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The Port News 01-03-18

Andrew Lawley

“The Quiet Man of Ellesmere”

Andrew Lawley with 3rd Section 128th Open MNFC Ancenis 2017

Nestled neatly off the beaten track in a part of England that is reserved for bird watchers lives a fancier with an extraordinary touch. Andrew Lawley is the man and Ellesmere Shropshire is the place, a quiet unassuming man, so much so that if you were walk into a busy or loud bar you would not notice him. An unassuming quiet man who has risen to the top of his chosen hobby with a quite mild mannered approach which has endeared him not only his local fancier fraternity and local competitors but to fanciers across the country who not only respect him as a fancier but call him a friend.

Andrew’s pigeon story (like so many before him) commenced with him helping his dad with his pigeons. The family whom all originate from the Ellesmere area are steeped in pigeon history locally and can be traced by Andrew back to his grandfather George, known locally as Gaffer Lawley, who’s three sons would also race pigeons. One of these sons Jim Lawley was to introduce his young lad to a hobby that would see him rise and excel from a young twelve year old lad manning the ringing machine to a fancier of today who is recognised as one of the best fanciers in the country.

Grand Dad (Gaffer) Lawley’s old pigeon loft at Hordley (Mr Ellesmere) 1950’s

Jim Lawley worked as a long distance lorry driver and as such time was always against him with regard to his hobby, with their pigeon lofts sited on the then dairy allotments (Now Tesco’s) they raced their pigeons together as J Lawley & Son. Andrew recalls the first time his dad let him clock the pigeons; “Dad was working, and I had the task of clocking, this was to be the first time I was allowed to clock the birds”.

“I had never ever experienced any excitement like this in my young life previously and the responsibility I felt as young lad was huge. The race was a young bird race and dad had already been through my instructions with “a fine tooth comb”. The birds (if any good) will come directly through the two dairy chimneys, I remember it vividly, dad went to work and I was left in charge, my uncle John was sat his loft on the same allotment”.

Back in those days the liberation time was relayed by a telephone call to our then club house was at the Black Lion Hotel in Scotland Street Ellesmere, once the message had been received a board was placed in the window that the birds were liberated, everyone would be hanging around the street waiting for the board to go up, once up we would disperse to our various lofts in readiness for the birds arrival.

“This particular day would be special, my first time clocking and on my own, it was all down to me, there is today an element of excitement weekly especially if you get a quick pigeon and a great trap but that day it was all down to me. Waiting and looking through the chimneys, knowing what time my dad said they should arrive, and looking up and out towards the dairy chimneys was a cheque pied pigeon folding up and dropping. It was definitely coming to the allotments and we had a cheque pied cock in the race, was it him? It was he didn’t flinch! Dropping like a stone he trapped straight through the doors and I was after him like flash. I will never forget removing his rubber ring and then trying to put it into a thimble and my hand wouldn’t stop shaking? Striking the clock I knew we had a good pigeon”.

“Probably some five to seven minutes after I had clocked my dad came through the gate, he had been rushing trying to get home to see our birds arrive, and as he walked up the path a bird arrived on the allotments and dropped to our John (dads brother) that’s a gooden (dad said) smack on time. But not as good as ours, the first time I had been left in charge and the very first race I was master of and allowed to clock, we won, I had clocked, having been fortunate enough to win a few races including a national this winner was by far the most thrilling. That race is etched on my mind for ever, the pigeon arriving exactly at place where dad said and at the time he said, a memory that will be treasured for ever”.

“Dad was to race right up until he passed away at the tender age of sixty; dad had suffered with cancer and finally succumbed to the dreaded disease. Today quite some years since my dad’s passing we still have in our club an active member who was my dad’s best mate. Pete Watkins will be 85 years of age by the time this goes to press; he was my father’s best friend and a long standing family friend. Pete still races today in the same club and even last season sending only two pigeons to the longest young bird race winning the race and taking all the pools. It’s great to see such a great friend still enjoying his pigeons and still competing”.

