Friday Aug 22

U N C's Visitors

Me & Mr Fitzgerald

ME AND MR FITZGERALD.

Sixty three years ago, as a boy aged seven, I was thrown out of the school dentist’s surgery, bawling and screaming. I’ve been petrified of dentists every since.

 

Two things have always terrified me. Going to the dentist and flying. I attribute my fear of dentists to that early pre‑pain control visit. That of flying, which I’d never done before, was totally irrational. How can a man be frightened of something he’s never done? Anyway my uncle Alan got the blame. As a child he used to throw me up in the air and catch me at the last second on the way down. It was fear of falling. Or was it? So, I got myself an ambition never to fly! Inspecting my rear end in the mirror I always saw hairs. Not feathers! This is the tale of how, at the age of fifty‑seven Mr Fitzgerald changed my life.

My friend Phil killed himself on 6th May 1995. By jumping off a bridge. Standing in a West Midlands cemetery on 19th May, adding to the deep misery which I was already feeling, I had, for the first time ever, an acute attack of what could only be toothache. After that things progressed rapidly. I was on a collision course with “the dentist”. My philosophy had always been to go to the dentist when I absolutely had to go, and then to get them all out! In consequence I was the possessor of a rotten set of teeth, or should I say a set of rotten teeth? Both I guess. Inevitably that first toothache progressed to an abscess. A real old cartoon‑style “gumboil”. In short I was forced to see a dentist.

Plan A had always been to see an National Health dentist. One working in an area of high unemployment (where he or she was likely to be experienced in the extraction of long neglected teeth) and preferably someone who was relatively newly qualified, who would be well up on the latest pain‑free techniques! Was I a coward or was I a coward? We settled (and I say we, because I had by now enlisted the help of my wife) on a local practice used by my wife and daughters in the past and an appointment made as a matter of some urgency. The abscess by now was throbbing with a life of its own. And I reluctantly but duly turned up at the surgery. Terrified. Into the chair I went, wife by my side, and met Mr Fitzgerald for the first time.

A slightly built, quietly spoken Irishman from County Cork, who had actually qualified at Newcastle, he inspected my mouth, prescribed some antibiotics and told me to come back in a few days when the tooth would have to come out as “It’s a goner Rod”. It was time to make a clean breast of things so I told him of the 50 years of neglect and my terror of dentists. I’ll always remember what he said in his lovely Irish brogue “You won’t feel a thing. I’ll anaesthetise the living daylights out of you.” To which I replied. “Can you sneak up on me as well.” Bravado I little felt, but in the event he did just that. As I recall it he came at me over my left shoulder.


Came the day of the extraction. I had a mouth inspection first, photographs and all, and he did a tooth by tooth check. The extraction itself was unbelievably quick and pain free, so I tackled him about the rest. He could, he said, “do a job on them”. One more would have to come out. Six crowns would have to be fitted, at least five or six fillings to be done, some descaling, scraping and cleaning etc. It would be a long job, months in fact, but if he could get permission to do it on the NHS, they had a ceiling of £300 regardless of the actual cost of the work,  would I “go home and think about it.” And then he could do a proper costing of the work for submission to the authorities? I didn’t hesitate. Let’s do it. Martin Amis eat your heart out! I’d be back when I was asked. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Next day I was right back in my pre‑extraction fear of dentists. Home I went clutching the offending tooth. “Clean it up” Mr Fitzgerald had said “Use neat bleach then put it out for the tooth fairy and see what you get.” He must believe in Leprechauns because all I got from my tooth fairy was a measly 2p!

Over the next couple of visits casts were made and X‑rays taken. Nerve function tested. Copious notes made. Then the whole dossier was shipped off for approval, which was eventually granted. We were then, according to Mr Fitzgerald, “up and running.” A bad expression to use to anyone sitting in a dental chair. He didn’t know it but I very nearly was up and running. The actual cost of the job in hand was £850 or so. I needed “some root canal work done, a nerve or two out here and there” and he’d be in touch with me soon to commence “the real work”.

A week or so later the phone rang at work. It was “himself” with a question. “What are you doing next Monday afternoon Rod?” Nobody’s dentist asks them that! I could smell a rat. Several rats. He had a chance, he said, to further his postgraduate career by working for a week in the Dental Hospital doing root canal work with a Harley Street surgeon. I worked in the same complex didn’t I? I could walk there in a few minutes, wouldn’t even need to put my coat on would I? Wouldn’t you have guessed it, I needed some root canal work doing! Why didn’t I kill two birds with one stone (a bad metaphor to a pigeon man) and have some of my treatment in the Dental School with himself and Mr Harley Street man? Immediately I realised my mistake. It hadn’t been a rat I’d smelt. It had been a guinea pig!

