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L J Parkinson - 30-01-23

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L.J Parkinson.

For one reason or another I have stepped back from writing other than an article in the BHW Yearbook. I had a good response to the article because many feel the sport is sinking too fast, I don’t totally agree with that, but it is partly right. We are losing members there is no doubt about that but there are more teams of fanciers than ever in proportion to the lofts registered. Instead of going through all the points raised I am going to use an email that arrived on my PC. Although I had my first email on this subject last year it was the response after the Blackpool show that caused me to look at it again. I am going to go back to that first email because there are some good points and most of what I received is covered in one go. “I have had a love of racing pigeons all my life but have been unable to pursue the hobby in recent years due for various reasons. I have been watching the racing pigeon community from a distance all the while and I have to say that in my humble opinion the sport in its current format will end at some point in the future. 

LJP. As we know whatever we do in life everything ends at some point, but I doubt if pigeon racing will finish in my lifetime.

Why? Fragmentation, far too many clubs with 2/3/4 members. You could be buying a bird listed with lots of club wins but what if the club it won in had only single digit members, the wins are fairly meaningless.

LJP. Yes, there are clubs with only a handful of members in them, but as I have always said to the members in Middlewich, you enter your club to compete in the federation where the competition around here with the MCF is good. The SWCF are much smaller, but they do have some tough competition. We all must have an aim in life and with our pigeons that aim is to win the competition with as many birds being entered as there can be for the members in the boundary. The majority of small clubs have come about because far too many want to be a big fish in a small pool so have looked to form new clubs where there are already sufficient clubs for everyone. I remember writing an article over 30yrs ago when the governing body were accepting new organisations when there was more than enough clubs and competition available for everyone. The governing body should not have let this happen, probably in their eye’s they were looking at a bit more income and not what was best for the sport.

Mismanagement by officials at the top of the sport.

LJP. That’s a tricky one because no matter where you look in society there are going to be those who want to go one step further no matter whose toes they tread on. We see it on a regular basis, and you can bet people at the top are only being got at because they are successful. The problem we have currently is social media is a great means of communication, but it is misused by many and that includes pigeon fanciers, many become Keyboard Warriors, hiding behind a screen, especially when they have had a few drinks at night.

Huge cost of running/feeding/training and maintaining a decent loft of birds today.

LJP. No matter what hobby we have they are always expensive, pigeon racing being no different. The cost of anything we do is always down to the individual and how much they can afford to spend on their chosen hobby. Training is optional, some have two weeks training leading up to the first race are that is all some do. On the other hand, there are fanciers who are training daily, even twice a day, we must do training as and when we have the finances to fill the tank. Buying pigeons can be as cheap or dear as you want it to be. We have a fancier who has a loft of 9prs stock birds, and the dearest was £70, and all have bred winners, he has gone from an average fancier to one of the best in his federation and gets them in the Nationals as well. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good pigeons, there are always good pigeons about, the trouble is finding them, some fanciers are a good judge of pigeons while others are not. Also, there are the latest fashion where some fanciers go mad after them and pay high prices for them, doesn’t say they are any good, you only find that out in time.

A modern and more enlightened attitudes to life, (and death), for use in sport. Try to find out how many pigeon fanciers are currently racing regularly in the UK and then look at this figure going back year on year to visibly see how many are leaving and packing up annually. You cannot find this info' out because those running the sport won't tell you, trust me I have tried on numerous occasions! If you wish to know the true health of the racing pigeon sport then firstly you need these annual figures of fancier numbers, those leaving us newcomers. 

LJP. Surely these figures are available each year with the statement of accounts from the RPRA. You can see the decline of the sport, not sure about individual numbers such as partnerships where there could be any number in them. I personally do know of partnership’s where one has gone but they retain the name and pay their fee’s. This could be misleading with the actual number of fanciers there are in the sport as opposed to the numbers of racing lofts.

