East Midlands & Yorkshire legends
Eric Higginbottom talking to Gregg Johnson
?Hi all I had the great privilege to meet and visit one of our regions finest achieving fanciers at the age of 82 years of age and he is still achieving some high-class results. This is Mr Eric Higginbottom of Bolsover Chesterfield which is a North Derbyshire town situated on a steep hill around the base of the spectacular 17th century Bolsover Castle on the Sheffield borders. Eric has only lived at this location for 7years and has probably achieved his best result ever. He feels and I know of many fanciers in the north think the same in what he has achieved in the National Flying Club long distance races.
Eric first started with pigeons at the age of 12 years old keeping a few pigeons that were purchased from the Sheffield market back in the day when all animals were sold on the street markets these were kept in small wooden boxes old fruit creates nailed together on his parents back yard on trying to break the birds out some would stay but some would go back to where they came from so if some flew off Eric and his friends would always return to the Sheffield market to see if the birds had returned to the store holders loft so they could re buy back the birds or purchase some new ones. Eric said in time all his local friends kept pigeons but had nowhere to keep them so homemade allotments were made on the cliff tops of the Sheffield quarry on wasteland were all his friends had small little handmade lofts and boxes where they would all meet to care and enjoy the birds. This was where regular races were held with friends flying against friends taking the birds away for a race on the trains from the LMS station Sheffield. Eric says the cocks did the racing flying back to their hen and veg box made hutches similar to rabbit hutches. I suppose a little like the early version of widowhood racing which was locally called box cocking.
Home Alone and below with her cock
In time Eric had to serve his national service scheme for his country this took Eric to the Persian Gulf were he even kept a few pigeons as pets but then was moved to serve in Germany were things progressed for Eric in his pigeon fancier career. After serving his time in the army Eric settled in Germany landing a good job and moving into a house with his wife where what was the first thing Eric did, yes you guessed it he erected a pigeon loft in the garden. When in Germany Eric purchased 12 young birds from, at the time a very high performing fancier in Liege Belgium of Gaston Secretin President of the independent Liege 1000 members flying club. These were directly bred by Gaston himself and in mind Eric purchased these for his future stock birds so for breeding purposes only. When Eric collected the 12 birds he was very impressed with them all bar two birds as these were small and as we say flat headed scruffs so the ten other youngsters were placed in the stock loft and the two scruffs were placed on the road into the race loft. As babies these two youngsters were sent to the Berlin young bird all federation final race and Eric’s first two birds were those two scruffs were Eric achieved first and second federation Berlin Germany. I guess you can never judge things in life. Eric enjoyed some success in Germany but in time Eric his wife and his children missed England and decided to move back to England to Sandhurst were things progressed even more for Eric. Once fully settled in Sandhurst Eric set back up with pigeons again as when moving from Germany Eric lent out his birds to friends in England were these birds achieved many combine wins and regular federation toppers for his friends throughout England.
Eric retained some of his German birds and also obtained some new birds to create his Sandhurst racing team. Eric achieved several federations clubs and combine wins at the time with the Strong S M T combine and was 1st, 5th and 6th against 8,000 birds in the combine.
He was also successful in the Berkshire and District south road fed, the Berks Bucks & Oxon fed also achieved great success of federation wins and also national wins in the National flying club including first open Saintes plus 4 x 1st open 4 x 2nd open and 15 x section wins were achieved at Sandhurst loft. There were also wins in the BICC and BBC clubs for this Sandhurst loft, winning one BICC race from Brive. Eric achieved first and second BICC open and also great results achieved in the British Barcelona club were also gained many high positions and being honest all the big named nationals and specialist clubs Eric had and won what many of us could just dream of in this sport but what has intrigued me to write this up to date article on Eric is the fact he has moved back to the north tip of Derbyshire on the Sheffield borders with flying over 130miles further as the birds fly from the Sandhurst loft and being in the southern section areas he’s got it harder as we say in the north which is a fact. In the distance the birds have to fly he has achieved probably his best result ever in the obstruction of the extra distance his birds have to fly is amazing really and Eric is so pleased in this latest achievement and I know many are as well within 2019. In the National Flying club Eric achieved 3rd open Tarbes and 1st section K flying 694 miles which is 146 miles further than the Tarbes open winner so you can see the talent in this fancier and his birds.
