“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Looking back at London & South East Classic Club winners (Part 25).
Garry Inkley of Hillingdon.
During the week building up to the 2012 Tours Classic everyone was worried about the strong Easterly winds forecast for that weekend, including myself, but full credit to our Saturday team, we had a hard, but very good race. The weather for the whole weekend was wall to wall blue sky and sun shine, but the sting in the tail was the strong easterly wind right from the liberation site through to the home lofts in the UK. The lads got the birds up nice and early and gave the birds a good start, producing an excellent race, with the winner doing over 1300 ypm. A fantastic velocity in that wind!
Garry Inkley of Hillingdon won the Tours Classic and recorded his fourth L&SECC winner, being a previous winner from Dax in 2003, Alencon in 2008 and Falaise in 2010. Garry was fast becoming one of the premier Classic and National racers in the South of England, putting up outstanding performances every season. I marked all the ETS birds at the Leatherhead marking station and on the day I commented what wonderful condition Garry Inkley’s birds were in and they proved to be well on top of the hard fly. The latest Inkley classic winner was a game yearling blue hen raced on the widowhood system. Her sire was a grandson of ‘Golden Lady’ from Premier Stud and her dam was a Janssen from Moore x Odgen and Goden. Garry told me at that time that three of his L&SECC winners went back to Premier Stud stock.
Garry first became interested in pigeons as a nine year old when on a summer’s day in 1967 he rescued a stray pigeon whilst playing football on the local green. With some help from his pigeon fancier grandfather, he converted an 8ft.x 6ft. garden shed into a pigeon loft and a team of Logans were set up for him, by his grandfather. Garry says, after a year of breeding his own birds and training them from 3 miles on his bike, with heavy losses, his parents had noticed that he had become obsessed with pigeons. Consequently, his father encouraged him further and applied to join the Hayes N.R.F.C. in 1968 as J. Inkley & son, in order to fly the 1969 season. Garry maintains that members of the Hayes club were a great bunch of characters, amongst who was the late, great Ken Hine, who lived opposite the Inkleys. As the Logans were lost by the seventh old bird race from 300 miles, Garry looked forward to young bird racing, where he won his first prize cards. It was at the end of 1974 that Garry was invited to become Ken Hines partner and Gary says it was then that his pigeon education began. Together with Ken and George Burgess he visited some of the best lofts in the country, including Peter Titmuss, Ron Mitchieson, Eric Cannon and Tubby Tate. As the insignificant 17 year old boy in the group, the young Garry always kept his mouth shut, but his eyes and ears open to learn anything he could from the greats of the sport.
Garry’s pigeon education took a massive leap forward when on a trip to the Blackpool Show he met Bob McDonald of Fraserburgh, who was on his stand, displaying his Ko Nipius family. Garry was astounded at the quality of Bob’s pigeons and immediately ordered six youngsters for the following year. In 1980 he met his wife, Val, and pigeons started to become a close second and consequently the partnership of Hine & Inkley went its separate ways. In 1984 Garry and Val were married and moved to their present address in Hillingdon. A very close friendship had developed between Garry and Bob McDonald and the Inkley loft raced the Ko Nipius pigeons hard up to 560 miles, with much success, including 1st Bergerac (only bird on the day), 1st Marmande (only bird on the day) and twice 1st Dax (545 miles), with the same pigeon. Garry considers Bob to be a master at conditioning pigeons and developing a family. The other great influence on Garry was Eddie Newcombe, now in Malta and they became good friends, consequently many Festival eggs were brought home in a loaf of bread and reared at the Huntingdon loft. During the 1990s Garry progressed winning a car, the Federation countless times and won his second R.P.R.A. Award in 1999 in the form of the Victory Trophy. This trophy was for the best three longest races and Garry maintains it’s a proud moment when your name is on the same trophy as Alf Baker and Jim Biss. Through the years Garry has gone on and won everything in front of him at Combine, Classic and National level, with the climax being his wonderful victory in the 2012 Tours Classic.
