Click here to read about Clive Yates talking to LJP 20yrs ago.
Clive Yates talking to Les J Parkinson in 2020.
Over the years I have written many articles and occasionally have done a follow up. So, with the coronavirus stopping pigeon fanciers doing what they like best, racing of course, we decided to do a follow. “I was lucky to see an Email off Les asking me if I would write an article for the BHW, due to the lock down not a lot was happening in the pigeon world. He sent me a Q & A, I pointed out that the last time I wrote in the BHW with Les was 20 years ago and a lot of my answers are similar” With that in mind I spoke to our Editor about reproducing the old one and having a follow up with new information including the changes Clive has made since that first report.
So, Clive what has changed after all those years. “To start with I am sitting here trying to write a few thing down while watching peppa pig with our 3 year old grandson who has been living here for last 4 weeks in lock down, as his mum is a care worker and his dad is an undertaker so has been very busy. I am no writer as English was my worst result in my "O" levels at school. It has been great the last 3 weeks weather wise also motorways nearly empty, it would have been a particularly good time to get the bird’s training. If you think back the other year, we had the snow and cold N.E winds. Let us hope we get some racing later in the year. On a personal note I hope when we start racing again, we can race twice a week”
What changes have you had to do with the current circumstances where we cannot race. I parted all my birds including stock birds when the lockdown started, so the stock birds have only had one round taken off them. The race team are on tick over out once a day. I was born into pigeons, so I need to be working with them, my dad raced also his two brothers also raced. Later my sister married a pigeon fancier from our local club, his brother and dad also raced it was through one of the presentations that I met my wife when she was 16. My wife's two brothers still racing but they are in their 70's now. Pigeons are in our family but sadly not any of our own children or grandchildren are at all interested in pigeons, there is too much going on for the younger generation today. So, it does not look good for the future of the sport. I must admit I was and still am pigeon mad, I was always in the loft as a kid at high school. I was always rushing off home for lunch so I could have 30 minutes with the pigeons. I also got a few clips around my ear reading pigeon books in class, I got the impression, they did not think it was the education I should have been getting at the time. I can remember cleaning the birds out with a candle, reading books to the young birds, do not think they listened a lot though, but it did please me”
Have pigeons affected you in any way. “I think I am suffering a little from the lifetime with the birds, as I have to wear an air cap now in the loft, which if I had done it from a young age I would have been fine. I do not spend as much time in the loft like I used to. I worked 38 years down a coal mine before it was closed, in fact there is no coal mines left in the UK now. So now I am retired and a full-time babysitter like so many more grandparents. A great deal has changed in the 20 years since I last wrote my article. The biggest being the introduction of the E.T.S system, also we have so many BOP. I wrote 20 years ago that I would like to see the results on teletext, well now we have the internet. I also said I would like to pay by visa, and we are now doing that online. I have had to change the way I train my birds now. In the past when getting them ready for the channel races, I would get the family in the car for a day out to the Coast, Cotswold, Oxford, or Weston Super Mare with the car on the beach. I would single the birds up but cannot do this this now as I would have one with no tail or flights missing or would fail to home completely. So, we must change with the times, just fly around the loft at home, with just a few short training tosses to start the season. I also miss the room auction sales; I learned a lot from handling and looking at them. When I was a kid, every Sunday I would go with anyone who was going to an auction to see what was there and handle the good pigeons. I once went with £5 in my pocket, I managed to buy a late bred hen one week. What a great purchase she was, she went on to breed an R.P.R.A award winner. My dad gave me advice on how to handle the birds on a race night, you can learn how the best birds should handle, condition, weight, etc. This is something that you cannot do this with an internet sale, they all look fantastic. I was at a loft a couple of years back that had just spent a lot of money, I am talking thousands on 6 birds from a well-known Belgian site, they looked crap nothing like the photos. The last time I went to an auction it was a Les Green sale at Wigan, there was a bird down as a cock, from a son of Euro Diamond crossed with a hen that had been timed out of 560miles on day as yearling, they were late breds. I thought "this is a hen", if so, it would be a great bird, I manged to buy her, and she turned out to be a great stock hen. She was mated to a Mark Gilbert cock and bred the rose bowl winner for the best bird in the West Midlands over 450 miles R.P.R.A. She was also paired to a F.V.W cock and bred 1st,3rd,8th fed from 51 miles”
