“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT
Paul & Helen Johnson & Chris Greenwood of Hull (Up-Date)
I wrote an article last Christmas featuring Paul and Helen Johnson, highlighting their brilliant performance racing to their loft in Hull. The premier racer in the Johnson loft in recent seasons has been: ‘Jonno’s Boy’ winner in 2017 of 1st club, 1st Federation Huntingdon (895 birds), 1st club, 1st Federation Reed (972 birds), 1st club, 1st Federation Maidstone (779 birds), Beaten by loft to win 2nd club, 2nd Federation Billericay (548 birds). ‘Jonno’s Boy’ was also an RPRA Regional Award winner in the 2017 racing season. This champion cock has come out again in the 2018 racing season and won: 3rd club, 3rd Federation Huntingdon (beaten on the ETS by two loft mattes), 3rd club, 3rd Federation Reed (beaten on the ETS by two loft mates), 1st club, 28th Federation Maidstone, 18th Federation Sleaford, 30th Federation Eastbourne, plus five other club positions. ‘Jonno’s Boy’ was mated to a Casseart stock hen that the partners purchased from Frank Bristow on a visit to his loft in Horbling in Lincolnshire. A yearling cock bred from this pair, now named ‘Young Jonno’, has followed in his father’s footsteps and won in the 2018 racing season: 1st club, 1st Federation Huntington (beating his father), 2nd club Peter borough, 7th club Chelmsford. ‘Jonno’s Boy’ a champion in the truest sense of the word!
The highlights of the partner’s 2018 race results are: (Old Bird): 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Federation Sleaford, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Federation Huntington, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Federation Reed, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th Federation Reed, 2nd Federation Chelmsford, 1st, 8th, 12th section MNFC Coutances, 7th, 18th section MNFC Portsmouth, 2nd, 7th section MNFC Ancenis, 34th open, 1st, 3rd, 4th,7th section MNFC Vire: (Young Bird): 1st Federation Peterborough, 1st Federation Huntington, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th Federation Peterborough, 7th section MNFC Portsmouth, 7th open, 1st section MNFC Falaise. Positions won in the 2018 season (Club) 18 x 1st, 14 x 2nd, 16 x 3rd: (Federation) 7 x 1st, 6 x 2nd, 6 x 3rd, 6 x 4th, 6 x 5th: (MNFC section) 3 x 1st, 1 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd, 1 x 4th. Pigeon racing at its best!
I first met Paul Johnson while I was on a weeklong filming tour in Yorkshire in the mid-1990 and at that time he was racing in the very successful Johnson, Wilson & sons partnership. Harry Wilson is no longer in the sport and Paul has been very successful racing in partnership with his wife, Helen, from there garden in Burton Pidsea, near Hull, for the last fifteen years. There is a third partner, in the form of Paul’s good friend, Chris Greenwood and he concentrates on the stock birds and breeding side of the partnership. The Johnson partners have always raced around 40 cocks on widowhood right from the beginning to the end of the season, and over the last two years when time permits they have been trying 12 widowhood hens racing to old cocks, but Paul maintains, there is still a lot to be learnt! The stock birds are usually paired in early December and rear their first round. The racing widowhood cocks are paired in early January for the proven cocks to rear some youngsters and also take some of the second round off the stock birds. The shorter distance cocks are broken down at the start of the week on depurative and then slowly building them up on Gerry Plus, then on to the widow mixture and fats at the end of the week. The longer distance birds only see the lighter food on their return and on the Sunday morning and have as much as they need especially the days leading up to basketing. The hens aren’t usually shown to the cocks before an inland race for two reasons, with no time after rushing home from work on a Friday afternoon and they think it excites them too much. The cocks know exactly what is coming after going to a couple of training tosses with their bowl turned over in an open nest box! On their return from the race the cock usually see their hens for approx an hour before being taken out. The cocks can usually have five or six tosses before the first race and sometimes have a livener in midweek race if they think it’s necessary for the first six weeks of the season, but never in freezing cold North winds in March. Paul says, ‘the season is a Marathon not a sprint’.