2pm Monday it was to be. Periodontics. I didn’t lose a wink of sleep. Losing sleep implies you had some to lose, I just didn’t get any at all! Word had spread about the dental treatment and I was being regaled on all sides with dental horror stories. Knees on chests. Blood all over the place. The breaking of teeth and bone. Name it, and I had heard of it. Only one pigeon man told me it was a doddle. And he’d just had a perfectly healthy tooth extracted for some unknown reason of his own! In a state of apprehension I checked in at outpatients and was immediately “welcomed” into the treatment suite by a smiling Mr Fitzgerald. Obviously enjoying his day. Two hours twenty minutes later I was back at my desk. It was certainly an experience. I’d worried, with the worry of the ignorant, how on earth they were going to get to the roots of my teeth, but they did. And how! 18mm into my front teeth. Up through the cutting edge. It was a whirl of drilling, reaming, sterilising, filing, plugging, X‑rays, and much grave shaking of heads. And they were only working on two teeth! The bit I remember best was Mr Fitzgerald trying all over again, after the Harley Street man had rejected his second attempt on one of my teeth, then looking me in the eye, shaking his head, and saying “time to call in the cavalry Rod.” The Harley Street man, bow tie and all, appeared from another operating suite and gravely inspected the work in progress. With a piece of cream cake stuck to his chin! Some people have all the luck.

The guinea pig session over, Mr Fitzgerald did two other front teeth in his own surgery. “Have you ever seen one of the nerves in your teeth Rod?” says he, dangling it from the forceps like so much thread. What could I say? They’re usually inside the teeth, not outside! Next week came the crowns. Drilling, cutting, grinding and shaping the front six for the temporary crowns ( bandages for the teeth he called them) after which the moulds were sent off for the permanent colour‑matched porcelain crowns. I could hardly wait! By this time I could nearly go to sleep in the chair. A lie if ever I wrote one! The temporary crowns went on a treat, getting them off was something else. “They’re designed to break off Rod” said Mr Fitzgerald passing the safety goggles across to me. It was like shrapnel zipping around the room as bits of my temporary crowns bounced off the windows and lights. Quite an unusual feeling. Some more re‑shaping then out with the dental glue and on with the new choppers. “On the home run now Rod” he said .


By this time the Blackpool weekend was nearing and I certainly didn’t want toothache when I was there so I asked to have the back tooth taken out beforehand. Settled in the chair  Mr Fitzgerald said to me “what do you think of your new crowns?” I told him. I loved them. My wife loved them. But the dog ran away and hid when I smiled. In case I bit it. It wasn’t used to me snarling at it! And the guys at work had asked me if I  was  breaking them in for Red Rum? By then I was well impressed with his skill and had no fears, so out came the back tooth “If you hear any cracking noises it’ll just be the tooth breaking up, so don’t  worry.” That did my nearly acquired confidence the world of good! Off to Blackpool I went, happy as Larry with the state of my mouth. And then I started getting toothache from the place where the tooth had been. Back to the drawing board, via Mr Fitzgerald, who had one look and said “Oh yes, a classic dry socket”, packed it with an iodine dressing, dished out a prescription for “Flagyl” and gave me the worst news of the whole treatment regime. “No alcohol for a week”. Did I get sick of orange juice! An anaerobic infection. Needs the same treatment as is used for canker in pigeons. Could he prescribe me some extra tablets for the pigeons? No dice!

So on to the home run. It was time to show my appreciation of a pain‑free course of treatment. So I turned up for my next visit with a bottle of Bells for Mr Fitzgerald and some chocolates for the receptionists and dental nurses. “Lovely” said Mr Fitzgerald. “I’ll put some in my tea”. “Do that and I’m right out of this chair” is roughly what my thoughts were and I had some fillings done. Thinking to myself that if I can get over my fears of the dentist and stand seven months of largely pain‑free treatment, I can fly. So I committed myself and paid for a flight to Malta. No turning back. Two or three more visits for additional fillings and a clean up, then the photo session of the finished product to compare against the original horror picture plus a lecture on future care of the rebuilt teeth!