Eric moved to his current location in Bolsover in 2013 but Eric has only raced pigeons at this location flying those extra miles for 5 years since 2014 and let’s just look at what he has achieved in just 5years 8th open 1st section Midlands National Bordeaux flying 577 miles and in the National flying club 4 x section K wins and a 3rd open Tarbes plus many other high positions achieved in the National flying club in just 5 years and this special hen flew a very hard 2018 Tarbes race to finish 3rd section K with only three birds home in race time in section K when Eric moved to Bolsover he only took 9 pigeons from Sandhurst to Bolsover the remaining birds were sold or gifted to close friends.
Once Eric’s lofts were erected at Bolsover with long distance racing in mind winning Tarbes was the goal, he obtained directly the best from the world famous international winning lofts of the German P & HP Brockamps were these original stock obtained from international winning birds directly bred from the famous Euro Diamond plus Golden Barcelona, New Laureaat and the New Remy are from Batenburg V D Merwe of the Netherlands which are world famous birds that were all obtained by Eric to set the foundations in place for his Tarbes dream and challenge. More recently Eric has obtained some direct Jelle Jellema birds, Eric is intrigued by these birds and performances to use to blend into his current successful family of birds.
Before I ask Eric some questions for this article, I asked about the breeding of his Tarbes hen who he named Home Alone as she probably flew home all alone from the first drop locations when you look at the result. But what amazed me is that Home Alone has a sister that is also winning but first we look at Home Alone a 5year old blue hen whose father is a son of the New Remy when paired to a daughter of the New Laureaat. Her mother is a granddaughter of the Euro Diamond when paired to a son of Barcelona while her sister is out of the same pairing is a 4year old blue hen which achieved 8th open 1st section Midlands National Flying Club Bordeaux 2019 two great pigeons together. It was a pleasure to handle these wonderful specimens of racing pigeons.
Some basic questions I asked Eric when I visited his house to honour his great achievements now achieved in the north.
(Q1) Eric do you regularly treat your birds and if so, do you believe in antibiotics being used?
I do not use antibiotics and try to avoid these only if a big problem has occurred with the birds and is advised by a vet to do so. the birds are cankered and coccidiosis treated before pairing every year and my birds are vaccinated twice a year for Parammyxo virus which I believe is a must. The birds regularly receive Probiotics which are solely the Dr Brockamp products of Usnea Barbata Aerosol and Eisen from the product range I believe this helps maintain the pigeons health when under stress and prevents disease occurring and when the birds are flying this extreme distance that extra additive which are in the Probiotics are required along with vitamins. Natural products of garlics and cider vinegar are also used. The birds are dropping and swab tested twice a year or extra. If I believe something is not right with how the birds are exercising or acting I use Dr Richard Byas of Thirsk were a full pigeon MOT test is conducted for me with a honest reliable service always provided to me and If required the birds will be treated or not on Richards advice given on my results apart from that my birds always seam healthy and happy so no severe problems have occurred.
(Q2) Eric do you race Young birds?
No I do not race young birds but on the first occasion on my first year racing pigeons here in 2014 at Bolsover I sent some young birds to the National flying clubs young bird Fougeres which is a distance of 304 miles were 1st, section and 10th open and 11th,12th,and 18th section K was achieved. Apart from that no young bird racing in any season has occurred only some good 50/60mile training releases and that’s it basically.
(Q3) Eric do you believe in late breds like some distance fanciers do?
I do like late breds and enjoy breeding a few but for using them for breeding purposes only to go into the stock loft which are bred off proven birds I don’t usually train and race them.
(Q4) Eric what do you feed your birds and what is your preference on feeding?
