained he had never found a deep litter that never went dusty. He thought fly aways were due to overcrowding and feeding late one day and letting young birds out early the next day. He inbred for stock and crosses for racing with outstanding success, and when selecting producers he looked for a well-balanced bird with a strong back; plenty of muscle and a good eye. It didn't matter if a pigeon was short, long, or deep, but it must be well balanced and he never mated small to large or short with long. To make sure you produce well balanced birds they must be like each other. The tamer the bird, the better they perform, he said, most Widowhood cocks will fight you for their boxes. Everybody makes mistakes, but few fanciers learn by them and he thought fanciers listen to too many people, and keep chopping and changing. His advice to the new starter was go and look at winning lofts. Then decide on sprint or long distance and stick to one. Then go to the fancier in your district who is winning and ask advice, try and buy some young birds or stock birds from him. Never be prepared to be second, always aim for first place. There you have it the late, great Danny Moulton of Mitcham.
Bobby Brown of Croydon.
It had been a long time since a Surrey Federation member had topped the S.M.T. Combine and thanks to the big race controller in the sky, Bob Brown put this to right in great style from Laval. I made my visit to the home of Bob and Shirley in late July of that year and Bob had just finished his preparation for the young bird races. The 16ft x 18fr loft houses 15 pairs of old birds and 40 young birds. The structure was split into three separate compartments and was self-built with open door trapping. Bob favoured deep litter because of his lack of time for cleaning being very tied up with his building work. The birds were fed on peas when racing and were rested in winter on beans, with a little wheat added.
Bob believed in working the birds hard with four 25 mile training tosses per week and going by the loft's performances, the birds lapped it up. He liked a nice chequer and hated big birds. This preference of his was very clear when looking at his ‘ace' team of birds. Bob took up pigeons in 1954 with the birds of the late Sid Marsh of Croydon and broke his novice status from Camborne in the Waddon Open Race of 1956. ‘Shepherds’ had been obtained from Tom Woodcock, Ian Benstead and Bert Hookins and when crossed with the Marsh pigeons they were the family kept at that time. The loft has won lots of firsts racing and in the show pen, including seven times 1st Croydon Federation and twice 1st Surrey Federation. Bob loved showing his racing pigeons and said he thought putting show pigeons in a racing class was a form of cheating! He said he liked to see a nice eye on a pigeon but said he was not interested in eye-sign.
The first pigeon I handled was ‘14943’, a blue chequer pied cock and the winner of five times 1st club and 1st Surrey Federation Exeter, 1st Croydon Federation Blandford. This great pigeon was very true to Bob's type, being small and apple-bodied in the hand. Bob thought his best performance of that season was recorded not by the Laval Combine winner but by his dark chequer hen, ‘40579’ who won that season 1st club Nantes, 1st club Niort in the Mitcham Two Bird Club. The two firsts were recorded within 14 days and she won £240. Bob purchased this hen for £17.50 as a young bird at the Peter Clark of Croydon clearance sale. She was of a Polish strain and she handles small and apple-bodied. The main stock pair were a Shepherd dark chequer hen from Bert Hookins and a Sid Marsh blue pied cock. The hen had 54th open Pau N.F.C. to her credit and was purchased for £36 at Bert Hookins clearance sale. This pair had bred many prize winners, including a Wadebridge winner and the Laval Combine winner. The next pigeon in the hand was the Combine winner, dark chequer hen, ‘02211’, whom Bob had named ‘Laval’. She was sent to Laval sitting seven days and interesting to note when I handled her was that she carried two nest flights, being a later bred youngster from the previous year. ‘Laval's’ full performance for 1976 was: 1st club, 1st Surrey Federation, 1st open S.M.T. Combine Laval, 2nd club Weymouth, 2nd Croydon Section of the Surrey Federation Open from Weymouth. A great pigeon!
Bob looked up to the late Tom Woodcock of South Wimbledon as the number one fancier and said he was second to none. He thought a good stock shed was the most important thing and told novices to buy good stock birds from top local fanciers. He also thought that pigeons couldn’t breed and race at the same time, so he kept four pairs of feeders to rear the best racer's youngsters. The thing that impressed me most was how tame the birds were! They must have almost flown into Bob's hands on race day and gave themselves up. Bob's wife, Shirley, took an interest in the pigeons up to a point. She also bred her own very nice team of canaries.
Mick Pilcher of Biggin Hill.