I had my speech ready. Things that had to be said. I thanked Mr Fitzgerald for his skill and his pain‑free treatment. Told him that he’d greatly helped me overcome a life‑long fear and given me confidence and a bit more self‑esteem. Told him about me planning to fly for the first time, then he caught me completely flat‑footed by telling me of his plans. To go to Australia with his wife for six months, for a complete break, as both had been studying and working for years without a holiday. They might stay, or more likely, return to set up a practice in Cork. He hadn’t told many people he was leaving the present practice, but thought I ought to know since we had become quite friendly. Now don’t laugh but I felt quite upset. Me missing a dentist must be the supreme irony, but Mr Fitzgerald was the reason why, as the second part of this tale unfolds, I found myself seven miles high above the Alps. Travelling at 500mph in the general direction of Malta. And the mirror still showed hairs on my backside!


It had been Ashley’s idea. I’d mentioned in a foolish moment that if I could go to the dentist I could get on a plane. So he took me at my word and said “we’ll go and see Joe in Malta. After Blackpool. I’ll sort out the details.” I agreed (I could hardly do anything other than agree after the bragging I’d done about the dental treatment) with some alacrity, but as the weeks wore on the old fears came right back. I found myself watching planes all the time. At home where I’m on the flight path, and at work, a few miles from Newcastle airport. They didn’t seem to be falling out of the sky but I was still very, very, apprehensive, so I started asking people what flying was like. Word spread of course that Rod, a life‑long advocate of not flying, was going to Malta, and the advice began to come in. “Sit near the back, they don’t reverse into mountains.” “Did you read about that plane that fell into the sea near the Bermuda Triangle” ‑ and so on. Coming into work one morning someone had sketched a plane sticking up out of a shark infested sea on a blackboard near my office. Even a gliding instructor colleague of mine said he didn’t like commercial flying because they cut the power on take‑off to reduce the noise! I got to know all about air pockets. Turbulence. Ground shear. And ear damage. I became very well acquainted with the hazards of take‑off. And landings. The bit in between seemed safe enough though! Then I got the chance of a reprieve! A get out of jail card. The travel company cancelled the flight. I had a choice of my money back or a flight a week later. I was tempted to take the cash but stuck to my guns. I would have lost too much face!

Came the day of the flight it was very cold, with flakes of snow about, and quite windy.  Was I scared. Ashley’s dad was to pick me up at lunchtime and take Ash and myself to Newcastle airport for the 3pm flight to Luqa, Malta’s International Airport. Two double Grouse whiskies at home eased the nerves a little, which were eased a little further by a couple of pints of real ale in the departure lounge, and then I saw the plane. A Boeing 757. Huge! 255,000 lbs! 113 Tons ‑ empty of passengers and luggage! A wing span of 124 feet, 155 feet in length with 2 Rolls Royce engines. Carrying 233 passengers and all their luggage. My first thought was, it’ll never get off the ground, and my second was, oh my god what am I doing here? I know the basics of aerodynamics. Know planes fly. How they stay up and come down. But confronted with this monster I began to have grave doubts. Only the Immodium I had taken an hour earlier stopped my intestines from going into overdrive!

Too late now to change my mind. People in front of me. People behind me. I had nowhere to go but up the steps and onto the plane. Thank god I had an aisle seat. I didn’t dare risk a peep out of the window. Seat belts fastened and we were away. To my surprise and relief I didn’t even know we were off the ground! Two women were seated to my right and the conversation between one of them and me went something like this. Lady to me “Can I hold your hand? It’s my first time flying and I’m terrified. Me to her “Can I hold yours? I’m terrified as well”. I couldn’t believe it when, after what seemed like a few minutes, the pilot announced we were over London! A couple of gins down my neck and I was quite enjoying it. And risked a look out of the window. It was truly beautiful. We were above the clouds with no sight of the ground. White clouds, a blue sky and a huge sun. I abandoned my reading matter, and all worries gone, I watched as the sun slowly went beneath the clouds and it gradually got darker. The approach to Malta was superb. I was by now fighting for the window seat and watched as the street lights came into view and cars came into focus as we slowly and gently touched down. The descent when seen from the window  was almost like watching a TV zoom lens bringing things into ever nearer focus. My first flight had gone well and I had no fears of the return journey. As Ashley and I went to the luggage carousel I saw waiting for us my Maltese friend Joe Xuereb and Bob Reeves, ex of England.

