Ian Stafford & Mark Wilson
Incorperating JPS Lofts
Cancer! Not the word we like, and even more so if it’s said in reference to yourself, or to a loved one, no sir. I worked on a cancer ward for all of 9 months when I worked in South Cleveland Hospital, a hospital situated in Middlesbrough which is now called James Cook University Hospital. It was a very sobering experience which I wouldn’t swap for the world, working with some dedicated staff, and helping some great people to fight, ant to beat this very serious disease. Yes, sometimes we lost some, and I use the word we for I became very much part of the ward, taking patients down for treatment, that much so that although the day porters, which I was then, Sister Mac as we knew her insisted that I was kept on the ward as we, the day shift used to get switched about every 3 months. I even did my last days Christmas shifts in a Father Christmas outfit, this went down well. So, so much for the introduction part of this offering, for Ian Stafford back in 2012 at a hospital check-up after feeling unwell for quite some time, was, after being tested, was given the bad news that yes, he had cancer, Non Hodgkin Lymphoma he had tumours in his throat, armpits and stomach. We can but only guess as just what went through his mind at the time. It’s as I’ve already stated, not the word you want to hear when you are feeling unwell, and you go to see a specialist who then says that Cancer word.
Mark, Pam, Ian and young Finn
Ian, who has we all know in the pigeon game, had prior to this terrible news, had won just about all there was to be won, he has been top prize-winner in every federation and every loft location he has flown in, but this was a totally new ball game. After a lot of thought, the priority was let’s meet this problem head on, and so he decided to get rid of all pigeons he had, which he did, a top team of pigeons went out on the open market and were quickly snapped up, but it still didn’t stop the sad trolls in this game questioning his real reasons behind the decision to sell up. Don’t lose sight of the fact that prior to this news, as well as out in his birth place of County Durham where he was top prize-winner in the federation for a record 15 consecutive seasons , he now was down at Skinningrove in East Cleveland Federation territory, where he had quickly made himself known with winning averages and breaking records along the way. I’ll now let Ian take up the story, a story that in the current situation is well worth reading, and hopefully it will give some of us hope that at the end of the dark tunnel we are all in, with fortitude and belief we will all come through it.
Ian at 13yrs
"First of all I would like to thank BP for doing this write up on myself as I found that no matter what I won in Skinningrove I never ever got a fair mention in the fancy press due to the fact that the main original scribe flew in my club and always skirted around anything I ever did. However, this just fuelled the fire to make me more focusses. Anyway, back on to the message I would like to give and hope that if it helps just a few people come to terms with something similar to what I had and went through, then it has been worthwhile. When I was first diagnosed it was like a bombshell being dropped on me and my family. All I could think of was that it was the end ,so I thought I would do the proper thing for my family and get shot of all the pigeons and put my wife and kids first for once in my life. However, when all the birds had gone it left me with only one thing to think about, the dreaded C word. I was on a watch and wait programme for a while ,and I must admit this was very hard to understand as the tumour in my throat was now the size of a golf ball and the one in my stomach was even bigger ,but they told me the longer we could leave it the better the larger tumours would respond to the chemotherapy. It was a very long 8 months from 1st diagnosis to the commencement of treatment, almost a relief. After 3 chemo treatments the lumps started to shrink and I must admit that feeling was as good as anything I had ever experienced even as good as when JR won my 1st national from 565 miles on the day. After 6 intensive chemo treatments the scan then revealed all the tumours had gone. I then had to have another 6 months of treatment but not as harsh as the first ones. Chemo, for me, wasn't as bad as all the horror stories I had heard and you must take it head on and do as you are told and only think positive thoughts and hopefully you will come through it.
Learning at an early age
By now I had the pigeons back in my life which I must admit helped me through the dark times immensely. I would like to thank my partner in JPS LOFTS James Parker and Mark Wilson my racing partner for all their support while undergoing treatment ,Thomas Gyslebrecht and Peter Oberheister for guiding me in the direction of Rudy de Saer and Stefaan Lambrecht, Craig Smith and Terry Marshall for my extreme distance family. These new bloodlines kept pure and crossed in a noticeably short time have surpassed any birds I have previously ever had."
