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Rick and Julie Cleverley of Basildon




Looking back at London & South East Classic Club winners (Part 26.)


Rick and Julie Cleverley of Basildon.


I don’t think it is common knowledge that I earned my living doing Carpentry and worked in the building trade all my life. I have been general Forman on several big projects through the years and have worked in the homes of several ‘stars’ including Leslie Grantham and John Pertwee. I had 30 happy years working self-employed and for the last eight years before retiring I enjoyed grafting for Wallakers of Surbiton. It’s no flannel, but the Wallakers crew were a great crowd and we enjoy a good laugh! On one occasion I  made a visit to the Surbiton office for a meeting and our Becky told me a new girl had started work there and her dad is a pigeon fancier. It’s a small world! The girl was Kay Cleverley, daughter of Rick and Julie Cleverley of Basildon in Essex. Rick and Julie visited my home in 2005 when they won the L&SECC from Tours and I covered their win with an article in the fancy press. Kay was then living in Surrey with her partner and had been working at Wallakers a few months then. She was a lovely girl and liked to hear the pigeon news when I visit the office. At that time I spoke to Rick on the phone and the Cleverley’s had move house and live in ‘Budgie’ Crathorne’s house in Essex. The Crathorne & Parrott partnership won the NFC Falaise Old Hens National in 2003 with their blue hen, ‘Kiln Falaise’, and now live in the Manchester area.


In the first few weeks of the 2005 season the wind had been fixed in the South and West, producing very fast racing every week. The London & South East Classic Club sent a record birdage of 2,738 birds to the Tours event and true to form the wind was in the South West and produced another fast race. The birdage was 300 birds up on the previous highest in the mid-season classic, with most of the leading pigeon being recorded on the East side of the club. The day of the race had perfect racing conditions, with blue sky and sun shine, and the convoy got off to a good start being liberated at 06.35 hrs.


The winning pigeon was clocked at the Basildon loft of Rick and Julie Cleverley and their champion yearling blue chequer hen was recorded at 12.12hrs, flying 290 miles into Essex. Rick had named his Tours classic winner, ‘Fred’s Girl’, after his late father who was an outstanding North Road fancier in the 1970’s. She was raced on the natural system and was given a big youngster on the Tuesday evening prior to marking and never wasted a second trapping into the loft, on her return from Tours. This wonderful little hen was bred from stock obtained from John and Meg Murry of Essex and flew the channel twice from Alencon, the two weekends prior to her Tours Classic win. Rick only trained his old birds lightly and ‘Fred’s Girl’ was given several tosses off the south coast on the local club transporter, before the start of racing. As a young bird she was put on the darkness system and raced the whole programme. There you have it, Rick and Julie Cleverley and their wonderful L&SECC Tours success!


The late, Norman Middleton of Iver.


The last weekend of May 2001 saw the London & South East Classic Club hold its Sennen Cove race, incorporated the annual Yearling Derby, and members entered 1,530 birds for this 250 miles event. More or less from the time we arrived at the grassed car park liberation site, on the cliffs above Sennen Cove, it was fogged out by dense sea mist coming in off the Atlantic and had to hold over until the Tuesday, when I liberated at 08.00hrs in a west wind. I released the convoy into blue sky and sunshine and after forming one big batch, they cleared the site very quickly. I anticipated a brilliant race but, although the velocities were good and constant, the race didn’t really live up to my expectations, with returns being very patchy. A local Sennen pigeon fancier, Peter Lugg, informed me that there are at least 15 pairs of Peregrine Falcons within sight of the Sennen Cove liberation site and, on my return home, several classic fanciers reported getting birds home badly hawked. When I liberated the classic birds on the Tuesday morning, the convoy was in ‘mint’ condition and it was a perfect day for racing pigeons. It makes me wonder if the convoy was attacked and broken up by hungry Peregrine Falcons en route home.


The weekend after the race I made the 30 miles drive to Iver in Buckinghamshire to visit the winning loft of Norman Middleton Brothers and I must say how impressed I was with the quality of the pigeons in the loft, which were mainly Starview Busschaerts. Norman clocked his winning pigeon, a two year old Busschaert blue chequer hen, to record 1668 ypm and she was raced on Norman’s own roundabout system. He named his champion hen, ‘Miss Camin’, and she was bred from the very best Massarella Starview Busschaert lines, with her sire being Norman’s champion blue chequer cock, ‘Buster’s Pride’. This wonderful champion was at stock, breeding many winners, after a brilliant racing career, winning 1st Sect. E, 2nd open NFC Saintes (beaten by 2ypm) and 1st open U.B.I. Combine Nantes. Another daughter of ‘Buster’s Pride’, a blue pied sister of ‘Miss Camin’, won 4th open UBI Combine Liskeard. A brilliant family of pigeons!


Norman’s late brother, ‘Buster’, was an outstanding fancier for over 50 years and started as a lad with a pair of pigeons in a box on the garden shed roof. The young Buster helped and cleaned out the loft of Tubby Bignell of West Drayton and on the starting up racing pigeons, Norman taught Buster how to drive so he could train his birds. Norman had always helped Buster with the pigeons but, in recent years when he became very ill, Norman helped him more and altered the loft to suit Buster’s ill health. When Buster passed away he left a wonderful team of pigeons to Norman in his will, with some money to meet the running costs of the loft, as he wanted it to carry on after he had gone. I must say that Norman had done a brilliant job carrying on with premier positions where Buster left off.


