John Grieve with Joe Murphy
With no activity happening within the sport just now I have been spending quite a bit of time compiling information on the SHU Dewar Trophy winners and the Runners Up. As this first started away back 47 years ago in 1973 it is very hard to remember everything about each of these wonderful pigeons who won the acclaim of ‘Scotland’s Bird of the Year’. I remember some of these wonderful birds as a few of them also won my BHW/ Joe Murphy Sporting Challenge competition. As we have to stay within the house during this coronavirus outbreak I have been digging out old books on our sport during this time. I came across an article written by Jock Grieve of Auchtermuchty in Britain’s Yearbook of Pigeon Racing in 1975 where Jock wrote an article named ‘That Elusive First’. I contacted Jock’s brother in law Brian Kinnear of Pitlessie to see if he could ask Jock if I could use this article in my column and if he had a photograph of his champion pigeon ‘Jock’. As a matter of interest Brian raced at that time in Cupar and won 7th section 8th open from the SNFC Nantes race in 1974, Geordie Duncan of Methil was 2nd east section and 3rd open while Jock Traill of Thornton (whom I wrote about last week) won 3rd section 4th open and my old late friend Roy Anderson of Ayton was 5th section 6th open with another Fifer John Anderson of Anstruther winning 8th section 10th open. To get back to Brian he informed me that Jock Grieve still gets the BHW and reads my weekly column (which I could not believe as it is years since he gave up the sport) however Brian gave me Jock’s phone number and I spoke to him and he kindly forwarded some photographs and another article he wrote at the time and said I could use any of the information as I wished. So I have had great pleasure in going back in history compiling this story on John and Anne plus their wonderful pigeon ‘Jock’.
Jock first kept pigeons as a boy of 15/16 years old when he flew in partnership with J Dickson winning the young bird average in Auchtermuchty club in his first year, but due to working away from home, getting married and moving to live in Glenrothes, he gave up the pigeons during this time. It was 2 years after he was married that he and Anne had the opportunity to buy their house in Auchtermuchty with a big garden and he started to fly young birds in 1966. We received a stock pair from Mr & Mrs Adamson (Bricoux) from Auchtermuchty and produced many winners from 50 to 630 miles. We also obtained youngsters from Jimmy Hamilton of Kennoway a winner of 1st open SNFC Nantes in 1966 flying 620 miles whom I consider one of the finest gentlemen and administrators in the sport and I am most grateful to him for all his help. In 1970 we felt we required a cross and acquired pigeons from Jock Robertson from Gateside a village just outside of Auchtermuchty, and he introduced some of his birds 500 to 600 miles winning pigeons. One of these pigeons a blue bar white flighted cock was named ‘Jock’ turned out to be a real ‘champion’ winning the following positions: as a young bird he won 4th club Hawick 1055 birds, 1st club 13th open Fife Tayside Combine Stafford (1013) 245 miles. As a yearling he won 6th club Worcester Smash (729 birds) only 12 birds in club on the day. As a 2 year old he won 1st club 1st federation 2nd open SNFC Nantes 631 miles 1228 birds, winning the Gordon Hare Trophy in the SNFC for 1st bird timed over 600 miles he was 15 hours on the wing. As a 3 year old he won 6th club Worcester 1129 birds, 1st club 1st Federation 2nd open SNFC Nantes 1001 birds flying 631 miles from midday liberation. This was the first night ever spent out of the loft; he also won a special trophy for twice winning 2nd open Nantes. His preparation for Nantes 1972 and 1973 was a follows, he had 4 x 20 miles single up tosses and sent on a 5 day old youngster slipped under him 2 days before basketting. I think you will agree he is a very special pigeon and Jock was indebted to Jock Robertson for breeding this pigeon for him plus the he reckoned he learnt more about pigeons from him than anyone he knew. Sire of Jock was a blue cock which one of the first pigeons bred from a J Robertson’s brother T Robertson bought from Louis Massarella containing all the best Marriot x Snowball Twilight blood. Dam of Jock was a blue chequer hen from Jock Robertson which was of local 500/600 miles blood and she was a great racer for him. The pigeons in their loft were all line bred down from ‘Jock’ and every year they brought in a cross from 500+ mile winning pigeons.
