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More From Scotlands Joe Murphy 09-05-20




Reports by Joe Murphy


Received an email from Linda Brooks the secretary of the SHU who wrote;

‘As of the 23rd of March 2020, the UK Government brought in further regulations to limit the spread and impact of the coronavirus. As a direct result pigeon racing will be suspended until at least 14th May 2020. The SHU and other unions will continue to monitor the situation and updates will be published when available.

Furthermore, while non-essential travel is restricted the following applies to all members: Training of pigeons is classed as non-essential travel and is therefore

CURRENTLY STRICTLY PROHIBITED -- The care of your birds.

We understand that many members will be worried about how to care for their pigeons, especially if you keep them at a location away from home.  Some key points to consider: Attending to the basic needs of your pigeons should be considered as 'essential', such travel is allowed - but you still need to comply with the latest government guidelines. Further advice - be prepared:  Planning ahead is essential and you should have alternative arrangements ready in case you are unable to attend your pigeons for any reason.


The most important scenario to plan for is how your pigeons will be cared for if you become ill - ensure you have arrangements with your friends, family or fellow fanciers to be able to look after your pigeons in your absence.



You are reminded that the SHU Office is closed, and the staff is on furlough.  If you have a problem which cannot wait until the virus closedown is over you can contact me.  My email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by telephone 01383 738020

Gordon A Turnbull, B.E.M President Scottish Homing Union


Happy Memories

Received an email from Clive Yates of Tamworth who wrote; Hi Joe, hope you and your family are all keeping safe. I had a look through the BHW last week, not had much chance of reading it as we have been busy with our 3 year old grandson living with us last 5 weeks. His mother looks after dementia patients in old people home & his dad is an undertaker who has been extremely busy these last few weeks. Your John & Ann Grieve report Bought back good memories of when in July 1983 when we went on our 1st wedding anniversary, we stayed in a flat over a garage that was attached to a white house on the banks of Loch Fyne opposite to Inveraray. We had our dog with us, as it was hot we could come straight out our flat and swim in the Loch all 3 of us great memories. I was a good friend of Andy Wilson of Auchtermuchty so we arranged to drive over to visit him, a little further than I thought across country. We looked at his small set up he had some good birds from Albert Bennet from Church Stretton. In fact in the 90’s he gave me a mealy cock that bred a 1st open Midland National winner from Nantes from 400 miles. He asked us if we wanted to go visit the local top loft, so he took us to visit the Grieve family, and your article bought memories back, I can remember the day as if it was yesterday. He had some great pigeons I would have liked to have taken a few back home with me. The couple were great host gave us dinner and also asked us to stay the night at their house, but we had the dog and the wife wanted to go back to the flat, we arrived back at 1-30 in the morning. That was the last time we went to Scotland in fact my daughter could be Scottish as 9 months later our first child was born ha ha. Thanks, Joe, for bringing back some very good time memories keep up the good work; love the Joke’s every week, wishing you all the best of health yours Clive Yates Tamworth’.


Blast from the Past

Received an email from Mike Shepherd the assistant editor of the Racing Pigeon Pictorial who wrote, ‘Hi Joe, good article this week, I enjoyed reading that, pigeon racing was so uncomplicated in those days. Also of interest was the group photo which included Dave and Sheila Smith of Dunning, I remember when they entered a couple of young birds in the BBC Rennes race, a distance of 572 miles and got them. They subsequently wrote an article for the Pictorial. I have suggested to Steve that it may be worth reproducing it again. The two pigeons were known as Dunning Sparrow and Dunning Black Cock, and were both around five months old when sent to Rennes; cheers Mike. I replied to Mike that I would rewrite the article and let fanciers know of this outstanding feat, so I looked out the Pictorial issue 38 Volume 4 printed in 1973; it was highlighted.


