“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
John Keywood – Three Borders Federation President.
Looking at the 2020 Federation Diploma Book, I noticed that my ol’ mucker, Johnny Keywood has been President for over twenty years. What a fantastic achievement that is! I spoke to Johnny on the telephone recently and he told me that he was going to stand down for the 2021 season because of his recent bad health, but the Federation have made President for life. Johnny Keywood must be described as one of the all-round ‘legends’ of pigeon racing the Surrey fraternity! Since entering the sport in 1947 he has been a constant worker and winner at club, Federation and Combine level. He is 87 years old and recently suffered his fourth stroke, which has left him un-well. I was very sad when he told me he can’t cope with his wonderful loft of winning pigeons and has to pack them up. He certainly can’t cope with pigeon sales and has asked me to inform the fancy that he is retiring from the racing side of the sport and anyone interested in his pigeons please phone him on: 07940 497393.
Johnny Keywood of then the Spelthorne Club, enjoyed a brilliant 2011 racing season and finished it great style by winning 1st open SMT Combine (1594 birds) from the last and longest young birds race, flown from Yelverton (172 miles) in September. John’s latest Combine winner was a natural blue pies hen raced to the perch and both her parents were bred by John’s good friend, Jack Cornes of Walsall. Her dam is the premier stock in the Keywood stock loft, blue pied hen ‘Colleen’s Gift’ and she has bred twelve first prize winners, including ‘Galaxy Lad’ winner of four firsts, and now ‘Galaxy Flash’ the 2011 SMT Combine winner. As I’ve stated John has had a wonderful 2011 season winning several top positions in the Three Borders Federation including 3rd Federation from Newton Abbot with his good widowhood blue cock, ‘Ibrahim’s Exile’ and this Vandenabeele has recorded a string of top performances. He lifted all the average cups in the Spelthorne club and won 13 times 1st club, 12 times 2nd club, 9 times 3rd club, including 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th club, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th Federation, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th SMT Combine Alencon, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th club, 11th, 21st Federation, 13th, 31st SMT Combine Messac. Two of John’s top racers in his also outstanding 2010 season were bred by Amgad Ibrahim of Fulham, who breeds a lot of good winners for other fanciers. Amgad mostly keeps the M. & D. Evans / Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons and the Keywood success birds were, ‘Amgad’, 3rd open SMT Combine Messac and ‘Ibrahim’s Exile’, which has recorded several premier positions.
He has raced cocks on the widowhood system for many years and in recent seasons has only had a very small team of 12 cocks, which are housed in two sections in his very smart 40ft loft. The loft has open door trapping and consists of a big section for the stock birds, two sections for the young birds, and two sections with six widowhood cocks in each. The racers are generally paired up the last week in January, with the racing cocks single rearing a baby and are normally on the widowhood system by the second Federation race. John tells me his cocks are sent to the first Federation race feeding a big youngster and on their return the hen and baby are taken away, and then they are on the system. The week before the first race the cocks get about five training tosses up to Bentley (25 miles), which is the furthest the old birds ever go and once racing commences they are only exercised around the loft for an hour twice a day. In recent seasons John has been feeding Garvo ‘Super Sprint’ mixture and says he never break the birds down. The hens are shown to the widowhood cocks from dinner time on the day of marking for Channel races and on their return from the race stay with their mate overnight on all races.
The Three Borders Federation had got the 2010 season well under way and sent a strong birdage of 1,623 birds to Kingsdown at the beginning of May. The birds made some very quick velocities being liberated in a Westerly wind and the Federation President, John Keywood of Hersham, won the Spelthorne club and the Federation doing 1696 ypm. Johnny’s top pigeon in the 2010 season was his champion yearling blue cock, ‘Blue Diamond’, which was bred by his good friend John Diamond. This game pigeon won the club four times in the 2010 season, lifting the ‘Bird of the Year’ Trophy and 1st Federation Kingsdown, plus 5th Federation (2016 birds), 14th Federation (1089 birds) and 17th Federation (1233 birds). Another brilliant yearling racing in the 2010 season was John’s blue chequer cock, ‘John’s Supremacy’ and he recorded 2nd SMT Combine Messac (1494 birds), 14th SMT Combine Messac (1316 birds) and 24th SMT Combine Fougeres (1576 birds). Two of John’s top racers last year were bred by Amgad Ibrahim of Fulham, who breeds a lot of good winners for other fanciers. He mostly keeps the M. & D. Evans / Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons and the Keywood success birds were, ‘Amgad’, 3rd open SMT Combine Messac and ‘Ibrahim’s Exile’, which has recorded several premier positions. John only raced old birds in the 2010 season and in the club won 7 times 1st, 10 times 2nd, 10 times 3rd, and lifted OB Inland Average, OB Average, Channel Average, Bird of the Year Trophy and Champion Loft Trophy.
