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Eight of the Best Part 3

Eight of the Best Part 3

 Ralston Graham

Ralston Graham

Another fancier whose name became a household name north of the border for his achievements with his pigeons was Ralston Graham of Langholm who reached the top of the Scottish National Flying Club results most seasons. During the period from 2000 onwards his performances in the SNFC were truly outstanding with the highlights being 2nd open SNFC Messac in that year; then two years later he won 1st open SNFC Reims, and in 2005 he won 2nd open SNFC Alencon, all the above were National Gold Cup Blue Riband races. Ralston lived in a hot bed of pigeons racing in this small industrial town of Langholm; in fact he lived in the same street as that other outstanding Scottish fancier Derrick Nordon who became great friends. Unlike most pigeon fanciers in Scotland, Ralston liked sprint federation racing and was brilliant in these short to middle distance events. However he was also an outstanding long distance channel racer. When I visited him, back in the mid 1990’s his best performance from France was 10th open SNFC Gold Cup race from Rennes. However he had been the Solway Federation Champion for 6 years on the trot up to 1996 and had won 1st open federation countless times in the sport. ‘Eskvalley Mark’ was a winner of 11th open SNFC Reims, 1st Federation Leyland, 95th open SNFC Newbury, 9th Federation Worcester and he was the sire of ‘Eskvalley Niall’. Who was a winner of winner of 1st national cocks and 2nd open SNFC Messac, 5th open SNFC Newbury, 40th open SNFC Frome, 4th Federation Burscough, 6th Federation Worcester and he in-turn was the sire of ‘Eskvalley Champion’. Who in the 2002 year won 1st section A 1st open SNFC Reims flying 507 miles from a convoy of 2650 birds he also won that same year 59th open SNFC Frome to win the prestigious ‘Dewar Trophy’ for best long distance bird into Scotland that year. He also won the ‘Dewar Trophy’ in 2003 with ‘Eskvalley Pat’ and was runner up the following 2 years with his other wonderful hen ‘Eskvalley Jackie’ thus proving he had cultivated a brilliant loft of pigeons!

Eskvalley Champion

Eskvalley Jacky

Which brings us onto my Number 6 of my ‘Eight of the Best’ nominated birds. ‘Eskvalley Pat’ who was named after Ralston’s wife; she was bred from 2 pigeons Ralston’s received from his close friend Derrick Nordon. In 2002 ‘Eskvalley Pat’ won 5th section 5th open from SNFC Gold Cup Reims race from an entry of 2650 birds, she was then doubled back into the SNFC Clermont race and won 5th section 70th open from an entry of 2794 birds. She also won my BHW / Joe Murphy Sporting Challenge competition. (This was a competition I organised away back in 2002 with the assistance of BHW editor at that time Cameron Stanfield. I asked fanciers to nominate a pigeon from their entries into the SNFC Gold Cup race from Reims. These fanciers also agreed to donate a young pigeon to purchase a trophy to be named BHW/ Joe Murphy Sporting Challenge Trophy. There was no monitory gain to any of these fanciers - only the trophy to ‘Challenge’ winner. Each pigeon would receive suitable publicity in the BHW prior to the event and then again when the result was published after the race. It was such a success that fanciers asked me to hold this challenge as an annual even. As this developed into a great achievement I was asked to also hold a social gathering to present the winner with the trophy and to acknowledge every other bird who took part in the tournament). The following year 2003 Ralston entered ‘Eskvalley Pat’ into the SNFC inland race from Newbury and she won 24th section 250th open from a convoy of 5369; she was then set up for the SNFC Gold Cup race from Reims and she won 5th section 18th open from an entry of 3168 birds. She was then sent to the last old bird national race from Clermont who had a convoy of 3257 birds participating and she won 1st section 6th open doing a velocity of 1253. She won the BHW / Joe Murphy Sporting Challenge competition for the 2nd time and Ralston also won the SHU Dewar Trophy for Scotland’s Bird of the Year.