More important things to do when you are young
Ian Stafford and Mark Wilson down at Skinningrove on the NE coast, and flying with East Cleveland federation have had some good seasons since they joined up in 2015 racing youngsters, they started with a bang winning 1st section in the NEHU futurity race winning a cool £5500 for their efforts, also winning the young bird average in the club and 6x1sts. The 2016 season saw them going even better winning 2nd up north combine Rheims, and then winning 1st and 2nd in the NEHU Futurity race winning over 7 grand. They then followed this up 2 weeks later when they topped the federation yet again and winning the Loftus breeder buyer for the 1st time winning another 7grand. Incidentally, Ian and Mark have only entered this breeder buyer race 4times winning 3 times and 2nd in the other.
Then we come on to the record breaking 2018 season where they’re wrote the record books in Skinningrove HS, East Cleveland fed and the section as well winning a staggering 9x1st federation and a record number of points, nearly double the amount in front of the next loft also winning 7 x 1st section winning every average in both club and federation also top loft in the section 3000to 5000 birds per week. They put an earth-shattering performance in the Queens cup race from Roye winning the whole NEHU by a staggering 8mins with “Little Finn”. They also went on to win the longest 3 race average in the Up North Combine and the much-coveted Fred Mcluskey channel average in the Up North Combine. This trophy is won by only counting your 1st bird timed in every channel race in the UNC programme, thus giving a fair crack to everyone.
After this record breaking season Ian and his wife Alison decided to go home to Stanley to help with the looking after of their grandson Finn and left Mark in charge of the race team in Skiningrove where he didn't do too badly in 2019 winning another 6 x 1st feds.
Racing lofts and below it gets cold Up north
Now if you take into consideration the fact that Ian has now relocated back to Stanley in County Durham, about 65 miles or so from Skinningrove, and Mark is a permanent 6 nights a week worker, 6 x 1st feds is still an impressive season’s return. Ian gets down to Skinningrove as best he can, still backing Mark supplying all the birds to race, and advice for whatever needs doing, but he now plans to race from Stanley with the South Moor HS. So, when I was recently up in that area, I decided to call in to see him and to view the birds and the set up that I had heard so much about. The log cabin/house he and his wife Alison live and everything else has been built from scratch, with Ian doing a most of the work himself as the photos with this article I hope will show, is a very impressive indeed. All the stock from Skinningrove has been taken to Stanley, stock such as “Little Finn” “Bright Spark” “Mucking Fagic” “Big Smithy” “The Machine” etc.
“The Machine” hasn’t filled eggs now for 3 years, but still retains his place in the stock loft as Ian would never ever dispose a big winner, they all get to live there days out here (I wonder how many out there would have declared that BP), they along with the Direct Stefan Lambrechts (2 full rounds) and another one on order, plus 2 more Queens Cup Classic winners being bought in, I handled top winner after winner at this visit.
Ian plans to compete only at the classic races, and by no means does he have a big team to fly, about 20 cocks 20 hens in total. He is going to concentrate only on the ‘big races sending to the early races as trainers. He plans to only take the readings off in races when the ‘big’ inland and the channel races come along. Unfortunately as we all now know, that is some way off, but the lad is dedicated, and is a very good pigeon man that has won at the very highest level no matter where he has flown from and just for the record Ian has won over 135 x 1st federations in his career winning 3 x 1st WDA Nationals 2 x 1st Up North Combines 2 x1st NEHU open race young birds from Lillers, once at Stanley and once at Skiningrove. 2 x 1st open NEHU FUT Race the Fred Mclusky UNC channel average and was top loft in the whole Up North Combine winning the Pigeon Sport Trophy 2010. Ian was also top loft in the federation in his last season 2012 before being struck down with cancer when he packed in and sold everything off. He then re-grouped with fresh, different pigeons in 2015ybs with Mark on board and was top man in the federation yet again in 2018 when he decided to go back home leaving as undisputed champion of East Cleveland (in Ian's own words "JOB DONE")
Below are some of the quality direct Staefan Lambrecht pigeons housed at JPS Lofts.