“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
LOOKING BACK OVER THE YEARS (PART 13.)
Peter Obertelli of Hounslow.
I first met my late friend Peter Obertelli on one cold winter’s night in the 1970’s, when I judged 52 old hens for Isleworth S.R. Club, and he had just finished the season of a lifetime. There were two classes that evening, and Peter had entered four hens, lifting 1st, 2nd and Commended in the young hen’s class and 2nd in old hens. After the show we had a chat and he told me about the fantastic young bird season he had had flying in the Thames Valley Federation.
Peter started up in the sport in the spring of 1975 with birds he purchased for 50p each from Petticoat Lane Market in London and after doing no good with these birds he decided to purchase some better stock. About that time Eric Hurley of Hanwell was packing up so Peter purchased four hens and a cock (all Stassarts) from him and these birds were the base of his 1970’s family. He also purchased Eric Hur1y's 16ft x 6ft one compartment loft and after added a 8ft x 6ft young bird loft. He kept 50 old birds and bred 28 young birds each year. All were trapped through open doors. The birds were paired up in early February and sand litter was used on the loft floors. Peter was on shift work at the BBC but tried to give the birds three 35-mile training tosses during the racing season. The racers were kept short on the tin and were fed on the best mixture of maize, beans, peas and tares.
Peter's great performance flying in the Isleworth & District HS in 1977 was: Old Birds: 3rd, 4th club Leicester, 3rd, 4th club Doncaster, 1st club Catterick, 4th club Pontefract, 2nd, 3rd club Doncaster, 1st, 2nd, 4th club Nottingham. Young Birds: 1st, 2nd club Leicester, 2nd, 4th club Nottingham, 1st, 2nd, 4th club Leicester, 1st, 2nd, 3rd club Nottingham, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th club Doncaster, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th club Pontefract, 1st, 3rd, 4th club Durham, winning ‘The Young Bird Average Cup’, ‘Harris Memorial Trophy’, ‘Besant Points Shield’, ‘Durham Young Bird Trophy’ and ‘Comeback Races Average Cup’. Peter also took the Thames Valley Federation by storm winning one 1st Federation, twice 2nd Federation, and twice 3rd Federation, lifting the Thames Valley Federation ‘Young Bird Average Cup’.
I handled Peter's three most outstanding 1977 young birds and they were all of one type, large, with a long cast in the hand. The first bird I looked at was the red chequer cock, 'Albion Lad,' winner of 1st Club, 1st Thames Valley Federation Pontefract and he had a nice orange eye-sign. The second was a slightly smaller, a blue pied cock named ‘Albion Galahad’ and he has to his credit, 1st Two Rivers 2-B Club Nottingham and 2nd Club, 3rd Thames Valley Federation Leicester (beaten by loft mate). Last, but by no means least, as I liked this one the best of the three, was dark chequer cock, `Albion Rocket', winner of lst Club, 2nd Thames Valley Federation Leicester and he had a nice pearl eye sign.
Peter broke his novice status at Leicester the first young bird race in 1976 and also won the longest young bird race from Durham that same year. He said he liked to win all races, but the longer races give him the bigger kick. He advised novices not to start the way he did but go to a top loft and buy birds of one family. He didn't believe in handling, or type, and said performance is the key factor and the shape of the body and head doesn't mean a thing when trying to select a good racer. He didn't believe in keeping the birds locked up in winter and said he let them fly out in any weather. He let the young birds fly out in the early morning as he thinks they learn more and tend to run more. Peter Obertelli passed away in 2017 and in later life lived in the Mansfield area and raced his pigeons with outstanding success right up to the end.
Bill Edwards of Hounslow.
When I visited Bill Edwards of Hounslow it was early December and it was a whole new thing to me as it was my first venture into Middlesex writing wise, and my first ever loft visit to a north road flyer. After my lengthy visit to the Edward's home, I was convinced I had started with one of the best. One of the main targets in Bill's sights had been to win 1st North Thames N.R. Combine, having come close many times, none so close as 1976 when he was 2nd Durham beaten by decimals. He must have been choked but he's not the type of man to let it get him down. He said he's going to win it the following season and judging from the gems I handled on my visit that was no idle threat. This man was so dedicated that he said when the birds are racing, he can't sleep at night.