Smaller and smaller clubs are unsustainable and pinning hopes on old fanciers returning to the sport is a fool’s hope, why? because that number will also decrease with age and the passage of time.

LJP. It doesn’t matter how big or small a club is as long as they are competing and as I said earlier their main goal is to win the federation. I have heard it said many times, we need to go to Central marking, however that could affect the sport with a few not being able to travel to get their birds marked.

Modern attitudes, if you told the modern kids today that it was necessary to cull birds who didn't succeed or became unable to race, they would not tolerate or accept it, this is worse than retirement for greyhounds and we all know the stigma attached to that. Killing stock that doesn't make the grade in the name of sport is no longer acceptable to general society today.

LJP. Society has changed and will go on changing, we all strive for improvement in whatever we do. Pigeons are being passed around now more than ever; social media sees to that. Just because a pigeon does not breed winners of win itself it doesn’t mean the pigeon is no good, Joe Bloggs down the road could get hold of it and make it into a winner or breeder of winners, the previous owner may not know how to win or breed winners.

Then you have the issue of new starters wondering why anyone in their right mind would invest in the best stock at great expense only to continually lose them through BOP attacks and/or poor race management when released.

LJP. This is an issue that our governing body needs to get to grips with, we need connections to the top but I cannot see that happening because there are far too many lovers of killers in wildlife. At the end of the day BOP are killers and no matter what the RPRA or anyone else does that will not change unless there’s a miracle. That miracle is we get pigeons in the same category as chickens etc. I cannot see that happening.

Add in fuel, food, medication costs and then Brexit and l am afraid long term the prospect for the racing pigeon sport in its current form doesn't look good. I don’t know if anyone else was watching Winterwatch on the BBC but it clearly showed a chequer that had been taken and was lunch in the nest of a BOP.

LJP. We are on the decline but there are still plenty of fanciers here in the UK to keep the sport going for many years to come.

The only light at the end of this dark tunnel is seeing the evolution of the sport in the form of one loft racing, which is becoming increasingly popular as it offers potential success with monetary reward without the risks I've listed above.

LJP. I have always liked OLR because your birds are tested against a lot of other birds from top lofts, so you get a good idea of how good they are. They are all treated the same and therefore the best pigeons come through in each race. It doesn’t matter how much money you must train or feed them, when they are in these lofts, they are all the same.

It seems apart from one loft racing, unless the existing fanciers go back to milers and very short sprint racing to reduce admin/fuel costs then, sadly, the sport I love seems very likely not to survive long term.

LJP. Pigeon racing is big business and will last for many years to come, what format is another matter, but it will last.

LJP. I talk to a lot of fanciers over a 12-month period and with over 13,000 members we have a good cross section to talk to. Yes, there are a lot who are not sure about what is going to happen but if we all had a crystal ball, we would all be millionaires. I do agree that we are losing fanciers there is no doubt about that, but we are still going, and I cannot see that changing in my lifetime. Interesting to hear what others have to say.


Another year is under way with plenty having young birds moved and some flying out. So, it was a change when Peter Latham and Mark Smith organised a get together at the Boars Head Hotel, which is the local clubs’ headquarters. This also enabled them to hand out a few sponsorship prizes, so that was efficiently out of the way leaving time for a bit of socialising, something we don’t see a lot of in the modern days of racing pigeons. Ray & Jacky Lunt from Enfield lofts were there as sponsors for the joint marking for the Acton Bridge and Middlewich FC clubs, this was to add a bit of interest at the local marking and with the Mid Cheshire covering the area it does and getting up to 3,000 plus bids in some races even for the few are hard to win. Elimar sponsors of the Middlewich FC were also there when Lizzie presented cheques to Mark Smith £150, plus Peter & Dawn Latham £100. Also in attendance was King Billy Wilson who won 10 x 1sts last year racing with the Middlewich 5B.  

