LES J. PARKINSON'S
Old and New
I am still looking at the past and what I came across while looking through boxes of pigeon material. I came across a booklet for the “Columbae” and the advert in the back cover was for a fancier that I have not heard of for a long time. The fancier is George Slade whose family were known as, “Swing Clear Family” and were deep reds and black chequers. George lived in Buckinghamshire. Unlike the fanciers of today from that area George raced the pigeons both ways. They raced on the North Road to Lerwick and the South route to Pau” which takes some doing when you are winning both ways. If my memory serves me right these books came from Les Probert from South Wales. There are two of these books, the first 1951 and the second 1962. In the later were some of the winnings of two legends from the sport, W D Rayner and nearer home W Steele from Uttoxeter. I remember the late Bob Machin from Middlewich had some from Mr Steele and from what I remember they were not bad pigeons at all. Another fancier in the book and a regular amongst the winners is M Slabbinck, I have to admit this was before my time in pigeons and I had it in the back of my mind that he was a continental fancier, but now I know differently.
In my last notes I mentioned the Sandbach fanciers mainly George “Stubby” Stubbs and Jack Bate. This time I am looking at two pigeons that Brian had in his loft, a Mealy Cock who had won many prizes. The other being a Red Cock who was a real cracker being sire, g-sire, g-g-sire of many winners, he was a real top breeder for Brian. The following is an extract from a report I wrote on Brian many years ago. “To get the pigeons right for such an arduous task Brian feeds a mixture mostly of beans, peas and tares plus an addition of maize not a great deal, just a small amount plus a further addition to the diet of red band conditioner which Brian has used for many years. This is what Brain has fed to his pigeons for most of his time racing our feathered friends. Brian sees no point in changing his methods because they have been so successful over the years. As an addition to the water Brian is a strong believer in Johnson’s Tonic, which is something else that he has faithfully stuck to over the years. Training is something that the majority of fanciers cannot keep up with because when many fanciers are just getting out of bed Brian has been known to be leaving the motorway after taking them for a toss at Penkridge some 30 miles fly, a distance that he has in fact travelled in the dark waiting for the sun to rise and let the pigeons go. Now that’s what I call dedication. The old birds will receive three to four tosses some weeks while the young are tossed as often as possible before the commencement of the young bird season. Brian likes to give the YB team as many as 50 tosses which is the type of experience that they need if they are going to make it to the top. One point that Brian did make was that when he gets to the last three YB races his training system ceases. This came about when a few years ago his car broke down three weeks before the last YB race the youngsters went onto fly even better, so he stuck to not training from this sometime of the year. Going back to the training for the YB team they are trained in steady stages from about 2 miles building up to about 30 miles, which if the weather is suitable, they stay through the season” When Brian said he used to train them 3 or 4 times each week, those tosses would often be single up from 20mls. I have mentioned this before, he would single them up 1 minute apart and neighbour John said they would drop into the loft also one minute apart. He was a fanatic with the pigeons and as anyone who knew him will tell you, he put weight on over winter but come summer he lost it all through his hard work and dedication to everything he was involved in. Brian was a very patient man who got his point over in a quiet way, but fanciers could get his back up. Even so he was never one to go out of his way to argue about pigeons. He would say things and at times I don’t think the people in the conversation realised he was telling them off for not doing things right. He was a good winner and knew how to race pigeons but didn’t shout it from the rooftops as so many do today. Brian didn’t have too we all knew he was there and was one of the main ones to beat. Times have changed since I interviewed Brian, there are now so many products on the scene we never know what is best for our pigeons. I wonder what he and many more of the past top winning fanciers would think about what goes into winning a pigeon race today in comparison to when they were racing. When they have decent racing there are more pigeons doing similar velocities than there used to be. They are much closer together in the modern days of racing pigeons. A big question is, “Are the pigeons better, or are the fewer number of fanciers in the sport today trying harder” A question that many could have their views on and knowing pigeon fanciers there would still be plenty of different answer’s.
Brian & Eddie Beardmore with Dave Allen and below two of their top pigeons
Back with specialist racing.