Eskvalley Pat

Sire of ‘Eskvalley Pat’ was a son of ‘High Tower Kieran’ raced by Derrick Nordon and a winner of 34th open Sartilly in 1996, he then won 9th open Rennes in 1998 as well as winning 19th open Sartilly that same year. The following year 1999 he won 17th open Sartilly and the following year won 93rd open from the 2000 Messac race, that same year he won 55th open from the Vire national; the following year 2001 he won 39th open from Portland and you will notice all the above were achieved in the Scottish National On checking the SNFC hand book I noticed he did not win a Gold Award so therefore must not have gained the 5 section diplomas required. Dam of ‘Eskvalley Pat’ was a mealy hen also bred by Derrick; she was a daughter of 3345 who had won 16th section 43rd open SNFC Nantes; she also won 2nd section 12th open Nantes and 13th section 42nd open Nantes. A sister to this hen won 9th; 64th; 93rd & 98th open from SNFC Sartilly. The sire of 3345 won 9th open Gold Cup Rennes; 17th; 19th & 34th open Sartilly and his dam won 7th, 68th & 88th open also from Rennes Gold Cup plus she also won 53rd open from Sartilly. I think you will agree that both Ralston and Derrick both had fantastic lines of winning pigeons and swapped children from their best birds with each other. BOTH the parents of ‘Eskvalley Pat’ were gifts from Derrick from his 500 miles winning family. Unfortunately ‘Eskvalley Pat’ failed to return from the 2004 Gold Cup race from Le Ferte Bernard which was such a pity as she was without doubt a TOP quality pigeon. Moving now onto the Ralston’s chequer hen named ‘Eskvalley Jackie’: who in 2003 had won 139th open SNFC Claremont. Then in 2004 from the SNFC Gold Cup race from Le Ferte Barnard she won 2nd section A 12th open from an entry of 2538 birds she was then entered into the Falaise race competing against a convoy of 1716 birds and she won 3rd section A 10th open, winning the ‘T. Buck Trophy’ in the SNFC and she was Runners Up for the Dewar Trophy 2004 against my other nominated pigeon who you will read about shortly ‘Auld Reekie’ who was the outright winner of The Dewar Trophy. In the 2005 season this wonderful hen ‘Eskvalley Jackie’ won 1st section A 2nd open SNFC Alencon from a convoy of 2244 birds and she was then sent back over the channel to Falaise and she won 10th section A 26th open competing against 2366 birds this last diploma won her SNFC Gold Award and was also Runner up for The Dewar Trophy 2005. Eskvalley Jackie’ was 4 times in the top 27 open in 4 Scottish National channel races consequently only 189 birds beat her overall in the 5 races so therefore she beat 13.241 birds to gain this SNFC Gold Award. I’m happy to say that she also won the BHW/Joe Murphy Sporting Challenge that year. Unfortunately this wonderful hen was killed in the field next to the loft by a hawk in April 2006 which as everyone can understand was a bitter pill for Ralston to swallow and was what the way a champion pigeon should go. Regrettably I have to say that Ralston died in March 2020 in Dumfries Hospital, his accomplishments as a pigeon fancier are there for all to see in the Scottish National race results; May he rest in peace.  

Willie Barry Kinnear with Dewar Trophy and Joe Murphy holding SNFC Gold Cup

Willie and Barry Kinnear with Dewar Trophy and Joe Murphy holding the SNFC Gold Cup

