Mark is a self-employed joiner and lives with his wife and family at Yeadon a small town on the far west side of Leeds on the West borders situated near the Leeds and Bradford airport. Mark got into keeping racing pigeons from by his father keeping them Graham Oliver Graham is now 81 years old and has kept pigeons from the age of 12years old were Graham and his friend rescued some pigeons from inside a ladies attic in here house in Leeds and has kept them ever since yet mark did not take on an interest in pigeons until he was 26 years of age until he court the pigeon bug.
So then the partnership of G Oliver & Son began the lofts and the pigeons were kept on the local allotments close to the family home of Graham the family of pigeons kept by Graham when Mark came on board were of the Cattrysse pigeons and on the first season with Mark now a part of things they tried and flew their birds on the widowhood cock system moving away from the traditional natural system. In the first season together Mark & Graham decided to speed things up with the introduction of the fast sprit family of the Hermans that were at the time the flavour of the year to blend into the reliable old Cattrysse birds so a pair of Hermans was purchased from a Mr Gibbins of Hull one pair that were paired to the Cattrysse X Herman over a few seasons bred four brothers and one sister that all won first cards and federation and combine wins and positions in the strong Leeds Horsforth club and won Mark the inland averages in the strong Horsforth club these birds were also duplicated back into the local Yeadon club were also many wins occurred. Flying in at the time the Ayre & Wharf Valley Combine Mark and Graham focused mostly on the fast widowhood sprint races and were keeping a good top flight name and positions obtained but sadly Marks Mother sadly passed away and things for a time became hard for the family to make things easier and to be close with his father Mark moved the pigeons to his family houses back garden were the birds are kept to this day a new loft was erected and a fresh new start was made after having a break from the sport for some time.
At the new location Mark joined the Idle flying club and re-joined the Yeadon flying club and also Wharfdale flying club flying in the Ayre & Wharf Valley Combine and the North West Yorkshire federation and the strong Horsforth club Mark became close friends from a very high performing flying and pigeon breeding stud owner of Martin Mitchell of the Woodland farm stud were Martin obtained directly from some of the top flyers in Europe and formed a very successful breeding racing stud one family of birds in particular Martin helped and was probably the first to obtain and introduced to the UK market was a family of pigeons called Carreas which were of the famous Silvere Toye family of pigeons blended with the Cassaert family of birds with great success being done in Belgium with these birds Martin obtained these birds directly for his stud in time the stud and Martin moved from Leeds to Selby but Mark still kept in touch with Martin and decided to obtain some of the Carreas to try at his new loft and so he did and boy was it a right move with constant club and federation wins from the word go with these birds flying on the widowhood system.Martins racing stud also kept Gabby Vandenabeeles Van Hees and Jansens and Houben Jansens were Mark also obtained a few Houben Jansens from Martin to blend into his birds and the Carreas one pair that mark paired together with crossing a Carrea with a Houben Jansen bred two good brothers that achieved 2nd & 3rd in the Great Yorkshire Amalgamation from Eastbourne coming home together and another brother two these two cocks also achieved countless wins in three clubs regularly and federation positions achieved every year in his four year flying career. This cock also topped the Leeds Amal from the coast at Eastbourne and Helped Mark get more noticed A son bred out of One of the GYA cocks even topped the Dewsbury federation from Falaise in years to come for Mark when some of the clubs joined the Dewsbury federation with many club wins and federation positions achieved Mark flying well in the Idle club were several top area fanciers flew he became friends with the partnership of Ramsden & Crossby who were a standing out partnership with their regular high performances that were being achieved with a family of Jansen Van Loons which all originated from Joe Romani of Bradford Mark knew these fast performing successful birds would blend into his Carreas and Houben Janssens so Mark obtained some of these from Ramsden & Crossby and this speeded his family of birds up even more being the highest prize winner in the Idle Wharfdale and Yeadon clubs for many years with mostly double figures of wins achieved in these clubs most seasons with 15 x1st 17 x 1st 10 x 1st 20 x 1st & 19 x 1st 18 x 1st & so on in flying seasons (some duplicated back into other clubs) what I have seen ect ect a cupboard draw is full of prize cards enough to tile a whole house roof with the cards as we say Mark occasionally flew in the Leeds Amal with federation wins and positions achieved were this was always are hard competitive organisation to get any positions in but even harder for mark being situated mostly on the far west side of Leeds against the side west winds and the east side fed members was a tough cookie to break but it was done now with the Ramsden & Crossbey based van loon Jansens blended in success grew for mark and this continued for many seasons in time the Yeadon and Idle flying clubs these two clubs joined the Dewsbury south road federation and mark continued his Ayre & Wharf valley combine and the North West Yorkshire federation achievements into the Dewsbury Federation and in time Mark joined his current club of the west Leeds Flying Club and in his first two seasons he was the west Leeds club’s highest prize winner Mark also had channel success with the Carreas Jansen van loons , Houbens with a touch of the old Hermans he had created from Falaise and Poitiers the furthest French race point flew by local organisations at over the 500 mile points and with top ten positions being achieved in the Mid Yorkshire combine.
