“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
McCord & Turpie of Methven in Scotland.
Thousands of fanciers made the drive up to Blackpool in mid-January for the main event of the pigeon show calendar, the 2019 British Homing World Blackpool ‘Show of the Year’. This year’s event attacked a show entry of 2,000 birds and the Scottish racing partnership of John McCord and Terry Turpie won ‘Supreme Champion’ with their super blue racing cock, ‘Moerbreke Blue Boy’ and to say he is very special would be an understatement. Talking to John on the phone he told me, ‘we have called the blue cock ‘Moerbeke Blue Boy’, after our good friend Stefan van Moerbeke, who sadly lost his life in a car crash on 29th April 2017 on the out skirts of Ypres in Belgium, which was his home town. How I meet Stefan was though the Ypres race, which the Scottish National Flying Club has every season. Stefan was the man who got this race point started along with Roy Seaton and I was the convoyer with the pigeons. We struck up a good friendship with him and his family who looked after us to perfection on our trips to Ypres. ‘Moerbeke Blue Boy’ was a latebred in 2016 and stood out like a sore thumb from day one, being raced lightly in 2017 and flew the Fife Federation program in 2018. His breeding is: his sire is a grandson of the late John Ellis of Wellbank near Dundee good black pied hen paired to a daughter of ‘Andy’s Boy’, winner of 1st open London & South East Classic Club Pau for Alister Muir of Abinger Hammer in Surrey. His dam is a daughter of ‘Kingdom Spirit’ raced by George and Brian Hunter of Dunfermline Fife and she is probably one of the best 500 plus mile racing pigeons about, winning two ‘Gold Awards’ with the Scottish National Flying Club and flew ten times across the English Channel in to Scotland. There has only ever been two pigeon in history to be double ‘Gold Award’ winners’. The partners also won three classes at 2019 BHW Blackpool Show and ‘Best Racing Pigeon in Show’ with their good grizzle cock, ‘Grizzly Jock’.
The McCord & Turpie partnership have been very successful racing and showing their pigeons over the years and really enjoy both codes equally, racing and showing. One cock they owned won 21 firsts and was found in loft a few times and so lost out on a few more firsts. He came in to John and Terry’s loft as a stray from Charlie Cameron and he kept coming back to them, so they then got told to keep him. This game cock was a flying machine and was lost at Wakefield getting him ready for the National race. The partners won 2nd open Clermont in France with the Scottish National Flying Club. They have won ‘Best Racing Pigeon in Show’ at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2016 and 2017 with the same pigeon, ‘Jack’s Boy’ and reserve ‘Best Racer’ in 2018. Their good young grizzle cock, ‘Grizzly Jock’ won ‘Best Racing Pigeon in Show’ at the Blackpool Show in 2019 and of course ‘Moerbeke Blue Boy’ won ‘Supreme Champion’. McCord & Turpie were ‘Fanciers of the Year’ in the Fife Federation in 2018; making it three times they have won this premier award and have also won ‘Fanciers of the Year’ for Section C in the Scottish National Flying Club.
John McCord and Terry Turpie race and show their pigeons from both their addresses, one is in Methven near Perth and the other is in Pitlessie near Cupar in Fife. John was born in Ballymena Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland and Terry in St. Andrews in Fife. They started keeping pigeons at about the age of twelve and Terry been racing pigeons since 1968, starting in the Cerces pigeon club. John been racing since 1993 and started in Kells and district pigeon club in Northern Ireland and then moved to Scotland in 1998. They are now members of Perth and district club and Glen Rothes club. Terry works as a joiner / window fitter and John is a farmer / haulage contractor, with only a limit amount of time for pigeon racing and showing. John says some of the ‘house hold’ names in pigeon racing they look up to now are: David Black and family of Dromore, Tommy Maclean of Annaghmore, Dave Baldie of St. Andrews, Billy Bilsland, the late Dennis Dall and Gordon McCaw.
The partners say they have raced their pigeons to all sorts of homes in the past years: from a derelict house to one Tonne potato boxes, but maintain, as long as they are dry and sheltered the pigeons are happy. John and Terry’s present lofts are mainly built by Petron, one was bought second hand and had a bit added to it by them ourselves and the other was the last loft the Petron firm ever had at the Doncaster s how about eight years ago and it has now had a bit added to it. The partners say, ‘if the lofts are not right, the pigeons will never be right. Pigeons need plenty of room, with overcrowding being the worst mistake you can make and that also goes for pigeons in baskets going to the race points. No animals thrive in overcrowded conditions’. Their lofts have grilled floors and are scraped out daily, with a touch of saw dust in damp weather.
They race mainly on the natural system, with the odd ‘tweak’ here and there. Their best pigeons are always late breds, but they need they need to fly out most days in the winter months and have a few races the following year to about 250 mile mark, including the Inland Nationals at the 300 miles stage. ‘Moerbeke Blue Boy’ was a latebred 2016. The proven channel birds are jumped in later in the season at the 200 mile mark and then work up to the main long distance events. They have had their young birds on the ‘darkness’ system for racing before and flew well, but it destroys them for the show season. The feeding the partners use for racing is mainly Beryers ‘Number 46’ and in winter months they dilute it with another cheaper mixture, such as high protein economy mixture from no set suppliers. They don’t feed moulting mixes or young bird mixture, but do use ‘Homoform’ and Matrix Cinder Vinegar. The pigeons get very little private training, old birds especially and the young birds get approx seven training tosses from 7 miles to 30 miles and they are fed the same mix as the old bird race team. The birds exercise around the loft most days of the year if weather is good and they are not getting any hawk problems. The latebreds have to be out all winter, if not they lose them the following season. Their latebreds are the pigeons that score for them at the first four or five races every year and John told me, their best pigeons are mostly latebreds and left to mature in to outstanding racers.
The family of pigeons kept are a mixture blended together over the years, but are mostly long distance bloodlines from some of the best lofts in England and Scotland. Terry told me, ‘our family of pigeon are a ‘dolly mixture’ of racers that has works well for us, racing and showing’. They have no interest in eye sign, but believe in line breeding, as with any livestock keep a line and apply a good cross when needed. They maintain getting pigeons to moult requires nothing other than descent cheap feeding, nothing fancy and regular cold baths. The water must be cold; nothing strips the bloom of pigeons like warm water. The stock birds are paired at Christmas time. It’s been Christmas day the last two years, but weren’t going to pair at Christmas this year, as the long range forecasts was saying low degrees was coming in middle of January, which would cause some to be slow at laying and chilled eggs, so Christmas day it was again this time. When bringing in new stock the partners prefer to buy latebreds of National winners or tried and tested proven pigeons that have flown well, and always bring in four or five new birds every year, which they think you have to do.
Not only are John and Terry successful at racing their pigeon, but win at all the shows up to National level. Terry told me, ‘there is no set routine for getting pigeons in condition for showing, with the pigeons being fed in late afternoon all winter and being given a bath every week, and fly out as much as possible if weather is ok. We always bath them the day before a show in cold water and if they don’t take a bath, they get the garden hose put on them in the Aviary. We keep them scraped out as much as possible in winter months and there is no fancy feeding, just the correct amount of food. If a pigeon is overweight we will cut its feeding down and fly them out a bit more some days, as a fat pigeon is never in condition. We never basket pigeons the night before a show, always in the morning and sometimes ‘yours truly’ is in loft at 3am getting pigeons ready to go to a show, and we never leave them in front of the fire the night before a show. We also do all pigeons with an ‘Ivermectin’ based pour on to keep the lice and worms at bay just before racing and again before showing’.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).