“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
‘Show Racer World’ Number 14.
Valerie Viccars of High Wycombe.
We are going to feature a lady who has been a good worker for the sport for many years and has now taken more of a ‘back seat’ in recent years. I was looking forward to visiting the High Wycombe lofts of Tony and Valerie Viccars for some time and I finally achieved the visit on a cold, frosty, Saturday morning, in the depths of winter. Tony raced in the local club with outstanding success, but the purpose of my visit was to see Val’s show racer team, after her outstanding performances in recent seasons.
Val was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, and lived there until she and Tony got married, when they moved to the High Wycombe area, where Val was a secretary for a firm of solicitors. Initially Tony kept a few racing pigeons in 1983 on moving in to their cottage, bought a few fantails for the garden. This went down well with the neighbours, so after a couple of years Tony bought stock birds from Louella and started racing with the Wycombe Coly. In December of that year they went to the Old Comrades Show at the N.E.C. Birmingham and Val was immediately interested in the show birds on display. They got talking to one of the judges, Reg Price of Worcester, about the sport and the Show Racers, and he agreed to sell Val two pairs of stock birds. A couple of weeks later they picked them up from Reg and paired them up in one of the sections in Tony’s racing loft. The following year Valerie met up with top show man, Bill Meader of Rainham, Essex, and his colleague, Tommy Jones, who gave her a great deal of help and advice, and provided her with some excellent stock birds. Bill and Tommy, and their wives became very close friends of the Viccars.
In 1985 Val bought her own Show Racer loft off the late Ted Hills of Tonbridge and Tony built on to the original loft and finished up with six sections. Four sections had wire bays, each with a concealed bath which drained to the outside of the loft keeping the inside nice and dry. Val was a member of the Midlands Show Racer Society of Shipton on Stour, where she won the Points Trophy for several seasons and was the Society Champion. The Society was run by Angela and Alan Noyce who did an excellent job of organising five club shows each year, followed by the Championship event in January. Val’s local show was the R.P.R.A. Southern Region Show, which she attended most years and in 1989 she won B.I.S. with a young Mosaic hen. In 1992 she achieved B.O.S. at the London Show at Edmonton, with a three year old Silver Mosaic hen. She won several firsts at the Old Comrades and in 1994 had two firsts, one of which won Best Young Bird in Show. The Viccars pigeons won first and best through the wires at the Louella Classic in 1990 and at the first R.P. Southern Classic at Bournemouth, she won two firsts, with her good Grizzle hen winning reserve Best in Show. To finish off a great 1996 season Val won two firsts in the Inter Society classes at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show and with other cards, she picked up the trophy for Most Points in the six Inter Society classes. Valerie was the secretary of British Show Racer Federation for several years, with John Robilliard as chairman and Doug McClary president.
The show team was made up of mainly ten pairs and the three pairs of stock birds were paired up two weeks after the Blackpool Show. Val told me, when pairing up she tried to concentrate on the colour and size, and liked to house only two pairs in a section in the loft, to stop fighting. She usually had an 80% success rate with hatching from the first two rounds, the second being better than the first. The number of youngsters was then reduced over the next few months, to about 25 before their first outing, which was the Thames Agricultural Show.
Val fed the same corn all year around, which was a 50% / 50% mixture of Versele-Laga Super Widowhood and Star Brand Super Junior. At the weaning stage youngsters were given extra maple peas and as a treat all the birds got a little Red Band two or three times a week. As far as the water was concerned she added garlic once a week and minerals twice a week. The show team got one bath every week, normally two days before the event. She tried to keep the birds in good condition all the year round, but more effort went in during the week before a show.
Darren Christie of Dunaghy in Northern Ireland.
Many fanciers made their annual drive up to Blackpool in mid-January for the main event of the Show Racer calendar, the 2019 British Homing World ‘Show of the Year’. This year’s event attacked a show entry of 2,000 birds and ‘Best in Show’ over all at Blackpool was won by a beautiful Show Racer silver blue cock owned by Darren Christie of Dunaghy in Northern Ireland. Darren has named his champion cock, ‘Barney’, and tells me he has had a lot of good wins previously, including ‘Best in Show’ at the INFC Show in Lisburn in 2017 and also won ‘Best in Show’ at an open show the week after the 2019 Blackpool event. He named his silver blue cock after his friend, John Barnes, who gifted him a silver blue hen which was his dam and his sire was blue cock bred through gift pigeons from Jimmy Fitzpatrick of Cambuslang in Scotland.
Darren was 12 years old when he started up in pigeons, the main reason being because his next door neighbour, Andy McCook, kept pigeons and he has now been in the sport 30 years. He obtain his first stock from Thomas Rouke and he gave Darren a pair of mealies to start him off and his first winner was a mealy hen. Thomas Rouke, Harry Spratt and Fitzpatrick & Fleming drew his attention on their performances in the early years. T. & K. Mawhinney of Ireland have a wonderful family of blue pied racing pigeons and they won ‘Best Racer in Show’ twice at the BHW Blackpool Show, first time winning ‘Best Racer in Show’ in 2014, both with blue pied cocks. Darren’s first successes were achieved with the Thomas Rouke and the Fitzpatrick & Fleming pigeons, when competing in the Northern Ireland Show Racer Society and his first loft was 10ft x 6ft, with two sections. He considers T. K. Mawhinney who shows Racing Pigeons to be the best fanciers in his area and he is a good friend, who gives Darren advice and help when needed. Darren was in partnership with Thomas Rouke for twelve years and they were known as Rouke and Christie. He tells novice to get pigeons from top fancier and look at different loft set up before choosing they own loft set up. Darren works as a council worker and is a part-time DJ, and told me his biggest thrill in his time as a pigeon fancier was winning ‘Best in Show’ at the BHW Blackpool Show.