As time went by Mark wanted to have a more focused move to the distance channel racing approach and he purchased several distance families of birds to try and crossed into his family of birds but this did not work at all and mark is man enough to admit he dropped to the bottom of the score sheets for many seasons and lost that winning streak with some wrong investments in birds in which we all have done in all our flying careers as when you’re at the top I say it’s harder to maintain and the only way is down if you are not maintaining the top spot as if you are at the bottom the only way is up. Mark finally purchased some birds that got him climbing the ladder back to the top from the up north combine flying partnership of Evans & Cuthbert of their Hardy Kruger family of birds. These birds after getting established started achieving club level prizes again but Mark only had a few of these and needed that touch more to introduce so was on the lookout when Mark was at the Blackpool show in 2015 mark bumped into Simon Schofield who is a fellow Leeds pigeon fancier with a great knowledgeable knowledge of most things within the pigeon game and is one of the Leeds districts top flyer he was talking pigeons to Mark and Mark mentioned I’m on the lookout for some good distance birds Simon suggested to Mark if it was me I would attend and purchase birds at the German distance partnership of Menne & Daughter who were holding a pigeon auction sale of some of their birds at a Blackpool auction sale so Mark took Simons advice on board and attended the sale and purchase two direct Menne & Daughter cocks after taking the birds back home and thinking of putting them to the Hardy Kruger’s Marks close work friend Andy Holland who works on sites with Mark and is a good close friend who also keeps racing pigeons were chatting about pigeons and Mark told Andy about the two new cocks he purchased Andy suggested Mark should pair the two cocks to Andy’s two very good direct Brian Denney hens bred from Brian’s best birds including the tough Nut lines were Brian’s birds are the finest distance birds in Yorkshire at the time and probably still are with what they have achieved for Brian and many other fanciers throughout the Uk. So Mark took Andy up on the offer on the agreement they split the young birds.in time these birds off springs from the pairing of the two Denney hens to the Menne & Daughter cocks started to obtain National and championship club high achievements for Mark and Andy being so impressed mark and Andy went half’s on purchasing a direct Menne & Daughter hen purchased at a Blackpool charity auction to blend into the already performing family this worked well and Mark was now achieving some long distance stable performances and also purchased a few more direct birds from Menne & Daughter in Germany Mark also purchased a direct Daughter out of Brian & Peter Winters of Howden famous NFC Little Gem cock to also introduce into the birds and in time mark did slowly introduce some of his Hardy Kruger’s into the birds gradually. So let’s take a look at some of Marks top achievements I cannot publish all the local federation and club positions so just on Nationals and specialist clubs in 2011 the first time Mark had ever sent in the NFC and this achievement was the start of Marks ambitious ways to fly nationals and not club sprinting Fougeres 383 miles 8,932 birds 2nd section K 31st open with a widowhood van loon cock this was bred by Dennis Windle of Menstone Leeds and was a gift bird to mark and he was bred off Ramsden & Crosbey birds that Dennis had this cock also achieved a 3rd Dewsbury fed from Poitiers 512 miles. 2018 NFC Ancensis 450 miles 3rd section K 109th open 5,514 birds with a Menne & daughter X Denney widowhood cock and also with the other pairing of the Menne & Daughter X Denney widowhood cock achieved 18th section K 334th open 2018 Sigonie 566 miles 2,660 birds 6th section K 76th open and 8th section K 96th open with Menne X Denney related widowhood cocks 2019 NFC Sigonie this was a very hard tough race with 6,678 birds 2nd section K 32nd open and 12th section K 133rd open with the Menne & Daughter X Denney widowhood cocks in the race team. Tarbes 2019 NFC 739 miles this race mark sent 1 hen as Mark after the Fougeres race this hen flew he paired this hen up with an experiment with her being sent to Tarbes with a small youngster in the nest and also 1 widowhood cock was sent to this race and for the first time he had raced any hens apart from young birds and this was an experiment 4th section K 93rd open she was a Hardy Kruger X Menne & daughter and as a yearling this hen flew 4 x channel races and Mark also told me these 6 widowhood hens were regularly liberated at his daughters house on the back garden at York when he and his wife would visit her for a training flight in preparation for this race and this is 30 miles east north east from the lofts not the regular south road route. In Marks short NFC flying period he has achieved 8 x diplomas 2019 section K channel averages won being one of the top end flyers in the section. Also, Mark won the RPRA North East regional longest National flying cup award of the Queens cup was won from the regional awards. Some North East 700 mile club results now were some class top NFC winners in the north of the UK fly in are as follows 2018 and mark has recently only joined this club 1st & 9th Ancenis Sigonie 2nd & 3rd Coutances YB 8th and finished the second highest prize winner in the club 2018 to 2019 1st & 8th Fourgeres 9th Shala’y 9th & 12th Messac 1st Tarbes only bird timed on the day in the club Coutances YB 7th in 2019 Mark won 6 club trophies and was the club’s highest prize winner. Some questions I asked Mark now
1st 700ml Club
2nd 700ml Club
Grandsire 1st 700ml club
Original Menne Cock
(Q1) Mark what do you think is the most important thing you do to your birds prior to them being sent to the nationals?
