On His Own Roads to Rome Richard Scott By Chris Williams.
Richard Scott is a fascinating man, quiet and reflective with a deep love of nature, aspects of his personality which I am sure will serve him well on the road towards racing success. After being told a little about him by Jim Emerton, I was keen to know more and after contacting him, Richard kindly agreed to this article. like me, Richard has experienced the positive power of pigeons and I think his story serves as another example of the universal appeal of our feathered friends and the healing power they possess. Richard states that “the sport of pigeon racing is great for people with disabilities and chronic pain.” Something he knows a lot about owing to an accident which compressed his spine” It's helped me massively, keeps you and your mind busy enough and such a great feeling seeing them fly, even better if you get a win.” I couldn’t agree with you more my friend As we exchanged e-mails I learned that like myself he originated from the west Midlands, an area that is steeped in pigeon racing tradition, and so I wondered to what extent did this have an impact upon his love for the humble racehorse of the sky and which characters from that or any other area have influenced him the most?
His initial response was “Being raised in Birmingham didn't have an influence on my pigeon racing until much later on in life.” But the more we talked it was clear this wasn’t the case, because it was apparent to me at least, that like many a fancier before him the then young boy was subconsciously succumbing to the spell of the sport. He went on to say “pigeons were in my thoughts as a Child in Birmingham as my grandad and uncle had a racing loft, I only ever remember seeing my grandad sitting outside his loft waiting on the weekends, for his France birds to return! I never got in the loft, as no one disturbed him when he was down in his loft at the bottom of the garden, puffing on his pipe. He was an Ex-marine, very serious and quiet type, and a big strapping bloke, so we all left him to it.” This was not the only member of Richards family connected with pigeon racing as an uncle by the name of Ted kept them too, but at this point in his life Richard only ever saw his uncles birds exercising up the road, he told me” I never properly understood it all at the age of nine I just knew it looked serious and appealed to the nature loving side of me.” Richard has always been a lover of birds and was a keen ornithologist in his school days so it is little wonder that his inquisitive mind was mesmerised with thoughts of “owning all those birds that you can let out, and they don't fly off and disappear!” He often pondered as to how and why this was? but no one explained to him at the time. However, all was not lost, and our subject would soon get his hands-on pigeons of his own for the first time.
A move to Wales was to fan the flames of fascination further as it was at this time that the now twelve year old “Master Scott” obtained his very own “pet pigeons” they came from school friends who he described to me as “farmers.” Throughout this time Richards Dad who himself is a lover of nature and you guessed it dear readers . Pigeons were a great source of encouragement at this time and thus ensuring that the seed of pigeon passion was planted in the psyche of his son.
At the age of seventeen Richards attention turned from pigeon fancying and it was goodbye Saturday night clock checking and hello “Saturday night fever” or in his own words: “I discovered discos, girls and beer”.
The years passed and now in his early forties fate was to dictate that Richard would once again cross paths with pigeons. I shall let him tell you :” I saw some local lads waiting outside their loft in nearby Wrexham while I was driving past, I stopped the car, all my pigeon memories came flooding back, so I chatted to them while they were also waiting for France returns, as my grandad used to all them years ago. I was hooked”.
As I reflected on Richards words the phrase “once a pigeon man, always a pigeon man came into my mind “and I wasn’t surprised to learn that within two hours of this meeting that he had purchased birds from one of their neighbouring pigeon flyers, called Mike Hale, brought corn and grit from his local stockist Cliffs corn shop and began to convert his workshop into a loft and as he says I’ve never looked back!”
Not only was I struck by Richards obvious and infectious enthusiasm but my heart was also lifted to learn that he had nothing but praise for his local club, Pant Homing Club of the Shropshire Federation, who’s members all enjoy the simple pleasures of racing and have as he put it “helped him on his way. You see Richard only started seven years ago with what he described as a mixed bunch , 3 or 4 varied lots off generous local flyers, a dozen off Cameron, and a visit to Louella to return with 8 Jan Aarden types, and a few Stichelbaut type bred birds through the Elimar site off Craig Wilkinson of Cheshire. Over time and hard racing, they've turned into an ok type in his opinion. Most of them keep coming back now which is different to the early days! Richard
is the first to admit that in terms of pigeon racing he is still learning (aren’t we all) but he has a clear goal of what he wants to achieve. He told me that “Jim Emerton and his books have been a big influence” in him wanting to give distance racing a go.
Now that I had begun to understand a little more of Richards character and back story, I wanted to know What aspect of the sport did he enjoy the most, racing or breeding? He replied
I love racing as that's where I get my excitement, watching them return from all over the place. Amazing in itself, but with a win or two its extra good. Breeding them is fun too, but I find it disappointing to put all the effort of raising them, then to usually loose most of them racing or other accidents, even worse is to see a hawk fly off with it, as we have a few peregrines here in Shropshire. But it's all part of our sport now, I'm tempted to take it a bit easier racing with some young birds this season, to try and preserve them to at least the yearling stage, so I can try them over the channel, as this is my latest mission to do more channel racing with the BICC, through my local marking station, which is a great bonus for me, as it's only five miles away. So yes, I prefer racing, until the day I breed a champion perhaps “he said with a smile!
