I first started with pigeons at the age of 11, me and a friend took over an empty allotment that had old pigeon lofts in that just needed patching up here and there. The allotment meant a walking round trip of 4 miles, not far but far enough when you had to carry water in a glass Tizer bottle. I was given some old birds to breed from by a fancier also on the allotments along with some baby fantails. As you can imagine I was buzzing and used to run home from school to get changed and go tend to my birds.
Speaking about school the deputy head of the school was also the football coach and to say he was obsessed with football is an understatement. I was in the team but told him I had to stop playing because on the nights after school when the team was training I wanted to be with my birds. Well he went ballistic and called my parents to a meeting. In the meeting he was banging on the table saying lads fight to get in my team and your son won’t play because of his pigeons! Luckily my parents respected my wishes and told him it was my choice and they wouldn’t interfere with my decision. It didn’t go down well but I stuck to my guns.
Fast forward a few months and I had the old birds on eggs and small young birds. I went to the lofts after school one night and found the lofts had been broken into all old birds had been killed and young birds were squashed on the floor, a sight I can still remember like it was yesterday. I ran home very upset and told my parents what had happened. My dad said would I like to have some pigeons at home, of course I said yes and luckily within a week my Dad’s friend was packing up and gave me his 8×6 loft and 5 pair of old birds. He told me to keep them in for a fortnight and then to let them out. It was the longest 2 weeks of my life, anyway the Saturday morning came and I let the birds out. They never circled and headed to their old address which was only about a mile away. I waited for nearly an hour and no sign of them, I was sat there with my pet lip out and all of a sudden a shadow circled and it was the birds I had let out, well it was a fantastic feeling. I was just about out of corn I ran to the pet shop and back with my stone of corn and I was buzzing.
I kept the birds for a couple of years and then started with motorbikes like a lot of lads did on the estate as there was lots of land nearby where we could scramble. I carried on with the bikes and finished up with proper motocross bikes and started racing once I left school and could afford it. After a couple of seasons, the trophies started coming in and I was doing really well. Over the next few years I carried on although I was getting injured quite a lot, as a lad once said you’re not riding them hard enough if you’re not getting injured. One day I had a bad fall and badly damaged my knee resulting in me having a few month of work. While waiting for an operation on my knee in hospital my wife came to visit, I told her to sell the bike, I said it will sell easy as it was nearly new she was very surprised. She said what are you going to do without a bike? I told her I was going to start with the pigeons again which she was very happy with because of all the injuries, 2 friends of mine had sadly finished up in wheel chairs through racing.
So it began again the year was 1989. I converted the bike shed which was made from 5 up and over garage doors put some dowels in and made some boxes I also bought a garden shed and converted it into a loft. I joined the local club on the estate which raced north rd. I was given a pair of birds by an old family friend Harry Thackray and bought a pair and paired them up and had them nicely on eggs. I woke one morning to find the birds had been stolen and the eggs had chilled, I was gutted. Harry rallied around and got me another pair of old birds and some young birds off other fanciers. I carried on and had about a dozen flying out after a while and was chuffed to bits. One day I let them out at their normal time and they cleared off and none of them were to be seen again to this day. I rang Harry up and he said it’s what they call a fly away these things sometimes happen, he said what are you going to do? I said I’m going to breed some more and carry on. I remember him saying to me, well there is one thing for sure you are keen lad a lot would have packed in.
I remember been miles behind on race days but think it was my 4th race and I finished up 2nd club 2nd fed of nearly 2000 birds. I was hooked. I continued the following year and broke my novice status from Elgin 270 miles. I was 1st and 3rd with two yearling nest mates, an unbelievable feeling.
I improved every year and learnt a lot and finished up packing in 1993 I finished up buying a house and moving in 1995 and quickly re started. I bought a brand new 30ft pan tiled loft and applied to join another north rd club. I was rejected, the reason been I worked Saturday nights and wouldn’t be there to strike a clock !! I then applied to join the biggest club in Leeds the Harehills Homing Society that flew the south rd. I remember the club sending over 600 birds to a young bird race, I was very optimistic and wanting to do well as everyone does and the new loft gave me confidence compared to converted garden sheds.
Well to say I struggled was a bit of an understatement, no consistency at all. As you do was trying to get to the bottom of it, treating for this that and the other getting the odd result here and there, changing the corn almost weekly you name it, I tried it. I used to go to all the pigeon moots in search of knowledge to help me improve, which I did but at a slower pace than I would have liked.
A few years passed with some success here and there but still no consistency. One winter we had a moot at our mid week club and one fancier recommended Retford Poultry for getting birds tested. That season then came around and I was nowhere with the birds so I decided to get the birds tested. They confirmed my birds had Ornithosis, I had to treat for 28 days with Doxycycline and no racing which I did. Once I started racing the birds improved each week I finished up highest prize winner that year in the 3 bird mid week which had 50 members, at that time I won over £1000 in prize money and breeder buyer money. The birds steadily improved and my last year at that address which was 2001, the old birds flew very well. I then moved 5 miles south of the loft and broke the pigeons to race there it didn’t go well as the birds were going to the old address on exercise and making me late for work etc.
After a couple of seasons the birds were racing dreadful another trip to Retford Poultry revealed Salmonella in the birds. Some didn’t recover and the others were treated accordingly. The seasons ticked by to 2009 with very little success. I was on a visit to Nigel Laycock to collect a young bird I had bought when Nigel was on a moot. The birds were at Falaise that day and I said to Nigel I’m useless at the channel usually hours behind and poor returns. He asked how I was feeding and he said he used to feed like that and told me to expect a bad race that day he then gave me some tips on feeding and told me to make sure I sent good pigeons as bad ones are even worse the further they go. Well he was bang on I was miles behind and poor returns that day. Two weeks later the lead up to le mans 400 miles, I fed how Nigel had advised and sent the best pigeon I had. He wasn’t that good at the time but the best in my loft a blue pied cock. On the day of the race I was sat looking in the direction the birds normally came and all of a sudden a saw a flash of white flights come from my left, it had come a different direction to where I was looking he went straight through the doors and into his box where I quickly timed him in. The result was in, he was 1st club 1st fed 1st Mid Yorkshire Combine of 2300 birds. The best feeling I’ve ever had in pigeons. The birds was then named Superwheels (after the taxi company I finished up been a partner of, Wheels taxis) I actually got a right up in the local paper for his efforts and good publicity for the company.
2010 came and racing was not the top of my priorities as my best friend Richard Neves was suffering from a terminal illness and was in and out of hospital, and finally into a hospice where he passed away, I miss him so much. The end of that season I visited a loft to buy some birds, the partnership flew really well and showed me there system which was roundabout. I also was still trying to figure out why my racing wasn’t going very well. While at the Blackpool show there was a stand with Armand Scheers on. He was promoting a loft building dvd, I had a chat and duly bought the dvd. After watching it and learning how ventilation works I bought some smoke bombs took the birds out of my loft and set one of the smoke bombs off. Besides nearly choking I saw that the cold air(smoke) dropped from the ceiling and just hung at head height. I quickly realised why, and I altered my loft immediately and the lofts environment changed. Armed with the loft change and a change of system going onto roundabout, 2011 saw the birds racing very well. On one race 3 yearling hens came to take the first 3 in the fed and Leeds Amal 1800 birds and on the last old bird race from Falaise, Supeerwheels showed he still wasn’t passed it at 5 years old he finished 1st club 1st fed 1st Leeds Amal 4th Mid Yorkshire Combine 3200 birds.
At the end of the 2011 season we moved house again and a new loft was purchased made to my specifications based on the ventilation system of my old bird loft. The birds were quickly broken in and flying out. On the second race of 2012 the birds came really well and took the first 5 Heavywoollen fed first 5 Leeds Amal of 2000 birds and to be fare my results have improved every year with a few bumps and scrapes along the way the moral of the story is all those years of struggling was down to the loft not functioning properly, food for thought. I will list some of the more up to date performances from my birds right up to present day.
In the last two seasons alone we have won 23 x 1st’s including 6 x 1st fed wins and over £4000 and have bred many winners for other fanciers with just a few birds let go of every season.
Thank you for reading hope it didn’t go on to long.
Thanks again Dave