Last but not least of my 8th Birds of the Best was raced by the successful father and son partnership of Willie Kinnear & son Barry of Gilmerton in Edinburgh. This partnership put up some outstanding performances over the next decade, with the highlight being winning the SNFC Gold Cup from Le Farte’ Bernard in 2004; plus they have won the SHU Dewar Trophy on 4 different occasions and were runner up 3 times: which is quite unique as I have found out while researching the history on ‘Auld Reekie’ for my Eight of the Best. I have to go back a little when the partnership won The Dewar Trophy in 1997 with their dark chequer cock SU94P 684 named ‘Poppy’. He was bred by Sandy Popp who was the Pentlandhills federation convoyer who gifted the young cock to the son of the partnership young Barry. ‘Poppy’ won 2nd east section 2nd open SNFC Nantes flying 602 miles against 392 birds recording a velocity of 825 ypm. He also won 35th east section 52nd open from SNFC Sartilly a distance of 499 miles against an entry of 1501 birds recording a velocity of 681 ypm. Thus winning this esteem trophy for the partner’s for the First Time. Back to ‘Poppy’ he also gained further positions in the Scottish National; and in 1998 he won 65th east section 99th open from SNFC Frome from a convoy of 4005 birds. The following year 1999 he won 146th east section SNFC Frome but no open position from a group of 3827 birds. Then in 2000 he won twice from the channel with the first diploma being 60th east section 62nd open from SNFC Lille from a gathering of 1399 birds. He then went to the SNFC Nantes race a distance of 602 miles and he was to the front winning 4th east section 5th open from an entry of 386 birds, an outstanding pigeon who won 6 national diplomas. Willie & Barry then won the Dewar Trophy for the 2nd time with SU96P6266 named ‘The Hawker’ he won 116th east section 224th open SNFC inland race from Newbury flying a distance of 320 miles and he recorded a velocity of 1172 ypm competed against a convoy of 3948 birds. He was then entered into the SNFC Gold Cup race from Messac with an assembly of 2029 birds entered he was flying 561 miles and ‘The Hawker’ won 42nd east section 112th open recording a velocity of 579 ypm. He was also sent to the SNFC Vire national race flying a distance of 497 miles and he won 8th east section 21st open recording a velocity of 800 ypm. So you will see 2 very hard races from over the English Channel with velocities into 3 figures. The partnership were runners up for the Dewar Trophy in 2003 with SU01P 6035 named ‘Bisk’ who won 103rd east section 112th open from the SNFC Clermont race flying 509 miles from a group of 3257 birds and he recorded a velocity of 1147 ypm. He also competed from the SNFC Gold Cup race from Reims a distance of 551 miles and was to the front winning 14th east section 19th open from a convoy of 3188 birds recording a velocity of 1068 ypm. The following year ‘Bisk’ won 55th east section in the SNFC Gold Cup race from La Ferte Bernard. By now Edinburgh was becoming known for being more than just the capital of Scotland; as this father and son partnership were now household names within the pigeon sport throughout the World. They produced some exceptional pigeons during this time and another one was their champion ‘Back To Basics’ who was runners up for the Dewar Trophy in 1995 rung SU91P 0025 he won 23rd east section 41st open SNFC Sartilly flying a distance of 499 miles and recorded a velocity of 919 from a collection of 1864 birds. He was then sent to the SNFC Gold Cup Rennes race with an entry of 3656 birds and he won 32nd east section 66th open flying 542 miles recording a velocity of 711 ypm. ‘Back to Basics’ also went on to win other positions these being as follows; in 1994 he had won 61st east section 126th open from the SNFC Gold Cup Rennes race and that same year he won 68th east section and 106th open from the SNFC Sartilly race then in 1996 he nearly pulled it off by winning 1st East Section 2nd Open SNFC from Sartilly to win his SNFC Gold Award. ‘Back to Basics’ was also the winner of 1st Place Coefficient Euro Bird of Year and won over £10,000 in racing pools & prize money. Dam of ‘Back to Basic’s’ was a gift from Innes Brothers from their SNFC Gold Award winner ‘Kingston Success’ who was a daughter of ‘Kingston Again’ who in turn was a grand-daughter of 1978 1st open SNFC Avranches winner ‘Kingston Treetop’.

