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Keith and Betty Mott of Claygate





When I saw the London & South East Classic Club San Sebastian result of the 2004 season, I felt I had to ring Keith and Betty Mott to congratulate them on their wonderful performance in that, the classic's longest old bird race. To send eight birds to 560 miles and get four in the first fifty open result, in such a testing race was great flying. The Surrey partnership clocked another to take 69 th . open and when returning from the clock station found the sixth pigeon was home, and was quite badly injured from an obvious hawk attack. What makes this performance even more incredible is the fact that Keith and Betty has a very small set up. Keith told me he had received a number of telephone calls that day congratulating him and I suggested it was about time he had a write up in the fancy press, on him self and Betty. He is widely known in the Racing Pigeon world as one of our premier 'scribes', but many people don't know that Keith is an outstanding fancier, with a wonderful racing record over his 34 years in the sport. I am sure many readers would like to read a bit of the history of Keith Mott's thirty plus years in the sport, so I have written the following article!

Keith Mott was born in Feltham, near Heathrow Airport in 1950 and no one in the family were pigeon fanciers. Keith and his younger brother, Phil, started keeping pigeons in their early youth and the Mott brother's pigeon career stared when they obtained a pair of birds, 'Alma' and 'Charlie', from a school friend, which were housed in a small rabbit hutch. After a few years of flying them around the rooftops, the brothers, gave them up, as they moved house. Keith played the drums and was very involved at the time with the top rock n' roll band, 'The Impalas', and backed many top artists, including Shakin' Stevens and Gene Vincent at the London Palladium in 1969. He also sat in on recording and television dates, playing the drums. In 1970 the brothers decided to start up pigeons again, this time to do the job properly. They obtained some good stock and start racing, which they had never done before. They acquired some Kirkpatrick and Kenyon stock from the late Johnny Winters of Kingston, which formed the basis of the Mott brothers loft, and joined the now disbanded Molesey & District H.S. Keith and Phil won many firsts and averages in the early years, mostly in hard channel races, and were top prize winners in the strong Molesey club in 1975, winning 1 st . Avranches, 1 st . Rennes, 2 nd . Nantes , 1 st . Niort and several inland races that season. The premier pigeon for the brothers in the 1970's was their great dark pied cock, 'John Boy', winner of many good positions including, 1974: 1 st . club, 1 st . Surrey Federation (2,673 birds), 3 rd . open S.M.T. Combine (6,823 birds) Nantes, winning the Federation by 23 y.p.m., with a velocity of 995 y.p.m., 1976: 1 st . club, 4 th . Surrey Federation, 12 th . open S.M.T. Combine (4,234 birds) Niort . This wonderful pigeon was a Kirkpatrick/Kenyon cross, bred from the original Johnny Winters stock and won several premier trophies, including 'Pigeon of the Year' in the Molesey club. Keith and Phil never looked back in channel racing, winning in the best of company! Keith considered Niort his personal favourite race point in the early days, winning three firsts in four seasons. They won the second longest old bird race four times in five seasons and the year they missed out, they won Bergerac (455 miles), the longest old bird race.