To say Mick Pilcher of Biggin Hill had a great season in 1986 would be an understatement. He started on the right foot by winning the first old bird race from Blandford, then went on to win 1st club, 1st Federation, 3rd London & South Coast Combine Le Mans (1) 3,181 birds; 2nd club Le Mans (2); 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th club, 11th London & South Coast Combine Niort; 1st club Bergerac; 1st South East Specialist Club Le Mans (1); 1st South East Specialist Club Le Mans (2); and 2nd South East Specialist Club Niort. Mick raced his pigeons in the Biggin Hill club and lifted the Old Bird Average, Channel Average, Le Mans Average, lowest winning velocity trophy and knock out cup in 1986. He also recorded the first bird into Kent in the 1986 Nantes National taking 31st open.
Although the Busschaerts are normally renowned as an outstanding widowhood sprint strain Mick raced them with great success the natural way over the Channel up to Bergerac, 450 miles. Mike said his Busschaerts had flown Pau, 550 miles but was then trying a few Janssens and Van Bruaene. He had his own plastering and building business and had no interest in sprint racing because of the limited time he had for his birds. The Pilcher pigeons were housed in a fantastic £3,000, 36ft Petron loft, which Mick purchased in 1984. The loft had five sections and a corn store, with the birds being trapped through open doors into a corridor which ran the length of the building. Although the loft had a section set up for widowhood, Mick tried the system but couldn't get on with it, so only raced naturally. He said he had no pet theories regarding racing his birds and maintained his management was pretty basic. He paired his 12 pairs of stock birds and 14 pairs of racers the second weekend in February and bred about 50 youngsters every year. The star bird for the 1986 season was the two year old Busschaert blue chequer cock, 'Dougal' which won 1st club Bergerac; 1st club, 11th London & South Coast Combine Niort; 6th club Nantes. With his blue hen 'Katie' in 1986 he won 1st club, 1st Federation, 3rd London & South Coast Combine Le Mans 3,181 birds; 2nd club Seaton; 1st South East Specialist Club Le Mans. Mick's first bird into Kent in the 1986 Nantes National was the three year old Busschaert blue chequer cock 'Tango'. He had been an outstanding racer North and South Road winning 1st club Wetherby 1984; 2nd South East Specialist Club Niort, 31st open Nantes N.F.C. in 1986.
Mick started in the sport in 1978. Mr Tomlinson of Hayes helped him on starting out and some of his early stock was obtained from this Middlesex fancier. His first club was the Orpington F.C. and he broke his novice status in his first season from Blandford. His first loft was a 12ft Kidby loft which housed a mixture of birds which didn't race too well. Fanciers who have helped with his progress in the sport are Ron Wasey, T. Fearn and George Gauntlett. The 1982 season saw Mick send 23 birds to longest old bird race from Bergerac, recording 20 on the day and taking the first five positions in the club. The winner was one of Mick's all-time best birds 'Marilyn's Choice', a blue chequer hen which recorded 1st club, 2nd Federation, 3rd Combine 4,646 birds that day. In 1984 he won 1st club Le Mans, 8th Combine, 1st club Bergerac and 1st club Wadebridge, the longest young bird race.
The birds were fed on the best corn available in the form of a mixture of Beans, Peas and Maize, with the birds being trapped on Red Band. Young and old birds alike were trained hard for two weeks before the first Federation race, but once racing started training was stopped and the birds were flagged for an hour every day. Old birds were trained to the coast and youngsters to Hindhead, about a 50 miles fly. Mick's wife, Marilyn was keen on the pigeons and she exercised the birds around the loft and had also timed winners for Mick. He said correct feeding was one of the main factors behind success and liked his birds sitting ten day old eggs for Channel races. The loft was scraped out every day as Mick was strongly against any kind of deep litter. Mick owned a Dordin cock bred by Ron Wasey of New Addington which he called ‘The Wasey Cock', which had won 1st club Wadebridge and 1st club Weymouth. Two more of Mick's consistent racers were 'Minstrel' and 'Little Red', both had scored through to Bergerac and both were Busschaerts. He was very strict when selecting stock birds and maintained they must be apple-bodied, medium in size, have a good eye and a good curtain in their throat. The good eye was only part of the make-up, but he said it is important to pair opposite eyes together. He was quite interested in eyesign but maintained it is not the complete answer.
He said compulsory vaccination would be a benefit to the sport and thought fanciers should only pay one subscription to the R.P.R.A. He rated T. & G. Rye of Swanley the best widowhood fliers and John Lane of Bromley the best natural distance flier in the area. Mick rarely bred late breds, but sometimes did so for stock or for a friend. He thought the most important factor behind success with racing pigeons is patience.