Jim Lawley sat at his loft 1975 (J Lawley & Son)

A young Andrew Lawley at his loft 1975 (J Lawley & Son)

Andrew would leave the sport and get on with his young life as most young men do when leaving school. While his dad Jim continued racing his pigeons sending when he felt up to it or he felt well enough to enjoy it. He raced up until his passing.

It wasn’t until Andrew was in his twenties that he would again race his pigeons, this time he would race in partnership with his (now ex) brother in law Mike Sumnall. The partnership was to be a great success having set up the lofts in two gardens with Michael having the stock loft at his house and the racing loft at Andrew’s house. The birds that were to do the damage in this phase of his career would be the Van Der Rhee pigeons that originated at Louise Marsarella’s Louella stud Leicester. Invited on a day trip which had been arranged by Dan Kendrick a number of us locals visited to the now Louella stud in Leicester.

The late Jim Lawley at marking at Ellesmere HS

As part of the trip the stud would supply the organiser with a free pigeon which was then raffled. We managed to win the raffle, the cock we won was a Verhey cock and he produced winners from day one and formed the base of our race team. Flying in two clubs Ellesmere HS and Cockshutt HS in one particular season we won twenty old bird races in the two clubs which was tremendous flying in those days. There is one thing that Andrew remembers one thing above all others when racing with mike, was that he has never ever had widowhood cocks that fit during the racing season and can only put this down to the fact that the hens were kept away from the loft at Mike’s house. “Those widowhood cocks were electric” Andrew recalls.

Trophies won in 1988 flying as Sumnall & Lawley

Andrew would take another break from his hobby after a four year successful partnership, trying to hold down three jobs and a house move he would move on but not totally away from his club and he having kept a couple of pigeons at his new home and having held the position as treasurer Andrew was persuaded to keep the position even though he didn’t race his pigeons to help the club out, this he did. It was then in 1998 when the club approached Andrew about him possibly taking over the secretary’s role. Again as there didn’t appear to be any or many other alternatives Andrew agreed to do the job for them to keep them racing.

This role as secretary was to be the catalyst for Andrew to return to racing pigeons as he put it “I had to be there Friday and Saturday, I might as well race my birds as well” Andrew recalls. Starting back at a new loft from a new home he decided to consider some new pigeons. Having been at the local corn merchants, I had seen a montage of a collection of pigeons with some extraordinary results. The montage was that of pigeons raced by Mark and Dick Evans of Myrtle Lofts. These birds’ results were tremendous and had originated the legendary Belgian ace fancier and coupled with the fact that local national flying ace Derek Jones (affectionately known as Derek the farmer locally but nationally as the Woodfield Wizard) had apparently invested in these pigeons then who was Andrew to argue with probably the best fancier in and around our area.

Andrew approached M & D Evans and proceeded to procure some late breds which was easier said than done. The pigeons were obviously in demand and at the time of phoning Andrew would have to wait until June to get six and then had time to save some more cash for another four in August. The birds were well worth the wait, the six arrived and then the four when Andrew checked the pedigrees of the babies he would discover of the six he procured in the June two were from Champion Shadow and of the four he received in the August two were off the “Top Pair” Jester & Kerry. Within two years of Andrew receiving his pigeons you could not buy the same way bred pigeons for neither “love nor money”, and those that did appear on the market were sold at really high prices.

These birds were to form the back bone of my loft and would get me to where I wanted to be quicker than Andrew thought. He settled back into racing his pigeons and continued with his secretaries duties for the club, the first young bird season (year 2000) Andrew raced his new pigeons he would win five from eight races in Cockshutt HS and seven from eight races in Ellesmere HS, Andrew put this down to not racing old birds that season and concentrating solely on young bird racing, so much so that his birds were being trained in May Andrew remembers.

Settling into his new house with his new pigeons and quietly enjoying himself again now racing competitively again Andrews close friend and friendly pigeon adversary Wayne Jones (who races his pigeons and resides in Cockshutt) would be telling Andrew you can hold your own with anyone you should be sending to the nationals like me. Wayne had long been a promoter of national racing and although only a small garden set up had put up some quite respectable performances not least when Andrew was top fancier in his club in one season and won some £300 Wayne finished fourteenth section, forty seventh open in the National Flying Clubs 2006 Nazaire race and cleared £400.