What can you say about Johnny that hasn't been said many times before through the years? He's been a brilliant fancier and worker for the sport over many years and has won everything in the Federation and Combine. John was highest prize winner in the Three Borders Federation in seasons 2000 and 2001. One of John’s best season was in 2005 winning the Three Borders Federation four times and was premier prize winner in the Hersham club, recording eight firsts. His Federation wins were from Messac (1,071 birds), Fougeres (1,034 birds), Kingsdown (1,985 birds) and Lulworth (1,553 birds), and recorded 1st S.M.T. Combine from Messac (3,287 birds) and 3rd S.M.T. Combine Fougeres (2,988 birds). A fantastic loft performance! John’s 2005 Combine winner was his good blue chequer widowhood cock, ‘Young Jupiter’, and he has won the Three Borders Federation twice. He was bred from stock obtained from ‘Oak Villa’ lofts and ‘Galaxy’ lofts, and down from the ‘Jupiter’ line. The Keywood loft won ‘the pigeon of the year’ in the Three Borders Federation in the 2005 season with the blue chequer cock, ‘Harry’s Choice’, and he has won four times 1st club and twice 1st Federation. He was a gift pigeon from ‘Oak Villa’ lofts and won 1st Federation Kingsdown (1985 birds), plus 5th and 7th Federation in 2005. John won the Federation from Messac in the 2004 season and the winner, ‘The Diamond Cock’, a yearling blue chequer cock bred by his good friend, John Diamond, and was one of a batch of six gift youngsters sent to the Hersham loft. The Federation winner had every inland race on his build-up and took a week to come home from the first Combine race from Fougeres. However, he learnt by his mistake, winning the Federation from Messac the following weekend. ‘The Diamond Cock’ won 1st Three Borders Federation again in 2005 from Fougeres. Johnny paired up late in the 2004 season, as he had a stay in hospital early in the year and only raced nine cocks on the widowhood system. When Johnny won the Federation from Messac in 2004 he also recorded 3rd Open with a four year old blue chequer white flight cock recording his fifth race win. This game cock is son of John's ‘Oak Villa Champion’, winner of 18 x 1st club and 7 x 1st Federation. What a great loft of pigeons!
Most of his young birds are bred from his 16 pairs of stock birds which are housed in a very big, spacious section in the loft. John races the Jan Huybregts birds which are from his friends, Jimmy Weeder of Liverpool and Oak Villa Lofts, Gaby Vandenabeele and Van Loon from Jack & Colleen Cornes of Galaxy Lofts and a few very good Gaby Vandenabeele racers from Amgad Ibrahim. John pairs the stock pigeons on the 1st February and normally breeds three rounds off each pair. When he brings in a new breeder, John is not too bothered about type, but always goes for good performance and winning lines. The Keywood loft’s Number one stock hen is the Jack Cornes seven year old blue called, ‘Galaxy Queen’, and she has produced many winners, being a grand daughter of Champion ‘Jupiter’. John tells me he has obtained eleven pigeons from Jack Cornes over the years and eight of them have now bred winners. A fantastic record! John has asked me to thank Jack & Colleen Cornes and Jimmy Weeder for all their help and generosity over the years! John Keywood bred several premier breeders for R. Geary & Son from the North of England, including the dams of pigeons to win four times 1st North West Classic Club, in the form of ‘The Going Light Cock, ‘The 10 Cock’ and ‘Hollin Boy’.
Johnny’s 30 young birds are put on the darkness system and race the whole programme. He holds nothing back, by saving young cocks for the widowhood, they all go and he likes to work them hard. The Keywood loft has been very successful with the young birds in past seasons and John says he really enjoys racing his babies. He maintains to be successful with young birds; they need to be on the darkness systems, as natural babies can’t hold their form when moulting. They are fed on a natural mixture to start with, and then later on in the season they are introduced to maize.
John has been in the sport on and off for over 70 years and it all started when his dad, who was a head gardener in Walton, took him to work to see the fantail which lived in the gardens. The lady who owned the gardens presented the young Johnny with a pair whites and he housed them in an old Rabbit hutch. On visiting the loft of local fancier, Bill Ridger, at the age of 14, he was presented with six young racing pigeons and he joint the Walton Homing Society, which at that time had a star studded membership, including Freddie Ranaboldo and Mark Finestone. Success soon came John’s way, when a Ridger youngster won the first young bird race and recorded 1st club, 6th Federation. In later years Johnny became good friends with the late great Ayton Marshall of Seaton Sluice in the North East of England and obtained some brilliant Vandeveldes from him, which produced a lot of winners for the Keywood loft over many years. Two great, big winning pigeons in the 1970’s was the blue pied cock ‘The Marshall’ and his nest mate, ‘Barren Hen’, winner of 2nd SMT Combine Niort (3,500 birds).
John likes sprint racing and one day continental racing and maintains anything past Tarbes (550 miles) is too far. He thinks the way forward, especially in Federation racing, is for the advisor to anticipate the weather conditions for the weekend on the Friday and if there is little chance of a race on the Saturday, then to mark on the Saturday evening and race on the Sunday. He is still using a pigeon clock for timing his birds, but says he is not against the ETS as long as fanciers use their common sense and don’t create night mares for the club secretary by recording 20 or 30 birds. Johnny Keywood is a great worker for the sport and was the Secretary of the Hersham Club for about fifteen years and President of the Three Borders Federation for over twenty seasons. Well done to John on his great work for the Three Border Federation!
The first ten in the Honiton Federation result were: 1) Alan & John Stoner 1628: 2) Terry & Sue Leonard 1624: 3) Terry & Sue Leonard 1624: 4) Terry & Sue Leonard 1624: 5) Terry & Sue Leonard 1623: 6) Terry & Sue Leonard 1623: 7) Terry Goodsell 1623: 8) Alan & John Stoner 1623: 9) Terry Goodsell 1622: 10) Vic Emberson 1622.
The first ten in the Bodmin Federation result were: 1) E. R. & J. Skeete & Keen 1510: 2) Terry & Sue Leonard 1500: 3) Alan & John Stoner 1496: 4) Terry & Sue Leonard 1496: 5) Bob & Anthony Besant 1496: 6) Alan & John Stoner 1496: 7) M/M Burczak 1494: 8) Terry Goodsell 1491: 9) Bob & Anthony Besant 1491: 10) Bob & Anthony Besant 1491. This was race number seven of the season and at this point the Ashridge club are leading for the ‘Federation Points Trophy’ with 39 points, with the Mitcham & Morden club being R/U on 35 points.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).