I first met Joe in a side street in Verona, Italy, in the Olympiad year. He was with Eddie Newcombe and another Maltese pigeon fancier, Joseph “Ginger” Mifsud. We’ve met a few times since then at Blackpool, and kept in touch via letters and telephone calls. I’ve known Eddie for years and Bob is a good friend of an old friend of mine from Exeter. Bob now lives in Malta with his Maltese‑born wife. It was good to see them again. Joe had booked us into the Xemxija Bay Hotel, but he had other plans for us before we were to get there! We were bound for Joe’s house in Lija and a first meeting with his brother Arthur, also a pigeon fancier. Let me describe your typical Maltese male. Small, powerful, dark‑haired, barrel chested, and with very short legs. Joe is not your typical Maltese male. A Mediterranean David Niven, he is tall, urbane and laid back to the point of almost falling over. Well travelled, well read, and speaking excellent English, Joe is very cosmopolitan with a wide circle of friends in the pigeon game. And is excellent company. Arthur is something else. Hyperactive, volatile, rapidly‑speaking and restless. Physically hard working with a wiry frame, he could have come straight from the cast of Faulty Towers. As Manuel! Two more dissimilar brothers it would be hard to find. Arthur supplied the wine. Homemade. In whisky bottles. And explained “I no use the feet.” He has his own wine press you see! Joe supplied the food and the discussion began. Before we knew it, it was nearly midnight so Joe phoned the hotel to say our plane had “just landed” and we’d be there in about an hour!


Xemxija Bay is a small bay in the bottom corner of the much larger St Paul’s Bay where, in AD60, St Paul and St Luke were shipwrecked on an island whilst travelling, as prisoners, from Caesarea to Rome. Joe was to pick us up after breakfast and show us Malta. The day dawned nice and sunny and we sat on the balcony with the sun coming over the hills to our right. Looking roughly northeast over a very blue Mediterranean sea with the road to Mellieha following the curve of the bay. We could see any car coming for miles. Joe’s had a basket in the boot. His 10 candidates for the race from Catanzaro in Italy, some 240/280 miles away to the north. My choice was the red hen as I had my first “toss” on Malta. Lija is quite close to Mosta, which boasts a magnificent church with one of the biggest domes in the world, built by voluntary labour between 1833‑60 to the designs of the architect Giorgio de Vasse. This dome, constructed without the use of scaffolding and 123 feet across, is the one a bomb fell through in April 1942 and slid across the floor without exploding. A replica is still in the church. So off we went to see the church and that’s when I began to pick up the basic rules of driving in Malta. There aren’t any! Approaching a roundabout is quite exciting. If you look as if you are going to stop everyone just keeps going. If you look as if you aren’t going to stop everyone else does. In the event of a misunderstanding everyone hits the brakes hard, shrugs their shoulders and smiles. All very good natured. No road rage whatsoever, gentle toots on the horn and reverse gear the order of the day.

From the beautiful church of Mosta we went to the “Silent City” of Mdina. Mdina (Arabic for  walled city) was fortified in the 9th century but it may have been inhabited since the Bronze age. We entered through the Mdina gate and wandered around the narrow, angled, high‑sided streets. Built like that to prevent pursuers from seeing the defenders for very long. And just right for defenders to cut off, outflank or attack from above! Some of Malta’s old aristocratic families still live here in their palaces, but to me the real highlight of that visit was the view from the bastion. From which we could see Mosta dome and Valletta off to the east. Approaching enemies would have been spotted when they were miles away!

It was marking night so it was back to Joe’s place to select his ten birds for the race scheduled for Friday. There is a ten bird limit in Malta, unless you fly two registered teams as some do, because of the space available on the transporters, which obviously travel to the race- points by sea. Joe then flew in the Mosta Pigeon Club which has its own premises, used socially as well as functionally, where I met up with Carlos, whom I’d last seen two years ago in Blackpool and Eddie Newcombe, whom I’d last seen in Scotland! It was all very well organised with cardboard banana boxes, the favoured form of carrying the birds to the club. Birds were marked and transported by their owners to the race baskets via a perspex chute, for safety and security reasons, and then the race panniers, complete with sealed food hampers, were loaded onto the lorry that was to take them to Valletta Harbour. All over Malta little vans, wagons etc, were converging on the harbour, where the transporter awaited them., With spaces allotted and work crews at the ready. We followed the birds to the dockside where all was going like clockwork The transporters have a water supply built in and the hold of the ship is air conditioned. It was a magic scene. Towering stone bastions behind us. The darkly glinting waters of the harbour in front. And tens of volunteers loading the birds amidst a babble of noise. The whole scene lit up by the dockside lights. I met the president of the pigeon racing association who was travelling with the birds. Then, when all the activity was over, it was off to Bugibba and Qawra for a drink and back to the hotel. One hell of a day!