The late Stan Hutson of Croydon.
When I visited the South Croydon home of Stan Hutson the Surrey Federation was mid-way through the 1978 old bird programme having completed seven races and the Hutson's Delwiche pigeons had recorded seven times first, six times second flying in the Surrey Valley Club. Stan's team of Delwiche pigeons were bred entirely from birds obtained from the Thornton Heath 'Ace', George Gauntlett and said they did the job at all distances. He was always trying a cross and had brought a pair of young Dordins to try but they must be proved racing before being bred from. Stan had shown great form in the Federation and Combine that season having recorded 1st, 2nd club, 1st, 2nd Surrey Federation Exeter and 1st, 2nd club, 3rd, 5th Surrey Federation, 3rd, 5th S.M.T. Combine Vire. The Hutson's were premier winners in the Surrey Valley H.S. in 1977 and 1976 being runners up in 1975 and recorded 19 times first, 17 times second and 12 times third in them three seasons. Stan said his biggest thrill in pigeon racing was when he clocked a bird on the day from Bordeaux the longest race, for the first time. His wife, Shirley, used to be very useful with club work checking and marking, etc., but this fell away when they started a family. Stan said she liked her say at club meetings.
The self-built loft was 16ft x 6ft, in two sections, with a small flight at the rear for the young birds. The birds were trapped through open doors and deep litter was used on the loft floor. Stan flew the natural system and said he liked to see the birds really happy in the garden, which he couldn’t on with the widowhood system! The whole loft was paired up on 14th February and about 35 youngsters were bred each year. Stan bred a few extra young birds because at the back of his loft there was a mass of pylons and wires which annually claim a lot of his birds. The birds were fed on Ludlow’s ‘Winter Mixture’ all the year around and iodised minerals as a tit-bit. Stan said he didn't like to change the birds diet and the winter mix was clean and the cheapest. Young birds and old birds flew the programme with yearlings going up to Niort (350 miles). Stan started training two weeks prior to the first race and they got short, regular tosses at about 15 miles throughout the season. Stan was a builder and took the birds to work with him in any direction or weather. Stan said he had no views on Eye-Sign but there were eyes he liked and disliked. He said the basket was the telling factor in pigeon racing.
After a cup of coffee and a short chat, Stan took me down the lawn to the loft where the first bird I handled was a 1974 Delwiche red chequer hen named `Tracy' and when I handled her, her tail and head dropped which Stan thought was a good sign in a pigeon. She was true to type of his family being medium, long-cast in the hand and she had five firsts to her credit, recording 2nd club, 5th Federation, 5th S.M.T. Combine Vire that year. Next pigeon to be inspected was a full brother to ‘Tracy’ namely ‘Paul’, a handsome 1974 dark chequer cock, medium long-cast in the hand and winner of a first from the Channel in 1977 and 1st club, 3rd Federation, 3rd S.M.T. Combine Vire that season. A really nice pigeon!
Stan started up at the age of nine when he caught a road pecker in the church yard. His father bought a pair from F. Giles of Croydon for 5/- for Stan (on his birthday) and he was helped along by Dinky Barward and Sid March, the late Croydon Federation convoyer. Stan's first loft was his father's chicken run with a dirt floor and he started racing in the West Croydon H.S. with the Barker pigeons but with little success. At that time he had been in the sport 37 years and was Chairman of the Surrey Valley Club.
Two of his all-time best birds were pied cock NU 52 TN 51 winner of 14 times first and 36 cards in first three positions and the Delwiche red chequer cock NU 64 B 36055 winner of 1st club Exeter, 1st club Rennes, 1st club Nantes (twice) 1st club Avranches, being the sire of the club and Federation winners. The next pigeon I handled was a half-brother to the first two, a nice three year old blue pied cock named 'Philip’. This gem was an outstanding young bird, then went on to win Niort as a yearling and as a two year old and Stan was preparing him for the treble. 'Fred' a yearling blue chequer cock was the next bird which Stan handed me and he has recorded two firsts that season.
Stan told novices to take their time and don't be afraid to ask advice from as many fanciers as possible. Stan looked up to two local fanciers, mainly Brian Gillam and Bill Broughton of Croydon because they were consistently good every season. He thought averages push a lot of fanciers into making mistakes with their birds and fly-aways were mainly caused by overcrowding in the loft.