More Important Issue
In 1975 Jock succeeded to start his own business to build their own house, which meant the moving of their pigeons, due to pressure of work pigeons were a secondary consideration until 1980. We then started to re-build our team and to put more work and time into them, as by that time their business was established, therefore allowing Jock more time to attend to the pigeons. That same year we decided to bring in some Continental strains from Massarella for club racing, 12 squeakers were obtained 3 of which won. One chequer cock a Van-Hee won 3 open positions from Dorchester 380 miles and in total won 8 prizes. A chequer granddaughter of Van Hee’s ‘Motta’ won 1st prizes in the club and scored from Dorchester and also bred winners. A blue Busschaert cock which we considered a ‘Champion’ won a total of 26 prizes including 7 x 1st, also 4 national certificates, he won regional nomination in SNFC in 1983 and nominations and accumulators in the club. Although we brought in these pigeons for club racing, we found that we were winning from 60 to 530 miles.
Some methods are as follows;
Yearlings are paired in the middle of February and are relied on for club races out to Lymington 390 miles. We are very fortunate in Central Scotland that we can fly in 5 races from 500 miles to 630 miles per year. So all our 2 year olds and over are prepared and conditioned for this races with club racing being a secondary consideration. These birds are paired in the middle to end of March and allowed to rear one youngster in 1st -2 nests. We keep a consistent record of each bird previous performances, nest condition, etc. and Jock referred to this when preparing birds for the final races. Feeding consists of a mixture Jock made up himself of best quality beans, peas and maize, which is before them all the time in their nest boxes. A fortnight before their final race, small seeds are fed to them as a conditioner. All pigeons aimed at flying in the 500 to 600 miles races programmes are planned out in the winter months and are kept to as near as possible, due to SMASH races, etc., it is not always possible, or if a pigeon has come into condition sooner than expected I may send it to an earlier race. Once racing begins the pigeons are on the open trap, day and night. Training is done by federation transporter, or my own car, if and when I think they may need it. During racing they are given fresh water 3 times a day and cleaned out thoroughly every night.
John twice 2nd SNFC
Old birds are given approximately 3 x 20 or 30 mile tosses and then into the racing and are never trained at all once racing has commenced, up to the 500/600 mile races, then the pigeons are sent to these races have approximately 3 or 4 tosses from 60 miles depending on the condition of the individual pigeons. Young birds are given approximately 3 tosses from 12/20 miles, 2 transporter tosses (the federation do not carry this out nowadays JM) then into the first race. They are never trained anymore during the racing programme but are sent to every week to the races out to Leyland 181 miles with a few going to the Cheltenham young bird national a distance of 308 miles. They are exercised and fed twice a day. I very rarely lose any of my young birds of the loft and I put this down to not letting them out in the morning, until training has started. We like to breed a few early bred youngsters so they can pair them up for the longer young bird distance races and they have been quite successful with this method. We have also found that paired up youngsters perform just as well when they are old birds. Although we have had many exciting moments racing pigeons including in 1972 when we timed ‘Jock’ on the day of liberation after 15 hours on the wing, to be 1st federation, 2nd open SNFC Nantes flying 630 miles, but our greatest thrill was in 1973 Nantes race. Pigeons were liberated on Saturday at 12-15pm into a North West wind. At that time we did not have a telephone and at approximately 12-15 I left my wife to watch for pigeons and went to visit Spence Brothers, to see if they had heard of any pigeons timed in. They had heard of one being timed in the south section and I therefore, calculated that we would have to have a pigeon timed in before 1pm to win the race. I returned home and was just walking up our garden path when ‘Jock’ flew overhead and dropped on the board at 12-42pm. You can imagine the excitement we felt, when phoning Charlie Graham, he told us that we probably winners of this race and as we had ‘Jock’ pooled all the way, then we were pretty sure to win approximately £900 which at that time was like winning the football pools (or lottery today JM) Our biggest disappointment was some 5 hours later, when we learnt that there was a pigeon timed in Dundee beating us and once again we were 2nd open Nantes 630 miles with the same pigeon. However, at that time the celebrations were well in hand and as the Spence Brothers had timed in their pigeon to win 3rd open this was a great achievement for Auchtermuchty club and all the members carried on with the celebrations till the wee small hours of the next day.