The 1979 season saw the brother's pigeon partnership split up as Phil got married and moved out of the area, and he took the 1978 young bird team to make a start at his new address. Keith then teamed up with his wife, Betty and started racing at their present address at Claygate. At the start of the 1984 season, most pigeon fanciers in the British Isles were glad to see the back of 1983, with it's paramyxovirus ban on channel racing, which left the racing and show programme in total disarray. Despite the ban, Keith enjoyed a brilliant season racing and showing. Winning many major positions in the Club, Federation and Combine, including ten times 1 st . club and lifting fourteen trophies. All this won with a very small racing team of eighteen birds! Keith and Betty were premier prize winners in the Surbiton F.C. and third highest prize winner in the London Columbarian Midweek Club, flying only half of the midweek programme. Keith and Betty raced their team on the natural system to their smart 15ft.x 6ft. loft. The basic loft was a 'Kidby', but Keith being a self employed carpenter made his own alterations, including a small stock section. The main families kept in the 1980's were Alex Fleming of Esher , Denys Brothers of Belgium and Dordin's from Ron Wasey of NewAddington and Mr. & Mrs. John Hopwood of York . The Mott pigeons were paired up on 14 th . February, as this usually meant the birds were laying their second round in time for the first Federation race. Pairing on this date, says Keith, the birds are good up to 350 miles, but were normally over the top for the longest old bird race from Bergerac (455 miles). With such a small team of pigeons it was very hard to win right up to the end of the old bird programme. The Dordin pigeons from Ron Wasey and John Hopwood were brilliant racing and in the show pen from the outset, with the main one being a Mealy late bred named 'Ronnie', which was gifted to the Mott loft by Ron Wasey. The best pigeon of the 1980's was Keith's famous champion 'Kenny' and this Denys Brothers grizzle cock won 37 positions in the first six, including thirteen times 1 st . club, also 3 rd ., 5 th . and 9 th . in the Surrey Federation. This 'once in a life time' pigeon was eventually put to stock, breeding many winners and his daughter bred 2 nd . open Up North Combine for a fancier in the north east of England . Champion 'Kenny' had several outstanding brothers, the best one being another grizzle named 'Warrior', and he won seven times 1 st . club, also 2 nd ., 3 rd . and 15 th . in the Surrey Federation. These brilliant cocks were raced on the natural system and never raced further than Plymouth (180 miles). A third brother, 'Double Top', won three times 1 st . club, including 1 st . club (by 75 minutes), 5 th . Surrey Federation, 7 th . open S.M.T. Combine Penzance . The 1980's were a golden decade for Keith and Betty Mott, winning up to ten firsts in most seasons and were the premier prize winners in the Surbiton F.C. three years consecutively. Being one of the sport's workers, Keith was secretary of the Surbiton and Esher clubs for several seasons and was also at one time chairman of the London Columbarian.

Two important pigeons of the early 1990's were the Denys Brothers blue chequer pied cock, 'Apollo' and his mate 'The Besant Hen', which was bred by Kenny and Bobby Besant of New Malden. 'Apollo' won several races and was 'Pigeon of the Year' in the Esher club, also he was an outstanding breeder, being the sire of many winners with 'The Besant Hen'. A late bred from this pair was gifted to Paddy Kelly of Harlow, which bred a bird to win 1 st . open London North Road Combine Lerwick (600 miles) in the 2003 season. It also bred 2 nd . open London N.R. Combine and a 'Hall of Fame' winner. 'Apollo' was featured on Sky News TV in the November of 1994. A wonderful pigeon! The year 1995 was a very bad one for Keith and Betty. After discovering that Keith had Pigeon Fancier's Lung, he had to give up his beloved pigeons, after 25 years in the sport. Keith said that giving up the pigeons was the hardest thing he had to do in his life, not only did he feel sorry for himself but was shattered for his daughter, Caroline, who was a very good pigeon fancier and new member of the pigeon partnership. In 1997, whilst at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show, Keith met a pigeon lung suffer, Tony Grinsil of Wakefield and he told Keith that he had overcome the problem by using a 'rabbit hutch' type loft. You do not have to walk into this type of loft to look after the pigeons, so on his return from the Blackpool trip, Keith, built himself some rabbit hutches, so he could keep some old timers as pets. In 1998 he obtained a few choice youngsters from his good friends Eric Cannon and Tom Gilbertson, with the view to racing in the Pau N.F.C. event, which he thinks is one of the premier races in the sport. With such a small team of pigeons, Keith couldn't hope to enjoy weekly Federation racing with the same success as he had in the past, so it was more realistic to have a go at one good race like the Pau National. In the winter of 1998 he built his present eight section 'rabbit hutch' loft, with natural long distance racing in mind. Each rabbit hutch has a bob-wire trap and all wire doors are removable so they don't flap about and damage the birds as they fly out. The loft set up at Claygate has again been increased, as in the Christmas period of 2000, Keith built an aviary type loft to house the stock birds and his small team of young birds. Keith always wears a mask when cleaning out the rabbit hutches, which is a very quick job, carried out at least once a day and the whole setup is kept spotlessly clean.