As an alternative staying with my notes last week there are always conversation’s about what clubs everyone is going to race in for the following season. I was nearly always preferring to race in the National and forgot about the local club racing. This is one of those cases where we think about something after the event. Yes, after the event, that time in life we realise that we could have done something differently, but then it is too late. I left club racing behind for many years because I was after racing in the Nationals. I think we could make life easier for members racing into the North West by cutting channel racing out at local club level and using the specialist clubs for such races. The advantage here in the North West is we can get a few miles under their wings on land and they can then be sent to the specialist club’s channel racing. If we look at the numbers sent in the clubs, they are nearly non-existent, maybe 20 or 30 birds entered. Even the feds are struggling to get decent numbers to make a race worthwhile. It would be far better for all concerned if all members of clubs joined the Classic or specialist clubs and raced in them for their channel programme. There would be something to race for and the I would suspect the result would give more satisfaction to those competing. Before going any further, for those who don’t know, I will point out that now I am joint secretary of the North West Classic specialist club. However, this is my last year in this position and I have nothing to gain with the content of this article. I am saying this because as we all know someone somewhere is always looking to make a point, whether justified or not. We only must look at the current media coverage with Boris Johnson and his other half. What on earth has it got to do with anyone else if they have a falling out, in their own house/flat. If you looked at all the politicians, I dare bet most on them have the same thing happen at some time in their lives, we are all human. The problem is too many just want to stick their noses into what others are doing. I also dare bet that most people who are successful could be held to account for something they have done at some point in their lives, things they have done for one reason or another. There I go again going off the subject. Back to racing into the North West from across the channel. There are good options for racing, I know there are the Combine races, but they are not agreeing all the time and then break away. The more fragmented they are the less the competition and less to fly for. We have a great chance here in the North West to have a real good competitive channel programme with plenty to fly for and plenty of competition, a mini National if you like. There are a lot of pigeons go out of this area across the channel over several weeks. Surely, we would be better putting all those resources into one specialist club and making it all worthwhile. Breaking up of organisations only comes about because someone is not winning as much as they want to and are looking for an easy option to gain a red card or two. There is no glory in doing that, but it has happened for years and I think most who went down that road have realised at a later date there was no real benefit in breaking good clubs up because they are not winning. This has been a problem all over the country and there is only one way that the finger can be pointed and that is towards our governing bodies who have accepted new organisations when there are already establish clubs, feds or combines already in existence in that area. It is no good those same people saying they are accepted if there is no objection, which they have done in the past. I say that because I know for a fact that there have been objections to new organisations failed at the Region level. We need to get back to better competition and make it all worthwhile, don’t get me wrong there is some real good competition in the North West, but it could be far better by a lot of thought and some good organisation.
Mid Cheshire Fed
The fed is growing with some saying it is no long a Mid Cheshire Fed, does it really matter if the competition is increasing, after all we have had so many saying there is little competition available in the area. Elimar are sponsoring the channel races with £500. Last year the Fed guaranteed £100 for 1st Prize for each of the 4 old bird channel races. Elimar will add £100 to the first prize so all being well it will now be £200 1st prize. The other £100 to be split £25 to the 2nd prize. So, the £1500 from previous years is now £2000. Fed secretary Anthony Evans was telling me that there are now 19 clubs in the fed making some good competition. This is the most number of club’s in the history of the Fed and they are; Middlewich, Wrinehill, Rudheath, Crewe Prem, Earlestown, Kingsway, Acton Bridge, Tyldesley, Leigh & Atherton, Halmerend, Hindley, Duddon, Frodsham, Runcorn, Sutton Oak, Ashton, Intex, Pemberton West, Sankey Bridges. With these clubs the Fed expect to have 200 flying members, and hopefully sending around 2,500 a week inland and 1,000 birds over the channel. The fed will be having its usual breeder/buyer sale on the 29th March with the race being Yeovil on the 5th September. Yes, we are aware that the Fed is called the Mid Cheshire, but as we know the clubs and competition were reduced with the formation of a second fed in the area many years ago. Therefore, there is a need to look outside the area to increase competition in a reducing sport and that is what the officials have done. Geoff Bebbington is always saying that the Fed’s should take more in and increase competition, which they are now doing. Geoff also went on to say that the Federations should go to regional marking instead of transporters going around picking 2 or 3 crates up at one place as they are doing now. Yes, we know that fanciers don’t want to be travelling out of their comfort zone, but to reduce costs and cut drivers hours so that they keep within the driving hours we need to do something.