Liz McGuiness Landlady annd Billy Wilson 10 x 1sts 2022 30 01 23                                  mark smith Lizzie from sponsor Elimar and Peter Latham 30 01 23

Liz McGuiness Landlady annd Billy Wilson 10 x 1sts 2022             Mark Smith, Lizzie from sponsor Elimar and Peter Latham

Mark Smith Ray Lunt Sponsor and Peter Latham 30 01 23                                sponsors 30 01 23

Mark Smith, Ray Lunt Sponsor and Peter Latham                           Sponsors

group photo 30 01 23

Group Picture

overview of the room 30 01 23

Elimar Racing.

Once Blackpool is over everyone is looking forward to the rest of the breeding season, or as will be the case of some, getting ready to breed their own young bird team. There is a glimmer of hope that we will be doing the same in the coming weeks and have a team to race this year. It's nearly two years since we signed to buy the property where I am intending to race pigeons but there have been stumbling blocks in the way no matter what the current landlord has done. As was pointed out, the law is an ass and gives in to anyone who pleads poverty even though they are well off. This has been winding me up more and more, because we have lost 2yrs racing and the funds we raise for charity are down for the same reason. Let's not get into that, let's think positive and if the property owner is right, we should have a loft on the way shortly. Putting all that to one side, positivity in pigeon racing is not good now, there are too many who do not know what they are going to do because there is not enough confidence out there to drive fanciers forward. I am always talking to fanciers, and I get the impression that many don't know what they are going to do in the coming season. We have a great hobby that I have missed in recent years, but I am looking forward to the year ahead for pigeon racing and hoping that I am going to be playing a part in it. On face value I have a good team of pigeon's, the problem is they are yearlings and 2yo's that have never flown out. When I have discussed this with fanciers there are those who are looking forward to seeing how I go on breaking them and getting them sufficiently strong enough on the wing to get them into the races, I will know more in a few weeks’ time. However, I am confident that I will get some into the races, what percentage is another matter. I called in to see Dougie Niblett as I was passing by, when I told him my plan, I got the impression that he is waiting to see how I go on, as I am. When, and I do say when I get the loft up it is only about 25ft from where they are currently housed, however they cannot see outside other than through a frosted polycarbonate roof so they will have a rough idea where they are. I remember talking to George Price from Crewe about pigeons going up to the house tops I asked if he thought it would make any difference to them. His view was that the pigeons were strengthening their wings flying from the ground up to the house roof because it was uphill all the way. Where my pigeons are is 4ft wide with a further reduction of 12 inches because of the boxes down the right-hand side. So, they only had about 3ft in width to get to the boxes and they always do it with ease. I have to say they are in good condition and looking to pair up which I am trying to stop them doing for at least a few weeks. Watch this space it will be interesting to say the least.

Channel Racing.

There is a lot of talk about racing from across the channel and how much the vet visits are going to affect the entries. From what I can gather those who are completing the paperwork are finding it much easier than expected. I have also noticed through the site that fanciers are still buying distance pigeons, this indicates that there are more wanting channel racing than some realise. I know there have been a lot talking it down but on face value it does not look as bad as we are led to believe.

Race programme.

The South West Cheshire Fed have two new clubs at the expense of the Mid Cheshire Fed, as always members looking for what they consider better options, will the move be a benefit, only time will tell. They start on the 22nd of April at Cheltenham followed by, Mangotsfield twice, Wincanton twice, Weymouth twice, Guernsey, Weymouth, Guernsey, Wincanton, Guernsey, and finish the old birds at Weymouth. The young birds start on the 29th after a week’s break with Cheltenham twice, Mangotsfield, Cheltenham, Mangotsfield, Wincanton and Weymouth on the 8th of September. The fed are being transported with the Wrekin Fed.

Les Parkinson. 11 Rushton Drive, Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 0NJ.

Tel: +44 (0)1606 836036. Mob: +44 (0)7871 701585.

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