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Meeting up with Old Friends

Mike Riddy, our local corn chandler, is based and races his birds with great success at his home in Normandy, which is near Ash in Surrey. Mike and I have a common interest in long distance pigeon racing and he has threatened many times to come up to my loft at Claygate and see my birds. My ol’ mate, Peter Taylor, finally drove Mike and his side-kick, Richard Nicholas, up to my house last week and I must say it was well worth the wait, as we had over two hours of good pigeon ‘banter’, and I really enjoyed the visit. Needless to say Mike brought two rings up for a pair of Brian Denney squeakers!


Mike has a wonderful big garden set in the Surrey countryside at Normandy and not only an outstanding pigeon racer, but is also a keeper of several types of ‘old breeds’ of chickens. He has two incubators and rears his own chicks. He races the pigeons on the natural system and pairs the racers up in March with racing from France in mind. The very smart loft houses 35 pairs of old birds, including stock birds and the breeders are mated up in February. The 2011 season saw Mike win the London & South East Classic Club best single bird average from Tours and Tarbes, and what a fantastic performance that was, when the pigeon has to fly over 800 miles in three weeks and be well up in the Classic result in the two races from France. Mike won the average with his good Jan Aarden dark pied cock ‘The Tarbes Cock’ and being raced on the natural system it flew in the L&SECC three times in the 2011 season, winning 152nd open Alencon (197 miles), 206th open Tours (274 miles) and 14th open Tarbes (555 miles). This game cock races well on eggs or youngsters and has bred some good Tarbes racers. When I asked Mike what his best performances were he said that, a few years ago when he flew north road with the Farnham club (Portsmouth NR Federation) he owned a brilliant little hen that was sent to Thurso (550 miles) and after seven days in the basket she recorded 1st club, 2nd Federation. He had a very good blue chequer Janssen cock that won eleven Federation positions, including 1st Federation on the north road. Mike has won many premier prize racing north and south through the years, including three 1st Federations on the north road.


Mike’s friend, Richard Nicholas, and myself go way back to the mid 1970s, when I attended the Guildford club prize presentation and did an article on the great night in the fancy press. I haven’t seen very much of Richard in those 40 years since my report, so it was nice to have him come to Claygate and have a catch up over a cup of tea. The 1976 season saw the Guildford RPC have a double history making season, firstly having a record pay out of the princely sum of over £300, which was big money at that time and having a member win 1st open SMT Combine for the very first time. Richard Nicholas won 1st open SMT Combine (5,820 birds) from the Plymouth young bird event winning £110 and a Benzing 261 printer clock, with his ‘ace’ blue hen, ‘The Dove’. This game little hen also won 5th club Weymouth, 3rd club, 9th Federation Exeter, being beaten by her nest mate, which was remarkable as she was smashed up on some wires at the beginning of the year. She was of a Dutch strain and her sire was a top racer, winning several premier prizes including 1st club, 2nd Federation Avranches. Richard has won some really great positions racing to his loft at Guilford over the years and another premier racer was his Kirkpatrick chequer pied hen, ‘Nikki’, and she won 1st club, 2nd Federation, 2nd Combine (3,203 birds) Le Mans in the 1980 season.


One of the premier southern counties pigeon racers at that time was Jim Fisk of the Guilford club and he had only been in the pigeon sport for about eight years, but more or less from the outset he won out of turn in Federation, Open and National races. He was a self-employed plumber and heating engineer and he once had a job at the home of the late Arthur Bridgewater of Godalming. Arthur got talking about the Bridgewater pigeons and told Jim that his son Paul had won the 1st open National Flying Cub from Nantes, and this got Jim interested and he borrowed books from the local library to get further information before taking the decision to take up pigeon racing. On the advice of the books to purchase good quality stock, he went to Les Davenport and obtained six pairs of the famous Davenport / Cattrysse pigeons. One of his best positions was recorded in the 1980 season, when his blue cock, ‘Hazard’, won 1st club, 1st Three Borders Federation, 1st Seven Counties Combine (5353 birds) Laval. Jim won the Federation many times and Section E in the NFC, and was top prize winner in the club several times, including premier prize winner in the very strong Godalming club in 1978. Jim's son, Jeremy, was his partner with the pigeons and he told me at the time, his wife just counted the winnings. I visited their Guilford home in the late 1970s and the partners had two lofts, which were in a wire fenced compound which had two live wires around the top of it to keep out the cats.


With me being an avid showing enthusiast, I’m busy judging pigeon shows every winter, but this year I was exceptionally busy and was invited to judge seven premier shows, finishing at the main event, the BHW Blackpool Show, in January. The Christmas period saw me have a couple of weeks off from judging and my first outing in January was the Godalming Open Young Bird Show, held at their new HQ, the Elstead British Legion Club. It was a Sunday morning handling show, which attracted 120 young birds and I made the 25 miles drive down to Elstead with my ol’ mates, Terry Smart and Richard Kent of Hersham. The two lads judged the cock’s class and gave the red card to a handsome dark, which was owned by David Robinson. I handled the hens and Mick Tuck won this big class with a Eric Cannon blue chequer and she was his first bird on the clock from the young birds Guernsey race, which was a very testing race. We enjoyed a great show on that Sunday morning in January, but for me it was an added pleasure to meet up with Richard Kent again, as I hadn’t seen him since about 1982. At that time we both flew in the now disbanded Molesey and Hersham clubs and soon after Richard left the sport because of his chest problems when he was around the birds. I enjoyed our day out judging together and I must say he looked really well!


The Hersham RBLFC joined the Three Borders Federation at the commencement of 1981 and what a great season the club enjoyed, winning top positions including two firsts. Les Penycate won the Federation from Plymouth and Richard Kent stormed the Federation and won the Seven Counties Combine from Laval. The Combine sent 7,348 birds to the Laval (2) race and at that time that birdage was a record for this young and up and coming Combine. Richard’s Combine winner, doing 1415ypm, was his yearling blue pied cock, ‘90’, and he had previously won 5th Hersham Weymouth Open at the beginning of the 1981 season. He started up in the sport of pigeon racing in 1965 with birds obtained from Louis Massarella and Richard told me the late, Fred Elliott of Sunningdale was a great help to him in those days. Richard joined his local club, the Molesey & District HS and raced to a 6ft x 4ft loft. His Combine winning loft I 1981 was a more plush 18ft affair, with anti-bolt and open door trapping. Richard told me he tried deep litter, but being asthmatic, it up set him and had to use an inhaler before cleaning out the birds. Richard was only a small team man and paired his 12 pairs of old birds up on 14th February and bred 20 youngsters to race each season. The birds raced on the Natural system and after he had reared a pair of squeakers from each pair of old birds they were trained as much as possible.


Richard raced the Burgers pigeons and his best performances up to winning the Combine were: 1st club, 3rd Federation, 5th SMT Combine (4,268 birds) and 1st club, 6th Federation, 8th SMT Combine (5,498 birds) Rennes. He always fed De Scheemaecker ‘Natural’ corn with a little ‘Red Band’. The old birds started training at ten miles and worked up to 40 miles before the first Federation race, and then got 15 mile tosses twice a week through the racing season. At that time, Richard, rated his good friends, Dick and Brian Trussler of Molesey, the best local fanciers and said they were totally dedicated to the sport.


Those were the days and look at those wonderful birdages in the Combine races in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Brilliant! That’s my lot for this week! 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.