“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Looking back at London & South East Classic Club winners (Part 21).
The late, great Cecil Bulled of Harlow.
Mark Bulled is the son of the late, great Cecil Bulled, who was one of our greatest North Road racers of all time. Mark told me, ‘the best feeling in pigeon racing is to clock in late at night from 550 miles and my real love in the sport is the long distance events. My best pigeon moments were just sitting with my dad waiting for the Combine pigeons! Mark has been in pigeon racing all his life, coming from a brilliant family of pigeon fanciers, with his father being Cecil Bulled and his grandfather being Sid Marsh of Croydon. He tells me his dad started up in pigeons on meeting his mother, Barbara. Pigeon were always a part of Mark’s life when he was a lad, cleaning out the loft and training the birds with his dad, but started to get really keen at the age of about 14. He was very close to Cecil and the pigeons gave them a lot of time together. Mark is now a long distance racing 'legend' in his own right, winning in recent seasons: 1st open NFC Tarbes, 1st open L&SECC Tarbes, 1st open BBC Fougeres, 1st open BBC Fougeres, 1st open London NR Combine Berwick (Yearlings), 1st open London NR Combine Lerwick, 2nd open NFC Messac, 2nd open BBC Bordeaux, 2nd open BBC Fougeres, 3rd open NFC Messac. Fantastic pigeon racing by any standard! When racing with his late father, Cecil, he recorded 1st open London NR Combine Thurso, 1st open London NR Combine Lerwick (four times), 1st open L&SECC Thurso, 1st open London SR Combine Bergerac.
I first met Cecil and Mark Bulled in the mid-1990’s, when I visit their home in Harlow with Doug Went to film them for the ‘Many Miles With Mott’ video series. What great day out that was, the partners were winning it all in front of them and Mark was busy working to set up his own team of pigeons at his new address. The next time I met them was in 2001, when with the foot and mouth epidemic and resulting ban on racing from France, the London & South East Classic Club switched from Pau to Thurso in the north of Scotland for the longest old bird race. The Thurso race was won by Cecil and Mark, whose past performances on the north road have been electric, being especially deadly at Thurso and Lerwick with the London North Road Combine. After he recorded 4th and 5th open L&SECC Perth in 2001, I predicted that he would win Thurso and he did! The Bulled loft sent ten pigeons to the Thurso Classic (493 miles) and clocked five on the day of liberation, recording 1st, 10th, 14th, 19th and 26th open. A brilliant performance!
Cecil Bulled was born in Croydon and first became involved with pigeons when he met his wife, Barbara, the daughter of the late Syd Marsh. When Syd took over the secretary’s job in the Selhurst Flying Club, the young Cecil became his assistant, calculating the velocities on race checking night. He obtained his first pigeons in 1962 and flew in partnership with his brother in law, Doug Marsh. The first stock was obtained from members of the Selhurst club, in the guise of Syd Marsh, Stan Hunt and Denny Kimber. In his youth, Cecil, was very keen on football and went to school with Peter Notridge, president of the Surrey Federation. Cecil was an accountant by trade, but later retired. He had been racing pigeons for 40 years and said Bill Bailey of Harlow was the best pigeon man he had known. They were very good friends, but the biggest enemies when it came to racing the pigeons. Cecil told me he could remember a Bordeaux race in the early years and they sent pigeons which were really only ‘hoppers’. It was a really bad race with few returns in race time, and the young Cecil and Doug were in the garden for three days, with no arrivals. Cecil vowed then that he would only compete in the long distance events when he had the utmost confidence in his entries.
Cecil and his partner, son Mark, had three lofts, a 10ft widowhood loft, an 11ft young bird shed and the main 18ft loft construction, which housed natural racers, stock birds and the widowhood hens. The partners’ 20 widowhood cocks and 12 pairs of stock birds were paired up the weekend after the B.H.W. Blackpool Show in January and the natural birds were put together at the back end of February. The birds were raced on the basic natural and widowhood systems, with no frills or fads, and flew south road with the Stanstead Invitation Club, with outstanding success. The main pigeons raced were the old Croydon family, Soontjens from F. Sheader of Scarborough and the W. Grodon Busschaerts. The old family liked hard racing, 14 hours on the wing from 500 miles, and the Soontjens and Busschaerts were outstanding for the general club work.