Bill was a brick layer by trade, so quite naturally his loft was made out of brick and was ‘L’ shaped, some 32ft long and 3ft off the ground. The birds were trapped through open doors. Bill was dead against deep litter as in 1973 he lost his team of 30 youngsters with Pigeon Pox and he blamed the deep litter he was using at the time. The birds were raced mainly on the natural system with a selected few on widowhood. One pigeon which was flown on the widowhood system was a Dordin blue cock, 74 D 73851, which Bill rated as the best pigeon he ever owned. This handsome cock was medium and deep in the hand, and had won racing: 1974: lst club, 14th Federation (1,708 birds) Doncaster; 1975: 2nd club, 32nd Federation (3.990 birds) Nottingham; 1976: 2nd club, 25th Federation (3,690 birds) Nottingham, 1st club, 19th Federation (3,784 birds) Doncaster, 1st club, 17th Federation (2,332 birds) Pontefract, 1st club, 1st Federation (2.021 birds) Pontefract and was the sire of winners including the 2nd Combine winner. The nest mate to ‘73851’ was ‘73852’, a blue hen, and she has won 2nd club, 16th Federation (1,708 birds) Doncaster plus 1st Two Rivers 2-B Club Darlington.
The main family which were introduced in 1973 were Dordins obtained from W. Grodon and Louis Massarella. Other families kept were Van Reil and Sion. The founder bird of his Van Reil family was a nice dark chequer hen, 70 H 19636, and she had won two firsts and one second racing and was dam of many winners. One of Bill's best youngsters of 1976 was a blue hen, 76 N 91154, which was purchased for £5 at the New Hampton F.C. young bird sale. She was bred and presented by Bennet & Bennet of Sunbury and had since won 1st Club, 8th Federation (3437 birds) Nottingham, 1st Club, 10th Federation (3,259 birds) Nottingham, 3rd club, 57th Federation (1,692 birds) Durham (beaten by two loft mates).
Bill started up in the sport in 1956 and was a founder member of the Ashford S.R.F.C winning his first race that year from Dorchester. He joined the Hampton S.R.F.C in 1960 and turned north road when the club did in 1972. The club changed its name to New Hampton F.C and Bill had been top prize winner three times, always being in the first three top places. He was top prize winner in the New Hampton in 1976 winning seven times lst club, five times 2nd club, four times 3rd club, plus several premier trophies. Bill won twice first and two trophies in the Thames Valley Federation. Bill said he lost one of his best ever hens in 1976, from Thurso, and what he wouldn't have given to have her back. She was the Sion red chequer hen, 70 H 5679, and she has to her credit 1971: 2nd club Berwick. 1972: 5th club Morpeth, 6th club Perth, 1st club Thurso (500 miles), 1973: lst club Thurso, 1974: 11th club Thurso. 1975: 9th club Thurso, then was lost from Thurso in 1976. Bill said when you own a great pigeon like the ‘Red Hen’ you tend to overdo them and push them once too many.
The birds were fed on a good mixture of beans, peas and wheat and were trained once a week from 20 miles when Bill thought the birds need it. They were given an open loft on nice sunny days. The youngsters were raced right through the card and slowed down as yearlings. Bill liked the young hens to race right through because as old birds their careers were limited due to laying eggs, etc. Bill wasn't a big team man, housing ten pairs of racers and two pairs of stock birds but liked a fair team of youngsters, about 40 each year. In Bill's young bird section, we looked at many outstanding pigeons including the 1976-star bird, blue hen, 76 T 23850, winner of 1st club, 1st Federation, 2nd open Combine Durham. These outstanding pigeons always seem nice when you handle them and know what they have recorded on the road. But, this hen really was nice in the hand being medium apple bodied with a nice dark eye. Another outstanding youngster we looked at was a Dordin blue chequer hen, 76 T 23851, and she had won 1st club, 28th Federation Doncaster and 2nd club, 18th Federation Durham. Bill's Dordin family were handsome looking pigeons with nice rich dark eyes and wonderful balance in the hand.
Bill thought 'Eye-Sign' was rubbish and said guts and a big heart was the thing to look for not 'Eye-Sign’. His advice to novices was don't get too many families and buy from a top winning loft or from a stud farm as they seem to give value for money. Bill looked up to the late Nip Healey of Feltham as number one fancier and said he was second to none. The Edward's had a nice new house and Bill told me he built it himself!