Up early on the Thursday but the weather was too bad to go to Gozo, so Joe agreed to take us to the capital city of Malta, Valletta. Named after Jean Parisot de la Valette, appointed Grand Master of the knights of St John in 1557. Who led them successfully through the Siege of 1565 when De le Valette, with only 600 knights, 9000 other troops and 8 galleys, held out for nearly four hot summer months against a besieging Turkish force of 38,000 troops. With a fleet of 138 galleys! It was one of the most valiant defences in history. At the end of which it is estimated that the Turkish forces, led by Admiral Piali and Mustapha Pasha, aided by the legendary Barbary pirate Dragut, had lost two thirds of their forces. The Garrison force itself had barely 600 men capable of bearing arms left when the siege was lifted. With this kind of history Valletta was a must! Situated on the Sceberras Peninsula with the great natural harbours of Marsamxett and Grand Harbour, Valletta sits on a sharply hog‑backed hill. A military historians dream, it is a city of defensive curtains, bastions, counterguards, ditches, watchtowers with their symbols of watching and listening (an eye, an ear, an owl) on their sides, and forts massively constructed of stone. Virtually impregnable. We walked around some of the defences and saw things like the massive stone caps on the knights granaries at St Elmo and the recent siege‑bell memorial, before arriving at the Mediterranean Conference Centre on St Lazarus Bastion to see “The Malta Experience.” A 45‑minute multi‑screen documentary on the history of the islands. Headphones carry the commentary in six languages. It was superb and right up to date. Next had to be the National War Museum within Fort St Elmo to see the World War II relics and of course the George Cross awarded to Malta in 1942 for the island’s courage under bombardment. Very impressive indeed. I couldn’t believe anyone would go up in the air in “Faith”, one of the four gladiator biplanes that were Malta’s air defence in 1940 when Italy declared war, let alone fight in them!

Joe then took Ash and myself to see St Johns Co‑Cathedral and Museum. The knights’ own church, built in 1573 and situated close to Republic Square, it is really and truly spectacular. A baroque masterpiece. A treasure house of religious motifs and carvings it quite took my breath away. We saw the famous solid silver screen and gates in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, which legend has it were hidden from French pillagers in 1798 by being painted black, and the high alter of 1681 designed by the architect Lorenz Gafa. Heading afterwards for the oratory and museum where the magnificent huge painting by Caravaggio, “The Beheading of St John” is on display together with some beautiful tapestries, paintings and busts commemorating the various Grand Masters. A quick look around the Law Courts and off to a café for a very late lunch. All in all some day. Nicely rounded off with a visit to a pet shop, Nino’s butcher’s shop and back to Joe’s house where we held a pigeon  workshop. The wine supplied yet again, courtesy of Joe’s brother Arthur. We did a lot of talking, got out the old microscope, checked some droppings, looked at Joe’s photographs then headed back to our hotel. Tired but happy. In the middle of a spectacular thunderstorm with the lightning lighting up the sky! And hoping without hope that we’d see a race tomorrow.

It was not to be. We awoke on Friday with the wind in the north and rain clouds obscuring the sun. Another holdover, so off we went to Joe’s mother’s house to see his stock birds, which were housed on the roof. There we spent a pleasant but cold and wet couple of hours with the birds. I was most impressed with some of the hens. I’d fully intended to stock up with any veterinary products I might need for the coming season whilst I was in Malta so it seemed like a good day to go shopping for these. And Andrews Ltd. seemed to be the place in Malta. A big corn and seed agricultural supplier, they sold a good range of veterinary products from the office block where we duly got what we needed at very reasonable prices. Lunch was spaghetti bolognaise. And I got a crash course in handling the stuff. I couldn’t chop it up into small pieces with everyone watching, now could I? Then back to Joe’s place for more pigeon talk as his brother had kindly invited us to his house for a meal that evening and some more of his “I no use the feet” wine. Arthur’s wife Mary had made us a very nice meal and there was a demijohn of wine to hand. Everything that makes for a splendid evening was there. A beautiful house full of character and good conversation. Needless to say I don’t remember much of the journey back to the hotel!


