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Mike & Theresa Horner of Alton

“ON THE ROAD” WITH KEITH MOTT.

 

It’s the British Homing World Blackpool Show weekend and as a celebration we are going to look at some great Show Races of yester year in this week’s article. Good luck to everyone who is competing and everyone else attending have a great time!

 

CH. ‘CILLA’

Mike & Theresa Horner of Alton.

 

First we are going to feature one my favourite Show Racers and that is reflected in how many times I have personally carded her in Classic and National shows. I first became aware of the wonderful red hen, ‘Cilla’, when she won Best in Show RPRA Southern Region Show for her owners, Mike and Theresa Horner, in 2007. The day after the Southern Region Show, Mike showed at the Southern Counties SR Society show held at Gravesend and ‘Cilla’ won Best Opposite Sex, being beaten by her half-brother, who won Best in Show. Mike and Theresa won Best Opposite Sex at the 2008 RPRA Southern Region Show with their champion red hen, ‘Cilla’. Mike tells me she has won 69 cards in premier shows, including 33 firsts and both her parents were very successful breeding reds, with her sire being obtained from Colin Carter in 2003, and her dam from Tony Williams. Champion ‘Cilla’ won: BIS RPRA Southern Region, BOS RPRA Southern Region Show, BIS Southern Counties SRS Open Show, BOS Southern Counties SRS Open Show, BIS CHASE Charity Show, BOS CHASE Charity Show, BIS Thame & Oxford Open Show, BIS South Coast Championship Show, BIS Reading ‘Gold Cup’ Show and was five times best red at the Southern Counties SRS Shows. She was bred in 2004 and no longer lay eggs, but has bred many winners, including card winners at the BHW Blackpool Show. What a fantastic hen!

 

I first met Mike Horner back in November 2006, when he first won Best in Show at the R.P.R.A. Southern Region Show and I was there at the High Wycombe event judging. To say he was over joyed at his performance would be an understatement. This was his best performance ever with his Show Racers and he was over the moon! His team for the Southern Region Show were exceptionally good that year and in the light of that he fancied his chances. Mike and Theresa won Best in Show (645 birds) with their four year old Mosaic show racer cock, ‘Barny’, and he has plenty of previous good form, having won in the show pen twelve times. He won Class 7. (Coloured Cock or Hen) at High Wycombe and also lifted two trophies, ‘Best Show Racer’ and ‘Best in Show’. Mike has been in pigeons, in one form or the other, all his life and is from a racing pigeon family, with his father and grandfathers being pigeon racers. He had racing pigeons up to the late 1970’s and flew in the Godalming & Dist. F.C. (Surrey Federation) with all the old greats of that time including, Stan Edgington, Paul Bridgewater, Alec Martin, Ron & Chris Cox and Eric Cannon. In those days he got lot of help from Pat McFadden, the secretary of the Godalming club at that time and raced the Channing of Wales family of pigeons. Years ago Mikes also kept a few Show Racers obtained from Bill Meader of London. The Horner racing loft had some good success, mostly from the longer channel races, as he flew on the natural system. He started up with the Show Racer properly on marring Theresa in 1980, with birds from Tony Williams, which were reds and mealies, and later some stock from Colin and Jean Carter of Churchdown. Mike’s first champion, ‘Barny’, was bred from these original bloodlines.

 

CH. ‘Mr. T’ Mr. & Mrs. Alan Spedding of Cumbria.

 

The pigeon that everyone was talking about in the late 1990’s was the great ‘Mr. T’, which was Alan Spedding’s pigeon, bred by him out of Don Spedding’s stock birds. His sire was Don’s champion blue cock, ‘The Irish Blue Cock’, which will be featured in the next ‘Stories of the Champions’ article. It was on a ‘Many Miles with Mott’ video tour of Cumbria and Scotland that I visited the Show Racer loft of Alan Spedding, soon after he had won Best in Show at the Old Comrades Show for the second time, and I must say, I have always found him to be a very nice guy. He started up with the Show Racers in 1988, taking over the birds when his relation, Donald Spedding packed up, and previous to that Alan raced pigeon with some good success. Donald was a professional singer and had to sell his team of birds to peruse his career in entertainment, and when he had his sale; Alan purchased two pairs back to start himself set up. Donald Spedding was very successful with his wonderful team of birds and is rated by some as one of the best Show Racer fanciers ever in the U.K. Alan told me; Donald was a brilliant stock man and had a natural gift of knowing which pigeon to pair together, to produce winners. He still spends a lot of time at Alan’s loft and his advice has help a lot with their recent success in the National shows.