Richard races all distances but is determined to give distance racing a go, due to reading articles by Jim Emerton and talking with other distance fanciers. As well as what I shall call “The Emerton influence “in his quest for success Richard is fortunate to have the author of” Roads to Rome” Cameron Stansfield, living nearby. He says:” Cameron has a quality loft of distance pigeons, although he doesn't race them any longer”. With such strong influences it is no surprise to me he is preparing to go the distance! He has already taken his first tentative steps on the road to Barcelona, here Richard takes up the story: “I had two pigeons return from Barcelona this year, out of race time, but to see them return was my biggest buzz yet. I sent eight, and two returned, not bad for my first time!” I admired Richards complete honesty here, I think at times we as fanciers become so intrenched with the idea of winning that we forget why we started in the sport in the first place because of the love of pigeons and wanting to learn all we can while all the time enjoying the journey!
Richard also enjoys domestic club racing and enjoys listening to stories that the members share and having a laugh, he told me “The club has three seasonal overseas races, and inland races up to 220 miles, so pretty good selection there”. This coming season Richards aim is to try “sending all my yearlings over the channel at some point to try and improve my team as distance birds”.
When I asked him about his stock bird’s he told me
“My stock birds have been completely changed this year as I felt my previous twelve stock birds had got a bit old and done their job, also weren't really suitable if I'm to try my luck at longer distances now. I got them a nice re homing place on a farmyard, so they're happy and free flying now.
“My new stock is a few my uncle from the Midlands that he left me in his will, asking me to try them out at distance, which I duly will. The main stock birds now though are ones I have acquired through contact with Nick Harvey and Jim Emerton. They are of real quality distance birds, that have amazing racing result records. I can't believe how good they've both been to me - helping me on my mission to get a Barcelona return in race time up here on the Shropshire border. 827 miles minimum, an amazing task for a bird, but now I've had a tiny taste of it last year, I want to keep on trying.
So hopefully soon, my strain of birds will consist of distance birds only. I'll still race inland but hoping to focus more on distance or even marathon racing types if possible. There's only one way to find out, and that's send 'em in the fittest and healthiest condition possible, the rest is down to them.”
Richard likes to try and send most his birds to the races providing that they are fit and well or he has a particular race in mind then, other than that they are raced every week. However, as he is becoming more focused towards distance racing, he told me: this year I will be racing fort-nightly mostly, as I'm trying out a few more channel races this year. I will still send as many as I think are fit and suitable, although the most I've sent is thirty in the club races, but it's the only way to test them. He went on to tell me that he likes to send ten or twenty birds inland and eight to the channel events but as part of the selection process towards his future goals the plan for 2020 is to send yearlings and older across the water at least twice It might leave me without many birds at the end of the season, but at least I'll know they're reasonable ones, as I made the mistake of not racing some last year, due to a few weeks of feeling ill, so I have been feeding some unraced birds all winter.”
I asked Richard What has been your greatest achievement so far and how this inspired you?
He replied I haven't had any great results as yet really, but in my first young bird season I won best in the club in my first, so that was a proud achievement. Also the wins that I've had in our club have been good as although a small club, there's a few long time good flyers in it, so to beat them the odd time is satisfying, as it proves I must be doing something right. The most rewarding moment so far, has got to be getting two back from Barcelona BICC race last year, they were out of race time, I'd given up on getting a return from the eight I sent, but while sitting in the garden one nice summers day, I seen a perfect view of one of my hen's glide into the loft from Barcelona, 827 miles. Better late than never. The next day I seen another return. A great experience and it make me want to try and improve on this although every race get’s my heart racing”
Reading this comment made the author of this piece want to literally jump out of his chair with joy because in this fancier we see in my opinion an individual who understands the true essence of pigeon racing in its purest form reminiscent of the fanciers of yesteryear. I wondered whether this had stemmed from his reading, so I posed the question. Are there any books or scribes that have had an impact on your approach to the sport and if so, what was it about them that made you think that’s what I want to do?” He says I've read lots of pigeon books, especially in my first year or two, plus i read lots of old magazine issues I'd been give over and over. But the ones that have had an impact on how I view the sport are the old timer issues from the 60's and 70's. Real pigeon characters racing on low funds but still doing well. Basic, uncomplicated and uncommercialized racing. Great” Unsurprisingly the book which ignited Richards imagination and set him on the long-distance trail was Roads to Rome.
Speaking of Rome Richard draws a great deal of inspiration from the song entitled “The King of Rome “ which tells the story of the pigeon of the same name belonging to Mr Charles Hudson winner of the Rome race of 1913 .Richard says “What a song” What a bird! It brings a lump to my throat every time I play it. I even went to watch the band play “
I found this gave me yet deeper insight into Richards passion and understanding of the sport, what struck me the most was although the song of the king of Rome depicts the sport in a “romantic way” it does evoke feelings of determination and pride and how you should let nothing deter you from your dreams and that to me is what will help Richard the most in his journey towards success the shear love and joy of seeing the bird return, something I sincerely hope he never loses and one day the distance record books alongside “the king of Rome” will bear the name of Richard Scott!