1000 Mile Racers ‘It can and will be done’ Says D & S Smith of Dunning Scotland


While spending a pleasant evening in Airdrie at the 1972 SNFC annual social, I was introduced to Mr Colin Osman and Mr & Mrs J Shore and later, during an interesting discussion. I was asked by Colin Osman to write an article on my opinions and theories of racing pigeons over extreme distances. I am certainly honoured that Mr Osman thinks me competent. It may have something to do with ‘Dunning Sparrow’ and ‘Dunning Black Cock’ our two 5 month old youngsters which, in 1972 flew from Rennes to Dunning -572 miles with the British Barcelona Club. The conditions were quite severe with a cold north- west wind blowing stronger as the race proceeded. There is, of course, mixed opinion about this performance. However, my reasoning will, I hope, become apparent as we proceed. I will do my best to make this article informative and interesting. Many good fanciers, some of whom I respect a very great deal, say that pigeons will never race 1000 miles consistently, especially in this terrain, and in any case, why bother as there is little to be won or gained. I do not accept either of these assumptions, as this to me is not progressive thinking. We must strive for improvement, surely, if it can be achieved. In the long run, we will all gain, by at least having birds that will not get lost so easily. Now what is standing in the way of progress? In my opinion, it is quite simple; we do not have the tools for the job. In other words, when it has been tried in the past, the birds sent have, in some cases, been the best there are, but these pigeons have been bred and trained for generations to race 500-700 miles not 1000 miles. Also some may be too old and past their physical best. The reasoning for this is that experience is believed to be of paramount importance. Although I accept it is necessary, surely the combination of both physical and mental prime is what counts. Most fanciers, I am sure, agree that a pigeon either has the intellectual potential required or not. It is, of course, up the fancier, by correct tuition and training, to stimulate an, thus attaining its potential. I have proved to my own satisfaction by the efforts of my two youngsters that age is not essential to acquire navigation capabilities. For example, ‘Dunning Sparrow’ hatched April 1st. Frist training toss two weeks before racing commenced, 20 miles single up. Second toss 35 miles, all birds up together, third toss 45 miles; forth toss 65 miles. All youngsters the same treatment: First race, Hawick 68 miles 6th club; second race Hawick; Longtown 92 miles; Penrith 118 miles, Lancaster 159 miles, Leyland 184 miles, September 3rd thane jumped 388 miles to Rennes 572 miles. Liberated September 10th homed September 20th 8pm. ‘Dunning Black Cock’ hatched April 18th same treatment, except he was jumped 413 miles from Lancaster to Rennes. Home September 23rd: Both birds were in remarkable physical condition on arrival. It can be argued that they did not try. This is not my belief, as these birds raced very consistently, always homing on the race day and never at any time showing stress. Also the breeding is of utmost importance and when bred as these pigeons are, from generations of successful trying, 500 -600 mile birds, there is a good chance that a fair percentage will inherit this attribute. However, I believed they did reach their physical limit of sustained flight, this being reduced by difficult conditions and probably flying solo for quite a distance. Now we come to the other part of the question, what is a pigeon’s physical limit? In my opinion, to a great extent, it is mind over matter. Back to brain-power again; an intelligent pigeon will pace itself and this is where the fancier comes in. It is his job to see that the bird is 100% fit in every way. Only in these circumstances can it give a capacity performance. Potential physical capacity is governable by maturity and most would agree that this does not occur until the pigeon is two years old at least. So why send a baby to do a man’s job? Well, assuming top-class management at all times, let’s look at a fancier who for at least a decade has not raced his young birds past 100 miles, and old birds 300 miles and maybe very successfully up to the distance. Now, if he decides to send these pigeons to 600 miles, his losses would considerable. He may be very lucky and have the exception to the rule but it would be safe to say that although some might home, they would not have the capability to race none-stop at twice the distance for which they have been cultivated. So what does the fancier do? Of course, he goes and buys stock that will do the job. But say there was no such stock. What does he do? How does he produce it? Should he breed from his birds that do home?, and, as like breeds like, hope they will improve along with his management. Surely if like breeds like, it will be very slow progress indeed, if at all, or should he subject his young stock to more server tasks? Will he find out their potentials sooner? Will it improve them? Or set them back? My opinion is that young stock will adapt to change in environment far more readily than older birds. They also develop mentally and physically faster. This is, I think, the vital time to improve their capabilities. Now, as we all know, the meaning of the word improvement is – make better, make progress, grow better. In other words, better from the best. It has taken millions of years of natural selection and evolution for some species to arrive at their present stage of development. These are the ones that have been able to adapt to ever-changing environment (man being the most successful). Those that were not able to adapt quickly enough, simply became extinct. The racing pigeon as we know it today is a relatively new, man-make creature. In a similar way to many other animals – cattle, sheep, pigeon and egg-laying fowls etc., much improved for their particular purpose by extensive genetical study and selective breeding. I believe that, providing we have done our job in every respect, the best of blood, proper training, and general management etc., we can help Mother Nature to speed up the improvement of our birds. With reference to; ‘Why send a baby to do a man’s job?’ I am convinced that when young in particular of any species is subjected to physical and mental tests over a continued period, in the case of young pigeons at extreme distances, changes do occur in the their genetical structure and some of their characteristics become more durable, i.e. the genes that control stamina develop, possibly at the expense of those which control speed or others that are not so important to survival. The theory is that nature makes it possible for these improvements to be passed on to the succeeding generations thus enhance their chance of survival and ensuring the continuation of the species. If young bird’s performances can be improved to almost match their parents’ when they mature, they should, provided they have not been ruined, be a development of the original stock. In other words, we have speeded up –or cut some corners in – evolution and if his is continued and the survivors are selectively bred from, a pigeon with the desired characteristics must eventually emerge. By this system, if applied to 600 and 700 mile stock which is available. I am sure we could progress into a type of pigeon that will race 600 miles the first day, rise and race 400 miles plus the next. In other words: our 1000 mile racers. Time is needed but I am convinced that it can and will be done. Many will scoff, however, there will always be those who will try for new horizons, to them the best of luck; Dave Smith.