“It was this that got my attention” Andrew freely admits. Andrew would top the Wrexham Federation three times that season and Wayne would go on to take third section Bergerac in 2008 and third section Bordeaux in 2011 and is still today hoping to do an Andrew and win a national.   

“The first national marking station I attended was with Wayne, he took me with him to Crewe to mark the National Flying Club pigeons, I exactly can’t remember what race it was but we went and I was captured immediately by the buzz around the place, the anticipation of these birds racing and the possibility of not only winning your section but in the right conditions the national, the excitement that had captured me when my dad had let me time in on my own for the very first time had returned, what a feeling, the excitement was in the atmosphere and I wasn’t even sending. I can only thank Wayne Jones for insisting I went and experienced the national marking it is something I will be for ever grateful for and re-energised me even when I didn’t think I needed it”.

The first national that Andrew prepared and sent to would turn into a disaster for Andrew (his words) it was Falaise in 2007 with MNFC the race turned into a tough adventure, Wayne Jones recalls “I had timed in s decent ish hen she was exceptional! Anyway Andrew hadn’t seen a bird but said he would still accompany me to the clock station to do the clocks. I arranged to collect him from his house and on arrival he ran to the car with clock in hand, excited because he had timed in, although late, this showed the true fancier, a fancier who loves his pigeons He never looked back really.  That his is key, you know love of birds and their love of him”.        

Having held his own in his local clubs and federation Andrew tuned his attention to the national racing. In Ellesmere there is the Midland national (MNFC) and the National Flying Club (NFC) which a prominent and patronised locally. Having been a little despondent after my first foray into the world of national racing and trying not to be confident when sending he was to wait until the following young bird season of 2008 to get his first taste of success. The race was Lessay young bird national with the MNFC just shy of 300 mile in to North Shropshire. Andrew smiles as he remembers a telephone conversation with Wayne Jones the morning of the race. Wayne had gone on holiday and had rang Andrew from the South Coast to tell him you won’t get a liberation today there is fog in the channel, “it’s a real pea souper” so he was readily surprised when Andrew informed him that the birds had been liberated and the race was on. “The conditions on the day did suit our part of the country” Andrew recalls so we were hopeful of a good show. 

The anticipation grows further when the conditions suit and the build up to the golden hour (when you think you need a pigeon) when you want time to slow down or stand still or better still get a pigeon before that time. Today would be a good day from a sticky race. I timed my young cheque hen and was busting, I wouldn’t see another pigeon for over one and half hours later. But what a buzz and to be so near the front was brilliant. My hen (now named) the “Pea Soup Hen” in honour of Wayne Jones would take second section 413 birds third open 3607 birds, a great day. 

The following season would be another attempt at cracking these nationals. Andrew would have to wait until the MNFC Ancenis race where he would get a team performance that has not been repeated since to the loft. Today Andrew has set himself a target to put three pigeons in the top fifty of the open of the National Flying club. On this particular day Andrew would time three pigeons in the top fifty of the MNFC open.

“The Pea Soup Hen” Second Section Third Open MNFC Lessay 2008

There was one blip on the radar in this race the third pigeon clocked was a yearling blue cock, the son of Andrews Shadow Cock. This yearling cock known in the loft as “64” was to take forty fifth Open and fourteenth Open Yearling national. This was a special performance but what made it extra special was the fact that Andrew had timed in three pigeons in front of Derek Jones, “I haven’t done that before or since”. It is a credit to Derek Jones on how Andrew Lawley judge’s his performances “you have to beat Derek he is the best locally and probably nationally” a statement that is echoed around the area by most knowledgeable fanciers.

One person that Andrew wants to mention is club mate and Ellesmere HS club chairman Roy Doveston. “Roy has been part of our little band of national flyers from our club for quite some years now, Roy, Wayne and myself are the band and between us we take it in turns to get the pigeons to the marking stations, and clocks to the clock stations always easier when the work load can be shared and that is thanks to Wayne and especially Roy”

When you speak to Andrew about national racing he will tell you that they are different birds to federation pigeons, national pigeons are astute have more about them can race alone and come when nothing else makes it “they are special pigeons” he says. One thing I have learned about national racing is that you don’t find these special pigeons overnight you have to send and keep sending to find them. One thing that Andrew still remembers is what his good friend told him after he timed in good pigeons from the nationals was “at least you kept going”. Kept going he did, the year is 2010, what would this year bring?