Cecil maintained his best performance to date was in 1995 when he was 2nd, 9th and 12th open London N.R. Combine Thurso (493 miles), with only 20 birds clocked in the combine on the day of liberation. Brilliant pigeon racing! He said he had been fortunate to own a number of good pigeons over the years including: ‘The Owl’ winner of 1st open London NR Combine Thurso (only bird on the day in the combine): ‘Little Dot’ winner of 1st open London & South Coast Combine Bergerac (478 miles): ‘17567’ winner of 1st open L.N.R.C. Lerwick (582 miles), 1st Section H. in the North Road Championship Club: ‘20729’ son of ‘17567’ and winner of 1st open L.N.R.C. Lerwick (582 miles): ‘14114’ son of ‘The Owl’ and winner of 2nd open L.N.R.C. Thurso (only three birds on the day). The London North Road Combine presents a hall of fame award to a pigeon that scores three times in the first 100 open positions and the Bulled loft had won three awards with, ‘The Ugly Hen’, 3rd, 32nd and 97th open: ‘Day Return’, 12th, 57th and 80th open and ‘Victoria’, 2nd, 14th and 38th open. Cecil’s wonderful family of pigeons had won the Federation many times through the years in sprint and middle distance races. A brilliant loft of pigeons! Cecil Bulled had been racing in the London & South East Classic Club for only a few seasons, but had won the North East section several times. Being a north road flyer for many years, he turned some pigeons south in 1998 and won the London & South Coast Combine from Bergerac in the 1999 season. In 2001, when the foot and mouth restrictions stopped racing from France, he turned his birds back to north road and when the L&SECC decided to race from Perth and Thurso he was delighted. In the race prior to winning the Thurso Classic, the Bulled loft clocked four birds in the very hard Perth Classic to record 4th, 5th, 11th and 62nd open. Cecil’s biggest thrill of his 40 years in pigeon racing was when he clocked ‘The Owl’ from Thurso in 1975, flying 15 hours 3 minutes to cover the 493 miles, and the only bird on the day in the London North Road Combine. He told me his wife, Barbara, was a great help looking after the pigeons when he was away, as was his partner, Mark, who also has a successful team of birds at his own address.
Cecil maintained that he was a poor young bird racer, with his main aim each season, being to get some well raced cocks to renew the widowhood team. He believed that to be successful with young birds, they have to go on the darkness system, cocks and hens separated to be put together on race marking day. Cecil fed his youngsters widowhood corn mixed with 20% depurative and liked them to race up to 300 miles. All the Bulled pigeons were trained hard, with young birds getting two 40 mile tosses every week during the racing season. For the long distance events, he liked natural birds sitting ten day old eggs and he told novices, don’t run before you can walk, serve your apprenticeship in husbandry well.
Two of the best fanciers in London race in his north road club, said Cecil, in the form of Vic Shaw, and his own son Mark, and he described them as dedicated fanatics who will never be beaten! Cecil liked showing his pigeons, but found it hard to find the time to do it. When he judged, he looked for condition first, good head and eye, with a balanced, rounded body. The Bulled’s practiced inbreeding and line breeding, particularly back to good winning pigeons, but were not too keen on latebred youngsters, although they let their widowhood cocks rear a baby after racing has finished. The lofts were scraped out daily and brushed with garden lime. Cecil said he had tried deep litter on the loft floors, as did a lot of good fanciers, but his seemed to stick to his feet and finished up on the carpets in the house. There you have it, the late great Cecil Bulled of Harlow. What a fantastic pigeon racing family!
Mark Bulled of Harlow.
The first time Mark came to my home in Claygate was in 2009 when he won the London & South East Classic Club. The Classic Club held it’s long old bird classic at the back end of June, when members sent 570 birds to Tarbes in the south of France and after a one day hold over the convoy was liberated at 06.00hrs in a west / north west wind. There were no pigeons recorded on the day of liberation and the race turned out to be very hard, so hard in fact some members never clocked in. A very testing 550 mile classic! When I saw Mark Bulled’s name at the top of the provisional result on the Sunday evening of the race I was highly delighted, in fact it made my weekend! Mark is a very nice lad from Harlow, who has been setting them alight with his pigeons in recent seasons and of course he is the son of one of our greatest London NR Combine champions, the late, great Cecil Bulled. If his dad was here now he would be very proud of Mark’s fantastic performances, winning 1st open in National, Classic and Combine races. From the Tarbes Classic, Mark clocked his winning four year old blue chequer hen at 05.16hrs on the Sunday morning and on our reckoning she had to be well over the English Channel and probably in the London area on the Saturday night to be recorded at that time on the second day. This champion hen, now named ‘Sergeant Cecil’, was sent to Tarbes feeding a three day old baby and is bred from the very best of the Cecil Bulled London NR Combine winning family, being a granddaughter of ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Day Return’, two London NR Combine Thurso ‘Hall of Fame’ pigeons. Mark tells me her pedigree can be traced right back to the legendary Champion ‘Owl’, winner of 1st open London NR Combine Thurso (only bird on the day in the combine). A wonderful family of pigeons! ‘Sergeant Cecil’ has always been raced on the natural system and has always been something special in classic races, previously winning: 19th open L&SECC Bergerac, 48th open L&SECC Tours, 52nd open L&SECC Tarbes and now 1st open L&SECC Tarbes in the 2009 season. Mark sent a team of eight birds to that Tarbes classic and his second bird on the clock to record 8th open was his little sparrow sized blue hen, ‘Little Miss Tarbes’.