I don’t really do anything different to my birds than any other normal club or inland race. Though for the channel races I do believe in prior to the birds being sent I try to get extra flying time given to the birds on the wing in preparation of training or coastal flights. I also believe in giving the birds extra corn of a high fat mix only with no peanuts or beans Or extra grains added one as only in moderation to add body weight as I say the athlete Mo Farah does not make himself fat and gorges on food prior to running a marathon. That’s basically it apart from flying the standard no frills widowhood system with my widowhood cock team though in 2019 I tried and played with 6 widowhood hens in a small shed.
(Q2) Mark loft structures do you prefer a flat pitched roofed loft or raised apex or pan tiled roof?
I prefer a pan tiled loft roof this is which I have currently, and this helps good air flow and for fresh air to circulate around the loft. I also have polycarbonate plastic panelling on the loft roof in places to allow sunlight and heat into the loft for helping promote form for the widowhood race cocks I also have vents on the front of the lofts which allows the flow movement suction from the roofs to allow fresh clean air flowing through out the loft.
(Q3) Mark how many old bird race birds do you keep?
I keep 16 widowhood cocks and recently introduced 8 widowhood hens.
(Q4) Mark how many young birds do you breed?
I breed 50 and these are kept and raced on the darkness system.
(Q5) Mark what do you feed your old bird team when racing? I feed the Vanrobeys corn mixes which I do really rate.the race team are fed a combination of three Vanrobeys mixes of Starter Mix, Dyno Mix and none stop mix combined throughout the week.
(Q6) Mark what are plus sides and down sides to keeping pigeons on an allotment and your back garden?
Well I have had some great days and memorable days on the allotment with my father and out the way of folk with just the wild birds singing and on race days sitting enjoying fish & chips with my dad waiting for the birds and seeing some great birds finishing over the hedges dropping in one in particular day I can still remember with a smile is a very hard Poitiers race which we had a go at and after 15 hours on the wing in the dark with a glimmer of sun light left this cock dropped and we clocked him in and he was beaten by two minutes from winning the Leeds Amal and he finished 5th Mid Yorkshire combine some great days but it can be very hard when you work and have family and no electricity or running water On the allotments and them being several steps away from you when at home were as on the back garden you have all the facilities of your house and your family around you but just a smaller back garden due to the lofts but I really do prefer the birds on my back garden with work and commitments is so much easier yet some great days and times me and my dad still talk about to each other on our pigeon talking moments .
(Q7) mark do you still have a buzz and ambition for the sprit racers?
I enjoy any win but I’m so more relaxed and focussed on the NFC and NE 700 mile club distance races now and probably mostly concentrate on these I have a odd line of the sprint bird in my team but not much so if a club win sprint races comes I will enjoy and relish it but it is not my main focus a local very good fancier in the name of Ross Thackeray who I highly rate who has had some of my old Van Loon Jansens and has achieved some great success and wins with some of them so I’m pleased for Ross and am focused on the distance for the future for now.
(Q8) what are your main goals in the sport Mark?
My ambitions are to focus in the NFC races which I mostly enjoy and to maintain and improve my NFC performances and also this applies to the NE 700 mile club we will see each season is different but this is my goal. My comments Mark only has a small back garden set up and only sends a single figure number of birds to the NFC and NE 700 mile club races compared to large scale Well established lofts in the distance scene he has achieved some great success and I asked mark if we could do this article but with some persuading he accepted so thank you ,Well Mark good luck in your goals mark and thanks for taking part in our article. Mark currently flies in the West Leeds Flying Club in the Dewsbury South Road federation and in the NFC and the NE 700 mile club.
The Rat Man