Nip Healy of Feltham.
In January 1977, I visited the home of the late Nip Healey, near Heathrow Airport, after hearing so much about this well-respected fancier. Nip had a great season in 1976, as he did every year, winning many firsts and 11 trophies in the very strong Feltham NRHS. The ‘Jenkins Points Trophy’ was presented to the club in 1970 and Nip won it every year up to 1976. He also won the ‘Best 2-Bird Average Thurso’ in the Thames Valley Federation in 1976. His Kirkpatrick and Barker pigeons had won the Thurso race (508 miles) four times in the last 5 years. In the Feltham Club, recording 1st, 3rd and 4th in 1975, and repeated the same performance in 1976. At that time Nip said his good friend, George Childerhouse, was a great help to him around the loft, seeing the birds in from training etc.
In Nip's very neat 14ft x 6ft racing loft we inspected the cocks first and how well they looked! He cleaned the lofts out every day and used a handful of lime on the floor after cleaning and told me this helped to keep the birds free from bugs which soil the birds' feathers. The racing loft housed 16 pairs of old birds and 24 young birds, with seven pairs of stock birds being housed in the small stock loft with an aviary. The first three cocks we looked at were full brothers of the Kirkpatrick family and all three were winners, with premier Federation honours. This loft housed so many winners it would be impossible to list them all, but we looked at most of the racing cocks and they were all true to one family, all being medium size and apple-bodied, with nice wide flights. His racing hens looked the kind of picture any fancier would be proud of. Nip had flown north and south road and said he preferred north because the racing was steadier. He did a fair amount of judging during the winter and said he was not eye sign minded but liked to see a nice yellow eye. While in the hen section we looked at many outstanding Thurso pigeons, including the 1976 500-mile winner, a Barker blue chequer hen 73 F 63191 and her feathering was like silk. This great hen's full performance was 1975: 3rd club Thurso; 1976: 10th club Berwick, 1st club, 4th Federation Thurso, only pigeon on the day of liberation in the Feltham club, flying 16 hours and recording a velocity of 943ypm. A really magnificent hen! We looked at the dam of 63191 and she was one of Nip's main stock hens, a nice large, roomy type dark chequer at the Barker strain. Nip's great family were bred down from pigeons obtained from his good friend, Sam Payne of West Drayton.
The birds were raced on the natural system and training was only given when needed, as the birds exercised well around the loft every day. They were fed a good sound mixture and grit was given twice a week, as Nip thought that if the grit was left in the loft, it tended to get damp. To my mind the premier pigeon in Nip's stock loft at that time was a handsome 1971 bred red cock, who was an outstanding racer before being put to stock. This good cock recorded many fine performances on the road and in 1975 10 winners were bred through him. Nip said the thing that stood out in his mind was when a red hen bred off this cock was 1st club, 2nd Federation Fraserburgh and the old cock was right on her tail to record 2nd club, 3rd Federation. Great stuff! Nip said at the time every pigeon in the stock loft had bred winners. He had a nice drop in with plenty of open space around the loft, but had trouble with people with guns in the area and had had many pigeons shot, and said that some pigeons had won on the Saturday and returned home shot on the Sunday. His home was very near to Heathrow Airport and the planes came in so low that they almost took the roof off the house. He had many good performances on the south road, flying with the National Flying Club and British Barcelona Club. In 1966 he scored 4th open London SR Combine from the La Reole race, which was a very hard event. 1975 was another good year for Nip in the Feltham Club, winning 11 firsts and 10 trophies. Nip's brother-in-law Jacky Newell, of Feltham, started him up in the sport in 1939 and he won the first race he entered. The race was from Lymington and the blue cock which won it was lost at the same race point the following year. The Kirkpatrick and Barker pigeons were introduced in 1969 and Nip said they flew well at most distances. When I asked him if he looked up to anyone particular fancier, he said no, but he admired a successful small team man. The late Nip Healey, a brilliant fancier!
Archie Camis & son of Ashford.
