“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
‘Show Racer World’ Number 1.
The beginning of November marks the start of the current 2018 show season and I must say I’m looking forward to visiting all the major shows, this winter. Although I love long distance racing pigeons, many of my racing friends can’t understand my passion for showing pigeons. I suppose I’m a bit of a frustrated show man at heart! I think breeding pigeons for type and winning with them at a Classic show is as much an art as breeding outstanding racers, and winning a National race. I derive as much pleasure out of seeing a Best in Show winner at the National shows, as I do a National race winning pigeon, but I think I’m one of the lucky ones, as I can enjoy both sides of our great sport. Although I’m mostly known for the racing side of the sport, I have a big involvement in the Show Racers scene and have judged at all the Classic and National shows through the years, which I have really enjoyed. I have made many good and close friends in the Show Racer world over the years, through my judging at National and Society shows, and over the next few months we are going to feature some of the premier Show Racer lofts in our new ‘Show Racer World’ series of articles. I hope my readers enjoy this series of articles, as I’m looking forward to writing them!
The winter shows.
Although I was a keen pigeon racer, I also loved showing my birds and I couldn’t turn off in
September, as soon as we finished racing, I switched into show mode! If I had a big garden and not the postage stamp we have now, I would defiantly have a second loft for Show Racers as well as my long distance racing team. I have won hundreds of prizes and trophies through the years showing his birds, and have won at all the National Shows. I’m well sort after ever winter as a judge, which is something I enjoy very much and travels hundreds of miles carrying out the duty, and have judged at most of the big Show Racer Society Open Shows countless times, four times at the BHW Blackpool Show, twice at the RP Old Comrades Show at the NEC Birmingham, four times at the Duchy Show in Cornwall and four times at the NEHU Peterlee / South Shields Show in Newcastle.
I’m very proud to say I’ve been associated with the RPRA Southern Region Show for many years and derived great pleasure judging at this great annual show through the years. This great event is one of my favourite one day shows and I have attended the show most years, since it started at Ascot Racecourse over 30 years ago, and in recent seasons have booked the judges for my good friend and ex-show secretary, Ron Lacey. Years ago I used to show and won many firsts with my racing pigeons, which I always considered a good achievement, with the ‘red hot’ competition at the Region show. The RPRA Southern Region Show is now held at the Hazlemere Community Centre, near High Wycombe. In recent years the Community Centre has proved to be a first class venue for this major event, having two large halls for the show and charity pigeon auction. My good friend, Ron Lacey, former President of the R.P.R.A. Southern Region, ran the show for many years and prior to that Val and Tony Viccars were the show secretaries. I have attended the show since it started and through the years have enjoyed competing and judging. After Ascot the show moved briefly into Basingstoke and then went to Slough for ten years, being run by the late, great Bob Arnold. I always remember Bob telling me that he had been in pigeons all his life, being taken tenderly into a pigeon loft at the age of ten days old, by his father, in 1920. Bob was a wonderful man and put a lot of hard work into the Southern Region Show through his many years as show secretary. The show is now in the capable hands of Peter Gretton.
I have travelled down to the wonderful county of Cornwall to judge the Duchy Show four times and have judged BIS a couple of times. What a brilliant show it is and going to wonderful Cornwall made it a double pleasure. Originally the Duchy Show was put on for many years by the Duchy Racing Pigeon Club and when it disbanded about seven years ago the South West Show Racer Society took it over, and this year’s event is their tenth open show. The SWSRS has 35 members with their lofts in mostly Devon and Cornwall, with a couple of members living in South Wales. The Society holds five shows each season, three club events and two open shows, one in November and the other in December. The competition in the Society is very keen and the members do very well at all the National and Classic shows throughout the UK. The Societies chairman, John Robilliard, told me, a few years ago the club out grew their old HQ at a local hospital site and managed to secure the Luxulyan Village Hall, which is a brilliant venue to stage big pigeon shows, with a nice well-lit hall and good catering and parking facilities. The hard working secretary is, Liz Watts, who has her loft in Camborne and the President is Ken Hearn. The Society had some really bad luck recently when they lost a lot of their equipment in a fire, including all their tables and trestles. They are having fund raising events to raise money to replace their lost equipment, including small pigeon auctions at the club shows.
The annual NEHU show was started nearly 100 years ago and was held at the Peterlee Leisure Centre for over 20 years. The centre was a very good venue for a major show and when I last attended the Peterlee event ten years ago the halls were packed with well over 2,000 visitors. The show was run for many years by former NEHU secretary, Alfie Rothwell, and then show manager, Colin Allison of Redcar. This wonderful show has now out grown the Peterlee Leisure Centre and in the last ten years has been staged at a new perfect venue named the Temple Park Centre in South Shields. In recent seasons the show has been run by the current NEHU secretary, David Power, and I must say, David has being doing a wonderful job in pushing this show to even greater things in the last few years. At that time Show Manager was Allen Hall, who with the assistance of NEHU President, Gordon Burten, ran the event like clockwork! Fanciers showing at South Shields are competing for a wonderful array of NEHU Trophies and there is an auction of top class pigeons, with most of the proceeds going to the British Fanciers Medical Research. I had previously judged at Peterlee three times, Best in Show on one occasion and then had the pleasure of being asked to travel to the North East of England to judge Best in Show at the 2011 South Shields event. David Power sent me the letter, kindly inviting me and I must say, I was doubly keen to take him up on his invitation, as I had tasted the atmosphere of this brilliant one-day event three times before, having previously first judged in 1998, when Alfie Rothwell was the Secretary of the Union. The month of November saw Bobby Besant and myself make the 670 mile round trip drive up to South Shields, to judge at the NEHU Show, which must be rated as one of the best one day shows on the British show Calendar.