Congratulations to our good friend, Mark Bulled of Harlow, who won 1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th open UBI Combine Bordeaux (474 miles) in the 2016 racing season. The four pigeons were all two year old widowhood hens, which had been repaired and sent sitting on about seven day old eggs. All four hens were clocked on the day of liberation at 474 miles and Mark’s winning velocity was a very respectable 1109 ypm. Brilliant pigeon racing!
Mark came to my home in Claygate recently to have the winning pigeons photographed and when I asked him about his 2016 season, he told me, ‘it’s been a very difficult season for me one way or another, what with my job moving to London and a big change in my personal circumstances, which could see me leaving the UK for good in a few years. The first few channel races proved to be very difficult due to poor weather and poor liberations and I think it took a lot out of the birds. I try to support most of the National clubs and have a channel race every weekend, and it certainly takes its toll on the team especially when sending against the wind etc. However I was pleased with the way they came, steady rather than spectacular, but in the top end of the section results nearly every week.
Tarbes NFC is usually my priority each season, but with the date change, which I don’t agree with, I send my hens to some of the other races on offer with a view to then perhaps doubling them back to Tarbes at the season end. However with the season progressing I didn’t think they would be quite right for Tarbes and with Bordeaux being a week later it gave me that bit more time to get them right. I prepared seven hens for Bordeaux. Some were paired mid-February and reared, whilst some are not paired until April, sitting eggs only to try and hold the moult. They are then put on widowhood until they are repaired for their chosen race. Bordeaux is 475 miles to me and is the perfect distance for day birds, very similar to Thurso, my favourite race when I flew north, and the day came giving fine weather and a light head wind. My first bird, ‘Bordeaux Queen’, came bang on time, 12 and a half hours from the south east, I thought it was a decent time but was surprised to hear that she had won the Combine. She was also my first bird from Saintes, winning 90th open NFC, after ten hours on the wing. She was kept on widowhood for a further week after Tarbes and then repaired for Bordeaux to be sitting short eggs, as this I prefer to sitting long as I find they are fitter. She was a latebred 2014 and is bred from my best birds, with her sire being Champion ‘Legacy’, the winner of 1st open NFC Tarbes, and her dam being my top hen ‘Bum’: 2nd open BBC Bordeaux, 18th open BICC Alencon, 29th open BBC Bordeaux, 70th open NFC Cholet and 1st section Messac. ‘Legacy’ my 1st open NFC Tarbes winner is really proving to be a top breeder. He has bred 4th open NFC for J. & D. Staddon, and also 1st section Poitiers, 28th and 33rd open NFC for Les Hawkins and his grandchildren are winning distance events around the country for many others. Champion ‘Legacy’ is bred from my top cock, ‘Die Hard’, who won a London North Road Combine ‘Hall of Fame’ award and was also a prolific long distance breeder.