 

Alan is a member of a big Show Racer society in the north west of England and it has lofts as far apart as Blackburn and Carlisle. As well as winning Best in Show twice at the Old Comrades, the Spedding loft had won B.I.S. twice at the Louella Classic and had a winning pigeon on the top table every year it was staged. The first pigeon I handled on my loft visit was the champion blue chequer hen that had won Best in Show at the Old Comrades Show a few weeks before. To say she was beautiful would be an understatement, she was perfection! She was a late bred, being out of a half-brother, half-sister mating and won the Old Comrades in her first season showing. Her dam, a blue chequer hen, was the nest mate to the champion blue chequer cock, ‘Mr. T’, winner of Best in Show at the Old Comrades in 1994. All these National show winners were bred down from Don’s famous blue cock, ‘The Irish Blue Cock’, bred by Harry Spratt of Ireland. The next pigeon with looked at on our visit to the loft in Cumbria was the Old Comrades champion of 1994, blue chequer cock, ‘Mr. T’. This wonderful pigeon was five years old at the time and Alan said he had two more show seasons left in him. He won firsts at the Old Comrades three years on the trot and won Best in Show in 1994. Alan had a dream several nights on the trot, about a week before the Old Comrades and in this dream ‘Mr. T’, won B.I.S. at the Old Comrades Show. On penning his birds in the N.E.C. the following Friday, he told all the show lads about his dream and they all had a good laugh. Can you imagine the looks of amazement on their face on the Saturday when they walked in to the show arena and saw ‘Mr. T’ had won Best in Show! Really spooky! ‘Mr. T’ was a champion in the truest sense of the word, winning a long list of prizes at Classic and National shows!

 

CH. ‘ROCQUAINE CATHRINA” John Robilliard of Bodmin.

 

In his 40 odd years on the Show Racer scene, John Robilliard has won just about every honour in the National show arena, but the 2004 season saw him set a record at the B.H.W. Blackpool ‘Show of the Year’. He won Best in Show (2,400 birds) and Reserve Supreme Champion of Great Britain with his wonderful Mosaic hen, ‘Rocquaine Cathrina’, and she has plenty of previous good form, including 2003: BOS YB Championship Class South West Show Racer Society, then went on to win: 1st Royal Cornwall Show, 1st Stithians Show, 1st South West Show Racer Society, BIS Pensilve Open Show and Best in Show, and Reserve Supreme Champion BHW Blackpool Show (beaten by loft mate). ‘Cathrina’ went on to win Reserve Supreme Champion of Great Britain at the ‘Show of the Year’ again in the winter of 2005. ‘Cathrina’ was bred in 2003 from one of John best mosaic hens and a first class mosaic cock, which was loaned from Roland Thresher. This great hen got sick and died the year after her wonderful Blackpool success, which was a massive loss to the Robilliard loft. A fantastic hen! Also at the 2004 B.H.W. Blackpool Show, the Robilliard loft, won the premier honour of Supreme Champion of Great Britain with John’s champion Mosaic hen, ‘Rocquaine Dream Girl’. John and Pam won the three premier prizes and £1,250 at the 2004 Blackpool ‘Show of the Year’, and lifted nine major trophies. A fantastic performance and a record that will take some beating!

 

Back in October 2013 I received a letter from the RPRA, inviting me to judge at the BHW ‘Show of the Year’, Blackpool 2014 and I was delighted to except, as I have always loved do the job and consider it a great honour to be asked. This was my third time judging at the premier show in the UK and I then received a phone call in December from the Blackpool Show committee inviting me to take on the premier judging job in the show world, to judge the specials and Blackpool Show ‘Best in Show’. I have been judging at top National and Show Society shows for 40 years and to judge ‘Best in Show’ at Blackpool was the crowning glory of all those years doing the job. I was highly delighted and accepted the invitation immediately. The showing legend, John Robilliard, won Best in Show with his wonderful red hen, ‘Rocquaine Princess’, and what a brilliant hen she was. I was so delighted to hear that great news that he had won BIS, as John has given a life time’s work to our sport and deserves every success he has with his wonderful Show Racers. Talking to John after the event, he said, the hen is now called ‘Rocquaine Queen’ and she won as a young bird, and won a first at the Duchy Show in November 2013. She was bred from a pair of stock birds that John obtained at the Ken Jeffery of St Ives dispersal sale.

