“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.
Looking back at London & South East Classic Club winners (Part 4.)
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).
The late Fred Emberson of Godmerston.
The late Fred Emberson, resided near Canterbury in Kent, but prior to that was one of the leading long distance racers in the London area for a great many years. Fred was a fancier who joined an elite band of long distance specialists who had won the London & South East Classic Club Pau / Tarbes Merit Award, which was awarded to any pigeon that records three positions in the first fifty of the open result of the longest old bird race.
This certificate was very hard to win and Fred won it in 2009 with his beautiful six year old blue chequer pied hen, ‘Links Show Girl’, and she recorded: 2007: 23rd open L&SECC Pau, 2008: 22nd open L&SECC Tarbes and 2009: 28th open L&SECC Tarbes. Fred named his latest champion 550 miler; ‘Show Girl’ and I must say she really was a show girl, being a super hen in the hand with soft feather and beautiful eye. The 2010 season was very hard and had proved to be a ‘bumper’ time for the L&SECC Merit Award, with several pigeons winning the award at Tarbes that time. Fred told me at that time that he had been waiting 25 years to win the Merit Award when he won it in 2009 with his Blue Chequer Pied ‘Links Show Girl’. He had enjoyed another great Tarbes Classic the following season and won another Merit Award with his Blue Chequer WF hen ‘Links Confidence’, a fantastic long distance racer and winner of 2007: 43rd open L&SECC Pau, 2008: 15th open BICC Tarbes, 2009: 1st SE section, 13th open Tarbes: 2010: 17th open L&SECC Tarbes. Fred waits 25 years to win a Merit Award and then wins two in two years!
Fred’s loft was 100% geared to natural long distance pigeon racing and told me he had never raced the Widowhood or Roundabout systems. The loft was 18ft long, with three compartments, two for the old birds and one for the youngsters. Fred’s self built loft had open door trapping and he used granules on the floors. Fred kept seven pairs of racers and three pairs of stock birds, and these were all paired up the first week in March. He told me he couldn’t remember the last time he sent to an inland club race and maintains he preferred to give the birds a 50 or 60 mile single up. He was not fussed which way the birds are trained and quite often took them the opposite direction to the continental race point, as long as they got a good fly. The Emberson racing pigeons were fed on 50% Irish Mixture and 50% Diet all produced by Natural, and the stock birds were fed on Countrywide young bird mixture, which was nearly all Maple Peas. Fred maintained that all pigeons are individuals, racing best to what ever suits them and recalled his good blue chequer white flight hen, ‘Links Confidence’, winner of 1st SE section, 13th open L&SECC Tarbes (550 miles) in 2009, was sitting 14 day old eggs and was slipped a small baby on marking day. The typical build up for his old birds for the main long distance events was three or may be five training tosses, one mid-distance race from some where like Tours and then into Tarbes. Fred had an open loft right through the racing season and of course had had his problems with the Sparrowhawks, with the worst time being the time when he lost nine pigeons in ten day period. Fred told me the Sparrowhawks always pick out and kill the best ones!
Fred was very proud of his record racing in long distance events over the years and quite rightly too, it was fantastic! At club level between 1981 and 1999 he won in the longest old bird race, nine times 1st Bergerac, twice 1st Bordeaux, once 1st Marmande and five times only birds on the day. In the London & South East Classic Club he had won long list of premier positions, the highlights being: 4th, 6th open Dax, 6th, 14th, 20th, 21st open Pau, 7th, 26th open San Sebastian, 13th, 23rd, 28th open Tarbes, 4th Narbourne Inter Open, 4th, 12th, 15th, 20th, 27th, 30th, 40th, 46th open Bordeaux and Bergerac. Fred had won the L&SECC South East section four times from La Ferte Bernard, Bordeaux, San Sebastian and Tarbes. Other great positions won were: 4th open BICC Dax, 13th open BICC Pau, 15th open BICC Tarbes (twice), 7th open BBC Palamos, 36th open BBC Palamos and 46th open BBC Palamos. A fantastic record in the very best long distance events!