Keith's very close friends, Eric and Pat Cannon of Godalming, gave him youngsters every season to build up his long distance team, which are performing brilliantly in the long distance National and Classic events. When I asked him about Eric, he said, when Eric passed away in the July 2000, I lost my mentor and my best friend, and the sport of pigeon racing lost one of it's greatest fanciers. He was always there for advice, putting me right, not only on pigeon matters but on life in general and was a true friend. Keith has a very good knowledge of Eric's wonderful long distance family of pigeons, being a close to Eric and his pigeons for well over 25 years, he had the sad job of arranging and running his dispersal sales in the winter of 2000. Here we are four years on and there have been many reports of fanciers putting up premier performances with Eric Cannon's pigeons, including two N.F.C. winners. Keith's opinion is that the name, Eric Cannon, will live on in the list of racing pigeon greats forever!

Keith only keeps 14 pairs in his 'rabbit hutch' loft set up, including stock birds and the main family kept is the very best of Eric Cannon. Keith says he has only been in long distance racing for about five seasons and loves it! He is not interested in any other type of pigeon racing and says he wished he started long distance year ago. The Claygate loft also houses the very best lines of Keith's friends, Brian Denney, Tom Gilbertson and Ced Allwright, and all have crossed with Eric Cannon's pigeons successfully. The loft normally has five pairs of stock birds which are paired up in January each season and Keith is very proud of the fact that he owns probably one of the best Eric Cannon stock teams in the sport. The stock section houses seven direct children of three of Eric and Pat's Pau N.F.C. Merit Award winners, plus a direct son of Eric's N.F.C. winner, 'Culmer Marion', and a son of 'Culmer Sam', the key breeding cock at the Godalming lofts. Keith says all the main pairs in the stock loft have bred several pigeons to score well up in Classic and National results in long distance events.

One of the star racers at the Claygate loft is the red chequer cock, 'The Gilbertson Cock', and was bred by Tom Gilbertson of Carlisle , being one of the original gift pigeons to start Keith up again in 1998. This wonderful pigeon went missing for two months as a young bird, but went on to win: 2000: 2 nd . clock station (beaten by a loft mate), 305 th . open N.F.C. Nantes (9,074 birds), second bird clocked on the winning day N.F.C. Pau (552 miles), 2001: flew nearly 1,000 miles north road in three weeks, 90 th . open L.& S.E.C.C. Perth (very hard race), 1 st . clock station, 51 st . open L. & S.E.C.C. Thurso (516 miles), scored in 500 mile cocks class at B.H.W. Blackpool Show, 2002: 2 nd . clock station, 204 th . open N.F.C. Pau (552 miles), 3 rd . in the B.H.W. Pau Sporting Challenge, 2003: flew Dax (528 miles), won Best in Show at the Esher open show. This wonderful cock is bred down from Tom's 'Red Alert' bloodlines and has bred several good 500 mile racers, including the mealy hen ' Foxwarren Javelin'.

Keith uses Eric Cannon's natural racing system. Keith says being a close friend to a fancier like Eric for over 25 years, something must rub off, and he cannot remember ever having a conversation with Eric, when Eric didn't say 'Pau National'. The racers are paired up in mid-March, with date being worked back from the Pau National and every pair rear youngsters to kick off their season and develop a bond between mates and nest box. Keith trains at all points down the A3 to Portsmouth , with the odd toss from Worthing (50 miles) on the south coast. The basic feeding is 'Irish' mixture, with a 50% extra maize added to the feed three weeks before the main event and is fed on the hopper. Eric Cannon was a great bean feeder, sometimes 100% right through the season, but Keith prefers a mixture of 'Irish' and maple peas. The birds are well trained off the south coast, then into Nantes (300 miles), which used as a stepping stone for Pau , hoping they have a good fly of at least eight hours to tighten them up. The nests are broken down on their return from Nantes and the whole loft is set up on twelve day old eggs for the Pau race. The yearlings are given two or three channel races up to Nantes and then stopped, although Keith has sent the odd yearling to 550 miles and scored with them.