Most people believe what you put in you get out Andrew will be the first to tell you how lucky he was to drop on some great pigeons from Mark & Dick Evans, and this appears to be a standard trait around good fanciers lofts, they all tell you how lucky they are to have these pigeons. However in different hands they can become different pigeons with results. You still have to put a lot of work into them to get the just rewards.

The first national race of 2010 for the MNFC would be Carentan, Andrews federation (the Wrexham Federation) would be at Portland for the same day. Carentan is 260 miles and Portland 165 miles to Andrew. The conditions would suit the West section fanciers on this day and to be fare the West section fanciers have won this race on a number of occasions with east in the wind at that time of year in May.

The Portland birds were anticipated to arrive well in front of the Carentan national pigeons, which they did which allowed Andrew to then get an idea what the National pigeons might do with regards to speed and thus give him an idea of an estimated time of arrival. While still waiting for his late Portland pigeons to arrive Andrew spotted three pigeons arriving together straight away he spotted one was a Portland pigeon as they struck the roof of his loft but he also spotted on blue with two rubbers on its legs, forgetting about time he was quick to start calling them down and on entering the loft the cock went straight to its box with Andrew in hot pursuit.

With trembling hands he timed the pigeon and can remember how his legs were feeling different everything was different, the excitement was again tremendous but this was different excitement, a nervousness was creeping in. This was quicker than expected a lot quicker. After verifying the pigeon Andrew rang his friend Wayne Jones, Wayne immediately tells him “you are at the top of the leader board” that’s great! Thought Andrew for a second but it will be hard to win the section. “Never mind the section Wayne reiterates you are winning the national”. All Andrew could think was, “I wonder what time Derek Jones is in” Andrews second call was to club mate Roy Doveston to let him know they were pigeons about and that he had clocked.

Andrew had watched in awe on occasions when people won nationals but what he didn’t realise was the pressure, excitement and dread fanciers went through while waiting for the race to finish. Willing the race to finish, Wayne phoning and saying “you are still winning the national”. Andrew couldn’t let himself believe it. He wouldn’t let himself believe it. Derek Jones had always told Andrew “the problem with the leader board is once at the top there is only one way you can go, no matter where you are when you verify you never go up only down”. How right he was, the amount of different feeling that Andrew went through would make some people sick.

Andrew was collected by Wayne Jones and taken to the clock station at Audlum. The marking and clock station is located in east Cheshire near Nantwich at Brookfield Golf Club, Hankelow near Audlum and must be the most up market marking and clock station in the country. The author can confirm this having taken two days to find them prior to moving to the area, I took my national clock to read out and was astonished at how welcoming a golf club this is, fine wine and a restaurant if that’s your thing, or just a pint after racing and or a game of golf this is the place where everyone is welcome.  

Alan Shore (a previous Pau national Winner himself with his dad) is the person in charge of the clock station. “You are winning the national Wayne is saying” as he collects Andrew from his house, Andrew was thinking “I hope he is correct” but so much could go wrong, he didn’t know what but he couldn’t believe this was happening to him. On arrival at the Audlum clock station Andrew was met with huge and hearty congratulations (This was new) he had never before been the centre of attention at a gathering with some elite fanciers present and everyone to a man wanted to shake his hand. That is a special memory Andrew remembers and says he owes them a huge debt of gratitude of how that small clock station in the Cheshire countryside made him feel so special. “Great People”.

Andrew was still to receive official confirmation and on returning home was to receive two telephone calls that evening. The first phone call was from Roy Jones president of the MNFC to congratulate me on my winning the MNFC National and the second call was from Mike Lakin firstly to ask if it was OK for him to visit the following morning to verify the pigeon and take droppings samples for drug analysis. On receipt of these two calls finally Andrew knew he had indeed won the CARENTAN Midland national beating some 5103 pigeons.