 

CH. ‘SPARKY’ Mr. & Mrs. Ron McCarthy of Rhymney.

 

I received a phone call from my good friend, Colin Carter, in March 2014 to inform me that the ‘master’, Ron McCarthy, had packed up his pigeons the week previous because of one or two health problems. Ron, now 81 years old, was going to retire from the Show Racer scene a year or so earlier, but was persuaded by the lads to carry on, but had now decided to call it a day! His 30 bird strong Show Racer team have now gone up to the north east of England and are now the property the Wheatley family of Middlesbrough. This really is bad news as Ron was the ‘master’ of the show pen and his wonderful record in Society and National shows must rate him as one the greatest showmen of all time in the UK! Colin told me we will still see Ron about at the main National Shows as long as he can get a lift to venue and he will still enjoy the sport as a spectator. We look forward to seeing the ‘master’ next winter!

 

Ron McCarthy and his late wife, June, won Best in Show at the 2009 BHW Blackpool Show for the record fifth time with a wonderful young dark chequer Show Racer cock, now named ‘Colin’s Cracker’ and he was bred by Colin Carter of Churchdown. He was bred from a cock loaned from Ron McCarthy which is also the sire of Ron’s Champion ‘Blue Boy’ winner of BIS at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2006 and the dam of ‘Colin’s Cracker’ was Colin’s good dark hen, winner of many firsts including ‘Champion Hen’ at the Edinburgh Show, plus is dam of many winners. On one of my ‘Many Miles with Mott’ video tours of South Wales, I visited the premier Show Racer fanciers, Ron and June McCarthy of Gwent. In Ron’s 60 plus years in the sport, he has won many top positions, including B.I.S. Cardiff Charity Show, B.I.S. Show of the West, B.I.S. Birmingham Mail Show, B.I.S. Midlands Show several times, B.I.S. R.P.R.A. Southern Region Show several times, B.I.S. B.H.W. Blackpool Show (a record five times), Supreme Champion at Blackpool and Supreme Champion Young Bird Southern Classic Show. A fantastic loft performance in classic shows! Ron says, although it was many years ago, he rates his wonderful blue chequer cock, ‘Sparky’, as his best champion pigeon. He won thirty six firsts and many times Best in Show at Classic and National events, including BIS at the ‘Peoples Show’ and BIS at the ‘Show of the West’ held at Swindon. This wonderful cock was winning in the ‘golden’ era of showing in the late 1960’s, when Harry King and other Show Racer ‘superstars’ were at their best.

 

CH. ‘THE IRISH BLUE COCK’ Donald Spedding of Cleator Moor.

 

Donald Spedding is one of the legends of the Show Racer world in the UK and one of the nice guys of the British show fraternity. Don was born in Cleator, Cumbria and his father and uncle raced pigeons for many years. He first became interested in the Show Racers during his National Service days in Oswestry and used to visit an old fancier named Mr. Simpson, and he had some lovely birds. After he finished his Army Service, he watched the Classic Show results and saw that at that time Bill Meader of London was the top man, so wrote  to him for a pair of birds. Bill, ever willing to help, sent him a blue chequer cock and a blue white flight hen. The hen won for Don and he was ecstatic! He had many birds over the years from Bill Meader and visited his loft in Leytonstone many times. Don told me, Bill was a brilliant show man, who taught him a lot about showing and breeding winners, and remains a great friend to this day. He was lucky to live near Keswick, where the great H. E. Dalzell lived and obtained quite a few birds off this wonderful fancier’s, winning blue chequer family. Harold Dalzell had won Best in Show at the G.Y.A. twice, at what Donald says, was the height of the showing era in this country. Donald told me he had many great years showing his birds, but one of his biggest thrills was the year he bred his champion mealy hen, ‘Lady Di’. She won seven Classic shows in succession as a young bird, then went on to be Best in Show (1,300 birds) at the G.Y.A. as a yearling. At the G.Y.A. she beat Bill Meader’s, Champion ‘Princess Asti’, winner of 30 firsts and many times Best in Show. Don says his greatest thrill was showing in the 1970’s and 80’s when showing pigeons was at its height in this country. He won Best in Show at the mighty G.Y.A. Show seven times! The two great fanciers, Harold Dalzell and George Greenshield, had both won it twice, so it was a wonderful thrill to win it seven times.