Number of entries.
I don’t know how many watched or can remember the On-Assignment programme last year about pigeons in China. Not a programme I normally watch but earlier in the night when it was on, they mentioned pigeons in China so I thought it might be worth looking at. I very often here about fanciers here in the UK talking about mob flying their pigeons, after seeing this programme I think that is an exaggeration. They were entering hundreds into the races with one woman who had inherited the pigeons from her father sending 500 to a race. Number’s entered don’t bother me because as I have always said, “If you send 1 or 101 if they are not right, then they are not going to win” I know fanciers who send big teams but a large proportion of them are sent as part of their preparation for later races in the season. They are not all in competition for every race that they are entered. The report said there are over 100,000 pigeon fanciers in Beijing alone, that is a lot of fanciers in one area. The loft that figured prominently had over 4,000 pigeons, and what did make me laugh was the way they exercised the pigeons. All along the loft, on the top, there were people with flags waving them and they had to stay there for 4hrs. I was watching those pigeons fly and they were being turned into homers and not racers. After so long you could see them just flopping around the loft with no urgency about racing. They were going in all directions, but if they were out in smaller batches they would race around the loft, so there is a downfall to having so many pigeons to look after and exercise. The other way of looking at it is, if you have to basket so many pigeons every day for training purposes then you are going to be basketing for hours. On the downside of the programme, the exceptionally big lofts and the numbers of pigeons would no doubt put some people off having them. The programme did make a point of mentioning the cost of the best pigeons and the amount of money involved which would catch the eye of some potential pigeon fanciers, but they would be few and far between. There were no, what I would call normal back garden lofts to attract people to the sport. Lofts to show that you don’t have to have lofts on a grand scale to enjoy pigeon racing. Watching the programme, the impression came over that there is no such thing as a back-garden loft, pity they didn’t show a few instead of just showing the very big boys. There are no fanciers in the UK that I know of who come anywhere near the super Chinese lofts with so many pigeons and who send so many to each race. If there are a few lofts like the one shown, it’s no wonder there are so many pigeons in Beijing. I suppose we must look at the point of, any publicity is better than no publicity.
South West Cheshire
Don’t hear much from the SWCF so here is the programme for the coming season. Old Birds; 11th April Cheltenham. 18th April Bath. 25th April Bath. 2nd May Frome. 9th May Yeovil. 16th May Newton Abbott. 23rd May Frome. 30th May Bath/Carentan. 6th June Frome. 13th June Frome/Fougeres. 20th June Frome. 27th June Bath/Messac. 4th July Frome. 11th July Carentan. In mid-season they are holding an old/young bird race on the 18th July from Tewkesbury. The young birds start on the 25th July Tewkesbury. 1st Aug Cheltenham. 8th Aug Cheltenham. 15th Aug Bath. 22nd Aug Frome. 29th Aug Yeovil. 5th Sept Newton Abbott. This is the type of programme that suits fanciers to this part of the country, not too much messing about with 60/70ml races when many birds have been near enough that in training. I heard a conversation where the finger was point at one fancier for saying the races were too short. Not the case there are many who think the same, most would rather say nothing. If pigeons cannot go to their first race of the season at 100mls there is something wrong.
