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Alan Hall a Pigeon Maestro

 

ALAN HALL

A PIGEON MAESTRO

by Billy Knox

I have to admit at the outset, that although I had heard of Alan Hall, I had never met the man before, so I was only too glad when I got the opportunity to go and visit him. Some of the fanciers who had read the previous loft reports that I had done were wondering when I would be doing some more. So, I thought that Alan Hall would be a perfect man to start with. The only problem with Alan, who has a record as long as your arm when it comes to winning. was how to fit it all into one report.

Alan holding the Old Pied Cock, one of his base stock birds. He is now 15 years old.

With well over one hundred Section wins, and to date, five Open wins you could probably write a book about him, never mind a small loft report. And, being a man who also keeps meticulous year on year records, you can imagine the sheer amount of information we had at our disposal. The hardest part about writing the report wasn’t what to include, but what we should actually leave out. With all that in mind, I’ll try to get things as accurate as I can, although I’m sure Alan will allow me a few discrepancies and anyway, whose to know the facts from the small pieces of fiction that might just creep in.

Alan's super neat and tidy loft. It measures about 48 ft by 12 ft.

Alan has been in the sport now for over forty years, and started way back in 1968 or 1969 in Festival Park in Omagh where he raced with the Sion club. He hasn’t moved far in the last forty odd years, and now lives in a cracking location just outside the town of Omagh where he has been since 1976. It was here that Alan won his first Open back in 1992, when he topped the Open from Talbenny. Back then, it was Billy Parkes' Busschaerts that did the damage for him, and those original Parkes bloodlines are still present and still winning to this day. In fact the original Parkes birds were with Alan for fifteen years and were responsible for more than one of Alan’s Open winners and also a third Open winner to boot. Alan also had some of his top performing Busschaerts from Trevor Sheavills and Wyn Morse and not forgetting Tom Kilpatrick whose birds bred Alan's Penzance winner. As true a blend of the best Busschaerts you are likely to come across anywhere. Alan’s Talbenny winner then went on to then to claim a Meritorious Award that year for winning two open positions from Talbenny and Penzance. Alan had been eyeing up the Meritorious award for a while and when he clocked his Talbenny winner after ten hours on the wing, it was job done. Just one thing to point out before we go on, is that back then it was the old Section A that Alan raced in, which included clubs from Coleraine, Cookstown, Dungannon, Castledawson, Coalisland and Portstewart. No mean feat therefore, and one that I don’t thing has ever been repeated.  

A view of Alan's extensive aviary

Just to give you a quick overview of Alan’s success over the years, and without going into the finer detail, he has been the Section fancier of the year thirteen times since 1997. You can imagine then just how many club and Section wins this would have meant in the intervening years. He has also been six times runner up in the Old Bird Derby in Section A, and his first King’s Cup success was in 1973, when he was 29th Open Nantes, flying 545 miles with a bird he called Mid Day, as he came at mid day on the second day of the race.

In 1999, Alan won his second Open, from Malahide. The birds were actually brought back from Arklow because of the weather. This time the winner was a cheq Busschaert cock who was competing against 27,000 birds.

A nice view from the loft

We then jump forward to 2009, when Alan won two Opens. He won the Open from Tullamore with a cheq pied hen competing against 24,000 birds. She also 2nd Section, 95th Open from Talbenny, and in total she won an amazing six Sections. His other Open win came from Talbenny, competing against 15,000 birds, with his old Busschaert and Thas lines. Both of these birds go back to an old 99 rung Peter van Oest hen that Alan bought while visiting Holland and a Marcel Sangers Busschaert cock. This old hen was a prolific breeder, and was responsible for over thirty first prize winners. Alan still has these two Open winners in his loft today.

As we have mentioned before, a lot of Alan’s success has come from his Parkes Busschaerts, although he does keep some distance families as well. He also keeps some Koopman, Van Dyke and Van Loon stock. These were responsible for his Talbenny Section winner in 2009, a hen that was also timed in the Yearling national in 2010. This hen was his single entry and was pooled right through. She actually ended up 49th Open, had three races in 2011, winning the Section from Fermoy and picking up a Meritorious award with two second Sections from Talbenny and Penzance. Unfortunately, she was lost this year.

If truth be told, Alan prefers the distance and channel racing in particular, over the shorter inland races, although you wouldn’t know this looking at his results. This year he won 39th Open King's Cup with a Busschaert from John Mc Mullan of Carnlough, and was 3rd Section, 117th Open from St. Malo with one of his Van Oest Busschaerts. Add to this a Section win from Penzance with a hen that was only trained to thirteen miles and you get a picture of why he likes the channel racing.

All the stock birds are over wintered in the aviary

This year wasn’t the greatest for Alan as he had a late start with his old birds, and never really got caught up. In fact he admits to throwing away some very good birds which he didn’t really prepare properly. The Penzance win was a bonus for him. In saying that, what he lost in the old birds, he more than made up for when it came to racing his young birds. In fact, he totally dominated when it came to young birds, taking six of the last seven Sections and will no doubt be the young bird Section flyer of the year yet again.

In total, Alan keeps around 150 birds. He breeds between 80 and 90 young birds in a typical season and keeps too many stock birds he admits, with 20 or so pairs. He is not as quick to get rid of stock birds as he used to be, having culled some Felix Pauwels stock birds that left behind some of his best breeders. As he says himself, it pays to give a bit of time to new stock. Maybe they will not produce winners themselves, will they might produce breeders, so it always pays to hold on to a few and give them a try.

He puts half of his young birds on the darkness system and the other half he keeps natural. The darkness young birds are the only ones he will race, although he may race a very odd natural young bird. This year, from around forty darkness young birds, he still has about twenty at the end of racing. The young birds will get maybe fifteen tosses up to about forty miles, and must fly well around the house. The old birds do not get as much work, and might get three or four twenty milers and that’s it for them. No more training will be given after racing starts. Also, the fact that he is plagued by peregrines where he lives, he would rather get straight to racing rather than lose them around the house or from short training tosses. He is also now a convert to ETS, which he thinks is a fantastic system for clocking birds, and he would never go back to conventional clocking.

He will treat for either canker or respiratory on a weekly basis throughout the racing season as he believes the birds can pick up a lot of ailments through stress and from the transporter itself. The young birds get Frazier’s young bird mix, and pellets combined with a normal young bird mix. His old birds get a standard mix, although he does like to up the carbohydrates on the last couple of days, and also likes to add the fat foods for the longer distance races.

Well there you have it, the Maestro that is Alan Hall. I’m sure I have missed some good birds and some super performances, but it’s hard to cover them all. Alan is as keen as ever, if not more keen, so watch this space as I’m sure this man’s successes are far from over.

This year's Roscrea Open winner

Super racer - 6 times Section winner. G.g.son of the Old Pied Cock.

Cheq cock - 39th Open King's Cup 2012

Top Knotch - 11th Open Frienship National, 2nd section Penzance in his first year racing

Top racer. Timed in the King's Cup 2010; 4th Sect St Malo 2011; 3rd Sect St Malo 2012.

Cheq hen only trained to 13 miles, winner of Penzance Section and Classic

Cheq hen - 1st Open Malahide in 99

 

Yet another of Alan's crack racers - 1st Section 72nd Open St Malo

Blue Cock - 2nd Section 13th Open St Malo

Blue hen - 5th Open Rosscarberry

 

Fresh blood for next year. What might it be?

 

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