Archie Camis started pigeon racing in 1952 with birds obtained from his brother-in-law, Joe Parker of the Ashford South Road Club. Archie began by joining the Sunbury Club, which is the club he flew in until the early 1980s. In the early days, he had some help from his mate, George Quigley. His son, Andrew, came into the partnership after Archie's other son, Fred, had dropped out in 1975 and he said the pigeons always kept his boys out of trouble. The successful family flown in the 1970s were bred down from four original birds and were based on their good Dutch stock cock and the birds of the late, great, Bill Steeles. The four-compartment loft was 23ft x 7ft, with a corridor and the birds were trapped through an open door on to a feeding platform. Sharp sand was used on the loft floor and the birds were paired up the second week in February. The loft housed eight pairs of racers, two pairs of stock birds and about 25 young birds were bred each year. The partners flew on the natural system with what they called 'Gee-ups', a bit like a semi-widowhood and the racers were trained three times a week from 12 miles and this started after the young birds were weaned. The first bird I handled on my visit to the Camis loft in 1978 was the 14-year-old Dutch stock blue cock called ‘The Dutchman’ and he was still filling his eggs. He was medium sized in the hand, the daddy of the loft, and was the sire of countless winners, including the partners' 1978 North Thames NR Combine winner, ‘Wayside Blue’. Next to hand was the two-year-old blue cock ‘Wayside Blue’ and what a gem this pigeon was! He handled medium to long cast and was a really good racing type pigeon, which his performances proved, winning: 1977: 1st club, 11th Federation, 41st open Combine Thurso (500 miles), 3,334 birds; 1978: 1st club, 10th Federation, 23rd open combine Berwick, 5,441 birds; 1st club, 1st Federation, 1st open Combine Fraserburgh, 3,775 birds. A real champion! Another gem I looked at was a ten-year-old dark chequer hen named ‘Carol’, this hen was a nice type with a great eye. She was retired from racing but was a hot 'un when on the road, winning 1st club Nottingham (twice), 1st club Worksop, 1st club Leicester and ten other cards. Archie's ambition was to win the Combine, but after the event it leaves you a bit flat, he said, so the next thing to do is to win it again! The partners said sitting 14-day old eggs was their favourite racing condition, although the ‘Wayside Blue’ scored three times in three different conditions. They said the most important factor in management is to keep it regular and to a fixed system. The racers flew all races and were fed on a good mixture of peas, beans and maize. Andy said he liked the idea of line breeding but didn't like deep litter on the loft floor.
Ken Allday of Sunbury.
Kenny Allday smashed all the records in his club, the New Hampton NRPC, in 1981 winning every trophy except one, the ‘Thurso Trophy’, and won eighteen of the club’s twenty races. He finished his incredible 1981 season in great style by winning 1st club, 1st Thames Valley Federation, 1st open North Thames NR Combine (3,565 birds) from the very hard young bird Sedgefield race. His Combine winner was his good Busschaert blue hen, ‘Batavia Princess’ and her winning velocity was a slogging 984ypm. In the Thames Valley Federation, Kenny won the young bird average for the second season, winning several Federation trophies and gained the highest amount of points in the history of the Federation at that time, for his club to lift the ‘Federation Points Shield’.
Kenny started racing the Bricoux / Sion pigeons from Sam Law of Ayres in Scotland and Charlie Austin in Devon in 1972 and was top prize winner three years on the trot before packing up the sport in 1976. He obtained latebreds in 1979 and re-started racing in 1980, winning nine firsts and was top prize winner in the New Hampton club. Ken won seven of the club’s eight young bird races in 1980.
On starting up again in 1979, Kenny obtained Busschaerts and Krauth pigeons from George Corbett, which raced out of their skins, winning everything they were asked too. He had two very smart Kidby lofts and kept the two families separate. He raced the natural system and said he gave the birds plenty of training and the best corn. He fed a mixture of Peas, Maize and Wheat, and all the birds were trained once or twice a day from 30 miles. He maintained there were lots of theories for or against deep litter on the loft floors, but he had always used it and cleaned off the perches every day. He told me that usually proven birds in the race basket, became good stock birds and when pairing up, he put a light eyed pigeon with one that had a dark eye. At that time Kenny rated Mick Chandler the top local fancier, saying he was 100% dedicated to his birds and had four house moves in ten years and was still at the top. Kenny Allday thought pigeon racing in the 1980’s was all about money and feared the sportsmanship was going out of our great hobby. He was one of the very best in the Middlesex area of the late 1970’s, Kenny Allday of Sunbury.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)