Tony and Dol Fletcher of Old Woking.
The late Tony Fetcher and his wife, Dol, of Old Woking flew in the Pyrford Social R.P.C. and two nicer people you couldn't find! They won the Nantes Yearling Derby and were the first L&SECC winners of the ‘Brooker Gold Cup’ in 1998. Their record in the L&SECC was outstanding since joining the club in 1994, winning countless positions including: 1998 1st open Nantes (Yearling Derby), 6th open Guernsey; 1997 2nd open Alencon; 1995 4th open Angers, 7th open Poitiers, 7th open Vire; 1994 9th open Corancez. A brilliant loft performance! Tony and Dol's Nantes Yearling Derby winner was their Janssen blue cock called ‘Blue Fly’, bred down from Ponderosa bloodlines with his dam, a wonderful blue hen, winning 1st club, 1st Federation as a young bird. He was a widowhood cock, paired up two days before he was sent to the Nantes Classic and had previously won 43rd open L&SECC Alencon in 1998. This game cock is medium apple-bodied in the hand and had a full wing when he won the 1998 Nantes Classic, which was a wonderful performance. Tony had been in pigeon racing for over 20 years at that time, having previously been a budgie breeder and to say that he was thrilled to win the Classic would be an understatement.
The main racing loft was 18ft x 6ft with open-door trapping, grilled floors and was made up of three sections. The loft had a lucky horseshoe, which I noticed was fixed upside down and when I asked Tony why it was fixed this way, he said that in Belgium they practise this 'to pour the bad luck out’. Since he turned the lucky horseshoe over in 1994, he had had fantastic success! He raced 12 cocks on the widowhood system and they competed up to 400 miles, being normally re-paired for the long-distance races at the end of the season. The cocks raced every two weeks, being broken down after the race, at which time their com was beefed up with peanuts for the long-distance events. They were paired up on 7th January and were trained hard for ten days before the first Federation race, with the odd toss in the season. They were flown out around the loft for one hour morning and evening and were fed at the same time every day. The cocks were shown the hens on marking night and got their female on their return from the race. Their stock loft was full of successful Classic pigeons including ‘Flash’, winner of 2nd open Alencon L&SECC, 7th open Poitiers L&SECC and ‘YoungStretch’, winner of 1st club, 1st Three Borders Federation Weymouth, 6th open Guernsey L&SECC. A brilliant family of pigeons!
Callum Edmiston of Horley.
The London & South East Classic Club sent 836 birds to Pau in 1997 and the weekend after the Blue Riband race I made the 30 mile drive to Horley near Gatwick Airport to see the Classic winner owned by Cullum Edmiston. His Pau champion, a Busschaert dark chequer hen called ‘Redburn Mary’ was clocked on the day of liberation, flying 540 miles to chipping eggs. This hen was pure class, having only seven races in her three seasons racing and previously won in 1996: 24th open L&SECC Pau, 1997: 2nd section BBC Nantes, a very hard race, then went on to win 1st open Pau in the Classic. She flew 540 miles on the day from Pau and had never raced inland. This game hen was bred by Cullum's father from the Bradley Brothers bloodlines and her sire won 1st open Solent Federation (6,000 birds) by over 60ypm clear.
Cullum had been in the sport for 25 years, previously racing in partnership with his father up to 10 years previous when he moved to Horley and started up on his own. He never races in a Saturday club and was only interested in 500 mile on the day racing. His record at the time in the Pau Classic since living at his present address is 1994: 4th, 21st, 23rd open, 1996: 13th, 19th, 24th, 28th, 38th open and then 1st open in 1997. The loft had won many major open positions in the shorter Classics, but Cullum wasn’t really interested in those events. He kept only 12 pairs of racers, which were mainly of the Tom Gilbertson of Cumbria family and paired up on 7th February. His system of racing was basically natural, but in 1997 they reared one youngster and then were put on a roundabout system. The racers were trained hard including four single-ups from Dover and two from Weymouth before all going to the 1997 Alencon Classic. Then they were paired up just before the Pau Classic and had peanuts added to their mixture. Cullum's young birds got about 50 or 60 training tosses from the south coast and all went to the Young Bird Classic race.