The origin of his present family of racers were, four birds obtained from A. H. Bennett, including a son of Champion ‘Andre’ and Fred told me all his birds could be traced to these original stock birds. Another good introduction was two late breds, gifted to him by his nephew, Vicky Emberson of Banstead, and these were bred from pigeons obtained from Lol Green. Fred brought in the odd cross from time to time, but was disposed of very quickly if they don’t work out. The stock birds were paired up the same time as the race birds in March and quite often would be mated to a race bird, so it had a safe mate through out the season. When Fred brought in a new stock bird he liked small birds and also liked to see the wing tip touch the dark bar on the tail. He bred approx. 20 young birds each season and very rarely raced them in their first year, as there were far too many youngsters lost in young bird races. Many years ago he visited the NFC Pau winning loft of A. H. Bennett and Albert never raced his youngsters, so Fred tried the same system, and maintained, not racing the babies make absolutely not difference to them in later life. Fred stressed that although they don’t race, the young birds got plenty of good training with lots of tosses off the south coast. On the odd occasion that he had raced a youngster or two, they went straight in to the National or Classic and were never put on the darkness system.
Fred said the best pigeons in his loft at that time were: Blue WF ‘Links President’ winner of in 2009: 15th open BICC Tarbes: Blue Chequer WF ‘Links Confidence’, a fantastic long distance racer and winner of: 2007: 43rd open L&SECC Pau, 2008: 15th open BICC Tarbes, 2009: 1st SE section, 13th open Tarbes, 2010: 17th open L&SECC Tarbes: Blue Chequer ‘Links Just Reward’, winner of 2004: 65th open L&SECC Bordeaux, 2006: 28th open L&SECC Bergerac, 2008: 78th open L&SECC Bergerac, 31st open East of England Bourges, 2009: 13th open BICC Pau, 4th Narbonne Inter Open, Blue Chequer Pied ‘Links Show Girl’, the 2009 L&SECC Merit Award winning hen, 2007: 23rd open L&SECC Pau, 2008: 22nd open L&SECC Tarbes, 2009: 28th open L&SECC Tarbes.
Fred first recollection of pigeons was when he was in his pram and his father had some birds in a little cope hanging on the wall and he used to sit and watch them. In those days the family lived in Sutton and at ten years of age the young Fred scrounged birds from the local fanciers and set up his first loft. He joint the local Sutton club and in his first race won 3rd club Christchurch, and following week broke his novice status by winning 1st club Dorchester. Soon after that he had to do his National Service in the army, so the pigeons had to go, but restarted again when he got married in 1957. Fred maintained it is very hard to race pigeons in the National and Classic where he lived in east Kent, because he thought the birds come in from the Continent at the Portsmouth area and ‘dog leg’ in to the east side of England. His pigeons never come in from the south when racing the National or Classic, always from the west or north. Fred said his nephew, Vicky Emberson and wife Lou, were great workers for the sport and were outstanding sprint fanciers, winning the Federation consistently every season. Fred felt very strongly about the Hawk problem which is killing our sport and said, ‘the powers that be protect the Sparrowhawk and some thing should be done to change their policy, as not only are they killing pigeon racing, they are wiping out all the song birds that live in our gardens’.
The late George & Carol Humphreys of New Addington.
The member of the London & South East Classic Club sent a good convoy birds to the ‘main’ event from Tarbes (560 miles) and the late George Humphreys and pigeon partner wife, Carol, of New Addington sent four birds, clocked three on the day to win 1st, 4th and 18th open, getting their fourth bird next day. George told me at the time, the fourth bird came with his Tours club pigeon on the Saturday, which recorded 2nd club. The partner’s Tarbes winner was their two year old blue white flight hen ‘Carol’s Delight’ and she was sent sitting ten day old eggs. She had regular training tosses off the south coast and George told me, he had had some bad health at that time, and his good friend, Alan Mark, has given his birds a few tosses off Hayling Island. This game little hen was unraced as a young bird and was second bird from the L&SECC 2012 Tours race, too record 81st open. ‘Carol’s Delight’, the Tarbes Classic winner’s sire and dam were purchased from Richard Windsor of Cheshire, which was at stock. ‘Carol’s Delight’ went on the win 11th open L&SECC Bergerac (460 mile) and was clocked on the day of liberation from both classic races, Tarbes and Bergerac. A brilliant hen! The second pigeon home, to record 4th open, from the Tarbes Classic, being sent feeding two day old babies, was the three year old dark chequer cock named, ‘Coker’s Boy’ and he was bred by George’s friend Tony Coker. George’s fancied bird for the Tarbes race was his good blue chequer pied, ‘Georges Girl’, and she was clocked third bird at 21.11hrs on the day, to win 18th open and she was sent sitting eggs. George said two fanciers had been a great help to him at that time, firstly was his good friend, Tony Wing, who had given him some outstanding young birds to work with. Secondly, George had suffered some bad health and his good mate, Alan Mark, helped with the training of the birds off the beach at Hayling Island.