Andrew holding “Woodface” after winning the Carentan MNFC National

When winning a significant event in any sport or hobby the publicity that follows these winners for a period of time can be enjoyable and hopefully never negative. Andrew sat with the MNFC press officer and gave the details of the then blue cock 64, his breeding being a grandson of the now famous Shadow of M & D Evans Myrtle Lofts fame, that’s some performance pigeon that you will no doubt be getting a call from mark Evans to use this for an advert. Well with all the calls that Andrew received he didn’t receive one from Mark Evans but that wouldn’t be the end of this particular relationship.

Andrew would receive plenty of phone calls with plenty of plaudits, but one phone call stood out amongst them all, the phone call he received from Derek Jones. Having only beaten him on very few occasions Andrew holds Derek in extremely high esteem,”if there is one loft or fancier who I admire and strive to compete with and hold with the utmost of respect it is Derek Jones of Holt”. Derek rang Andrew to congratulate him, Andrew remembers the conversation clearly. “After congratulating me Derek asked “was I preparing him for the next national”. “No chance” was my reply “he has had some good results but this result has earned him a perch in my stock loft for life”. Derek just laughed and responded “but he will be set up for the next national, he will be in great condition”.

“Woodface” would never race again and got his perch for life in Andrew’s stock loft. However a couple of weeks later would be the MNFC Tours national some 420 miles into our area. It was to be an extremely hard race into a strong westerly wind, there was to be one pigeon timed in on the day in our section (West Section) It was the now famous pigeon of Derek Jones the treble six (666) cock.

This had to be the performance of the decade not only being the only pigeon to make it on the day into our section against the wind but by also winning the MNFC national against all the conditions. Andrew rang Derek the following day to congratulate him on this astounding performance and national victory and during the conversation asked “are you getting him ready for the next national Derek”  “not on your life” was the curt reply he won’t be going anywhere from now on and straight to the stock loft he went. Another top quality pigeon at a top quality loft that has today stamped his progeny.

It was in 2010 that Andrew was told by Wayne you should breed and sell some late breds to help recover some of your initial investment in the pigeons and to cover some corn costs. Andrew wasn’t that experienced in this sort of selling or marketing of pigeons and Wayne again would help him with an advert etc. to get things rolling. Well if nothing else comes from it Andrew tells me he made one close friend who responded to his advert and that friend today is one of his closest mates.

Steve Windsor lives and races his pigeons in Stoke on Trent, Steve responded to one of Andrew’s adverts in the pigeon press to procure some babies. Andrew recalls that Steve visited his lofts and procured some babies from him. It was uncanny Andrew recalls as we hit it off when we first met. Steve was to return to Andrews loft the following week and unannounced, arrived and was carrying a bag of corn from his car to the house. He dropped the corn bag and when asked what that was replied “it’s a present from me to you as a thank you for sitting and telling me all about your pigeons and all the advice you have given me.” This took Andrew back somewhat, he has met many people since winning the national but Steve was by far to become a close friend and ally.


 “Woodface” 1st Open MNFC Carentan National 5103 pigeons.

Andrew’s favourite album during 2010 was “Woodface” by the rock group “Crowded House” and this would be the new name for Andrews’s national winner the blue 64 cock would now become Woodface.



Andrews best mate Steve Windsor collecting pigeons at Galaxy Lofts

Andrews close friend and motivator Wayne Jones holding his third section Bordeaux MNFC 2011

The relationship between both Steve and Andrew would grow further with regard to pigeons and breeding. In 2011 was to contact Andrew and tell him that he wanted to contact mark Evans or Myrtle lofts with a view to buying a couple of stock pigeons after asking how much he was looking to spend (and being told £500) and knowing that the prices of these pigeons had some rocketed it was quite easy to understand that he might not get a lot of birds to try at stock for his money.

Andrew would then offer to match Steve’s amount with the same amount and make an approach to Mark Evans which they did. Remember it had been a gap of some twelve years since Andrew had procured his original stock from Myrtle Lofts and it was those pigeons that were to set him alight. Andrew made the call to Mark Evans and the conversation turned to the great stock cock Shadow and it was then that Andrew informed Mark of his winnings with his pigeons and his national win.

