TRIBUTE TO BOB REEVES OF EXETER.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of a very dear friend of mine, Bob Reeves, who won the NFC Nantes National in 1996, Bobby passed away on 17th March at the grand old age of 97. He was one of the pigeon sport's gentlemen and was not only a great pigeon racer, but was also a pigeon lover, representing everything that is good about pigeon racing. On my visits to Bob's little loft, the birds were always bursting with contentment, with his small team of natural old birds popping in and out, feeding their young and generally enjoying life. On one of my many visits to Bob's bungalow, he had the young birds out for a fly and when he called them down they alighted all over him, not from hunger, but from love. Bob won the Nantes National with his two year old Warrington-Savage Barker blue chequer hen, 'Reevo's My Peggy', named after Bob's late wife. This game hen won the National while feeding a youngster, but was locked out of the loft when she arrived home from Nantes, as Bob didn't expect her home so fast and was cleaning the old bird section out. The clock and thimbles were in the bungalow and he lost a lot of time, clocking his National winner in his kitchen. 'Reevo's My Peggy' was medium-sized and apple-bodied in the hand, with silky feathering and a nice tic behind her orange eyes, which really sets her off. She had been a truly class act, as prior to winning the Nantes National she won many top positions including 1st club, 4th section, 8th open WECA Littlehampton, in spite of being a really bad trapper. On her build up to her National win, she had four races, including Rennes, and her last training toss was a single up from Torquay, 20 miles from the Exeter loft.
Bob was born in Exeter and although his father wasn't a pigeon I fancier, he owned some good greyhounds in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Bob first became involved with pigeons at the age of six, when he used to watch a school friend's father's birds train and race. The young Bob kept his first birds in a fish box, with chicken wire over the front. One particular fancier who gave him some special help in getting started in pigeons was Tom Wilson, who lived just down the street from the Reeves family. Tom's loft was situated on the old city wall, looking out over the River Exe and beyond to the Haldon Hills, the present day Exeter liberation site. Bob said that Tom was a grand old fancier who taught him a lot of the basics of racing pigeons, which he has never forgotten. Bob had been a fancier for over 80 years, a part from the war years, and the first club in which he raced was the Western Counties RPC, which up to recently, was still racing on the north road. He likes all sport, but his other love was boxing, which he did competitively from the age of nine, boxing for the Exeter Boxing Club and the Royal Navy. Bob had 421 amateur bouts and lost only 11 of them. His first loft was 3ft square and 18 Inches deep, made from Tate & Lyle sugar boxes and nailed to the bathroom wall. He had to get up a ladder to clean and feed the birds and once he got splinters in his bottom when he slid down the ladder with some race rubbers, to run to another fancier's loft to clock in!
Bob's last loft was 12ft x 6ft, with two sections, one with 12 nest boxes for natural racers and one with 28 box perches for the young birds. His self-built loft had open door trapping and he maintained that good ventilation, and plenty of it, was a must for good loft design. He paired up all his old birds on the full moon in March, when the wild birds mated up. He said he raced the natural system because he was an old fancier and it suited him. His birds had lots of clean water, good com, a clean loft, and most of all, a lot of love. During the racing season he liked to give his birds three training tosses in the week, Tuesday 20 miles, Wednesday 40 miles and Thursday 20 miles, as this kept them on their toes and muscled up. His family of pigeons was made up of the old English strains of Warrington-Savage Barker, Kirkpatrick-Savage Barker and a few Busschaerts, and they did him proud. The Warrington-Savage Barkers were bred down from Menzie's ‘Lerwick Hen’, only bird on the day and in race time from 671 miles. The Kirkpatrick-Savage Barkers were obtained from his son, Allan, who raced them with outstanding success to Thurso. Bob's best performance was winning the Nantes National in 1996. He said it was a race he would never forget and only fanciers who have won the National know the fantastic feeling you have when you are told that you have won.
His family was very interested in the pigeons. Indeed, they are a smashing family. He had two sons who were both fanciers, the late Bob Junior who lived in Malta for a number of years, and Allan, who had to give up because of the dreaded pigeon fancier's lung, but still liked to go to see his dad's birds on race days. Bob raced in the Exeter Invitation RPC, of which he was a life vice president, and raced both north and south routes. When racing, Bob fed his old birds with a good mixture, as this seems to keep them in condition longer. He gave them a trapping mixture and a lettuce twice a week and maintained that there was plenty of iron in green food. He also boiled stinging nettles and, after straining them, put the liquid in the drinking water. Bob had tried a deep litter of wood shavings on the floor of the loft, but didn't like it. He preferred to get on his hands and knees for a daily scrape out. When breeding, he put the best to the best to keep the line going until he needed a bit of new blood, hopefully from the same strain. When selecting breeders, he went for good type, balance in the hand and good winning bloodlines. When, you have had pigeons for over 80 years, he thought you have a feeling that you've put the right two birds together. There you have it, late Bob Reeves, the NFC Nantes National winner of 1996. Bob Reeves RIP.
KEITH MOTT (MARCH 2020)