Geert & Clara Phillips
We have met this partnership on a few occasions, and what a nice couple they are. Geert & Clara are well known around the world especially for their excellent performances in the Bourges National. More importantly their latest performances during the 2004 season when they finished 1st Middle Distance National Champion Old Birds KBDB. 1st Olympic pigeon all round Porto. 4th Middle Distance National Champion Yearlings 2004. These championships are with their 1st & 2nd nominated pigeons which brings to the fore just how good they are. No sending bulk and hoping for one out of the blue, their choice birds nominated for the races that matter. In the middle distances races they have now reached the top so it will be interesting to see where they go from here, will they stay the premier loft, or will they move to another distance. I don't know because the Middle distance is where they have had so much enjoyment for many years so what every good pigeon fancier must ask themselves is there a good enough reason to change. There have been many top lines of pigeons to come from the continent that have become household names and made a big impression on the results. In this case this has been a real success story because Geert & Clara have a good winning National line that they now hold on to however we have seen little of their pigeons on the UK scene, who knows when that will change. When you win the National races there is always a big temptation because of the offers that arrive for them. This temptation came their way and they now admit to making the big mistake of selling the great "Zipa" who won 1st National Bourges. When these offers come along many sell their best and that is something that many have regretted doing over the years. Temptation comes your way but that did not happen again because since then their other top National pigeons have stayed in the loft and helped the partnership to establish a National based winning line of their own. There are not many lofts who can boast such an impressive team of pigeons because many of their breeders previously made their name in the race team. Such pigeons as "Jonge Excellent" "Napan" and "Elpa", quality pigeons at their best. Other pigeons worth a mention in the breeding loft are "Sanex III" 1st National Bourges 2000 and was the fastest of 57.004 pigeons. "lezil" best old bird from Belgium 1999 middle distance. "Lezi" 1st Semi National Chateauroux and 1st Provincial Bourges. "Untop" Bourges 2nd Provincial, Bourges 9th Provincial, Bourges 13th Provincial. What about their modern-day winners "Olympic Sazil" and "Sanja" real quality pigeons and pigeons that will no doubt follow in line and produce more winners to this excellent family. These are continuing generations of winners from the same line, something that we are all after in a team of racing pigeons. There is no doubt about it; Geert & Clara are one of the very best middle-distance lofts on the continent. It is never always easy getting to the top in pigeon racing and even harder to stay there, these fanciers have done it. Geert is now in the half century bracket and started with pigeons when he was 13yrs old and has worked hard around pigeons ever since so he along with Clara do have a wide knowledge of the sport. Good pigeons are hard to come by with this family starting in 1983 with birds from the lofts of Raoul & Xavier Verstraete at that time the pigeons of the moment were the impressive "Zilveren" lines from the "Gouden-Bol-Line" plus the lines of "Monolito" that were followed with the "Panter Line" of Theo Gilbert that went on to produce "Rapido" "Cupido" and "Panter". I remember Planet Bros having the Verstraate pigeons in the 80's which was where my first attention was drawn to them and they are still successful today. Geert & Clara are like any other winning fanciers and always looking to improve so the next move came when they introduced the Hans & Silvain D'Hondt, Romain Legiest and Andre & Patrick De Smet pigeons to build a team to compete at the highest level. Bourges is the Middle-Distance race that these lofts prefer to compete in, they are always looking for pigeons to bring into their lofts from the Bourges winners. With this in mind Geert kept up the search to improve his winning team and soon found a good addition via the "Nationaal 1" of Karel Schellens which came through Herbots Bros. The relentless search continued with the next pigeon to come in being from the Jan Withofs "Nationaal" who was paired to a direct daughter of the 1st World Champion competing in the long-Distance events. What made this line that much better was that the dam of this hen is also a sister to the highly rated "Supercrack 327" of Pros Roosen. The foundation was not there with the next few years seeing these lofts breed very carefully back to the Middle-Distance Champions and the results started to come with top national performances. However as with all good lofts if it is done right then you always get to the final hurdle and the results of the last couple of years have been out of the top drawer. A few results include 1st & 2nd Semi-National Chateauroux against 7.243 old pigeons, 5th National La Souterrain. 5th Semi-Nat Argenton 10,638 Yearlings. 5th National Ace Pigeon Middle Distance KBDB 1999. 6th National Champion Yearlings KBDB 2003 etc. The above is an extract from an article I wrote many years ago, I have included a photo taken on that trip. Also, since that article I have seen a great deal on the offspring of the legendary “Nationaal 1” whose offspring include 7 x 1sts National winners.
Geert & Clara Phillips and below a trip with Middlewich members