George and Carol raced the natural system and paired up in February, with Channel racing in mind. His old birds never rear young birds at the beginning of before of the season and were mostly raced dry, but on the odd occasion he had sent birds to the longer race feeding small babies. The second bird on the clock from the Tarbes race, ‘Coker’s Boy’, was sent on two day old youngsters, but George told me, this was not something he liked to do, but some birds perform better in this nest condition. George fed ‘GEM’ corn which he bought in once a year and made up his own mixture from four standard mixtures. He liked the knock some farm Tic Beams and Maple Peas into the mixture and told me he changed the mixture all the time according to the weather condition and distance of the racing at that time. George trained the old birds off the south coast and used the inland racing in the local Federation for getting his candidates ‘match fit’ for the long distance events he was interested in. Carol was very interested in the pigeons and the partners enjoyed a day out training the birds off the beach on Hayling Island, which was 60 mile fly back to the home loft in New Addington.
He told me he loved racing from France and that Tarbes win had given him and Carol a great thrill. He was a small team man and the set up consists of two small lofts, with the two section racing loft being 15ft x 6ft, with ETS clocking. He cleaned out every day and had never used deep litter on the loft floors. The partners had a small 8ft x 6ft stock loft, with two chimneys in the roof, which had a small aviary attached and this structure had a door at both ends so the wind could blow straight through, for maximum ventilation. The loft housed ten pairs of stock birds and these were paired up the same time as the racing birds in February. He had no set family of pigeons, but brought in birds from premier fanciers from time to time. George said, he just liked good pigeons, whatever the strain! When bringing in new stock birds George said he liked to see all the usual things, good feather, handling and eye, but the main thing was good long distance winning lines. George’s good friend, Tony Wing of London had bred the Humphreys some good birds and these were mostly from the NFC Tarbes winning lines of Champion ‘Indy’. The stock loft housed a very good cross section 600 mile winning families. He bred about 30 young birds to race every season and his babies were put on the ‘darkness’ system that season, as George maintained you have to follow this practice if you want to be competitive in the young bird Nationals and Classic races. He had not used the ‘dark’ for several years, as he worries about finishing their moult at the back end, but told me he had taken them off the system three weeks early that time to help with their moult the following autumn. The babies were liberated on training tosses in batches of ten and started at five miles, and got many tosses, working through to the south coast. Once they reach the coast, George gave them as many tosses along the coast as he could, with racing from France in mind. Because of ill health, George had not raced his young birds in recent seasons, but in the norm they would go to every race and trained off the south coast between races. The babies were never paired up and flown natural to the perch.
George first had pigeons in 1973, but had to pack up when his first wife passed away and restarted when he married Carol in 1992. They were on holiday in the Canaries and Carol found an old pigeon paper in the apartment they were staying at and this re-kindled George’s interest in the sport. On their return George built a small loft in their garden at their home in New Addington. George says, although this London & South East Classic Club Tarbes performance was his best, he had won some good prizes through the years, including being premier prize winner in the very strong Bromley club a couple of times. He owned a good Busschaert hen that recorded 5th open L&SECC Bergerac, 4th open L&SECC San Sebastian and was one of his best long distance racers. I must say it was great to see George and Carol win the Classic from Tarbes, as he had been suffering a lot of bad health problems in recent month and this win gave him a good lift.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)