The young birds are trained hard starting at one mile and working up to 12 miles, and are often put up in two’s and three’s on the River Humber bank when time permits. Because of the Humber and distance need to travel over the Humber Bridge the birds are very rarely trained from Lincolnshire. These days they only race the birds with the Yorkshire Middle Route and the East Coast Federation for the inland races and use the Midland National Flying Club for the channel racing. Paul thinks club and Federation channel racing will soon become a thing of the past, with the rising costs and Federations being reluctant to join together, and the birds learn a lot when having to split early from the pack and do it on their own. They treat their birds for canker and respiratory every four weeks alternating fortnightly, also using Naturaline and Cider Vinegar in the water and Gemthapax and herbal oils on their food. While moulting they feed the birds a strong protein mixture and while they have cast their last flight then start to bring them on to a depurative mixture before pairing early in the New Year. The young cocks and hens are split and the cocks are expected to start to claim a box in the widowhood section for January’s pairing up, and the new season ahead.
Les Penycate of Hersham (Up-Date)
One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in the sport of pigeon racing is Les Penycate and to say he has enjoyed some good racing seasons in recent years would be any understatement!
He recorded several premier positions in the 2018 racing season including: 3rd section E, 12th open NFC Coutances young bird National (169 miles). Les is brilliant worker for the Spelthorne RPC and the sport of pigeon racing in general and deserves every success that comes his way! His occupation all his life has been in the fencer building trade and he in recent years retired from work, which has reflected in his outstanding performances with his pigeons. When we moved in to our Claygate house in 1980 Les built a new fence around the perimeter of our garden and has done the replacement work ever since. He is from a fence building family and tells me the late great Surbiton pigeon racer, Arthur Coxon, who was a first class fencer all his life, taught him the trade when he was a young lad. The highlights of recent season for Les was: 2010: 1st club, 1st Three Borders Federation, 1st open SMT Combine St Nazaire (297 miles), 1st club, 3rd Three Borders Federation, 5th open SMT Combine Bergerac ( 450 miles), 1st club, 5th Three Borders Federation, 9th open SMT Combine Messac (255 miles). What fantastic season! The Three Borders Federation held its last old bird race of the 2012 season from Bergerac at the end of July and were included in the SMT Combine convoy, which was 500 birds strong. The Combine were transported to the race point in the south of France and after a two day hold over the birds were liberated at 06.45hrs in a west / north west wind. Les Penycate won the Federation by a ‘country mile’ with a natural Hartog blue chequer cock, sent sitting eggs. The winning blue chequer cock was one of very few birds clocked on the day of liberation in the Combine and took 12 hours 37 minutes to fly the 454 miles home to West Molesey, and won the Federation by 59ypm clear. Les is successful in races from France most seasons and a few years ago won the Three Borders Federation from Nantes (282 miles) with an unpaired Staf Van Reet yearling blue chequer hen. This game pigeon also won the Messac race in the Hersham Club and was a gift from Les' good friend, the late Rod Wynn. Her full performances in 2002 were outstanding, winning 1st club, 1st Federation, 3rd open SMT Combine Nantes (2,342 birds); 1st club, 9th Federation, 24th open SMT Combine Messac (2,205 birds). A wonderful effort by an unpaired yearling! Les’ 2010 St Nazaire SMT Combine winner was his good yearling hen, ‘Debbie’s Girl’, who is named after his daughter and her parents were a pair of Willy Thas pigeons obtained from Mick Betts of Scawsby, near Doncaster. This game hen was lost training as a young bird in September 2009 and returned to the Penycate loft in perfect condition, in February 2010. She was paired up and sent to the first race of her life, inland, feeding a ten day old baby and two week later was entered in her second race from St Nazaire, and won 1st open SMT Combine. Incredible!
Les was born in Kingston in 1939 and his father kept pigeons before the Second World War, in partnership with his three brothers. In 1948, Les was given six youngsters by the premier East Molesey fancier, Joe Stediford, who flew an outstanding pigeon in National races at that time. Prior to owning his own birds, young Les was pigeon mad and fed the streeters in Kingston Market with bread. His father built a loft to house his six young birds and Les joined the Kingston & District Club, flying in the Surrey Federation. He soon added stock from the great Harry Branch of Mitcham to his Stediford youngsters and says that Joe taught him a lot about general pigeon management in the early days. The late, great, Freddie Ranaboldo of East Molesey was the premier fancier at that time, winning inland every week and he also won 1st open Pau NFC. Les has been in the sport for nearly 60 years and says one of his earliest achievements was in 1952 when he won from Libourne with a red chequer after 14 hours on the wing and won the London Federation by a clear 1 hour 40 minutes.