I regularly feed farm straight corns of Barley peas wheat Tic beans And maples in the winter months the birds receive daily tips of small seeds of linseed sun flower hearts canary seed hemp and chopped Peanuts this is applied to the birds in regular sprinkles or hand fed every day when I clean the birds out it builds a bond with me and my birds and also I believe it keeps stress levels low the birds bond with myself when cleaning out the birds also receive a Versele Laga in summer with a high fat mix added a few days being sent to the distance channel races the birds also receive regular fresh grits minerals and pick stones for natural calcium which is a must for the birds.
(Q5)Eric the birds racing in general and preparing the birds for the National races?
My old birds will receive a few training flights and will then receive 5/6 inland races with one including a south coast race point and one channel race point from France at the 300 mile mark then once these have been flown the birds will be prepared for the 500 plus mile races I want to win and concentrate on the birds are sent in the Whaley Thorns Flying Club in the Notts & Derby Border Federation for inland training which is my local club.
(Q6) Eric when do you pair your birds up
I’m 82 years old and I pair my birds up when I think the time is right like and when the weather warms up and gets lighter days so normally the end of March or the first weeks of April the race team are left to pair to whatever they want to flying loose in the loft were they find whatever they fancy and will race back to the best and the stress levels are low with not being locked up in boxes the race team pairs are only allowed to rear one youngster per pair in the nest. The stock birds are obviously matched paired and will rear 2/3 rounds of young from them.
(Q7) Eric what system are your old birds flown on?
My old birds are flown on my own version of the Roundabout system were the cocks will live in the section with their breeding boxes and the hens in the section with standard pips box perches flying loose not locked up with every Three to four weeks the sections will be swapped to change things with the birds a little with the cocks living for three to four weeks were the hens lived and then repeated on the night of marking the birds are left to run freely and are also on the return from the race for several hours inside their boxes and the loft the race team is only fed once a day on the floor in tray feeders but will receive the daily tip bits from myself when inside and cleaning the loft as my birds are extremely tame and a bond has been created .the birds are exercised once a day per section.
(Q8) Eric your loft environment and set up?
My birds are all cleaned out once a day per section and kept dry at all times ventilation is the most importance of my lofts were not enough fresh air can flow into the lofts my lofts are quite open at the front and rear to create a air flow pattern my original stock loft is open from front to both sides and the rear with fresh air flowing through some say it’s warmer outside in the garden than inside the lofts this is great. The early races warmth does not matter as no extreme distance races will be flown the lofts do have sunshine when it comes out hitting inside the lofts which is always a good thing. the loft interior is kept clean and dry with standard V perches and box perches with grill bases and a combination of standard breeding boxes and widowhood boxes inside with the race team section having a open front section to look out and the birds can enjoy sun bathing the stock birds have a aviary to access and receive regular baths and the same for the young birds were pigeon baskets are applied externally to the young bird loft so daily they can run into the baskets to look outside or enjoy the sun and can also get a tip feed in the baskets this gets the young birds all the time use to the pigeon baskets all in all nothing fancy just a happy environment loft is in place with the birds in the sections not being over crowded with space for the birds to enjoy.
(Q9) Eric in your flying career at 82 years old what’s bean you’re greatest achievement you feel and what are your ambitions?
I feel my greatest achievement and the best feeling is of Home alone in her achievement of 3rd open Tarbes in the National flying Club and my aim is to do well in this race in my career or continue to achieve high performances at this 600 plus mile race point. I would just like to thank local fanciers Wayne Conway and his partner Louisiana Sylvester who help collect corn for me and unload it Into the feed barrels and help train my birds and help with heavy hard chores that keeping pigeons can be at 82 years of age your help is appreciated thank you.
Well that’s a brief article of Eric Higginbottom and I know many write ups and articles of his great performances have been done on him over the years but of only in the Sandhurst days so when studying performances on fanciers this had to be done with him achieving high performances were ever he has been With pigeons and probably his last location being the hardest Location and the obstruction of the extra distance to fly to achieve extreme distance high performance national open results and he has achieved just that.
So well done Eric and thank you for an enjoyable afternoon with me and my friends when we visited you all the best the Rat Man.