We try to mark out every individual pigeon’s race programme, i.e. whether going to Rennes, Nantes or Sartilly and pair them up accordingly so nest cycle is not broken and they go to the appointed race on their 3rd round of eggs, or youngsters. However, we do vary from this should we think a pigeon has come into form sooner than is expected. We also like to send cock’s driving to 500/600 mile races, providing we can keep the good body weight on them. I believe in looking at and handling racing pigeons, the only thing we can see is their physical build are they able to fly 500 to 600 miles. In this I mean very broad and strong across the shoulders and back, and the feathering should look and feel silky. There is only one way to find a good racing pigeon and that is by the basket. We do not believe in eyesign or any fancy theories, as we have had many good pigeons with what we consider poor Eyesign etc., however, we are not against any fancier following their own theories, if they are getting enjoyment out of their pigeons that that is the most important thing.
Happy group of Fed Fanciers
All birds are separated end of September beginning of October and are given as much to eat as they want during moulting period as I consider this a most important time of the yearly cycle. Cod Liver Oil is given once per week. From January until a week before pairing they are given beans only. In the winter months I enjoy going to most shows but I compete only in our club shows in which I have been very successful, winning the show trophy 5 times in the last 6 years. On the subject of Eye Sign, I find it is very interesting and is always good for a friendly discussion. Although I like to see an eye with plenty of richness and depth of colour, I have yet to be convinced of its being of value to racing pigeons. My advice to novices starting up is to try and get to know a really good fancier and purchase a few late breds or eggs from their best 500 mile birds and keep them for stock and race their young ones. I honestly believe far too many birds are sold on ‘Fancy strains names’ rather than on performances. Once you get a good team of old birds, do not dishearten if you get a few bad results; always keep trying. Sure enough you will succeed. Always remember, that pigeons are like life itself, in that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. We have had many disappointments but they are more than made up for by the thrills of timing in from 500 to 600 miles.
Month by Month Account in loft
I consider this to be the quietest month of the year as pigeons are now all through their moult. Feeding consists of hopper feeding beans only and at this time they only eat enough to survive and do not put on any excess fat. Last selections etc., regrading pairing up is made. I also put any new pairings in boxes for one or two days so that when it comes to pairing them up they go together without any problems.
Yearling stock birds and club racers are normally paired third week of the month and feeding is changed to a mixture consisting of beans, peas and maize one week before pairing and all pigeons are de-wormed.
ALL channel pigeons are normally paired at the end of month. Individual pigeons nesting cycles are taken into consideration and pairing updates is worked back from what particular races they are to be entered in. Pairing up normally takes place on a Friday night and I usually have all pigeons paired and flying in and out on their nest boxes by Sunday night.
This is perhaps one of the busiest months of the year with youngsters in the nest being weened. Club racers start their training in preparation for early races which normally start at the end of the month. Squeakers are usually weened when they are 21 days old or earlier as I prefer to have them weened before training the old birds commences. They are moved into a special weening pen for about one week before being moved to the young bird loft.
Club racing is normally in full swing and all pigeons go to as many races as possible depending on nest positions etc. No further training is carried out once the pigeons have started racing. Training of Channel pigeons normally commences this month and pigeons are entered into 2nd & 3rd races just to get them started. Again no tossing is done, once they have started racing. All pigeon are hopper fed, good quality beans, peas and maize and water is changed 2 or 3 times a day. Lofts are cleaned out every day and sometimes twice per day.
Open and Channel racing is now fast approaching to this is the month that we should we watching birds closely for signs of form and how they are performing in club races. I always try to be at the loft when they return from the races even though they are late as the condition and keenness shown on their return are all pointers as to how they shall perform in the forthcoming open and channel events. We also keep a strict record of nest conditions and when pigeons return from each toss and race as this can be helpful in preparing our pigeons for the long events. Our distances from open and channel races are as follows; Hastings 405 miles, Sartilly 525 miles, Rennes 560 miles; Nantes 628 miles.
Like previous months this is the most important month of the year and as much time as possible is spent with the pigeons. Training is also in full swing with pigeons getting 50 to 60 mile tosses before their programmed races. Training is difficult to explain as individual pigeons received different tossing and racing. I also think that training for pigeons going to race from 600 miles is different from race from 400 to 500 miles. Feeding is now slightly different as a mixture made up by myself consisting of best quality white peas, maple peas and maize, that I can lay my hands on with the maize content being raised, and is again hopper fed. The only other titbit fed is a little ‘trill’ each evening fed on front of the nest boxes approximately 2 weeks before appointed race. Once per week ‘trill’ is soaked cod liver oil and this is the only addition to their hopper feeding that I use. Up to now the young birds have been getting little attention apart from exercised in the evening only and fed and watered. Once last old bird race is over then all my attention is given to the youngsters. (I’ve already mentioned their training system above Joe M) I like to see them ranging and going out of sight for one or two hours and by this time they are ready to be entered into the first race and from then on they go every week. All training is stopped.
