“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
‘Show Racer World’ Number 13.
Stan Wheatley of Middlesbrough.
While I was in the North East of England, judging at the N.E.H.U. Peterlee Show, I visited the top show racer loft of Mr. & Mrs. Stan Wheatley of Middlesbrough. Stan has a very smart 9ft.x 6ft. self built loft, and only keeps a very small team of 16 pigeons, including stock birds. Stan maintains it only takes one bird to win a show and his ‘motto’ is quality and not quantity. The loft is full of quality, winning at every major show, many times through the years, including B.I.S. at the R.P. Old Comrades Show three times, twice Supreme Champion at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show, Reserve Supreme Champion Blackpool, eight times B.I.S. N.E.H.U. Peterlee Show, B.I.S. Nottingham National Young Bird Show three years on the trot, B.I.S. Scottish Championship Show and B.I.S. at the last Louella Classic Show.
The wonderful loft has two sections, closed in glass front and has a floor dressing of loft white, and play pit sand. The loft has ‘V’ perches, as Stan doesn’t like box perches, as the birds are sitting in their own droppings and are harder to clean up on show day. The birds are paired up in mid-January and Stan only breeds off five pairs. He likes Mealies and Reds, and maintains good stock birds are like gold dust, with outstanding show birds not always making good stock birds. Stan’s champion Mosaic hen, winner of B.I.S. Old Comrades Show 1991 and B.I.S. N.E.H.U. Show, had never bred her like. This great hen was the family pet and had won B.I.S. countless times at premier shows. The Mosaic hen was always paired to Stan, being very tame, and at night wouldn’t go to her perch until he had come to the loft and said good night to her.
Stan has been in the sport over 50 years and has had the Doug McClary family of pigeons for many of those years. Most of the present day team are bred around the old Mike Hale Mealy cock, ‘Caesar’, and he had bred winners at every major show for Stan and many other fanciers in the Show Racer world. ‘Caesar’ was always paired to a Red and Stan told me, ‘the darker the Red, the better’. Another ace we looked at in Stan’s loft was a wonderful Dark Chequer hen, and she had won everywhere, including B.I.S. Louella Classic and had bred many good winners.
Stan’s birds are shown unpaired and go to eight to ten shows in a season. He doesn’t like his birds to be too tame, and maintains flighty birds keep themselves more show fit. In the show pen flighty birds don’t tend to lay down and always look tight feathered and on their toes. The birds are fed on a mixture of beans, peas, and maize, with Stan’s own seed mixture, and get garlic in the water, three times a week. The birds don’t fly out, but Stan says that he wishes they did because they would stay fitter for the pen. Stan is very proud of his grandson, Stevie Wheatley, who shows pigeons in his own right, with outstanding success. Stevie has won B.I.S. at the N.E.H.U. Peterlee show many times and Supreme Champion at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show in 1997. Stan’s son, Steve senior, races pigeon with outstanding success, flying in Middlesbrough, which is one of the hotbeds of pigeon racing in the north east of England. Stan won B.I.S. at the R.P. Old Comrades Show for the second time in 1997, with a four year old Dark Chequer hen and she had previously won a second at the 1996 Old Comrades. She was a full sister to the champion Dark hen that won B.I.S. at the last Louella Classic. A brilliant family of Show Racers!
Mark Hylands of Port Talbot.
Mark Hylands is one of the premier show in this country, having won consistently at the highest level in the Show Racer world. The lad from South Wales first started up with racing pigeon at the age of nine and tells me there were no pigeon fanciers in his family. Mark recalls, a fancier named Roy Denner was the best local racer at that time. He formed good friendship with Royce Davies of Sandfield and the lads formed a pigeon partnership, racing as Davies & Hylands. Mark was 11 years of age at the time and they joined the very strong Liberal Club (46 members), which was affiliated to the Welsh North Road Federation. Mark says that his good friend Royce Davies is still the best fancier in Port Talbot today! The young Mark had his first Show Racers from the late Will Morley of Port Talbot at the age of 13 and these were housed in a 10ft.x 6ft. loft. At that time, although he had some show birds, he was still hooked on the racing pigeons. Like all true Welsh men, when Mark was younger he played Rugby for his local club, Aberavon Green Star R.F.C.