 

Don told me, that he only had a small loft, so could only keep a small team and kept a family of blue chequers, which he enhanced by introducing a cock from Harry Spratt of Belfast. Don also obtained a young blue cock he fancied from Harry Spratt and he went on to become the famous breeding cock, ‘Irish Blue Cock’, and he is the sire of Alan Speddings loft today. He says, his cousin, Alan and his wife, are now showing the Spedding pigeons with outstanding success, having won Best in Show at the ‘Old Comrades’ Show twice. The two ‘Old Comrades’ champions were both typical Spedding blue chequers in the form of, ‘Mr. T’ and ‘The Old Comrades Hen’, and both were bred down from the ‘Irish Blue Cock’, with him being the sire of ‘Mr. T’. This wonderful blue cock was very successful in the show pen himself and won many firsts and BIS, including BIS at the G.Y.A. Show (1,300 birds). Don still goes down to Alan’s loft regularly to see the birds and enjoys his limited time with them. I visited Alan Spedding loft in Cumbria a few years ago and handled ‘The Irish Cock’, and Alan told me he was the backbone of his loft, being a champion breeder. This cock was bred by Harry Sprat in Ireland and gifted to Donald Spedding in 1987, as a squeaker. As well being a ‘gold mine’ at stock, he was a champion in the show pen.

 

CH. ‘COTSWOLD JEANIE’ Colin & Jean Carter of Churchdown.

 

When walking around the National shows in the winter months, we quite often bump into Colin Carter and win or lose, he always seems cheerful. Colin and his late wife, Jean, were fanciers who enjoy their pigeons, top or bottom of the result sheet, they always enjoy themselves! Being one of the premier Show Racer partnerships in the U.K., more often than not they have pigeons on the winners table, which is great achievement as theirs is a small team loft, with quality and not quantity being the criteria for their pigeon regime. Colin’s wife, Jean, was his pigeon partner and was very active in the sport, playing a big part in the management of the birds and attended all the big shows with him.

 

Colin’s first show birds came from Cyril Lowe of Guernsey in 1965 and at that time Bill Harris was a stoker on the boats that went on regular trips to Guernsey from Portsmouth. Bill would bring show birds over from Cyril to go to the big London shows. When Colin saw these Show Racers he was hooked and when Cyril Lowe found out he gifted Colin with several pairs. At that time Colin married his wife, Jean, and started a family. In 1970 work took the Carter family to Gloucestershire, where they set up home in Churchdown and because of lack of time all the pigeons had to be sold off. Colin restarted up in the sport in 1991 with a few race birds and joined the Newent & Dist. F.C. On visiting the Old Comrades Show at the N.E.C. Birmingham that winter, Colin bumped in to Doug McClary, who he hadn’t seen for over 20 years. One thing led to another and he soon had some of the McClary Show Racers in his back garden, replacing the racing pigeons. He joined the Monmouth Show Racer Society and more show birds were introduced, mainly from Ron McCarthy, Tony Williams and the Wheatley family in the north east of England.

 

Colin won Best in Show for the third time at the 2015 BHW Blackpool ‘Show of the Year’, with his champion silver hen, ‘Cotswold Silver Star’. This hen was bred from Steve Wheatley and Ron McCarthy stock birds and the Blackpool show was her first time in the show pen! Colin and Jean have had very successful 2014 / 15 show season and another principal pigeon was their mosaic hen, ‘Cotswold Southern Belle’, and she won this time: 1st Blackpool show and Best Inter Society (350 birds), BIS RPRA Southern Region Show (729 birds), BOS Stithians Show, 1st South West Open Show and 2nd ‘Duchy’ Open Show. What a great season! Colin has owned many champions pigeons in his time and when I asked him which was his best bird, he had a good think and finally answered, ‘my good hen ‘Cotswold Jeanie’. She was my most consistent pigeon, being shown 44 times and taking 37 cards, including twice Best in Show and six times Best Opposites Sex in Classic and National shows. She was best hen at the Edinburgh International Show and was a fantastic breeder, producing many premier show birds, including ‘Colin’s Cracker’ winner of BIS BHW Blackpool Show in 2009 for Ron McCarthy of Wales’.

 

That is this week’s article for the Blackpool Show weekend, a Show Racer special, featuring some of the best UK champions of recent years. I can be contacted with any pigeon ‘banter’ on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)