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Brian and Angela Garnham of Butterwick







Brian and Angela Garnham of Butterwick.

The first loft that we are going to feature is the 1998 North Road Championship Club King's Cup winning loft of Brian and Angela Garnham of Butterwick, near Boston in Lincolnshire. This partnership has enjoyed many outstanding seasons since starting up in the sport in 1974 but say the 1998 season was one of their best. Brian has had pigeons all his life and as a lad had races with the other children, with him being the convoyer, because his racing bike had three saddlebags to carry the racers. Great times!



Angela likes long-distance racing and to win the King's Cup from Lerwick was a dream come true. The 1998 North Road Championship Club race was held over until the Monday, when the convoy was liberated at 9.40a.m. The race turned out very hard with .no day birds but the Tuesday morning blossomed with bright sunshine and the partners clocked their winner 'Butterwick Bon- Ami' flying 498 miles at 7.48a.m. This champion four year old cock was of the Frans Van Wildemeersch strain and raced on the widowhood system. This was his third time at Lerwick, having been clocked late on the day coming in from the south on his two previous Lerwick events, so Brian gave him three short training tosses before the 1998 race and he came in from the north to win 1st open.



Angela is the main manager of their 27 widowhood cocks which are paired up in late January and trained well before the first Federation race. Once racing starts the cocks are rarely trained but fly out around the loft twice a day. The partners never race the hens and the cocks are broken down from Sunday to Tuesday during the racing season. They have a wonderful tiled roof loft built by local fancier Alex Legget, who is a joiner. Alex was 3rd open Lerwick North Road Championship Club in 1998. The widowhood sections have nine nest boxes in each and heaters for winter breeding. All trapping is through open doors into a corridor which runs the length of the loft. Brian and Angela have one other small tiled loft which is used for widowhood and 'Butterwick Bon- Ami' raced to that one. Angela's favourite pigeon was a handsome Staf Van Reet mealy cock bred by the Royal Lofts, which has won many top prizes including 1st club Morpeth (twice) and flown Lerwick.



The Garnhams keep 20 pairs of stock birds, mainly Wildemeersch obtained from Porter and Richardson of Newark and direct from Frans Wildemeersch. These are paired in late January; their eggs floated under the widowhood racers. When selecting breeders, Brian likes the very best winning lines and pigeons with character. The partners breed about 50 young birds each season. These are put on the darkness system on weaning at 24 days old and are trained up to the Humber Bridge, which is a 60 miles fly. All race through to Berwick, 210 miles, with the North Road Championship Club and no young cocks are saved for widowhood, as Brian says he had found it to be a waste of time. He maintains the darkness system is excellent and isn't detrimental to the birds in later life. He won Fraserburgh in 1998 with a yearling cock that was on the 'darkness' the year previous.



John Norris of Grantham.

For our next loft visit we are going to the east side of the Midlands, to John Norris of Grantham. John was a convoyer with the North Road Championship Club, which he says he enjoyed very much. He has been convoying off and on since the late 1970s. John won the Lerwick North Road Championship Club ‘King's Cup’ race in 1995 with his champion Busschaerts dark chequer cock 'Naylor's Pride'. This above medium sized widowhood cock was bred by J. Naylor and Son of Murton, Co. Durham and was down from Mitchell Brothers of Bilsthorpe Busschaert bloodlines. John and his son, Peter, purchased 'Naylor's Pride' as a squeaker for £50 at the Murton Charity Auction and he had proved to be the best money they have ever spent on a pigeon. John had a silent partner and loft manager in Len Hart, previously of the Hardy and Hart partnership of Grantham. It was Len who clocked 'Naylor's Pride' in from the North Road Championship Club Lerwick and won the King's Cup, as John was at the Lerwick race point as chief convoyer for the North Road Championship Club. John and Len spent a considerable time selecting four pigeons for their race entry. They chose three Mattheeuws and one Busschaert and their small team recorded 1st, 4th, 25th, 228th open Lerwick North Road Championship Club, with a convoy of 2,970 birds taking part in this 500-mile race. A brilliant performance!



