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A Tribute to Charlie Riley 30-10-19






I received an email today from Charlie Riley’s sister, Linda, to inform me that he had passed away three weeks ago. It was very sad and surprising bad news, because he always looked so fit and well. I first got to know Charlie through my association with the Ponderosa Stud several years ago and found him to be a really nice man and certainly one of the best pigeon racers in the south west of England. Charlie Riley was a small team fancier, with big performances at the highest level! My sincere condolences to the Riley family at this very sad time.


Charlie was born in Bridgewater; Somerset and his mother was a keen pigeon fancier.  When he was a lad he was interested in athletics, particularly cross country running and won prizes running for the school and county. He had always liked pigeon all his life and got his first racing birds in 1974, and these were a pair from Colin Garth of Shaftesbury and a pair from Bill Hands of Shillingstone. The two Crossways club members, George Dench and Reggie Isles helped him get started and his first big prize was 2nd Berwick in the big young bird open race.

Charlie’s first birds were Kirkpatrick, which he housed in an 8ft x 6ft shed and won prizes racing up to Thurso in the Dorchester club. He said his early mistakes were the normal ones, bad training and over feeding. He was a self-employed gardener / maintenance man and said his partner, Maggie, was very keen and was a great help with the pigeons, including the training. Sprint / middle distance racing was preferred, and Maggie said their family’s race well up to about 270 miles, with most of their racing being from France.


Charlie Riley has been very successful with the Ponderosa UK Stud bloodlines in recent seasons and he recorded 1st, 2nd section, 1st, 2nd open NFC Fougeres (7,054 birds) in 2012. Charlie’s Fougeres National winner was his champion blue cock, ‘Olympic Flame’, and he was down from the very successful De Klak / ‘Bartoli’ bloodlines, and this wonderful cock had been retired to the stock loft. The second bird on the ETS from Fougeres was the blue cock, ‘Maggie’s Boy’, and he was bred from Ponderosa De Klak / ‘Bartoli’ stock birds.

This game cock had a won several premier positions for the Riley loft including: 2012: 2nd Weydor SFC, 2nd section, 2nd open NFC Fougeres, 3rd Weydor SFC, 9th section, 78th open NFC Cholet: 2013: 5th section, 121st open BBC Le Mans. Charlie said winning 1st and 2nd National was his biggest thrill in his 40 years in the sport of pigeon racing. Two wonderful De Klak racing cocks!


When visiting Charlie’s home in Blandford Forum I was amazed to see his old bird racing loft in his front garden and the stock and young bird lofts in the back yard. I think it was the first time I’ve ever seen someone’s loft in their front garden! Needless to say, the Riley loft set up was very smart, with the 30ft old bird loft being completely close down with Perspex windows for the widowhood system. Charlie told me, good ventilation is paramount in good loft design and he had never used deep litter on the loft floors.

He raced twenty cocks on a basic widowhood system and these racers were mated up at the end of January, with National and Classic racing in mind. The cocks only got two or three 20-mile training tosses to kick the season off and they were never broken down during the racing season. Charlie told me he never showed the hens on marking night and the length of time the cocks got their mates on their return on race day, depends on the length of the race, the longer the race, the longer the hens stay in the nest boxes. The cocks raced the whole of the early programme in preparation for the later races and then they race every two weeks up to 350 miles.

The racers were fed on mostly Versalaga ‘Super Widowhood’ mixture and got the normal grit and minerals. Three other premier racing cocks at the Blandford loft were: the blue cock, ‘219’ who was also bred from Ponderosa UK Stud stock birds and he recorded in the 2014 racing season: 1st section, 10th open NFC Messac. The handsome blue pied cock, ‘926’, had won: 2014: 1st section, 3rd open CSCFC Messac, 3rd section, 69th open NFC Saintes: 2013: 8th section, 109th open NFC Carentan, 20th section, 247th open NFC Saintes, 19th section, 115th open BBC Niort, plus other positions and the blue cock, ‘514’, was the winner of five top prizes including: 2013: 3rd section, 10th open CSCFC Messac: 11th section, 98th open NFC Cholet.

Wonderful pigeons and a great fancier! Charlie Riley RIP.