When I asked Darren what he looks for in a Show Racer he told me, ‘what I look for in a pigeon is a good darker eye, nice strong colour, pear shape in the hand and a good strong head. At present my birds are my own family and to create this family, I obtained birds from James Fitzpatrick, Alistair Tankard and John Barnes’. Darren has three lofts, with the main Show Racer one being 25ft x 7ft with a two foot outshoot with four sections for cocks. The second loft is 16ft x 7ft with a two foot outshoot with two sections for hens. The young bird loft is 10ft x 7ft and he breeds around 50 to 60 youngsters each year. Darren keeps around 20 pairs of Show Racers and likes to have five or six spare hens so he can change the pairs around.
Sandra Williams of Camborne.
Sandra Williams has raced pigeons very successfully for many years, in partnership with her husband, Graham, but what she is better known for is her wonderful fancier press writing and the great success she has achieved with her team of Show Racers.
In January 1998, Graham and Sandra were invited to judge at the B.H.W. ‘Show of the Year’ Blackpool, and thought it to be quite an honour to be asked. They had no idea what classes they were to judge, but were thrilled to be told on their arrival in the Winter Gardens that they were handling two classes of young Show Racers. Sandra’s father passed away just two days before travelling to Blackpool, and his dying wish was that she went, whatever the outcome. She had very mixed emotions on that weekend in Blackpool, sadness and the thrill of excitement and nervousness that goes with judging at one of the biggest pigeon shows in the world. She went down the aisle between the show pens with her judging stick, making them all stand up and thought to herself, they were the finest array of pigeons she had ever seen! She judged at racing pigeon shows many times with her hubby, Graham, but to judge at Blackpool, is an experience she will never forget. She started to judge in the Winter Gardens at 20.00hrs and at 23.35hrs she had picked out a beautiful young Mealy cock, which says literally took her breath away. There was one to have beaten him, but sadly when Sandra held out his wing, a moth had eaten away a bit of his flight. Her winning Show Racer had it all, beautiful head, a well-balanced body, the soft fine feather, a mealies ‘black pea’ eye and a wonderful stance. She gave him ten out of ten! Next morning she was greeted by John Robilliard who asked her, what she had selected and she told him, it was a Mealy belonging to Fitzpatrick, Fleming and Coutts of Glasgow. Sandra’s selection went on to win Best Young Bird in Show and on meeting ‘wee’ Jimmy Fitzpatrick, he told her it had previously won ten firsts. After that first meeting at Blackpool, Sandra and Jimmy became very good friends and several years later Jimmy gave Sandra the Blackpool Mealy cock as a 50th birthday present.
After the Blackpool weekend Sandra couldn’t get those gorgeous Show Racers out of her mind and had been well and truly smitten with them. She rang Jimmy Fitzpatrick in Glasgow and decided to purchase some Show Racers from him. Sandra says, Jimmy was her ‘mentor’ after that and taught her all she knows about Show Racers, with some invaluable help from her husband, Graham. With the birds she had sent down from Scotland, there was a superb Mealy cock that had won Supreme Champion at the Blackpool for the Fitzpatrick, Fleming & Coutts partnership. Sandra bred some wonderful Mealies from these original birds that were the foundation of her Show Racer loft. ‘56’ as he was known, bred Sandra a young Mealy cock, which won Supreme Champion at the Duchy R.P.C. Open Show (578 birds) at Polgooth in November 2001 and then the handsome cock was named, ‘Celtic Supreme’. He went forward and was entered in the Supreme Champion of Great Britain class at the Blackpool Show in January 2002 and was 3rd of the 17 champions entered, and won the R.P.R.A. Show Racer award for that year. In 2002 Sandra bred, ‘Joe 90’, a Mealy cock from ‘Celtic Supreme’, and this young cock which was the spitting image of his father, and won Best in Show twice as a young bird. ‘Celtic Supreme’ bred many outstanding show birds, including a sweet hen called, ‘Snowdrop’, which won Best of Series and overall Champion at the South West Show Racer Society. The dam of ‘Celtic Supreme’ was a Mealy hen loaned to Sandra by the well-known show man, Roland Thresher. Within a couple of years Sandra had a loft full of winners. In January 2002 ‘Celtic Lass’ had a B.B.C. film crew visit her loft to record her wonderful Show Racer team and feature the great ‘Celtic Supreme’.
Her birds always had access to an aviary, where they had two or three baths a week. The loft was scrapped out at least once a day, sometimes twice, especially if a show was coming up. Sandra’s feeding regime consisted of beans, peas and tares, which was fed once a day in the show season. The birds were given all the normal grit, pick-stones and Condition seed. The youngsters were the same, but never allowed to get fat, as there is a fine line to handling well. Before she paired the stock birds they were fed very light, which was usually after the Blackpool Show. The light feeding continues until they lay and then the better food is increased, and this mixture continues right through the breeding season.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).