John's main racing loft was self-designed and features open-door trapping, with sections for widowhood cocks and young birds. The loft raced only the widowhood system, never hens, and the partners were only interested in the long-distance events. John thinks the nest bowl as the main factor behind successful widowhood racing and showed the hens on marking nights but never for sprint races. The cocks were never broken down, being fed a standard widowhood mixture all week and they were given the hen for anything up to five hours on their return home from the race. John and Len had a wonderful brick-built stock loft which was full of quality. The ten pairs housed in this loft were mainly Busschaerts and Maurice Mattheeuws which were paired up on 18th February. The inmates were kept in perfect condition with plenty of space and good ventilation.



At the age of 15 John joined his first pigeon club, Grantham Invitation Flying Club where members included D. H. Templeman, J. Wallwork, Graves Brothers, K. Meadows and John's great friend Bernard Charles. That year he left school to undertake an engineering apprenticeship as a platter, with a firm called Aveling Barfords. Where, his first tutor was Peter Collishaw, a pigeon man from Sleaford, who at that time was a very successful long-distance flier on the south road, flying Westcotts from Wally Grantham of Ipswich. Over the next few years John made many trips to see Wally Grantham and spent many hours listening to his wealth of knowledge of pigeon racing. John has come a long way since those early days and at that time had been in the sport over 30 years. but he said his fascination with distance pigeon racing, especially Lerwick, started in those days working with Peter Collishaw.



Mr. & Mrs. Geoff Clare of Boston.

Geoff Clare is one of very small band of fanciers who have won 1st open North Road Championship Club twice with the same pigeon. His double N.R.C.C. winner was the champion blue cock, ‘Lucky’, and Geoff has a section in the stock loft set aside for his ‘Lucky’ family, including several sons and daughters of the champion.


Geoff started racing in 1970 and his great friend, Alf Jones of Normanton, has helped him with advice since the beginning. Geoff broke his novice status by winning 1st club, 1st Federation with a good red chequer cock which originated from Mr. Turner of Cambridge. Through the years the Clare loft has won many top positions including 1st open N.R.C.C. (twice), 2nd open N.R.C.C. (twice), 2nd and 3rd open N.R.C.C. (twice), 4th open N.R.C.C. Lerwick, took the first four positions in the very strong Peterborough Federation with young birds and so on. He told me he liked middle distance races up to 300 miles and his favourite race is the Perth North Road Championship Club event.



The main Clare racing loft was 48ft long, self-built, with five sections, pan tiled roof and had a corridor and open-door trapping. Geoff paired his 45 widowhood cocks up in the second week in February and they raced through to Lerwick, the longest old bird race. One of his best racers was a blue chequer cock bred by Alf Jones and he had recorded 1st section, 1st Federation as a youngster and 3rd section Thurso N.R.C.C. as a yearling,



The young birds had their own 18ft x 6ft loft with wire flight and were trapped in a wooden stall trap. Geoff said that Mons Haelterman in Belgium showed him how to race hens on the widowhood system and he had a few hens in a 12ft x 6ft loft, with Sputnik trap, Geoff's best widowhood hen is a blue chequer De Vadder pigeon and she had won four times 1st club. His stock loft was fantastic, being brick-built over a big garage in 1981 it housed three families, Busschaert, direct De Vadder and his own 'Lucky' family. The inmates had loads of room in this massive loft and each family had its own section, Geoff said when selecting breeders, he liked them to handle well, with a strong back and was very interested in the throat and eye sign. In recent years Geoff and his family left the UK to live in Australia and he is now racing his pigeons out there with great success.



Mooney & Kirkman 1st open NRCC Saxa Vord.

The first loft on the 1998 tour of Lincolnshire was the home of 'Unique Lady' the champion blue hen that was the only bird on the day to win 1st open North Road Championship Club Saxa Vord in 1998. The proud owners of this pigeon were Mickey Mooney and Keith Kirkman who had been in partnership for four seasons with outstanding success. The partners named their great Van Winkel x Van Den Bosche hen 'Unique Lady' because she was the first to be the only bird on the day from this race point. This hen certainly displayed class being medium apple-bodied in the hand with wonderful eyes and feathering. She was sent to Saxa Vord, 540 miles, sitting 14 days and was clocked at 9.11pm after 14 hours 11 minutes on the wing to win 1st open NRCC, plus an RPRA Award. She was also 76th open Saxa Vord in 1997 sent sitting 15 days. A fantastic hen! She was in the stock loft when we visited, and the partners told me she will never see the race basket again.