What do you think about the way you have gone on in pigeon racing? “I have been incredibly lucky as I have had some great pigeons, but never spent a lot of money on them. I like to buy a pigeon not a strain. I remember years ago I was 2nd fed, over 7,000 birds, it was a young bird race. The cock was spot on and paired to 2 hens, sitting 4 eggs. All Friday afternoon he would not let anything on the floor. I thought it must have been a good bird to beat him so in the winter I heard the man who owned it was short of money. So, I manage to buy her and its mother cheap. She went on to breed 4 fed winners and her mother another 2”
How often do you introduce new pigeons into your loft? “I have had my base F.V.W family for 40 years now when I buy a bird for stock, I will cross it into the family. I bought 4 from M & D Evans, the best was a hen from Saffron, I paired her to a F.V.W cock, the wife took a baby out of the nest for her dad, later on in the year it won a gold ring race and £1400 pound, its nest-mate I kept and won fed championship race. The saffron hen bred 7 winners out of 8 birds raced, Mark bought the hen back off me, he re-named her the “Golden Hen” he then paired her to the Golden Gaby cock the Belgium national winner and gave me 2 young birds from them, these bred winners for fun. Pete Shaw gave me a nest pair of young birds a couple of years ago, they both topped 2 different feds on the same day, so, I think I have had a little luck over the years. I have had some great times with pigeons with many highs and low's winning 4 x 1st 3 x 2nd and 3 x 3rd open Midland National, 5 x 1st open yearling Midland National, all different pigeons but nearly all going back to my foundation FVW, stock from 40 years ago. The last few seasons I have been flying in the NFC as I am no longer a member of Mid Nat. They have flown well but there is always room for improvements, 1st section Saintes a couple of times. A good bird from Fougeres I think as good as the National winner on the day as the ones that beat her were well into the south east. Low point was when I sent to Tarbes 3 year ago, she would have topped the section, but I verified 2 min late, we had been to the wife’s sister Funeral. I had left my grandson to do this, but he had not refreshed the web page, he was terribly upset but never mind. My yearling cock “5G” who last season won the R.P.R.A sprint award, West Midlands, is 9 generations down from my foundation stock going back to 1982. In the club I fly with now, it takes some winning, as we have 4 members that have won the Midland National, 4 that have won N.M.C.C. all very keen. What is so good is they all have a pint and a chat that makes a good club atmosphere. last season I was lucky enough to be highest prize winner in the club and fed, it is a good fed with over 100 flying members. 3 seasons ago had 150 racing members, like a lot of people we have lost loved ones. My mother and father-in law both passed away, he was a good pigeon man, and we miss them very much. He lost his sight in later years so Donna my wife helped him race his birds and what a great job she did with them, even just beating me to win the great van Robaeys gold ring race. I think this race was the best race ever for the West Midlands and what a great job the Palmer family did, what an atmosphere there was on basketing and clock opening night. I can remember Mark Palmer on clock opening night saying how much we were racing for, he also mentioned "we have a bird racing today for the 1st time ever that had won the Midland National” of course this was my bird, as I used to double ring them. The bird never let me down either, winning over £1400, also winning £1000 the week before in the M.N.F.C. His only other race saw him win 3rd fed, this bird was my champion cock Jordan. I retired him to stock, where he went on to breed 1st open Midland National Alencon, also 2nd open Alencon with a granddaughter from him. Jordan was a great grandson of my foundation F.V.W cock "Vulien" on both sides of his family. The van Roebaeys race with a B/B was a great race, all my gold rings for this race was set up to be doing something to give them motivation to be doing the race, i.e. sitting eggs, just chipping out or paired to old cocks or old hens. For this race, I went on the sick for 2 weeks so I could purposely prepare them for the race, the third year I did this I went to see the doctor, he said "how come you keep having a bad back the same 2 weeks 3 years running?". I would get the birds to Stroud on the M5 60 odd miles every day to be released at 9AM as this was the time, they expected to release on race day. My thinking that the sun is in the same position on release, I release them in 3 different teams, all 3 teams would return within the same time. but times have changed with the B.O.P problem, I do not think this would work nowadays. "Jordan’s" half-sister won 1st open Mid Nat in what was a hard race out of Guernsey in a strong NW Wind. The same hen bred both winners she never won a prize racing but even bred section winner in Mid Nat as 10-year-old, I could do with another one like her now.
