NORTH ROAD CHAMPIONSHIP CLUB
by George Wheatman
The North Road Championship Club, the organisation formed way back in 1901 to provide elite racing for north road fanciers, will stage its 324th race when opening its 2019 programme from Dunbar on May 18th.
The club will then go on to celebrate its 118 years of existence with the following races: June 1st Perth; June 15th Fraserburgh; July 6th Lerwick; July 20th Thurso; September 14th Berwick young birds and old hens.Before the outbreak of the Second World War, the NRCC had only one race per season, and that was from Lerwick. From 1940 to 1944, they raced only from Banff.And in 1945 the only race was from Thurso.Until 1955 there was just a one-race programme (from Lerwick), but then Thurso and a young bird race were introduced. For some years now there have been five old bird races, plus the young bird and old hens races in September.Despite the changes that have enveloped the sport, these races have always been fiercely contested by fanciers of top quality, thus retaining the title of elite racing for the NRCC.
This year promises to be no different.There is, however, new leadership for the NRCC in 2019 with Brian Garnham having stepped away from the role of chairman at the 2018 annual meeting, and Paul Crooks taking over.Once asked why he gave so much behind the scenes time and effort to pigeon racing, Brian replied: “The sport has given me so much, I want to give something back. It is pay back time.”Well, he has paid back in bucketsful to the NRCC over many years and has well earned that extra time he will now have to share with wife Angie and their pigeons.
Few sports can have more “independent-minded” members than pigeon racing and Brian has come up smiling despite being on the receiving end of the opinions of many of them. He is owed a big debt of gratitude for all the work he has done for the organisation, and particularly for the part he played in the recovery from a difficult period of a few years ago which left the organisation facing a financially bare cupboard.With Brian as chairman, alongside Ray Knight as secretary and Ian Bellamy as race secretary, the NRCC has come a long way in recent years despite the fanciful, changing whims of fanciers and the undoubted decline in membership, and the struggle countrywide to persuade newcomers to join in the fun that pigeon racing provides.Brian has played a key role in helping steer this grand old club to steadier times and all of us who have competed with the NRCC at our different levels owe him a big thank you.He and Angie have always been - and still are - among the elite when it comes to competing in races, and their big moment came almost 20 years ago when they landed the coveted King’s Cup from Lerwick, with their famous Bon Ami, back in 1998. Don’t bet against it happening again! Now that would be a deserved reward.Paul Crooks, successor to the role of chairman, will be a great asset. He admits to being pigeon-daft. He has been reported as saying: “I am obsessed.I eat, breathe and sleep pigeon racing.”
The manner in which he has established a successful business away from the sport, suggests that he will bring key knowledge to the chairmanship at a time when any organisation needs wide-ranging knowledge, and talents, to meet modern day demands.His enthusiasm will rub off on others, and if they want to beat him in the big NRCC races they will have to be on their toes because he has increasingly become a force to be reckoned with in recent years. Keep an eye out for the name in the results now that he has realised that there is a lot of pleasure to be gained from distance racing, the best of which is provided for north road fanciers by the NRCC.
Let us hope that all members will give Paul and his fellow officers the support they deserve in 2019 and for many years to come.