I have attached photographs of Dave’s 2 young birds; ‘Dunning Black Cock’ SU72F4820 and ‘Dunning Sparrow’ blue chequer pied white flight hen SU72F4802.

David Forsyth

I also found in my Pictorial archives; a report on David Forsyth of Paisley who was a personal friend of Dr Anderson and of John and William McAlpine of Armadale and was a regular visitor to their lofts for 40 years. Since the death of Dr Anderson and John the family of pigeons were maintained by William and they exchanged pigeons with each other to their mutual advantage. His ‘Barcelona Blue’ and Forsyth’s SURP52 2345 had previously flew Nantes 610 miles 3 times. He had a very careful preparation his first race was from Oxenholm 126 miles and then Stafford 230 miles. David intended this to be his last race before sending him to Barcelona, but on consideration he decided to send him to Cheltenham 289 miles then Barcelona 1042 miles. David said ‘You can imagine the thrill that I had when I found him back in the loft. Quite naturally I was very pleased that he had flown from Barcelona and that I had become one of the few fanciers to have a bird flown 1000 miles. ‘Barcelona Triumph’ and McAlpine’s ‘Barcelona Blue’ are blood brothers and were both 1000 mile British Record holders. David became the new record holder at that time by beating ‘Barcelona Blue’ by 4 days. He was more than delighted and it was a case of the pupil beating the teacher. As a matter of interest to readers of the column David Forsyth bred a blue chequer hen 3834 ‘Lady Jean’ for Willie O’Neil of Larkhall, winner of 1st open SNFC Nantes 598 miles in 1964, a very hard race, beating the next section bird by 3 ¼ hours. I liked David conclusion to this report which is true today by finished off saying; ‘There are NO secrets in pigeon racing, just hard work and common sense’. I have also attached a photograph of ‘Faith’ bred and raced by W G Davidson of Stevenson Ayrshire The pigeon flew 1033 miles from Barcelona in 1960 becoming a 1000 mile record holder. Time taken was 8 days 23 hours 50 minutes. In finishing this feature I also sent a bird to the 1000 mile club up here in Scotland it was a red chequer cock SU72F18134 he flew Beauvais 500 miles as a yearling not making the result; he was sent every year to France, and was my only entry into the Palamos race of 1976 and he won 24th section E 327th open from an entry of 1144 birds verified flying a distance of 1026 miles 390 yards. I worked on the face line at Seafield Colliery back then and I had told Margaret if the bird came home she was to verify it first and then let me know. The man in the control office on the pit head come onto the dac (which was a way of connection the pithead to the face line) he shouted out my name. I answered and he said ‘We have had your wife on the phone to tell you that ‘Trailly’ (named after one of my workmates) was home, I shouted ‘Ya Beauty’ and he asked what ‘Trailly’ was and where had it been; when I told him he was a racing pigeon and was racing from Palamos over a 1000 miles; he and my work mates was quite amazed. I did receive an awarded from the British Barcelona Club which I have scanned and added to this story along with a photograph of myself holding ‘Trailly’. Great memories when you think I was only 29 years old at the time; I hope readers of the column have enjoyed this blast from the past.

Faith 1000ml record holder

Lady Jean

Joe Murphy holding Lady Jean on her return from Palomos 1026mls

Barcelona Triumph



Joe’s Joke


A husband, who has six children, begins to call his wife “mother of six” rather than by her first name. The wife, amused at first, chuckles. A few years down the road, the wife has grown tired of this. "Mother of six," he would say, "what’s for dinner tonight? Get me a beer!" She gets very frustrated. Finally, while attending a party with her husband, he jokingly yells out, "Mother of six, I think it's time to go!" The wife immediately shouts back, "I'll be right with you, father of four!"




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