Norman raced 40 pairs on the roundabout system but said, it’s not hard-core and called it his own ‘mess about’ system. The birds were fed twice a day, a seed mixture in the morning and widowhood mixture in the evening, and were given a 50 miles training toss once a week. He raced only south road and said at the time, at that moment his hens were racing best, although the cocks flew out best on their twice a day exercise sessions around the loft. Norman liked to race middle distance best but said he thought the Starview Busschaerts could fly Pau (560 miles). Norman’s racers were flown to a self-built 40ft loft with seven sections and drop hole trapping and his 14 pairs of stock birds were housed in two lofts and a wire flight.


Norman’s pride and joy was his champion blue chequer cock, ‘Buster’s Pride’, and he told me that, after a fantastic racing career, he had to retire him to stock because he was damaged by a Sparrowhawk attack. On my visit to the Iver loft, Norman showed me several of his top performers, including his champion four year old chequer pied Busschaert hen, ‘Glazy’, and she had recorded racing on the roundabout: 1st Sect. D, 1st open BBC Nantes (2,691 birds) and two weeks later 1st Sect. E, 5th open NFC Nantes. A brilliant hen!


Marriott & Seery of West Drayton.


The London & South East Classic Club kicked off the 2005 season, with a banger of a race from Alencon, in northern France and with lots of wind and rain on the day, it produced plenty of thrills and spills. The heavy showers didn’t seem to have any bearing on the outcome of the first classic, but the strong south westerly winds produced some very high velocities. La Ferte Bernard was the classic’s first choice for this 200 miles race, but with loss of the car park liberation site, so it was switched back to Alencon. I think it was a shame that the R.P.R.A. lost the La Ferte Bernard site, because it was one of the best the 200 mile stage. The Alencon site is not one of my favourites, it has a good open area for liberating the pigeons, but on my last visit had no facilities for watering the birds, or toilets. Back to the race! The members sent 2633 birds and after a good overnight run down to Alencon, the convoyer liberated at 07.35hrs in a south west wind. The returns were very patchy, with the leading pigeons making over 1900 ypm


Marriott & Seery of West Drayton won the race with their all pooler, a champion widowhood Busschaerts cock named “Nobby” and he made a winning velocity of 1928 ypm. This game three year old blue cock was no stranger to winning, having previously recorded, twice 1st club inland, 2nd club, 3rd Federation, 12th open Combine Fougeres (beaten by loft mate) as a yearling and 1st club, 1st Federation, 1st open Combine Fougeres (200 miles), 1st club, 4th Federation, 4th open Combine Guernsey as a two year old. He was bred from the very best Busschaerts bloodlines, with his sire coming from Tom Sparks of Gravesend and his dam from Roy Fox of Harrow. Champion “Nobby” had won many other premier positions racing and had a brother named, ‘Milton Keynes’ that had won many firsts racing and had been fantastic at stock. A brilliant line of Busschaerts! Tony Seery sent six birds to the Alencon classic and clocked his winner at 10.49hrs, flying 212 miles.


Tony Seery has had pigeon on and off since he was a lad, with his brother in law, John Wight, starting him off when he started to race proper, many years ago. He formed his successful partnership with the late, Bill Marriott, in the mid-1990’s and had kept the same flying name out of respect for his friend, since his passing in 1999. He has won 1st open Combine four times and told me he thought his best performance ever was when he was 2nd open L&SECC Alencon in a north east wind, a few years ago, losing the race on decimal to the winner in Surrey. Tony raced 20 cocks on the widowhood system and liked to race all distances with them, telling me, ‘if they are right, they go’. He paired up the week after the Blackpool Show in January and all the racers rear a pair of youngsters before going on the widowhood. The cocks got about six training from Newbury (45 miles) before the first race and got daily work around the loft during the racing season. Tony’s widowhood system was a bit different from the norm, as he trained his cocks once a week during the season, in fact “Nobby” had three training tosses from Newbury in the week prior to his classic win. Tony got his feeding from Sough Corn and fed Versele-Laga Irish mixture, which was also unusual for the normal widowhood system, as it is a very heavy mixture and normally used by the long distance lads. The pigeons were never broken down. Tony told me at the time he fed heavy, that’s the reason why he had to train the widowhood cocks during the racing season. A very interesting system, which was very successful! He had a regular 18ft “L” shaped loft, which housed the widowhood pigeons and stock birds and it had open door trapping. Tony had seven pairs of stock birds and the main families kept were Busschaerts and Janssen. They were paired up the same time as the racers and were kept on deep litter, with the feeding being “breeder mixture” and Hormoform. Tony was a great believer in Herbs and gave his birds them regularly, obtaining them from Ingram & Spavin. His 40 youngsters raced to their own 10ft loft, which had sputnik trapping and raced them on the darkness system. He put them on the system on Good Friday and took them off in mid-June. Tony was not a keen young bird racer and sometimes only gave them two or three races in a season, with the cocks being stopped at 150 miles, and the hens going to the longest race. The babies were fed heavy and trained heavy, with lots of tosses from Newbury (45 miles).


That’s it for this week! I can be contacted with any pigeon ‘banter’ on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email me on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.