By this time the old bird races are now finished and I like the old birds that have scored well to be allowed to rear one late bred which are then put into the stock loft for one year as yearlings. As 2 year old they are then put on the road. These stock birds are only bred from the very best racers. The young bird racing is now in full swing with the young birds (if fit) going to races every week right to the federation open race.
Open and longer young bird races are now upon us and I like to send a fair team to the young bird national as some of my best old bird racers have flown and won on the longer young bird races. I normally have some early bred youngsters that I purchase solely for the purpose of pairing up early and sending to the longer young bird events. A few of these pigeons have turned out to be good old bird racers.
By now old and young birds have fallen into a heavy moult and are given plenty of baths. They are still hopper fed with cod liver old mixed with feeding once a fortnight. Any late breds that are not going into stock are trained out to 50 miles, so that they are ready to go racing the following year. By now all nest boxes are closed but pigeons are still allowed to remain together. Two weeks after the nest boxes have been closed no further eggs appear.
Flying in the Auchtermuchty pigeon homing society (25 lofts) we have won from 50 to 600 miles winning many club and inter club trophies. In the Fife Federation the 2nd largest in Scotland with almost 1000 members; we have won 5 trophies in the last 5 years, including the Norman Dall Trophy for best average Rennes 569 miles and Nantes 631 miles, Avranches 532 miles. In the SNFC the following trophies have been won; the A R Hill trophy for the for 1st bird times over 600 miles in the Nantes race; a special trophy awarded by the SNFC committee for same pigeon being twice 2nd open Nantes in 1972 and 1973. The News of the World trophy and Ellsworth Trophy for best average from Rennes and Nantes SNFC (flying 70 to 90 miles further than south section members) and also runner for the Old Bird Average. The above performances were obtained by a total team of 15 to 20 pairs. Although we are always trying to win with our birds the really important thing, to my mind, is the amount of enjoyment we received from these wonderful pigeons throughout the year. Finally, I would just like to mention that this is a husband and wife partnership. I would like to thank my wife Anne, for without her attendance and help throughout the year the above performances would not have been made possible. Here’s wishing fanciers everywhere many many happy hours with their pigeons; Jock Grieve.
Photos to go with Article
Photo of ‘Jock’ winner of 2nd open SNFC Nantes (twice)
Photo of Jock and Anne with trophies won
Photo of 5 couples from left to right
Jimmy & Nan Hamilton of Kennoway; Dave & Sheila Smith of Dunning: Ken & Merrill Munro of Auchtermuchty; John & Anne Grieve of Auchtermuchty; Brian & Margo Kinnear of Cupar at that time they now stay in Pittlessie.
May I thank Jock & Anne Grieve for sending me the photographs plus the article and allowing me to make up this feature on the partnership; I know nowadays feeding has changed quite a bit, but it was interesting how they fed and raced their bird. The basic and most important item as far as I am concerned is it is all about a very special pigeon who left everyone including myself astounded by his achievements of winning 2nd open national TWICE from 630 miles. May I wish Jock and Anne all the best for the future and thanking you once again for all your help; Joe Murphy.
One of my funniest memories of Auchtermuchty Dance
To finish off this short story; Margaret and I have had a laugh (at my expense I may add) I was asked to be the main guest at the club’s presentation away back in the 70’s. Margaret’s mum and dad would often go to the club dance however as it was snowing we suggested that we would picked them up. When we arrived at the hall, I dropped the 3 of them off and went and parked our car. I was wearing a blue velvet jacket with a bowtie and thought I looked the part. When I walked back to the hall as I entered the door the ‘doorman’ who was taking the tickets pointed and said to me, ‘The band is that way’. I burst out laughing and said, ‘I’m the guest of honour’ ‘Oh then it’s that way’. We laughed about it all night and even now we have had a good laugh. Great memories indeed.
Who wish my weekly contribution portfolio on pigeon topics from Scotland
© Compiled by Joe Murphy