In 2005 I was lucky at this time to be Press Officer for the SNFC and I had the pleasure to visit their Gilmerton loft in Edinburgh to congratulate Willie & Barry on winning the SNFC Gold Cup race from Le Ferte Bernard. With their outstanding pigeon SU01P 6045 named 'Auld Reekie' after the city of Edinburgh which was called this many years previously. This blue bar cock bred in 2001as a youngster was entered into the SHU 'One Loft' race where he managed to win 12th open prize in the final race. This turned out to be a very difficult race and he recorded a velocity of 583 yards per minute. Following the SHU race and knowing how well-bred he was, Barry purchased the bird back at the auction sale for £120. As a yearling he was settled back into his old home environment being unraced that year. As a 2 year old he flew the old bird programme through to the inland national from Newbury. Then as a 3 year old he had 5 federation races from Tow Law a distance of 94 miles out to Peterborough a distance of 260 miles, he won 2 federation positions within these 5 races being 11th federation from Selby a distance 168 miles against an entry of 2657 birds. He also won 11th federation from Newark a distance of 216 miles against 2325 birds. He had participated on the widowhood system for these federation races before he was repaired at the end of May. He then competed in the first SNFC national race from Falaise a distance of 505 miles to the loft in the Capital, where he won 5th section B 11th open against a convoy of 1716 birds, he had flown 15 hours on the wing and recorded a velocity of 993 ypm. On his return from Falaise he returned to his eggs and as he looked so well Willie and Barry decided to double him back again 2 weeks later into the SNFC Blue Riband race from Le Ferte Bernard a distance of 557 miles. He again homed on the day flying over 14 hours on the wing to win 1st section B 1st east section 1st open SNFC winning the famous Gold Cup in the Scottish National Flying Club from an entry of 2538 birds recording a velocity of 1153 ypm. These 2 outstanding performances by ‘Auld Reekie’ flying into Scotland during the 2004 season won him the Scottish Homing Union Dewar Trophy. The following season they continued their great supremacy of winning ‘form’ when this now ‘Champion Auld Reekie’ again proved his ‘greatness’ when he won 9th section B 24th open SNFC Gold Cup race from Alencon a distance of 534 miles recording a velocity of 923 from a convoy of 2245 birds. He was then set up for the Falaise race and with a convoy of 2366 birds he verified a velocity of 1072 to secure 1st section B 2nd open flying 505 miles. These 2 performances were good enough for the SHU management committee to select him as the winner of The Dewar Trophy for the 2nd time, which had never been achieved previously since its introduction in 1973. ‘Auld Reekie’ created history within the sport of pigeon racing in Scotland as he had achieved 1st, 2nd, 11th & 24th open in 4 Scottish National Flying Club races winning over £11.000, (he should have been a Double National winner but was robbed by a ‘charlatan’ who was on the national committee at that time (as was I); this was a very sore point with myself, Willie, Barry and many other fanciers. ‘Auld Reekie’ co efficient for these 4 wins was 1.81 as from a total entry of 8835 pigeons in 4 SNFC races which is a truly incredible achievement and he was a commendable winner of the most sought-after trophy the SHU Dewar Trophy for Scotland’s Bird of the Year during 2004 and 2005 seasons. To show the calibre of the family of pigeons Willie & Barry had produced ‘Auld Reekie’ was a double grandson of their great pigeon ‘Back to Basic’s’ who I wrote about previously as he was Runner Up for the Dewar Trophy in 1995 and won an SNFC Gold Award in 1996. This father and son partnership have continued during the years to keep up these outstanding representations of their family gong and in 2009 they won 1st open SNFC Ypres with ‘Young Reekie’ flying a distance of 429 miles competing against 1243 birds to win their 2nd Scottish National. ‘Young Reekie’ was born a first round youngster in February 2008; he raced as a darkness youngster and completed in all 8 Pentland Hills federation young bird races from Otterburn 61 miles through to Newark 216 miles. As a yearling he was paired up on the 10th January and reared two youngsters and allowed to sit his 2nd round of eggs for 10 days before being put on the widowhood system on 18th March. He participated in the entire federation programme which was a total of 10 races from Otterburn 61miles on the 18th April, competing weekly through to the Eastbourne race 384 miles on 20th June being the 5th bird home returning at 20-15 hours very fresh for his 12 hours on the wing. After Eastbourne he was given 2 training tosses, one from Ponteland on the East coast and another from Carlisle on the West coast along with the partnerships other candidates for the Ypres, Andrezel & Falaise races. Both training toss locations are approximately 80 miles from their loft and on both these training flights the birds took just over 2 hours to accomplish. He was left with his hen and she laid the day before Ypres basketting on Tuesday 30th June; ‘Young Reekie’ was originally one of the candidates for Falaise until a few days before the Ypres race when dad Willie told son Barry, ‘The chequer cock should go to Ypres and to be their pooler’; Willie was proved right as the chequer cock won 1st section B 1st open SNFC Ypres and won nearly £2000 for his efforts. I have added a photograph of Barry holding ‘Young Reekie’ the 1st open Ypres and Willie Kinnear holding the partnership’s 7th open winner. ‘Young Reekie’ is bred in the purple direct from the stock loft; his sire is a blue cock direct from ‘Auld Reekie’ mentioned above and his dam is a blue chequer hen bred by the late Dale Newcombe of Macmerry being a daughter of his SNFC Gold Award winner ‘Kardale Style’ who won 15th; 26th; 55th; 84th & 113th open in SNFC channel races; you cannot get any better breeding!!! I have always been a believer in observation my birds as I believe they will tell you when there are ‘spot-on’. Obviously Willie Kinnear is of the same frame of mind as me, had he not identified the form that ‘Young Reekie’ was in the partners may not have had such a successful financial gain. It was also quite fitting that the partnership received notification of their 2nd SNFC win prior to Willie celebrating his 70th birthday on Wednesday 8th July and believe me you could not have found a more happier fanciers anywhere in Britain. The partners second pigeon that won 3rd section B 7th open and like ‘Young Reekie’ was also a yearling, being hatched a month later in March out the racing loft. The sire won 127th open SNFC Maidstone and 27th open SNFC Eastbourne in 2007; he was down from a different cock direct out of ‘Auld Reekie’. The dam of the 7th open cock was a blue hen bred down from the original Innes Brothers pigeons. It is quite interesting to note that the partnership’s 1st bird timed in the Scottish nationals has achieved a top 5 open positions; these are as follows; 1st open La Ferte Bernard; 1st open Ypres, 2nd open Falaise; 2nd open Sartilly, 2nd open Nantes, 5th open Tours. Plus they have won many other top SNFC prizes. Unfortunately father Willie took a stoke about 5 years ago and regrettably he passed away on the 1st of August 2019; he may no longer be with us but he will never be forgotten within the sport of racing pigeons in Scotland – rest in peace my old friend.

Auld Reekie


My Top Eight Birds

I hope you have enjoyed my selection of these wonderful 8 birds, and if I had the choice of any bird in Scotland to choose from then these would be my top 8. I’m also not afraid to say we in Scotland have many more outstanding birds within our shores Scotland who could have merited a place in my choice. However like my last article on my top 7 pigeons away back in 2004, it was a very hard selection of whom I should choose, with the ultimate question being, ‘If I could bring ANY bird to my own personal loft, who would I choose; and the answer are the above 8.

Thank you to the fanciers who phone or sent emails saying how much they had enjoyed this brief story during the coronavirus crisis which has not only affected us all but has put our sport on hold for the time being.

Joe Murphy  

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