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Tribute to Bert Hession

Tribute to the legendary Bert Hession from Chris Williams

Towards the end of 2019 one of the most well-known and respected fanciers that the United Kingdom has ever produced Bert Hession passed away.

 I   have just received a phone call from my friend in Blackpool Mick Barlow Mick is a close friend of the Hession family and it is my privilege to having been given their blessing to write this article. It is a mammoth task when one is trying to compose an article on a fancier of Bert’s calibre such was his prowess in the world of pigeon racing that it becomes a labour of herculean proportion.  It Is said that when a person dies that a whole library of knowledge is lost forever , for Bert  it would be a travesty if his name and legacy were not recorded in some small way in order that future generations of pigeon racing enthusiasts  remember  the great Bert Hession “The king of Blackpool “ Perhaps legend is a phrase that is used all too often, but in the case of the late Bert Hession no other adjective will suffice, for Bert was and will always remain, a global icon in world pigeon sport. Not only for his fantastic results which saw him rise to become one of the UK’s most successful and above all respected fanciers. But lest we forget that the great man was also instrumental in introducing to the UK, along with his friend Dave Allen of Sheffield, one of the most iconic families of pigeons to ever grace our skies, the legendary Staff Van Reet dynasty from Mol in Belgium.

1984 was a momentous year in the history of British pigeon racing for it was in this year that Bert Hession and Dave Allen purchased the second round of youngsters from Staff van Reet, this marked the beginning of the staff van Reet era in England and with descendants from this loft both Bert and Dave would rise to meteoric success on the world stage, which would see others fanciers beating a path to their doors in search of quality pigeons and there is no doubt that the “King of Blackpool” had within his lofts, pigeons which were truly  the envy of the masses! In every generation there are fanciers who stand out, individuals whom it would seem have the Midas touch, this is certainly the case with this competitive colossus, who also displayed tremendous talent on the football pitch in his younger days .However it was the humble racing pigeon which truly ignited his imagination. Like generations of fanciers before him Bert’s formative years in the fancy were spent in the so called “boys clubs” which were a big part of our great sport in its so called golden era, in which many a future racing champion served their pigeon racing apprenticeships the young master Hession cut his teeth and honed his incredible skills in what can only be described as pigeon racing perfection in those far of distant days a pigeon clock was regarded as a luxury  item and the now common place electronic timing system would have seemed  to  all fanciers of this era  as something straight from the mind of HG Wells or “Flash Gordon“ so for these young lads “clocking” was a matter of picking up a returning race bird and running with it to the club house for verification . 

This was the perfect breeding ground for Bert’s competitive nature which would help him run rings round the competition in his later years! It was during this time that Bert came into contact with the established  fanciers in and around the Layton area,  it was from these dyed in the wool fanatical fanciers the likes of Norman Moore and Louis Reilly who taught Bert the importance  and discipline of cleanliness and hygiene in and around the pigeon loft along with many of the key attributes which all fanciers who strive for success .  

There is no doubt in my mind as I sit here trawling through the extensive archive which was compiled by the Hession clan throughout Bert’s stellar racing  career, that two of his key attributes were sporting discipline combined with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge , as previously mentioned Bert was a gifted footballer who played for Stockport  County under the management of  one Andy Beattie who played for Scotland  later becoming the first manager of Scotland’s  national team and was a man of great honesty and integrity these values were no doubt also instilled  within the heart and mind of the young Bert  who like his manager was also known for these virtues! 

Andy Beattie


At the age of eighteen Bert was called upon to do his mandatory two years of National service. During this time Bert met and married his wife Rita. Upon completion of serving his country it was back home to Layton , Caledonian road to be exact  and it was here that the first racing loft was established the first birds obtained were the very best  of the Vandevelde lines from his boyhood mentor Norman Moore , it may be of interest for  readers to note that Theo Vandevelde from Oudenburg. Was one of the great fanciers who’s influence during the early days of our great hobby is not to be understated as many of the grand masters of the pigeon game from Dr Bricoux, to the legendry Charles Vanderespt owe their fame! I mention this as I think it illustrates perfectly the point, even in his youth Bert Hession had an eye for quality pigeons! Birds were also sourced from another of Blackpool’s leading lights in the sport Herbert Crabtree, added to these came birds from the lofts of Bob McDonald of Fraserburgh and Bill Heatly from Nottingham. With such a potent mix of winning genes it was no time at all before the name of Bert Hession adorned the top of the result sheet and subsequently his name was always to be found in the headlines of the fancy press a trend that would continue for decades to come. Some of the outstanding results in what I shall call “the pre Van Reet era” include a 1st prize in the barker Bleasdale dale race a 1st northwest combine and two meritorious awards at regional level , that was only the beginning