Keith and Betty only race a very small team in the 500 mile plus National and Classic races and have achieved a fine record over the last five seasons:

2000 : 1 st .and 2 nd . Godalming clock station, 276 th , 305 th . open N.F.C. Nantes (9,074 birds), a very hard race, sent three birds to Pau N.F.C. race, clocked two birds on the winning day recording, 5 th . Godalming clock station, 311 th . open (3,941 birds). The third bird was home next morning.

2001: This season saw the loft compete in only two old bird races and with only eight old bird racers recorded, 3 rd , 5 th . Guildford clock station, 77 th ,80 th ,90 th ,91 st ,92 nd . and 94 th . open L. & S.E.C.C. Perth (370 miles), 1 st ,2 nd . and 5 th . Guildford clock station, 51 st ,52 nd . and 69 th . open L. & S.E.C.C. Thurso (516 miles), only six birds sent, all south road pigeons.

2002: Sent four pigeons to the Pau N.F.C. race, recorded 2 nd . and 3 rd . Guildford clock station (only three birds clocked), 204 th . and 252 nd . open (4,071 birds), 7 th . National Yearling and 3 rd . in the B.H.W. Pau Sporting Challenge.

2003: Sent eight birds to Dax (528 miles) L. & S.E.C.C. race, clocking five on the winning day and recording 1 st ,3 rd ,4 th ,5 th ,6 th . Guildford clock station (very hard race only two clocks returned in clock station), 32 nd ,121 st ,154 th ,155 th ,174 th . open.

2004: Sent eight birds to San Sebastian (560 miles) in Spain with the L. & S.E.C.C., clocked five on a this very hard race and recorded 1 st ,2 nd ,3 rd ,4 th ,5 th . Guildford clock station (only clock returned), 23 rd ,29 th ,37 th ,43 rd ,69 th . open, with only 79 birds clocked in race time. Keith returned from the clock station to find the sixth bird, 'The Allwright Cock', was home and had been badly hawked. The first bird clocked from San Sebastian was the two year old blue hen, 'Foxwarren Express', and she was sent due to hatch on the day of liberation, to win 1 st . clock station, 23 rd . open. This was her first race from over 500 miles and she is a daughter of Keith's number two Eric Cannon stock pair, being a granddaughter of Champion 'Culmer Marion', 1 st . open N.F.C. Sartilly, 'Culmer White Flight', 1 st . sect. A, 14 TH . open N.F.C. Pau and 'Culmer Channel Queen', the N.F.C. Pau Merit Award winning hen. 'Foxwarren Express' flew through to Nantes as a yearling and won B.O.S. in the Esher open show last winter. Keith's second pigeon from San Sebastian , to record 2 nd . clock station, 29 th .open, was his good blue chequer hen, 'Foxwarren Complete', and she is a Cannon/Denney cross, being a daughter of that fantastic Brian Denney stock hen 'Pathfinder'. 'Foxwarren Complete' was sent to San Sebastian sitting twelve day old eggs and in 2003 was clocked on the winning day from Dax (528 miles), to win 1 st . clock station, 32 nd . open. This game hen will be racing for the L. & S.E.C.C. Merit Award in the 2006 season.

2005: Sent eight birds to Pau (552 miles) with the L. & S.E.C.C. and clocked three birds on the hardest weekend of the 2005 season. The team recorded 2 nd ,7 th ,8 th . Guildford Clock station, 20 th ,116 th ,119 th . open, with only 119 birds clocked in race time. First bird on the clock was the mealy hen, "Foxwarren Javelin", and she has plenty of previous good form having flown 550 miles four times, winning: 2005: 20 th . open L.&S.E.C.C. Pau, 2004: 69 th . open L.&S.E.C.C. San Sebastian, 2003: 155 th . open L.&S.E.C.C. Dax, plus 3 rd . 500 mile hens at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show. She is a daughter of the ace 500 mile racer, "The Gilbertson Cock", when mated to the premier Eric Cannon hen, "Pat's Girl". The same weekend as the Pau classic, three yearlings were sent to the B.I.C.C. Tours smash race and a Cannon blue cock was recorded to win 111 th . open.