We have mentioned problems, but do you see any other problems in the sport. “Young bird sickness is a big problem for the last few years, I buy a pot of Pharma Streptococ-coli-cure for when I see the first signs of it in my young bird, it has the biggest spoon in the world in the pot so does not go very far. You must check your young every day, keep on top or you will lose your young racing, or training. 3 or 4 years ago my young birds in the middle of the season started to fly 3 or 4 hours every day during the week, they looked well, but I thought this are not right, but I sent 14 they came rubbish lost 5 all had been flying well so I stopped rest for rest of season. You still have to watch out for PMV as a few years back we were on a Cruise that we had won with Mid Nat, best prize I have ever won, I must say thank you to the sponsors for that. I had about 8 summer bred young birds that I had not vaccinated, to make it easier for my daughter to feed the birds while we were away I put these summer bred birds with my racing young bird team as it was the end of season, she phoned me 3 days into the holiday saying 2 had twisted necks, after the next few days all 8 were the same, I got some one around to dispose of them all the race team that had been jabbed were fine. So even if they have been vaccinated, they still seem to carry it. I never escaped to dropped wing problem either a few years ago I had 14 in one season with it some were my first birds home next day they could not fly up to their box. I had blood taken out of there wing joints all tests done found nothing wrong with them. But talking to other flyers a lot were having this problem, vets said it was pulled muscles escaping BOP, I do not think it was. The last couple of years I have not had a problem with it, still BOP about. I think there are a lot of vets still do not know about these illnesses and the longer I keep pigeons the less I seem to know”
He was a comedian. “I once heard a chap asking a very good pigeon man for a little advice once, he was telling him his widow cocks were not flying very good around home. He said they kept flying in circles around the tree in his back garden. I thought the good flyer was going to tell him the cocks could have respiratory problem, but no, he told him to cut the tree down then waked away. I could not believe it, but it was funny”.
Do fanciers in general get their birds fir before the first race of the season. “I always try and get my birds fit at start of season before I start to train them, this one year a local man asked me to train his bird as the doctor had told him not to drive I said ok no problem. So, for 2 weeks his cocks went same place as mine every time I went, I took his. On the Saturday night I won he was last, later I heard him tell other members that someone had seen me letting his go every day 2 miles from home, so he never beat me. Your right I never took his birds again and it was a load of bull about the doctor also”
What about other notable pigeons you have had in your loft over the years. “In my last article from 20yrs ago I mentioned I had loaned a J Dutton cock, he used to help Frank Faulkner the FVW man who had some of the best. I was at work and having a chat with Cliff Saunders who had told me he told me he had a no ring cock off Dutton’s best race cock, he said I could borrow it. I mated it to a granddaughter of my Vulien cock. In the one season I had 4 from them the young hen won 2nd sect 14th open YB Nat, a Yearling cock won 2nd open Nat when Mick Betts won in SW wind, I think it was the fastest I have ever saw a bird trap, a great pigeon on the day. Another topped the Fed and I do not know what happened to the other one. The young hen I put to stock and she bred my Tours Mid Nat winner in a NE Wind hottest day of year. I think the Tours hen has been my best breeder even better than the mother of my 2 National winners. And I would not swap any of my best birds over the years for the big money so called champions sold in Belgium. All the best to all that have read this, hope we get some racings stay safe I may write again in another 20 years ha ha”