Mooney & Kirkman raced the widowhood system up to Lerwick and then they re-paired to race the long-distance events with hens and cocks on natural to an open loft. They paired up on 20th January and after the first round of youngsters, the racers were parted for a few weeks and re-paired to be put on the widowhood system sitting ten days on the second round of eggs. The widowhood cocks were trained hard up to the second Federation race, after which they were only flown out around the loft twice a day. On re-pairing for the long distance, the birds were trained every day up to the Lerwick race and were fed on beans, peas and maize. The partners raced a basic widowhood system up to Lerwick with the hens being shown on the marking night and were not broken down, being fed a good quality ‘Widowhood’ mixture. On my loft visit the partners showed me one of their top racing cocks, a Krauth blue chequer bred by Trevor Frost of Boston. He had won 14th open NRCC Perth winning ‘The Racing Pigeon Trophy’ in 1998. The main 24ft racing loft was in Mick's back garden and had a young bird section and two for the widowhood racers. All trapping was through open doors. Only three pairs of stock birds were kept in Keith's old racing loft in his garden and this wonderful old loft had seen many good winners through the years. At that time Keith had been an outstanding pigeon fancier for 30 years and had won from every North Road race point including Thurso and Lerwick (twice). Keith said it was a wonderful season for Boston fanciers in 1998 with Brian & Angela Garnham winning 1st open NRCC Lerwick, Alex Leggatt winning 3rd open NRCC Lerwick and themselves winning Saxa Vord. Mick & Keith raced their 24 young birds the old-fashioned way, natural to the perch and fed them on beans, peas and maize. The young cocks only race up to Northallerton, then were saved for the widowhood system, with the hens going through the programme to Berwick, 200 miles.



Carl Upsall of Boston.

Next loft on our tour was the winning loft of Carl Upsall of Boston. Carl's father retired from the sport in 1995 and he was 'Mr. North Road Championship Club' in the 1970s and 1980s winning many positions in the first six open results, including 1st open NRCC Thurso in 1977. Bill won the NRCC average many times and Carl says his dad was his tutor in the art of National North Road racing. Carl started on his own in 1978 and has won countless premier prizes in the Federation and NRCC, including ten times 1st open in the Peterborough Federation with up to 6,700 birds competing and 1st open NRCC Perth winning by ten minutes clear in 1991. Carl liked to race his pigeons every week, short and long distance, but was mostly interested in NRCC races. He had won the NRCC Perth race with his handsome blue cock, 'The 21', who had won many other prizes including being his top performer from Lerwick. 'The 21' had bred Federation winners and was a grandson of his father's NRCC Thurso winner.

  Carl raced 20 cocks on the widowhood system with the whole team racing up to Scotland. They were then split into two teams and selected for the long-distance events. They were paired up in late January and were given ten training tosses before the first Federation race. The widowhood cocks were broken down from Saturday to Tuesday on the sprint races but got extra corn in the nest boxes for the long-distance events, and were exercised around the loft twice a day, never being trained in the racing season. Carl told me he started the widowhood to make things easier for himself and the birds were always locked up on Monday to give the racers and himself a rest day. The cocks were always shown the hen on marking night and every three weeks the cocks got their mates a lot longer on their return from the race for a bit of a change.  Carl showed us many top racers on our visit to his loft including his good grizzle cock 'Wayne', raced on widowhood he was one of his best sprinters. He was bred for the long distance being a son of 'The 21', the NRCC Perth winner, and turned out a sprint specialist winning many firsts, including 1st open Federation. Carl's 16ft racing loft had 24 nest boxes which he said were never filled up, and the loft had a radio playing in it all day, with the birds being trapped through open doors. He raced his father's old National winning family and crossed the odd good bird in from time to time. His young birds were raced on the natural system to the perch and were trained every day for three weeks before the first Federation race. No young cocks were saved for widowhood, with the whole team going to Berwick, 210 miles, with the North Road Championship Club.  


Well, I hope my readers have enjoyed this look back at some Lincolnshire north road champions of yester year! We will be looking at some more very soon. To view some old video footage of some of these fanciers and their birds go on to my YouTube channel. I can be contacted with any pigeon matters on telephone number: 01372 463480 or email me on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.