I defiantly think there is a massive decline in ‘bread and butter’ showing at local club level and to see this in recent years is very upsetting. For me true exhibiting of Racing Pigeons and Show Racers is when they are handled and in our Surrey area, most of the club and open shows are through the wires. Fanciers these days seem to like to grab their birds out of the loft, with no preparation, and put them in the pen to be judged through the wires. They almost seem to be frightened to have them handled and at our local show they seem to prefer fancy colours classes. When I’m showing a lot of time is spent in preparing my pigeons for the pen and we have won the local ‘Open Show Points’ cups about 18 times, but I don’t show at local events anymore, because of the lack of quality competition. I think the whole thing comes down to ‘pounds, shillings and pence’ and the people who run the club shows are looking to make money for the club, which can’t be wrong, but they are not really interested in quality pigeon showing, the like of which we enjoyed years ago. I think it is a bigger achievement to win a handled class competing against 25 birds, than it is winning a through the wire class against 50 entries! The National show scene in the UK is still brilliant and getting better every year, and that’s where you have to exhibit to get the quality competition these days. Look at the great old RPRA Southern Region Show, still going after all these years and even bigger and better this year! I think the fancy should be very proud of our mother show, the British Homing World Blackpool ‘Show of the Year’, a wonderful spectacle and raising thousands of pounds for charity every January. I get my buzz at the Nationals events these days and very rarely attend the local club shows, only on the odd occasion to judge handling classes.
Back in October 2013 I received a letter from the RPRA, inviting me to judge at the British Homing World ‘Show of the Year’, Blackpool in January 2014 and it goes without saying I was delighted to except, as I have always loved do the job and consider it a great honour to be asked. This was my third time judging at the premier show in the UK and the last time I judged was in 2007 when the BBC sent a film crew to the Winter Gardens to film me and Peter Taylor for the ‘Inside Out’ programme. I then received a phone call in December 2013 from the Blackpool Show committee inviting me to take on the premier judging job in the show world, to judge the specials and Blackpool Show ‘Best in Show’. I have been judging at top National and Show Society shows for 45 years and to judge ‘Best in Show’ at Blackpool was the crowning glory of all those years doing the job. I was highly delighted and accepted the invitation immediately. My ol’ mate, Peter Taylor, has travelled all over the UK as my steward for many years, but in recent times has not travelled because of his ‘dodgy’ leg, but I managed to get him to Blackpool to steward for me, on this great occasion. We knew the Friday of the show was going to be a hard day, with the 250 mile drive up to the Hilton Hotel in Blackpool, then attend the RPRA dinner that evening and after that the late night judging in the Winter Gardens, so we left Claygate early that morning. After a good run up to the North West, we arrived at the Hilton Hotel on the North Promenade that afternoon in fine weather and managed to get a couple of hours rest in our rooms before we attend the RPRA ‘do’ in the evening. The dinner was a very grand event held in the hotel and was attended by several premier pigeon parties from Europe and Mr. & Mrs. Eddie Collett, the Lord Mayor of Blackpool. It was nice to meet up with some ol’ friends at the dinner, including Steve Richards and Helen Edwards of the BHW, John and Pamela Robilliard and former RPRA General Manager, Peter Bryant, there with his wife Glenys. John Robilliard introduced me to David Trippett, the Blackpool Show committee chairman and David was to take Peter and I to the Winter Gardens in a taxicab after the main judging had finished, to do our final judging job.
It was late when we arrived at the Winter Gardens, just before 23.00hrs I think, and we were greeted by chief steward, Dora Pounder, and what a nice lady she was! Dora has been doing the job at the Blackpool Show for many years and was so efficient, directing us to all the pen numbers to sort out the show specials. I spent quite some time judging the 29 class winner and needless to say I went through them with a fine tooth comb! From the outset of judging there was only one winner of Best in Show, a wonderful Show Racer red hen and she was medium appled bodied, with good balance and brilliant feather quality. I loved the hen as soon as I picked her out of Pen 4 and from then on she was the one the others had to beat! A beautiful mealy was her runner up, but I found a major fault in her on her second handling and Reserve Best in Show went to a stunning looking Show Racer blue chequer hen. I gave Best Racer to a handsome pencil blue pied cock and although it wasn’t confirmed, I was told it might have won at the Blackpool Show in 2013. It was a great judging session to remember and we finished just before 01.00hrs, after which we jump in a taxi and went back to the Hilton Hotel. It was a very long day and I finally got to bed just after 02.00hrs! We got up on Saturday morning and after breakfast I was keen to get down to the Winter Gardens to see who owned the red hen and it was finally confirmed that John Robilliard owned that wonderful Show Racer and had won his second Best in Show at the BHW Blackpool Show. I was so delighted to hear that great news as John has given a life time’s work to our sport and deserve every success he has with his wonderful Show Racers. Talking to John after the event, he said, the hen is now called ‘Rocquaine Queen’ and she won as a young bird, and won a first at the Duchy Show in November 2013. She was bred from a pair of stock birds that John obtained at the Ken Jeffery of St Ives dispersal sale. That Blackpool Show in 2014 and judging ‘Best In Show’ was my greatest judging experience!
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)