On a personal note!
The YouTube channel is going great and still attacking a lot of world-wide interest, including nearly 8,600 subscribers. When my son, Mark, suggested that I put my massive archive of pigeon films on the Internet he didn’t know what he was starting and to be honest, neither did I. It now hosts over 390 pigeon films and gets between 3,000 and 10,000 views worldwide every day. I have a long list of new pigeon visits lined up for YouTube filming and articles, for after the moult has finished. At the time of writing this article the channel has had well over 3.8 million views since we opened it in March 2016 and I would think we will be on that magic 4 million early in the New Year. Every film is tagged and if you go on to YouTube, type in my name or the name of the fancier you want to look at (lower case) it should all come up. On the article and photo front, the situation has gone through the roof with all the visits I’ve made in recent months and I have a very big stock pile of article waiting to be published. I love being mega busy and after the family time, now spend most of my time playing in the pigeon loft, writing, taking photos and editing the films for the YouTube channel. Some say I have become a recluse! I don’t race pigeons anymore and breeding world class winners, my pigeon fancy writing, website and the YouTube channel is my main hobby now. I get a massive amount of phone calls, emails and comments from fanciers interested in my work and I spend at least an hour every day answering them, which has always been par for the course.
I’ve been very busy writing, doing photos and updating the Website for the new 2019 season. My Internet website on: www.keithmott.com is a massive job every winter and is now fully updated for the new season. We had several outstanding reports of fanciers winning with our birds in the 2018 racing season, including 2nd, 12th, 33rd, 60th open National and 9th open Combine. Although our stock team has an excellent record of producing premier winners for many fancier in the UK, we have changed a few of our pairings around for the 2019 season, just to try some new ideas. We will have four pure Eric Cannon pairs at stock and a half-brother / half-sister matings out of our champion Eric Cannon red cock, ‘Foxwarren Fred’. A ‘star’ mating in 2019 will be, ‘Foxwarren Barcelona Boy’, a full brother to ‘Half Crown’, dam of 1st open International Agen 2015 paired to the champion Brian Denney stock hen ‘Lady Tuff Nut’, daughter of Champion ‘Tuff Nut’. The 2016 season saw three new children of Champion ‘Foxwarren Fred’ put in the stock section and two new direct introductions from our good friend Brian Denney, in the form of ‘Strensall Lad’ and ‘Thelma’. These two new blue stock birds from Brian are children of Champion ‘Brian’s Blue’, winner in 2008 of 1st section K, 61st open NFC Tarbes Grand National (4,035 birds), NFC record holder being clocked at 748 miles on the day of liberation. ‘Brian’s Blue’ also won 1st North East 700 Mile Club, 1st RPRA UK Long Distance Champion, plus RPRA Region Long Distance Award. A fantastic performance! The dam of these two new stock birds was a daughter of Champion ‘Dark Dancer’. The very best of Eric Cannon and Brian Denney’s 750 mile family! These two very successful families of Eric Cannon and Brian Denney were the main ones raced at ‘Foxwarren Lofts’, but we do have two pairs of the Gaby Vandenbeele pigeons bred for us by our good friends, Mark and Dick Evans. These Gaby Vandenabeeles have bred some super winning youngsters in the last six seasons, including 1st open Combine. Terry Haley hit the ‘jackpot’ again in the 2017 racing season and finished it off in a very special fashion, when he recorded 1st Combine twice in seven days. Just brilliant! The Aycliffe young bird win, Terry’s fifth Combine winner, was a great buzz for me personally, as the winning blue hen, now named ‘Misty Missile’, was a granddaughter of ‘The Watford Wizard’, the Gaby Vandenabeele cock we bred for Terry. ‘Misty Missile’ and ‘The Watford Wizard’ both won 1st Watford NR Club, 1st Thames Valley Federation, 1st North Thames NR Combine Aycliffe as young birds. Amazing! We had several other good winners reported in the 2017 season, including 2nd open National. Mick Parish’s first pigeon on the clock from the very hard 2017 Barcelona race was an Eric Cannon pigeon and grandson of ‘Foxwarren Ryan’ and ‘Foxwarren Katie’.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT.