Friday Oct 24

U N C's Visitors

Quitting the racing scene

It was not a spur of the moment decision; neither did I find it a particularly difficult one. I have lost interest in the racing scene; it is almost as if I have outgrown it. Having lived through and enjoyed what I consider to be the best years of the sport I hardly recognise it now. It has, particularly here in the North East, become a numbers game at all levels, which when taken in conjunction with the hugely increased quantity of pigeons now being clocked where ETS systems are in use (systems that were virtually foisted upon a fancy that was not ready for them and whose more esoteric ramifications are still a mystery to most pigeon men)  is effectively pushing the average fanciers right off the result sheet and giving them yet one more reason to quit the sport.

Money, of course, is at the bottom of all this. Money spoils everything given time. “For the love of money is the root of all evil. Timothy 6:10 (King James Version). The men with the ridiculously big race teams, and they are all over the place, are doing most of the damage, especially, but not exclusively, with young birds. And, as you might expect, the big teams are getting bigger and bigger as their competitors seek to continue competing against them with similar numbers. There is a feedback system at work here. As more and more fanciers leave the sport those continuing in it are now keeping ever increasing numbers of pigeons; fewer fanciers more pigeons. An additional straw, so to speak, which, in time, might be just the one to break the Camel’s back!

For most of my life I have watched the gradual and remorseless development of big race teams. The accepted way to beat the local champion, for those who could afford it, was always to obtain pigeons as good as or better than his, train at least as hard if not harder, and to keep bigger numbers than he does. The “God is on the side of the big battalions” reasoning. It was always thus, but I wonder if we are now approaching the endgame, where the final product could well be, not clubs as such, but a mere handful of top fanciers for every area competing endlessly against each other, and against no one else.

In addition, the steady growth of one-loft, futurity racing and breeder/buyer events, in all of which I have absolutely zero interest, has inevitably led to the aggressive pursuit of the big money prizes to be picked up in these races; against a background, and I have to say this, of persistent and entirely feasible allegations of misconduct and malpractice. The world of pigeon racing is now beginning to resemble that of greyhound and horse racing; warts and all. Whether you consider that to be a good or a bad thing is your business, but it is not for me.

It seems to be the case these days that within the sport in general- and not just in the aforementioned events- to some modern day fanciers the ends completely justify the means. I am referring here to such things as the abuse of antibiotics and the widely suspected illegal usage of both proven and unproven performance enhancing substances. This is not and never was what pigeon racing is, or should be, all about.  Clearly, in the words of William Shakespeare, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

So, my racing days are over. We all of us have certain choices to make in this life and I have made mine. I have voted with my feet and walked away from the racing side of our sport. As it now exists it is not for me. Of course factors other than those I have already indicated have played their part in my decision to quit racing. Increasing age has brought with it the usual problems, in my case long-standing shoulder and back troubles which have progressed to the stage where un-medicated sleep is impossible. Despite my past career in the fields of physiology/medicine I am not a great one for medication; it may be and often is a kind of trade-off, which can bring with it its own particular problems, as mine has. Sleep is now a rarity and alcohol a thing of the past.

In addition, the thought of actively managing a team of racing pigeons into my late seventies/early eighties, should I live that long, leaves me aghast. In fact I find it rather puzzling that some fanciers should want to continue doing so right on into their old age; that is to say, doing what they have always done, even when they can’t do it properly anymore, and when, patently, there are plenty more suitable and attractive things to do. Life is not a dress rehearsal. No sir! Who wants to face old age and decrepitude ceaselessly regretting “the roads not taken” and neurotically wondering “what if?” What if I had done this or tried that instead of being addicted to pigeons all my life?

As a lifelong non-driver (quite simply I just didn’t like it) I have always struggled to train my birds, being totally dependent upon the help of others fanciers, the Up North Combine transporter and a Wednesday club which is no longer available to me. My get up and go finally got up and went! I have achieved what I set out to do in this sport of ours and I can see absolutely no point in physically and mentally punishing myself, as I did previously, in attempting to repeat it.

There exists, as I have continuously iterated over the years, a life outside of pigeon racing. That life will do me fine. My “previous life,” that of having to meet the continual and repetitive deadlines which pigeon racing demands, no less will do, is gone. If I fancy a mug of decent, properly-prepared, coffee and a crack at the Guardian crossword or a lie-in, instead of dashing down the garden in all weathers, I can now do so. Anytime I want to. No longer do I have to arrange my life, and that of my family around the racing season.

Of course I am not cutting all of my ties with the sport. Pigeons have stood me in good stead in the past. I am keeping my full team of stock birds (in fact I have slightly increased their numbers) their future progeny being destined to go to friends and to various sales. Others can now race and evaluate them if they so wish. I am also looking into retaining my club and union membership and intend to continue as an officer of the NEHU in some capacity or other. My late and much missed friend, the blind fancier Jed Jackson, always referred to his pigeons as being his “social currency” and I can relate to that.

I have had pigeons far too long to be without them in my declining years until the time finally comes when it is impossible for me to manage them. I have met some exceptionally fine people in this sport of ours; men whose company and opinions I value highly and whose friendship I would always wish to retain. On the other hand it is only fair to say that, unfortunately, there still exists within the fancy a firmly-fixed, quarrelsome, less erudite element, whose intransigent attitudes and closed minds I won’t miss one little bit, but that is how the cookie crumbles I guess. Some you win – some you lose.

I owe pigeon racing nothing. I have put far more into the sport, at countless levels, than I have ever taken out of it and have done so since entering the pigeon game as a boy. I will continue to offer the fancy what I know I have to offer until I am no longer in a position to offer it. Writing about the sport, and how it has affected and interacted with my life in general, has been one of the pleasures of being in it, and I can see no reason why that should not continue.

Time marches on and our dismal climate continues to exact its toll on both man and bird. I now find it far more pleasurable exploring the world that computing has opened up for me, in the warmth of my living room, than in cleaning out a pigeon loft in sub-zero temperatures or in pouring rain. There was a time when the weather never bothered me much, but it does now! In truth my mind has always functioned far better than my body ever did. I have made my bed - it is now time for me to lie in it.

ROD ADAMS.

The Bass Rock‏

I have always had a bit of a thing about islands, especially remote, uninhabited or sparsely populated ones, even though my first love was and remains Holy Island, which by no stretch of the imagination can be called remote. Getting out to and landing on the Farne Islands was both easy and enjoyable. Fair Isle in Shetland, with its world famous bird observatory, was the first island that I visited that took a bit of getting to. You don’t get there by accident. Two visits there, each of two weeks, whetted my appetite and it was off to the Outer Hebrides. To Barra. And all islands north of that for a week.

Barra is the only place I have been to (and I have been around a bit, including in the vast open spaces of Patagonia), where I have felt lonely. Even if only briefly. All that sky. And sea. Shell sands. And silence. I value solitude but there is a world of difference between solitude and loneliness. You choose one. The other is imposed upon you.

The Swedish island of Oland came and went, twice. The first time before they built a bridge to it across the Baltic sea. It wasn’t the same after that. And always the object of going to these places was the bird life. Those that lived there and those that were simply passing through. It would have been nice to have got to the Faroe Isles but it just didn’t happen. Just as Orkney didn’t happen. Nor the Isle of May, another place on my wish list.

I’ve always worked on the premise that the next best thing to actually doing something is reading about it. So, I settled instead for collecting books (I now have quite an impressive collection) about both the islands I had been to, and those I’d have liked to have been to. Most notably St Kilda. But that is not easy. For a variety of reasons. Iona too would have been nice. I did however, get to spend the best part of a day on the Bass Rock. And this is this is how it went.

THE BASS ROCK

It was a magnificent photograph. Taken by a man called David Cheskin. It featured in the centre pages of the Guardian newspaper on Thursday May 22nd. The Bass Rock in all its glory. Seabirds and all. In dramatic close up, as seen from a boat approaching the landing place below the lighthouse and the ruins of the castle. The site of the world’s biggest single-island Gannet colony it is home to more than 150,000 Gannets and was once described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the wildlife wonders of the world.” Gannets got me onto the Bass rock. And I still bear the scars!

It is a fascinating place, full, not just of seabirds, but of Scottish history and has also featured in a lot of fiction. For example Catriona by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stirred by the abovementioned photograph I went back to my old logs from my birdwatching days. Memory is a fickle thing so I have always kept written records of the places I have been to. And what I did there. That is how I am. A product, I guess, of my days as a laboratory technician when keeping accurate notes was an indispensable part of the job.

Let me tell you a bit about “The Bass”, as it is sometimes called. It is an island in the outer part of the Firth of Forth in the east of Scotland lying opposite Tantallon. About 25 miles east-south-east of Edinburgh. The twin castles of the Bass and Tantallon were built to protect the narrow sea channel running between. And here I quote Chris Tabraham and Castles of Scotland. “The importance of that passage was demonstrated as recently as 1995, during the Tall Ships’ Race, when a sudden change in the wind forced them into taking that route when leaving the Forth.”A volcanic plug, its highest point is 107 metres and is surrounded by steep cliffs with a steep slope to the south- south- west. The total area is some 3 hectares. It has been owned by the Hamilton-Dalrymple family for over 300 years and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.


Very early in its history the Lauder family (Sir Harry Lauder was a descendant) had a secure castle on the rock which doubled up as a place of embarkation for the continent for those in need of such services in the troubled times of James 1in the 14th century. King James 1V visited and stayed in the castle and King James V1 also visited. And even offered to buy the island. An offer which was politely refused! In the 15th century the Bass Rock was used by James 1 to imprison his political enemies, which included many members of the Clan MacKay. After Cromwell’s invasion the Lauders lost “The Bass” and the castle became a notorious goal for many decades. It was Scotland’s Alcatraz..

The Reverend Alexander Peden, who became a kind of prophet amongst the so-called “hedge priests” routinely wore a mask that made him look as though he was horribly diseased to avoid capture, but was eventually caught and forced to spend five years of privation on the Bass and John Blackadder, the best-known of the Covenanting martyrs, died there in 1686. The fortress was effectively demolished in 1701, after four Jacobite prisoners locked out their jailers and held out for almost three years! From 1691-94. And eventually naming their own terms for surrender. It was acquired by the Dalrymples in 1706

The lighthouse, designed by Robert Louis Stevenson’s cousin, was built in 1902 and has been unmanned since 1998, being now completely automatic. Below it are the remains of the castle, Half-way up the island are the ruins of the hermit St Baldred’s Chapel, and the freshwater well was/is right at the top of the island, next to where the foghorn is now. There is also a walled garden from the days when the garrison was occupied. In the 14th-17th centuries. During the 16th and 17th centuries there was even sufficient grass present for 100 sheep to graze.

It was a beautiful day when I went there with my somewhat eccentric friend Peter. The sole purpose of our visit was to ring as many Gannet chicks as we could during the time the tides permitted us to be on the rock that day. It became clearly visible long before we neared North Berwick, where we were to sail from. I still look for it whenever I am travelling up the east coast to Edinburgh and places north but my first glimpse of it fair took my breath away. And we were to sail across and clamber up that! To ring Gannets?

At that time Bryan Nelson, later to become a leading authority on Gannets and Boobies, was writing up his ground-breaking book on the bird which he had lived amongst and studied for such a long time. From 1960 to when his masterly monograph The Gannet was published. In 1978. We never met him but when the book finally appeared in print I read it with the familiarity of one who had actually been there and seen some of the things that he described. It made the book twice as interesting. Intimacy does that. To any subject.

The three mile boat trip out was uneventful, save for the landing on the slippery landing place, which had to be timed with the rise and fall of the waves, but strong arms saw to it that we all got off without incident. Peter and I left the others and headed for the breeding Gannets high up on the slopes. It was hot, arduous, stinking, and not without risk. Gannets are big birds with big beaks. Beaks that, so the tale goes, the one-time inhabitants of St Kilda used to peg down the thatches on their cottages with. Beaks that are serrated, with the upper mandible down-curved at the family tip. Which can lacerate and grip fish. And, as we found out the hard way, not just fish!


We worked our way over the top and down the slopes, dodging those beaks, but you could only dodge so many. The young that we were ringing invariably vomited up their last half-digested fishy meal upon being handled, ejecting that and faeces all over us, and drew blood from both us on a regular basis. The old birds were either absent on fishing expeditions or they took off as we approached their nest pedestals. These are substantial cement-like structure of seaweed, grass, other vegetation and general flotsam. Firmly cemented together with faeces . The colony stank. We stank. I took some time off to look at what seemed to be a bunch of Starlings on the rocks down below which seemed a bit strange to me. Only they weren’t Starlings. They were Shags 300 feet below us! I had drifted far too far down a steep slope for my own safety so I beat a hasty retreat back up into the body of the colony. Eventually we ran out of rings and made our way back to the landing place.

I paused to take a photograph, with my brand new Pentax camera, of a nest full of naked, black, reptilian-looking, young Shags. And down the cliff face tumbled the top half of my camera carrying case! That depressed me no end as, for a split second, I thought it was the camera itself but amazingly enough I managed to recover the case on the way down. Pure luck it was. Back down at sea level, jeans and T-shirts covered in Gannet gunge, we washed our wounds in salt water and awaited the boat.

The trip back was interesting. To say the least! The tide was turning and the sea was being piled up by a strong west wind blowing down the Firth. The boatman drew away from where we had embarked and turned into the wind. Fifty feet or so clear of the rocks a Gannet, flailing to get some air under its wings after taking off, bounced off someone’s head. The woman shrieked and we all laughed. Then the boats engine failed. As the boatman tried to restart it a wave hit the bottom of our open coble with a tremendous thump. A few people screamed with nervous excitement, you can hear similar noises coming from any fairground ride, and then it happened again. But this time the front of the boat reared high up in the water before it slapped back down.

There was a deathly hush. Our little group were all by now hanging on for grim death. Not me though. I was too busy searching through my pockets. For my Swiss Army knife. With not a life jacket in sight, no Health and Safety Regulations in operation at that time, no sir, I was seriously thinking of cutting through the laces of my hiking boots in case the boat capsized! Honestly!! I reckoned that I had a fighting chance of reaching where we had just come from. It seemed that close. And I most certainly didn’t want to be wearing my heavy hiking boots if I ended up in the water! Then the engine re-started and we puttered away. I sneaked a glance at the boatman to see if I could detect any signs of concern on his face. It was impassive. Giving nothing away. Though I have no doubt that my face was!

Back ashore Peter and I took stock of each other, dumped our packs where we could see them, then walked straight into the sea. Fully clad. And washed ourselves down. It was a hot day and we were pretty soon dry enough to get in the van and head for home. Happy. Tired. Bloodied. And stinking. We needed a pint. In fact we needed several. Posh and trendy establishments were obviously out. What fitted our rather peculiar state of dress, damp, salt-stained and smelly, was a remote country pub. With few customers. Where we could get a pint and take it outside away from curious eyes and snide comments about our appearances. And smell.


We found just such a place and walked in, carefully leaving the door open behind us. Our smell, naturally enough, followed us. The sole occupant of the bar, an old man, was sitting, puffing his pipe, by the fire. His beer on a nearby table. His equally ancient Border Collie was lying beneath the said table. It sniffed the air as we passed. Growled deep in its throat, and with a mincing stiff-legged gait approached us warily, still growling, hackles raised, ears flattened and lips curled back over its teeth. Stopping a foot or two away from us it sat down, threw back its head and howled. The old man called it to him and came apologetically towards us. “I’m sorry” he said “I can’t understand it, its never done anything like ---- by hell” he expostulated, “what on earth is that smell?” “Regurgitated fish” said a smiling Peter “and fresh guano. Gannet shit, to be precise. It hasn’t got a lot going for it, has it?” He always did have a way with words!

Postscript.

If there is anyone out there who fancies following in the footsteps of a host of famous naturalists who have visited The Bass in the past, such as Audubon, Niko Tinbergen, Konrad Lorenz, Roger Tory Peterson, James Fisher and so on, visits are still possible. The Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick has exclusive landing rights to the island, courtesy of the owner Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, and operates a limited number of photographic boat trips throughout the year, weather permitting. For those of a less adventurous or more sedentary nature the Seabird Centre has solar powered cameras on the island which beam back images to large screens on the mainland. Sharp enough to read the ID rings on the birds legs. Progress I guess, but I’m glad that I got to The Bass Rock when I did.

ROD ADAMS.

 

 

Woodroffe Brothers Sunderland

A MEGA WIN BY MEG.

FOR THE RECORD EQUALLING WOODROFFE BROTHERS OF SUNDERLAND.

By Jack Curtis,

 

The Band of Brothers.

It was back in 1958 that I joined Cornhill Homing Society, and one of the first friendly men I met was the late Albert Woodroffe senior, who seemed to like my style and conduct in the weekly club meetings, always held in the HALF WAY HOUSE pub. Within a very short time I became chairman, and through this link I was invited to visit his home and loft, which was situated in the back yard at Frank Street, and through this invitation met a young Albert who was cleaning the hens out, an even younger Fred, and baby David who was lying snug in the bottom drawer, of a big chest of drawers in the living room. This was a real family home with mother Ann at the helm, and brother and sisters all living in that carefree environment, with dogs, ducks, budgies and much else besides. This was my first real encounter with the Woodroffe family, who made me welcome to their home and showed me their pigeons, which were basically of Vandervelde blood lines, and I use the word THEIR as even then young Albert and Fred had a part to play, in helping their father who unfortunately was later killed in an accident at Wearmouth Colliery.

This event left his wife Ann with nine children to raise, and made the elder members of the family grow up rather quickly, but Ann rose to the challenge and could be rightly proud, of her achievements, a courageous woman by any standard. She lived to see all of her children settled, and wore her sons first GOLD MEDAL from 1983 right up to her death, and was justifiably proud of her three sons who followed their father into the world of pigeons racing. This then is the length of my links to the WOODROFFE BROTHERS, with whom I spend a fair amount of my leisure time, but do very little work due to my COPD, however I am a good talker and listener so we get along fine.

 

A NEW BEGINNING

The year 1970 saw the brothers establish their new identity, and began racing as WOODROFFE BROTHERS with success coming early, as they started their quest, which was to top THE MIGHTY UP NORTH COMBINE.

 

 

2

The verve of youth saw them search out quality pigeons, then work their socks off conditioning and training this team, with all three dovetailing the team work, and young Dave who was still at school galloping around during his lunch break doing the important things Albert and Fred couldn’t do because of their work. Today that team work is still very much in evidence, as Davy is always first to the loft at about 5-30am, turns the hens out for their 40 to 60 minute fly depending on circumstances, and cleans them out while they fly and traps them to a little seed, then lets them settle down. Next he cleans the stock loft out then takes the Ybs off the darkness, feeds them about a quarter ounce of depurative per bird, then off he goes to work for an 8am start.

However that is only half of his input, as he is back by 4-50pm to clean the stock loft again, darkens the YBs down for the night then traps any pigeons in from training tosses, plus any other jobs he see’s which need attention, and that is Davy Woodroffes normal daily input into this loft, not a bad shift Son. JC.

 

Albert the eldest brother arrives a while after Dave has left, then turns the cocks out for their morning spin, with the duration again varied to suit the circumstances at any one time, and he cleans their section out change the water and gives them a light feed.He uses four compartments for the cocks, and two for hens flying the round about system, with the hens on vee sitters where he watches for any signs of lesbian activity, and swiftly removes any active hen to the aviary to cool off. He uses a light mix at the beginning of the week, either Gerry plus or super winner, while in the evening they get a full W/H mix selected from the best available each year. The hens are shown for various lengths of time, prior to basketing, depending on the race being prepared for, while the afternoon exercise is varied and training tosses are sometimes used instead of exercise around the loft, and this is timed to coincide with Davids return from work, but everyone including me insists that Albert cuts the grass.

 

Fred is the middle brother and he arrives at 12-30 pm each day, as he works split shifts as head caretaker of a large local education academy, on the other side of the city. He takes the YBs straight from the nest, settles them into their own loft where they are vaccinated for Para immediately, then wormed, treated for both canker and cocci and gradually settled.

 

 

 

3

Once his babies are flying strongly they have to fly for at least one hour, as some young cocks want to be down chasing the hens, so they are flagged if need be, then a couple of weeks before racing starts they are trapped quickly, to learn this habit when training starts. This begins with a series of short flights from 2,5,10, & 20 miles prior to racing commencing, with Albert doing the driving and Fred trapping them in at home, in fact Albert does 90% of the training. Fred cleans and feeds his YBs from day one, treating the feed with either Flaxseed oil,Garlic oil, or Sunflower oil, which allows either Provit in powder form or Oregano to be applied then fed. The bath is given once a week, but the youngsters have to be watched due to the danger of RAPTOR attacks, which are always at the back of peoples minds now, and sometimes it is better to let them bathe in the aviary if you are worried, by the frequency of the visits of these harbingers of death. Now that brief outline gives you some idea of the disciplined approach of these three men to pigeon racing, and it is this discipline and methodical attitude that is the real basis of their success.

 

A TSUNAMI.

It was on Sunday the 12th of May 2013 that the north east of England produced another PIGEON TSUNAMI, when Chief Convoyer Steve Profitt released 16,894 UNC pigeons, who were joined by a further 6,878 from the WDA,NNA,& DC, in an instantaneous liberation from Eastbourne. The time was 06-15am, the wind northwest, with the combine members flying between 270 to 360 miles, and a good race was expected. What we actually got was a WORLD CLASS RACE in my humble opinion, judging by the performances put up by the fanciers of the North East, but let me explain my views. The UNC saw 200 pigeons timed with a drop in velocity of 36.03 ypm, or roughly 8 or 9 minutes to get on the official result, and that result only covers 1.18% of the total birdage for the combine, a staggering tiny percentage. It gets even harder with the NEHU OPEN when only 100 out of a total birdage of 23,772 pigeons figure in the open, which equates to a mere 0.42% or much less than half of one percent, think about it. The other statistics which hit me is that the UNC result was over in a drop of only 36.03 ypm, or 8 or 9 minutes to see your name in lights, while the NEHU OPEN RESULT saw 100 pigeons recorded in only 27 ypm drop in velocity or about 6 minutes.

 

 

4

Now that is the size of the competition in the north east, and as the late Frank TASKER said to me, when he was up at our prize distribution, “ It is bloody hard to win up here”, but to me it shows the sheer quality of our fanciers in general, to produce the level of fitness in their pigeons, to create that DYNAMIC result.

Now I am not going to bore the pants off you, but I always analyse each race result and what I get from this race is, great multiple groups of pigeons contesting the same yard of velocity. There were 10 pigeons on 1449, 10 on 1447, 9 on 1438, 11 on 1437, a massive 19 on 1435, and 15 on 1433, I lie not IT WAS A TSUNAMI, with pigeons cascading in , all over the combine. BRILLIANT.

 

What Did It Take to Win.

Now I am not going to beat about the bush, I saw this winner come racing flat out and trapping like a bullet, to win by 1.19 ypm, flying just under 298 miles, with a flyin g time of 5-57-9 to be followed by two loftmates at 5-58-27 and 5-58-32, and they claimed 6th and 7th Combine. At 5-59-37 they timed again for 19th combine, then at 6-1-36 for 43rd, followed by another at 6-1-41 for 46th, then 6-4-12 to claim 99th, at 6-5-50 they take 178th UNC for a good days work, with the elusive 1st UNC for good measure..

Not only did they win the combine they also won the NEHU OPEN the NECC,THE TWCC, & NETBC, for good measure, so all in all A DAY TO REMEMBER.

This Brilliant Combine Win takes their outright wins to [FOUR], yes 4 to equal the most wins by any loft, the sting in the tale is that the other lofts to achieve this are all down in East Cleveland, and Peter Bennett has produced a super montage of these four magnificent pigeons, to go with this article.

Champion Meg.

This beautiful little Blue Hen has won six great federation turns, including a 1st,2nd,3rd plus a 2nd Section 4 with 5,613 birds ,and a 1st section 4, to go with her 1st UNC and 1st Open NEHU, where she beat 23,772 competitors from the whole of the north east. She fully deserves the title “MEG” as she is named after my late BEAUTIFUL wife who shared my life for 55 years, and the LADS and Alfie Hawthorn her breeder know what this means to me. She is a lovely type in the hand with everything right, plus a cracking eye with a brilliant dilute from 5 to 9 oclock, in a great yellow based eye, but her breeding is superb so lets have a look.

Sire is GOLDEN EYE who is from YOUNG FEMKE and his brother won 1st National against 21,000 birds. The dam of Golden Eye is DEB and she was Best YB in the Fed in 2005, then stock and dam of at least six individual fed winners, plus a flood of winning

5.grand children etc. DEB carries Woodroffe bloodlines in both her sire and dam ,with lines tracing back to the original base via THE TELE COCK, and his nestmate APACHE 1st UNC Folkstone 284 miles, with 26,576 birds competing, in 1983. Alfie Hawthorn

Went direct to Piet van de Merwe for Young Femke, and due to the class he produced with DEB he decided to go back again, which resulted in the purchase of a lovely Blue Pied hen from Piet’s number one stock pair, who is a full sister to QUEENIE a winner of 1st from 24,000, and she is the dam of CHAMPION MEG. This No 1 stock pair are a little bit special, the cock “Jort” has a 1st from 11,229, a 16th from 10,927, etc, while the hen “LAURA” has won

2nd from 22,571, 3rd from 38,401, and 5th from 30,357 birds, need I say anymore. [CLASS WILL TELL].

Over the years there has been a multitude of Federation Winners as the montage from 1984 proves, however the dam of GOLDEN EYE is from a G/Daughter of Woodroffe Bros old Dark Hen, and she was from a son of TELE SAVALAS, nestmate to APACHE and they were both from Kissabella, who was from a half brother to halfsister mating from GEORGE BUSSCHEARTS great cock CHAMPION RAPIDO. That is the quality of the cross into Piet van de Merwe’s line of pigeons, all top quality material and the Lads No1 stock Cock at this time is POPEYE and he is from a full brother to the OLD DARK HEN, known as BUSTER and he in turn is the catalyst in the line which came down through MISS ALI, via his brother BLUE BUSTER and they produced BIG NOSE who sired some superb pigeons with IRIS 1st UNC Maidstone with 17,379 birds competing, including a massive Stock Hen for Martin Ali as well as the Lads and other fanciers.

The loft Mates.

Apart from ‘Champion Meg’ the 2013 season has thrown up another in the shape of a cracking Dark Chequer Hen, whom I shall call “Champion Ellen”, as she has made the three Eastbourne races, her speciality as follows. First race she flew 3rd Club, 4th Fed, 6th Section 4, 7th UNC, 7th Open NEHU 23,772 birds competing, winning 1st Fed 2 b ird club, 1st NE 2bird club, 1st NECC, 1stTWCC, for a start, beaten by two loftmates. At Eastbourne II she came again for 4th Club, 4th Fed, 3rd TWCC, and 6th NECC, and 50th UNC from 11,572 birds. Plus she won 4th Club, 4th Fed Rivenhall, and 7th Club, 9th Fed Melton Mowbray in warm up races . Finally she went on to Eastbourne III, and came up again to win 1st Club, 1st Fed, 1st Section 4, 5th UNC, 7,312 birds competing, and again winning 1st TWCC, and 1st NECC. Now that is some hen with a 7th from 23,772, then 50th from 11,572, and finally 5th from 7,312 birds and all at just under 300 miles, plus a pile of Championship Clubs, A SUPER STAR.

 

 

 

 

6

She is no fluke either being bred in the purple, as her sire is direct from BRAVEHEART 1st UNC Andrezel, 3,849 birds , flying 473 miles and mated to a special hen via Sheldon Leonard. Her dam is a direct off Stans Pride, winner of 1st WDA Billericay Yearling Classic 1,166 birds, 3rd WDA Arras 4,215 birds, 5th WDA Billericay 5,737 birds, and 9th WDA Arras 3,752 birds, when he was mated to a daughter of Colin Chapmans BRILLANT stock hen RACHEL, dam of TWO BIRDS OF THE YEAR in two consecutive seasons, in THE ENTIRE UP NORTH COMBINE. These two brilliant hens are backed up by several other class loftmates, such as the Cuester hen “Michele”who has won, 2nd Club, 3rd Fed, 6th UNC, and 6th Open NEHU 23,772 birds, then 8th Fed Melton Mowbray followed by joint 1st Fed,2nd TWCC,5th NECC, 6th Section 4, and 28th UNC 11,572 birds from the second Eastbourne Race. The loft recorded seven pigeons in the open result at, 27th,28th,50th,79th,80th,103rd,138th, plus 5th and 6th North of England Championship Club, and this race was over in 42.5 ypm drop in velocity. There are three siblings who have flown well, the first cock has won 1st Club, 1st Fed Bubwith, and 1st Club, 1st Fed Peterborough, his brother has won 4th Club, 4th Fed Bubwith beaten by two loftmates, and 1st Club, 1st Fed, 1st 2bird Club Melton Mowbray. Not to be outdone their little sister has flown 3rd Club,3rd Fed Rivenhall, 8th Club, 10th Fed Melton Mowbray, then Joint 1st Club, 1st Fed, 5th Section 4, 27th Open UNC Eastbourne II 11,572 birds, THREELITTLE BEAUTIES.

A TOAST TO THE LADIES.

The season of 2013 and the South Coast town of Eastbourne will forever be associated with THREE BRILLIANT LITTLE HENS, who have flown their hearts out for us, the thrills and pleasure they have created is enormous, and makes all the striving and planning well worthwhile, they have been wonderful, we are just grateful to have witnessed their brilliance.

Well now I think I have given you enough, but FOUR OUTRIGHT UP NORTH COMBINE WINS over exactly THIRTY YEARS, is certainly something to CELEBRATE so come October that is what we will do. However I cannot finish without thinking of our friends, who visit and support us, such as the NEE LADS Peter and Malcolm, Billy Goddard, Graham Jones, the brilliant Martin Ali for 35 years a true friend. Mr 2nd Combine Colin Chapman the double Bird of The Year Winner, Alfie Hawthorn another cracking Lad 7..who I owe my personal THANKS, then there is Micky Hays and Mark two smashing Men, then the Lads cousin Mick Summers who is always there when needed, not forgetting the irrepressible Barry Watson, and last but not least Alberts personal .decorator Stu Wormleighton, a rising STAR if ever I saw one. Now if I have missed anyone I apologize, but my old memory isn’t what it used to be.

To everyone who has contacted the Lads and me, THANK YOU. Jack Curtis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A MEGA WIN BY MEG.

FOR THE RECORD EQUALLING WOODROFFE BROTHERS OF SUNDERLAND.

By Jack Curtis,

 

The Band of Brothers.

It was back in 1958 that I joined Cornhill Homing Society, and one of the first friendly men I met was the late Albert Woodroffe senior, who seemed to like my style and conduct in the weekly club meetings, always held in the HALF WAY HOUSE pub. Within a very short time I became chairman, and through this link I was invited to visit his home and loft, which was situated in the back yard at Frank Street, and through this invitation met a young Albert who was cleaning the hens out, an even younger Fred, and baby David who was lying snug in the bottom drawer, of a big chest of drawers in the living room. This was a real family home with mother Ann at the helm, and brother and sisters all living in that carefree environment, with dogs, ducks, budgies and much else besides. This was my first real encounter with the Woodroffe family, who made me welcome to their home and showed me their pigeons, which were basically of Vandervelde blood lines, and I use the word THEIR as even then young Albert and Fred had a part to play, in helping their father who unfortunately was later killed in an accident at Wearmouth Colliery.

This event left his wife Ann with nine children to raise, and made the elder members of the family grow up rather quickly, but Ann rose to the challenge and could be rightly proud, of her achievements, a courageous woman by any standard. She lived to see all of her children settled, and wore her sons first GOLD MEDAL from 1983 right up to her death, and was justifiably proud of her three sons who followed their father into the world of pigeons racing. This then is the length of my links to the WOODROFFE BROTHERS, with whom I spend a fair amount of my leisure time, but do very little work due to my COPD, however I am a good talker and listener so we get along fine.

 

A NEW BEGINNING

The year 1970 saw the brothers establish their new identity, and began racing as WOODROFFE BROTHERS with success coming early, as they started their quest, which was to top THE MIGHTY UP NORTH COMBINE.

 

 

2

The verve of youth saw them search out quality pigeons, then work their socks off conditioning and training this team, with all three dovetailing the team work, and young Dave who was still at school galloping around during his lunch break doing the important things Albert and Fred couldn’t do because of their work. Today that team work is still very much in evidence, as Davy is always first to the loft at about 5-30am, turns the hens out for their 40 to 60 minute fly depending on circumstances, and cleans them out while they fly and traps them to a little seed, then lets them settle down. Next he cleans the stock loft out then takes the Ybs off the darkness, feeds them about a quarter ounce of depurative per bird, then off he goes to work for an 8am start.

However that is only half of his input, as he is back by 4-50pm to clean the stock loft again, darkens the YBs down for the night then traps any pigeons in from training tosses, plus any other jobs he see’s which need attention, and that is Davy Woodroffes normal daily input into this loft, not a bad shift Son. JC.

 

Albert the eldest brother arrives a while after Dave has left, then turns the cocks out for their morning spin, with the duration again varied to suit the circumstances at any one time, and he cleans their section out change the water and gives them a light feed.He uses four compartments for the cocks, and two for hens flying the round about system, with the hens on vee sitters where he watches for any signs of lesbian activity, and swiftly removes any active hen to the aviary to cool off. He uses a light mix at the beginning of the week, either Gerry plus or super winner, while in the evening they get a full W/H mix selected from the best available each year. The hens are shown for various lengths of time, prior to basketing, depending on the race being prepared for, while the afternoon exercise is varied and training tosses are sometimes used instead of exercise around the loft, and this is timed to coincide with Davids return from work, but everyone including me insists that Albert cuts the grass.

 

Fred is the middle brother and he arrives at 12-30 pm each day, as he works split shifts as head caretaker of a large local education academy, on the other side of the city. He takes the YBs straight from the nest, settles them into their own loft where they are vaccinated for Para immediately, then wormed, treated for both canker and cocci and gradually settled.

 

 

 

3

Once his babies are flying strongly they have to fly for at least one hour, as some young cocks want to be down chasing the hens, so they are flagged if need be, then a couple of weeks before racing starts they are trapped quickly, to learn this habit when training starts. This begins with a series of short flights from 2,5,10, & 20 miles prior to racing commencing, with Albert doing the driving and Fred trapping them in at home, in fact Albert does 90% of the training. Fred cleans and feeds his YBs from day one, treating the feed with either Flaxseed oil,Garlic oil, or Sunflower oil, which allows either Provit in powder form or Oregano to be applied then fed. The bath is given once a week, but the youngsters have to be watched due to the danger of RAPTOR attacks, which are always at the back of peoples minds now, and sometimes it is better to let them bathe in the aviary if you are worried, by the frequency of the visits of these harbingers of death. Now that brief outline gives you some idea of the disciplined approach of these three men to pigeon racing, and it is this discipline and methodical attitude that is the real basis of their success.

 

A TSUNAMI.

It was on Sunday the 12th of May 2013 that the north east of England produced another PIGEON TSUNAMI, when Chief Convoyer Steve Profitt released 16,894 UNC pigeons, who were joined by a further 6,878 from the WDA,NNA,& DC, in an instantaneous liberation from Eastbourne. The time was 06-15am, the wind northwest, with the combine members flying between 270 to 360 miles, and a good race was expected. What we actually got was a WORLD CLASS RACE in my humble opinion, judging by the performances put up by the fanciers of the North East, but let me explain my views. The UNC saw 200 pigeons timed with a drop in velocity of 36.03 ypm, or roughly 8 or 9 minutes to get on the official result, and that result only covers 1.18% of the total birdage for the combine, a staggering tiny percentage. It gets even harder with the NEHU OPEN when only 100 out of a total birdage of 23,772 pigeons figure in the open, which equates to a mere 0.42% or much less than half of one percent, think about it. The other statistics which hit me is that the UNC result was over in a drop of only 36.03 ypm, or 8 or 9 minutes to see your name in lights, while the NEHU OPEN RESULT saw 100 pigeons recorded in only 27 ypm drop in velocity or about 6 minutes.

 

 

4

Now that is the size of the competition in the north east, and as the late Frank TASKER said to me, when he was up at our prize distribution, “ It is bloody hard to win up here”, but to me it shows the sheer quality of our fanciers in general, to produce the level of fitness in their pigeons, to create that DYNAMIC result.

Now I am not going to bore the pants off you, but I always analyse each race result and what I get from this race is, great multiple groups of pigeons contesting the same yard of velocity. There were 10 pigeons on 1449, 10 on 1447, 9 on 1438, 11 on 1437, a massive 19 on 1435, and 15 on 1433, I lie not IT WAS A TSUNAMI, with pigeons cascading in , all over the combine. BRILLIANT.

 

What Did It Take to Win.

Now I am not going to beat about the bush, I saw this winner come racing flat out and trapping like a bullet, to win by 1.19 ypm, flying just under 298 miles, with a flyin g time of 5-57-9 to be followed by two loftmates at 5-58-27 and 5-58-32, and they claimed 6th and 7th Combine. At 5-59-37 they timed again for 19th combine, then at 6-1-36 for 43rd, followed by another at 6-1-41 for 46th, then 6-4-12 to claim 99th, at 6-5-50 they take 178th UNC for a good days work, with the elusive 1st UNC for good measure..

Not only did they win the combine they also won the NEHU OPEN the NECC,THE TWCC, & NETBC, for good measure, so all in all A DAY TO REMEMBER.

This Brilliant Combine Win takes their outright wins to [FOUR], yes 4 to equal the most wins by any loft, the sting in the tale is that the other lofts to achieve this are all down in East Cleveland, and Peter Bennett has produced a super montage of these four magnificent pigeons, to go with this article.

Champion Meg.

This beautiful little Blue Hen has won six great federation turns, including a 1st,2nd,3rd plus a 2nd Section 4 with 5,613 birds ,and a 1st section 4, to go with her 1st UNC and 1st Open NEHU, where she beat 23,772 competitors from the whole of the north east. She fully deserves the title “MEG” as she is named after my late BEAUTIFUL wife who shared my life for 55 years, and the LADS and Alfie Hawthorn her breeder know what this means to me. She is a lovely type in the hand with everything right, plus a cracking eye with a brilliant dilute from 5 to 9 oclock, in a great yellow based eye, but her breeding is superb so lets have a look.

Sire is GOLDEN EYE who is from YOUNG FEMKE and his brother won 1st National against 21,000 birds. The dam of Golden Eye is DEB and she was Best YB in the Fed in 2005, then stock and dam of at least six individual fed winners, plus a flood of winning

5.grand children etc. DEB carries Woodroffe bloodlines in both her sire and dam ,with lines tracing back to the original base via THE TELE COCK, and his nestmate APACHE 1st UNC Folkstone 284 miles, with 26,576 birds competing, in 1983. Alfie Hawthorn

Went direct to Piet van de Merwe for Young Femke, and due to the class he produced with DEB he decided to go back again, which resulted in the purchase of a lovely Blue Pied hen from Piet’s number one stock pair, who is a full sister to QUEENIE a winner of 1st from 24,000, and she is the dam of CHAMPION MEG. This No 1 stock pair are a little bit special, the cock “Jort” has a 1st from 11,229, a 16th from 10,927, etc, while the hen “LAURA” has won

2nd from 22,571, 3rd from 38,401, and 5th from 30,357 birds, need I say anymore. [CLASS WILL TELL].

Over the years there has been a multitude of Federation Winners as the montage from 1984 proves, however the dam of GOLDEN EYE is from a G/Daughter of Woodroffe Bros old Dark Hen, and she was from a son of TELE SAVALAS, nestmate to APACHE and they were both from Kissabella, who was from a half brother to halfsister mating from GEORGE BUSSCHEARTS great cock CHAMPION RAPIDO. That is the quality of the cross into Piet van de Merwe’s line of pigeons, all top quality material and the Lads No1 stock Cock at this time is POPEYE and he is from a full brother to the OLD DARK HEN, known as BUSTER and he in turn is the catalyst in the line which came down through MISS ALI, via his brother BLUE BUSTER and they produced BIG NOSE who sired some superb pigeons with IRIS 1st UNC Maidstone with 17,379 birds competing, including a massive Stock Hen for Martin Ali as well as the Lads and other fanciers.

The loft Mates.

Apart from ‘Champion Meg’ the 2013 season has thrown up another in the shape of a cracking Dark Chequer Hen, whom I shall call “Champion Ellen”, as she has made the three Eastbourne races, her speciality as follows. First race she flew 3rd Club, 4th Fed, 6th Section 4, 7th UNC, 7th Open NEHU 23,772 birds competing, winning 1st Fed 2 b ird club, 1st NE 2bird club, 1st NECC, 1stTWCC, for a start, beaten by two loftmates. At Eastbourne II she came again for 4th Club, 4th Fed, 3rd TWCC, and 6th NECC, and 50th UNC from 11,572 birds. Plus she won 4th Club, 4th Fed Rivenhall, and 7th Club, 9th Fed Melton Mowbray in warm up races . Finally she went on to Eastbourne III, and came up again to win 1st Club, 1st Fed, 1st Section 4, 5th UNC, 7,312 birds competing, and again winning 1st TWCC, and 1st NECC. Now that is some hen with a 7th from 23,772, then 50th from 11,572, and finally 5th from 7,312 birds and all at just under 300 miles, plus a pile of Championship Clubs, A SUPER STAR.

 

 

 

 

6

She is no fluke either being bred in the purple, as her sire is direct from BRAVEHEART 1st UNC Andrezel, 3,849 birds , flying 473 miles and mated to a special hen via Sheldon Leonard. Her dam is a direct off Stans Pride, winner of 1st WDA Billericay Yearling Classic 1,166 birds, 3rd WDA Arras 4,215 birds, 5th WDA Billericay 5,737 birds, and 9th WDA Arras 3,752 birds, when he was mated to a daughter of Colin Chapmans BRILLANT stock hen RACHEL, dam of TWO BIRDS OF THE YEAR in two consecutive seasons, in THE ENTIRE UP NORTH COMBINE. These two brilliant hens are backed up by several other class loftmates, such as the Cuester hen “Michele”who has won, 2nd Club, 3rd Fed, 6th UNC, and 6th Open NEHU 23,772 birds, then 8th Fed Melton Mowbray followed by joint 1st Fed,2nd TWCC,5th NECC, 6th Section 4, and 28th UNC 11,572 birds from the second Eastbourne Race. The loft recorded seven pigeons in the open result at, 27th,28th,50th,79th,80th,103rd,138th, plus 5th and 6th North of England Championship Club, and this race was over in 42.5 ypm drop in velocity. There are three siblings who have flown well, the first cock has won 1st Club, 1st Fed Bubwith, and 1st Club, 1st Fed Peterborough, his brother has won 4th Club, 4th Fed Bubwith beaten by two loftmates, and 1st Club, 1st Fed, 1st 2bird Club Melton Mowbray. Not to be outdone their little sister has flown 3rd Club,3rd Fed Rivenhall, 8th Club, 10th Fed Melton Mowbray, then Joint 1st Club, 1st Fed, 5th Section 4, 27th Open UNC Eastbourne II 11,572 birds, THREELITTLE BEAUTIES.

A TOAST TO THE LADIES.

The season of 2013 and the South Coast town of Eastbourne will forever be associated with THREE BRILLIANT LITTLE HENS, who have flown their hearts out for us, the thrills and pleasure they have created is enormous, and makes all the striving and planning well worthwhile, they have been wonderful, we are just grateful to have witnessed their brilliance.

Well now I think I have given you enough, but FOUR OUTRIGHT UP NORTH COMBINE WINS over exactly THIRTY YEARS, is certainly something to CELEBRATE so come October that is what we will do. However I cannot finish without thinking of our friends, who visit and support us, such as the NEE LADS Peter and Malcolm, Billy Goddard, Graham Jones, the brilliant Martin Ali for 35 years a true friend. Mr 2nd Combine Colin Chapman the double Bird of The Year Winner, Alfie Hawthorn another cracking Lad 7..who I owe my personal THANKS, then there is Micky Hays and Mark two smashing Men, then the Lads cousin Mick Summers who is always there when needed, not forgetting the irrepressible Barry Watson, and last but not least Alberts personal .decorator Stu Wormleighton, a rising STAR if ever I saw one. Now if I have missed anyone I apologize, but my old memory isn’t what it used to be.

To everyone who has contacted the Lads and me, THANK YOU. Jack Curtis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Articles...

Page 1 of 5