Mark asked if he could put a reference on his web site with regard to Andrew and his M & D Evans performances which was agreed. Andrew and Steve visited and secured the new M & D Evans stock and very pleased with their purchases and had spent all of their cash. Happy with our lot Steve said we should check the pedigrees and see what we had, to our amazement Mark had sold us pigeons that were direct from his best breeders, there were two from Joe Jones and another two from Legend, these pigeons were well out of our price bracket and he really didn’t have to do that but the measure of the man and how he deals with people is a credit to our sport, Thank you Mark Evans.

Another great friend Andrew would make and unfortunately lose was Pete Beastey (or as Andrew and Wayne knew him as; Doctor Pete). An affectionate term due to his profound knowledge when it came to pigeon ailments.  

Pete Beesty was an excellent fancier and after meeting through pigeons they would become great friends. Pete flew brilliantly with Van-Reet’s and also flew some decent races with birds from Andrew himself. Pete Beesty passed away in January 2017 and will be sorely missed by those close to him, but not least Andrew Lawley who had a “wry smile” on his face when fondly reminiscing about Pete, RIP Pete Beesty you are greatly missed.

The late Pete Beesty sharing a pint with his best pigeon mate Craig Gough

The next chapter in this story was to be one of a new direction. With tried and tested birds in the stock loft Andrew was looking for something different to add to the collection would be the introduction of the pigeons from Galaxy lofts. Having seen an advert that Galaxy lofts were closing down some of their lofts and had stock pigeons for sale.

This was to be where Andrew would meet another good friend and soon to be ally in Jack Cornes, Andrew had always been aware of Galaxy Lofts and their reputation but had been previous reluctant to contact them due to their reputation of steep prices, now seemed the right time to make an approach as they may be cheaper one thinks, Andrew sold some youngsters to raise the cash and then made an approach. Top his surprise jack not only sold him some stock pigeons but then gifted him some other birds that appeared on the face of it better than the procured pigeons.

Andrew didn’t get his hands on a great deal of pigeons but in his own words “I don’t have many of these pigeons but I am well impressed with them” a new relationship has now been built with Andrew and jack and with Andrew performing this season as well locally if not better than previous years he is now placing his new vigour firmly at the door of Galaxy lofts.

You never stop learning in this game and having met and befriended Jack Cornes I have learned a lot in the short time I have known him, something that sticks in my mind is what he told me from the outset was profound and will stay with me for life “if you want to win and keep winning you have to have something completely different to everyone else”. I totally believe that to be true and I really enjoy my telephone conversations with Jack and him telling me about his passed trips to Belgium, long may it continue.

Completing this story would not be right without mentioning a couple of Andrews long established club mates who week in week out race against him the club has long been an established club in the area and has recently managed to raise funds and purchase a bespoke new club house which will see them well into the future, a small band of locals they have been there in a tight nit group for quite some time with the addition of a couple of new outsiders.

Today as previously stated Andrew along with Wayne Jones and Roy Doveston still do the national runs but today are joined by Jonathon Parrott who has made his mark young bird racing and is the a young man with a big future in the sport. The club is chaired by Roy Doveston who racing as R & R Doveston in memory of his brother Derrick whom he lost in recent years, and another close friend and fellow fancier the club lost in recent years was club chairman John Lightfoot (also known as Tom).

Andrew still is secretary of the club today ably helped by Wayne Jones, Roy Doveston and Paul Howells (Treasurer). Fellow members Pete Watkins, Derrick and Richard James. Raymond Hinton who still flies as C Hinton and Son in memory of his dad, Aubrey Price, or recent members Jonathon Parrott and yours truly make up what is now becoming a revitalised club with a huge element of inclusiveness and little edge of competition.

The camaraderie at this club is second to none especially during the channel racing stage of the season however the land racing can be more competitive with a lot more banter between fanciers with the usual mantle of who you need to beat. The name Andrew Lawley is the name that we all fear, but never a word will be heard from the quiet man of Ellesmere.