As I came out the loft after clocking ‘Bordeaux Queen’ I looked up to see another hen sitting on the house roof and this two year old hen, ‘Maccabull’, was my fancy this year from Agen, but returned next day with all her secondary's out in one wing. They were only fully grown the week of marking for Bordeaux. She is bred from a cock that won the local club twice from Tarbes and is from my best breeding cock, ‘Old 60’, a brother to ‘Die Hard’. The ‘Old 60’ is a 2001 bred cock and is still producing for me. The dam of my 2nd Combine winner is probably my best breeding hen, bred by my good friend Darren McFadden of Cranleigh, direct from his 1st open L&SECC Tarbes winner, who in turn is from Ray Hammond’s L&SECC Tarbes classic winner. She has bred me numerous birds to score well from Tarbes. Ironically with the crosses I've tried with my inbred old English distance family, the best cross I found is a very similar put together family in the way of the Eric Cannon bloodline. A short while later came my favourite hen, ‘Blue Girl’ and she is a hen I really fancy to be a top distance bird. She homed in the dark from the very tough BICC Alencon race and although destined for Agen, I wasn't quite happy with her condition although I couldn't put my finger on it. I left her another week or so and sent her to Saintes where she was under 11 hours and on the result. I was very pleased to see her drop from Bordeaux and think she may have a big Tarbes performance in her. Her sire is ‘Legacy’s’ brother and her dam is from my 1st open L&SECC Tarbes winner ‘Sergeant Cecil’. My fourth bird on the day from Bordeaux was from my sprint ‘Red Bull’ family. I don’t usually send them this far but this particular hen, ‘Little Dark’, though very small in stature has a big heart and had been to all the tough channel races and homed on the day, again scoring at Saintes four weeks prior to Bordeaux. Her sire is my ‘Eastbourne’ cock, winner of 1st open BBC Fougeres and her dam a daughter to my best sprint cock, ‘The Red, seven times 1st M11 up to 125 miles. I never had a clock reset but I also had 2 other hens early next morning, with the one yearling hen I sent still missing. The UBI Combine was transported with the British Barcelona Club and I also ended up 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th section, 5th, 6th, 16th, 22nd open. Incidentally Steve Oliver was 7th open with a hen bred by myself and Gosling and Jarvis were 3rd section 15th open with a hen bred through my old family’.
Mark is the son of the late, great Cecil Bulled, who was one of our greatest North Road racers of all time. Mark is now a long distance racing 'legend' in his own right, winning in recent seasons: 1st open NFC Tarbes, 1st open L&SECC Tarbes, 1st open BBC Fougeres, 1st open BBC Fougeres, 1st open London NR Combine Berwick (Yearlings), 1st open London NR Combine Lerwick, 2nd open NFC Messac, 2nd open BBC Bordeaux, 2nd open BBC Fougeres, 3rd open NFC Messac. Fantastic pigeon racing by any standard! When racing with his late father, Cecil, he recorded 1st open London NR Combine Thurso, 1st open London NR Combine Lerwick (four times), 1st open L&SECC Thurso, 1st open London SR Combine Bergerac.
Mark races 30 cocks on the basic widowhood system and likes these birds to race the programme. On his system the birds are paired up in January, after the BHW Blackpool Show, they rear a pair of youngsters, being parted from the hens before they lay their second round of eggs and then are given six training tosses. Normally these six tosses are all they get, but Mark has been known to give them the odd trainer during the season if they are not flying around home to well. He breaks the racers down from Saturday to Tuesday ever week through the season, always shows the hen on marking night and on the return from the race the cocks get their mates for about an hour. He races a few hens in the long distance events and these are paired up according to their chosen races. Mark tells me he has won 1st open London NR Combine Lerwick (583 miles) with a widowhood cock and 1st open L&SECC Tarbes with a natural hen feeding a small baby. Both these champions were off the same bloodlines! Mark’s basic feeding is Widowhood mixture, Gerry Plus and Depurative, but mid-way through the season extra maize and peanuts are added to the bird’s diet, with the long distance race in mind. He has two basic Blake’s lofts and says they have no tiled roofs, no corridors, no heat settings, nothing fancy, just a dry contented set up. His 18ft loft is for the youngsters and long distance racers, and the 30ft four section ‘L’ shaped loft houses the widowhood racers. His stock birds are housed in a small shed. Mark commented to me, ‘I see all these great palatable lofts, but doubt if I would change mine even if I could afford it. I think the most important thing is that the pigeons are content and some of these sheds look fantastic, but when inside the atmosphere feels all wrong to me’. He uses deep litter, but only in the young bird section and maintains it is good for the immune system.