Gordon Robinson of Dunstable.
I remember my visit to Pau for the 1998 Classic, because it's the first time I had seen the Pyrenees looming up behind the city of Pau, with the sky being crystal clear. Members sent 781 birds for this Classic and being liberated in a south wind, 22 game pigeons were recorded on the day of liberation. Gordon Robinson of Dunstable won the race clocking at 19.50hrs and this Bedfordshire loft belonged to one of the longest flying members at 590 miles. Robbo loved long distance pigeon races and through his many years in the sport had had all his major performances from the distance, including 2nd, 3rd section, 3rd, 4th open Banff South of England NRFC, 1st section BBC Nantes and had won 1st Federation three times with young birds. Robbo's star pigeon was a five year old dark chequer cock of the Schumann strain and he had flown the programme on widowhood before being paired up two weeks prior to the Pau Classic. He went to Pau sitting seven day old eggs and had previously won 4th section BBC Nantes. A wonderful pigeon!
Robbo had been in the sport since he was ten years of age and his family were of the American Schumann strain, which have been outstanding at the distance for him. He paired his 24 pairs in the Christmas holiday and the widowhood cocks got six training tosses before the first race. The racers were re-paired two weeks before Pau and were fed a heavy breeding mixture all season, although he broke the cocks down early in the season. The birds were not trained once racing starts and he liked the short races to maintain fitness. The main racing loft, which was sited in a wire compound, was closed in and the inmates were trapped through the old fashioned bob wires. His 45 young birds were raced to the perch and were trained regularly in any direction. They were fed a breeding mixture and raced all the way including the Channel.
John McGee of Worthing.
John McGee won the 1990 Pau Grand National with a Janssen blue hen on the widowhood system and in 1998 he won 1st open London & South East Classic Club from Alencon with another blue widowhood hen bred down from the same lines. The 1990 season was one of his best, winning 1st open Pau National, 33 times 1st club and several times 1st Federation. A brilliant season! John had recorded some outstanding performance in the NFC in recent seasons including: 1st section A, 67th open Pau, 19th section A, 84th open Sennen Cove, 4th section A, 89th open San Sebastian, 2nd section A, 102nd open Guernsey, 7th section A, 102nd open San Sebastian and 8th section A, 216th open Guernsey.
John started up in the sport in 1975 and has enjoyed outstanding success every season, racing from all distances. The McGee loft had won the Federation countless times through the years and John said he enjoyed any race, from 60 through to 600 miles. He raced mainly cocks and hens on the roundabout system, with a few cocks on the widowhood, all of which were paired up in mid-February. The sexes were trained separately, but were often sent to the same race, with no real problem with trapping if the cocks and hens arrive home together. John had two smart racing lofts and both were closed in for the roundabout system. The old birds loft had a pan tile roof, three sections, and the old birds were trapped in a corridor and through open doors. The young birds loft had sputnik traps and the inmates were raced on the light system. His wonderful team of youngsters were on the light 20 hours every day and followed John around the garden, like a flock of sheep, looking for their peanuts. John’s pigeons were 90% Janssen, with a few Jan Aarden and were bred down from Belgium Gold Wing champion bloodlines. He had the ‘Houdini’ bloodlines and said his best racers including his Pau National winner were from these lines. His 16 pairs of stock birds were housed in a nice big stock loft, with a wire flight. One of John’s stock birds, which I looked at on my visit to his Worthing lofts, was a handsome blue chequer cock, a retired champion racer which had won twenty times first on the road and he was half-brother to the Pau National winner. His full brother was the sire of the 1998 London & South East Classic Club Alencon winner. A wonderful family of pigeons! John McGee now lives in France with his family and is the proprietor of the famous ‘Barcelona Challenge’ lofts.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).