When I asked Mark how he got on when started up, his reply was, ‘I only had three pairs of show birds, one pair from Will Morley, another from Will Williams of Glyncorrwg and the third from Brian Jones of Bridgewater. My favourite bird was a blue hen from Will Williams and she won the big show held in Swansea. That was my first big win, I was over the moon! On the racing side; I will never forget one particular day when we were racing three races, Lerwick with the Welsh Grand National, Elgin with the Mid Glamorgan Championship Club and a club race from Shrewsbury with the Welsh N.R. Federation. This particular day Royce had to go to work and clocking in was down to me, which was a huge responsibility for a 13 year old. There was a tail wind from Shrewsbury and I clocked to win the Federation, and then went on to time the Combine winner from Elgin. Royce phoned to say that the Lerwick birds would be home on the day, having been liberated at 06.00hrs. in a North East wind. At 18.12hrs I timed the black pied hen, sent sitting 10 day old eggs and this game hen recorded 1st. open Welsh Grand National, first birds in to Wales. What a day, that I will never forget!’
In the early days the racers came from M. Matthews and Ayton Marshall of the Up North Combine fame, and the first really successful show birds were obtained from David Shuttleworth of Bridgend. David was a great all round fancier and had the best Reds and Mealies at that time. When Mark worked in Essex he visited the great Bill Meader at every spare moment he had, to learn the showing ‘trade’ from one of the all time greats. Mark says, Bill Meader was the ‘master’ and he learnt a lot from him. One of the best birds he ever owned was a mealy pied hen gift from ‘wee’ Jimmy Fitzpatrick of Glasgow and she was the mother of his loft. Mark says what a pigeon! He maintains ‘wee’ Jimmy is the best all round pigeon man on the show scene today and there is nothing he hasn’t won. Mark’s first society was the very strong Monmouth S.R.S., which at that time had a membership like a ‘who’s who’ of some of the best Show Racer fanciers in the sport. He won his first Best in Show in the Monmouth and it was like winning an open show. Mark told me his early mistakes were over feeding and losing! After some time off from the sport, Mark restarted with show birds in 1989, with birds obtained from David Shuttleworth, ‘wee’ Jimmy Fitzpatrick and a very good friend, Donald Brown of Campbell town in Scotland. He combined the birds from these great fanciers together and they ‘clicked’.
Marks present loft set up at Port Talbot consists of a 12ft.x 8ft. stock loft, with an aviary and a 35ft.x 10ft. show loft, with an aviary, which is open all the year round. The loft has skylights in the roof to increase the light, he thinks ultraviolet is important for conditioning pigeons. In the loft contentment and feeding management are the most important things and he is against deep litter, because it is to messy and dusty. He likes to clean out twice a day, if possible.
When I asked Mark about his general management, he told me, ‘I don’t race any more. I concentrate on show birds, but if I was racing, the distance birds would be raced on the natural system, sprint to middle distance would be flown on the widowhood system, with the youngster going on the darkness system. Back to the showing; I keep about 40 show birds and breed about 60 young birds because it’s difficult to breed a champion, because every judge is different. There should be a standard for Show Racers i.e.; reds and mealies should have black eyes and blues should have good bars and plenty of colour. I find my late breds are always my best yearlings and find the best young birds are bred from yearlings. The corn I use is the best, a prestige mixture by the Versele-Laga corn merchants, which contains five different peas, popcorn maize etc. For conditioning I use plain canary seed. I think it is important to bathe the birds the day before a show and normally three times a week, also treat for cancer once a month’.
Mark pairs his 20 pairs up just after the B.H.W. Blackpool Show. All his Dark Chequers are bred down from his champion hen, ‘Nancy’, which was bred by Mark’s good friend, Russell Davison of Edinburgh. Even to the untrained eye you can tell this hen is very special, as her record tells you: B.I.S. ‘Old Comrades’ Shoe 2004, twice B.I.S. Edinburgh Show, twice B.I.S. N.E.H.U. Peterlee Show and to finish it off, twice Reserve Supreme Champion B.H.W. Blackpool Show. What a pigeon! When selecting birds, Mark, likes a long cast, a good head and a good size, not to small. He doesn’t like coloured birds and tells me he has just introduced some new stock from Darren Gibbons of Grimsby and Peter Kendall of Bideford. He normally keeps about 40 young birds and these are fed the same as the old bird show team. His job is a pipe fitter, which takes him working all over the U.K. and E.U., and sometimes only comes home once a month. He has some good friends that look after the bird well when he is away working, but it can be difficult when something goes wrong and he is not there to sort it out.
He first entered the ‘Old Comrades’ Show at the N.E.C. Birmingham in 1990 and won Best Young Bird and Best in Show, with his champion blue hen, ‘Lockie’s Gift’, which was bred by the late, John Lock of South Wales. Other premier birds at Mark’s Port Talbot loft are: ‘Peaches & Cream’, Mark told me she is the best Mealy he has ever seen and is a champion breeder, being the dam of his loft. She is 11 flighted and has won through the wires: ‘Fatty’, winner of five times Best in Show including at the R.P.R.A. Southern Region Show and Reserve Supreme Champion at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show: ‘The Beard’, winner of 11 times Best in Show. This wonderful Mealy cock has won two firsts at the ‘Old Comrades’ Show and three firsts at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show: ‘Spanish Princess’, Supreme Champion at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show, B.I.S. Monmouth S.R.S. Show: ‘Brownie’, Reserve Supreme Champion B.H.W. Blackpool Show, B.I.S. Monmouth S.R.S. Show. A wonderful loft record!
Mark says Show Racers should have dark eyes; he doesn’t like yellow eyes and maintains it is a fault. He believes in inbreeding his pigeons and told me late bred quite often make the best stock birds. When I asked Mark about the Show Racer scene in general, he said, ‘I would like to see only show men judging show birds, because racing men will always go for the smaller types of pigeons, with small heads and yellow eyes. You wouldn’t ask a show man to judge a 500 mile class! Just because a racing man has won a National or big race it doesn’t mean he knows about Show Racers. (Mark, I gave your beautiful pair of reds the first card at the ‘Old Comrades’, when I judged at the N.E.C. a few years ago! Keith.) Show Racers should be bigger, bolder and beautiful, and in the main racing pigeons are smaller and finer. I think a racing man will always go for the type of bird he keeps.
The late, great John Lock of Abercynon.
One of the best Show Racer lofts that I visited was that of the late John Lock, the South Wales ace, who was in partnership with some local Welsh lads, calling them selves, Lock, Little and Barry. John had been in the sport for 30 years and the show loft was sited at his Abercynon home, with the stock birds some miles away at Ron Barry’s address. The partners housed most colours in their show loft, but liked Silvers best. The loft had won countless firsts through the years, including B.I.S. R.P. Old Comrades Show, B.I.S. B.H.W. Blackpool Show, twice Champion at the Young Bird National, B.O.S. Old Comrades Show and many more championship wins. On my visit to John’s loft, he showed me his champion Silver hen, which had won many major wins, including B.I.S. Monmouth Show and firsts at the B.H.W. Blackpool Show, R.P. Old Comrades Show and the Louella Classic. This wonderful hen was bred down from original pigeons from Doug McClary of Exeter, in Devon.
The main show loft was 24ft. long and had normal box perches and widowhood style nest box fronts. The partners bred 60 young birds each year, and after grading them, a few were sold. The youngsters mainly got three major shows and four society shows in their first season. The show loft housed 20 pairs of old birds and the thing I remember the most about John’s loft, was the thick bed of clean savings all over the floor. The stock partings housed 12 pairs and when bringing in new stock the partners liked to see a good skull on the bird. The birds were fed on widowhood mixture and got a bath once a week. John always said his management was nothing special and was always kept very simple. The partner’s team was formed in 1984 with birds from Doug McClary, the Silvers from a fancier in Gwent and the Doug McClary Mealies through Dave Williams of Swansea. The late, John Lock was a wonderful show man!
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).