Mark has been in pigeon racing all his life, coming from a brilliant family of pigeon fanciers, with his father being the late, great Cecil Bulled and his grandfather being Sid Marsh of Croydon. He tells me his dad started up in pigeons on meeting his mother, Barbara. Pigeon were always a part of Mark’s life when he was a lad, cleaning out the loft and training the birds with his dad, but started to get really keen at the age of about 14. He was very close to Cecil and the pigeons gave them a lot of time together. Mark has always been a keen sportsman, playing semi-professional football for Harlow Town and other local non league clubs. He had only fully retired from football in 2009, but still enjoys a game of cricket. His dad’s hero was Bill Bailey, who was a real character and a truly great pigeon fancier. Bill won the London NR Combine twice and bred Cecil’s first LNRC winner, ‘The Owl’, winner of only bird on the day of liberation with 5,500 birds competing. Mark commented this was the same bloodlines as his 2009 L&SECC Tarbes winner, ‘Sergeant Cecil’, some 35 years later! When he started racing the man to beat was the LNRC champion, Vic Shaw and he says, Vic is still the man to beat today, and their close rivalry has really spurred them both on to great success in the London NR Combine races. Mark started racing at his own address in 1996, at the age of 25, and the majority of his pigeons were from his dad. He has had winning pigeons from several good friends, including Darran McFadden, Robbie Wilton, Vic Shaw and a great red sprint pigeon from John Taylor. These red pigeons are still Mark’s best sprinters, but is only really interested in channel racing these days. He told me he was lucky that his dad knew many premier flyers and as a boy they shared their ‘pearls of wisdom’ with him, which he still remembers today. Mark has been racing on his own for well over 25 years now, turning South Road about 20 years ago, and enjoys racing from Northern France through to the long distance.
Racing on the North Road, Mark won the Federation over 25 times in ten years racing mainly sprints and won ‘London North Flyer of the Year’ three times, plus twice RPRA London Region best North Road loft. He also lifted ‘Tommy Long’ and ‘Victory’ Trophies, won 1st open London NR Combine twice and many, many premier prizes when in partnership with his dad. Mark told me some of his best pigeons were probably his London NR Combine ‘Hall of Fame’ winners: ‘Die Hard’ winner of 3rd, 3rd and 45th open LNRC Thurso and ‘The Combine Cock’ winner of 10th, 19th, 26th, 32nd and 84th open LNRC. Another great pigeon at the Bulled loft was the ace sprinter, ‘The Red’, winner of three times 1st Federation and a hatful of other major positions. Mark won the first race he competed in on his own; also he won the Federation Young Bird Average in his first season and was then ‘North London Flyer of the Year’ with his first team of yearlings. Mark says the best feeling in pigeon racing is to clock in late at night from 550 miles and thinks his real love in the sport is the long distance events. His best pigeon moments were just sitting with hid dad waiting for the Combine pigeons!
When I asked Mark about any mistakes he has made through the many years he has been associated with the sport he said, ‘I make the same mistake every year, taking my youngsters on stupid disaster training tosses. The birds I get home usually stay with me’. He normally starts the season with about 60 young birds which are raced on the natural system and he doesn’t do much good with them. He has his concerns about the ‘Darkness’ system and if it affects his old birds next year. Young bird performances are of little concern to him, but he likes them to race the programme and is more interested in their form from the yearling stage and onward. He lets the youngster pair up if they want too for classic races, to produce a prize or two.
The main bloodlines housed at the Bulled loft are his dad’s long distance family, Busschaerts his dad purchased in 1980 and Soontjens that Mark purchased from Frank Sheader in 1992. Mark told me, ‘When my dad died I kept too many of his pigeons, these being mainly the old favourites and I have now got 15 pairs of stock birds, which I would like to reduce down to 8 pairs. I brought in some stock from Darran McFadden’s 2008 L&SECC Tarbes winner, ‘Razor’s Girl’, and he was enormously helpful with feeding techniques on my transition from North to South Road racing’. Mark pairs his stock birds up the same time as the racers and has a preference for small to medium sized pigeons, with anything too big rarely making the yearling team. He like a good eyed pigeon and uses the theory in his breeding programme, and maintains all the best fanciers he has visited have good eyesign in their stock lofts. The Bulled family has been line bred and inbred for 50 years and crossed occasionally with good performance pigeons. Mark breeds the occasional latebred from premier performers for stock purposes.
Mark profession is a Civil Servant and says his wife, Hana, put up with his mad obsession and helps out with the management of the pigeons with his detailed instructions! His mother, Barbara, looks after the stock birds and is a good fancier in her own right, noticing things that many fancier wouldn’t. Mark and Hana’s two daughters, Abbie and Charlotte, are very interested in the pigeons, are they going to be the fourth generation Bulled pigeon fanciers? Mark was the secretary of the local pigeon club and says the use of the computer on National and Classic races has been a great step forward. Finding out your race position quickly rather than having to wait three weeks for the result to be published! He says there are many top flyers in the London NR Combine and when he turned South Road he could appreciate just how good the top National racers are. He can’t help but to admire flyers of the great quality of Mark Gilbert of Windsor, who have many premier positions in the National results and in Essex, pound for pound, he doesn’t think there are many better fanciers than Robbie Wilton, who wins North and South from 100 miles through to 600 miles.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com).