Saturday. Eddie Newcombe called, as he had most mornings, to see if all was well and announced yet another holdover, and as the weather was still too bad to visit Gozo we set off for Mellieha Bay. Via Charles Debono’s loft on the Santa Maria Estate, who upon seeing us pull up, promptly invited us in. Charles and his son Bertram have a beautiful range of ground level Petron Style lofts set below the patio area and his bungalow. What we in the North East would call a “sitting cabin” in his case was a conservatory- type extension to the house. Above the level of the lofts, with a view right across to the islands of Gozo and Gomino. In no time at all, the microscope was out, the beers were out, and things were in full swing. And that was before we saw the birds! Very typical of the hospitality we experienced all over the Maltese Islands. It was time for the scenic route so we set off for the Ferry Port to Gozo on the north side of the Marfa Ridge in Mellieha. It was cold and windy as the ferry made a very tentative run in, but the wind-surfers were having a ball running in on the wind. I would not have liked to have been on that ferry! We had a look at Anchor Bay then ran over the Bajda Ridge to Golden Bay and on to Gnejna Bay. To the restored Roman Bath House nearby. Probably attached to a Roman Villa, it is a masterpiece. Of its time. With a small pool feeding a sauna type building where the family could bath etc. together and complete with a nine‑seater toilet with running water channels beneath. It had been constructed in such a way that on an island short of water none was wasted. Gravity feeding the water from A to B and then out onto the land.

It was there that I saw my first Fan‑Tailed Warbler. Although I didn’t know it at the time. An elusive bird with a distinctive call and a looping display flight, I got enough of its characteristics to be able to identify from my bird books when I got back home. Chasing the fan‑tailed warbler up the hillside led us to a Girne. A beehive‑shaped stone hut. These are dotted all over the Maltese Islands. Some built simply to provide shelter from the sun when working out on the land, but others, like the one we were investigating, for the purposes of shooting and trapping migratory birds. Each with a removable stone in the forward face for shooting. And for the operation of clap‑nets over the decoy birds staked out on the small clearing in front. On the way back to Joe’s we called into Rabat to visit the well‑known Roman Villa and Museum. Then fed Joe’s pigeons and finished off the day with a meal at La Stella (The Stables) in Bugibba. Another good day.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and yes, the birds were up! 7.45am from Cantanzaro in southern Italy. On the inside of the toe of the boot with which is Italy preparing to kick poor Sicily. Some 250 miles in a direct line. Which one look at a map tells you they can’t fly! The birds would probably run down the east coast to the tip of Italy, cross the straits of Messina, skirt Mount Etna, stick to the east coast of Sicily then finish over the sea for the last 50 miles. Not an easy route! And not 250 miles! We had plenty of time, Joe said, to go and see Nino’s pigeons. Set in a walled garden behind his house, Nino had several lofts situated amidst orange and lemon trees. And some of the best hens I’ve handled in my life. A friendly and amiable man, we were busy looking at his race birds when Ashley spotted a cheq and white pigeon coming in very high. Right off the sea. 12.45pm. What a scatter. It was a race bird. We’d all been caught out. Nino in his wellies was doing some high speed steeple- chasing to get his clock from his house. And Joe was doing his Formula One impression getting us back to his loft.


Birds were coming over in small groups when Joe got his first at 1.20pm . A red hen I’d selected as my pick of his team, followed by a cheq bred off a bird obtained from a very good friend of mine. I got my binoculars out and began to enjoy the race from the vantage point of rooftop height. Birds were streaming down the island, either side of the great dome of Mosta, and I had the unusual experience of looking down on them. Two peeled off for what seemed to be the actual dome, but in fact bulleted down to a loft close by. And still the batches came on. Not big ones. Fives and tens. Steady, just like a race in the UK, only warmer! Against a backdrop of flat rooftops, churches and domes. Over the international airport and on into the distance. It was not, Joe assured me, your typical Maltese race. They must have had a tail wind! Joe’s brother turned up. Very excited. He had six in the clock. The first one grabbed on the trap “I no wait for another day.” And, wait for it, it was the mealy I’d selected as being his best bird on marking night. Information about times started coming in. Just like home. Charles Debono & Son had won Mosta Club and had another good one. Ginger Mifsud, another friend of mine, had eight out of ten and had gone 1, 2, 3, 4 in his club. And the Federation had been dominated by pigeons on the island of Gozo who had, I think, the first five. They are the shortest fliers. Arthur finished second or third club. And word had just been received that the members had to basket on Monday night for a 90‑mile race from Sicily! Short notice indeed, but everyone seemed completely unperturbed! The race over, it was off to Mellieha to see Manchester United play Bolton. And to meet up with Bob Reeves, Ginger and Eddie again to round off an exciting day.

Monday dawned nice and sunny. I watched some swallows hawking for flies at a nearby marsh and heard a couple of Chiff‑Chaffs. No doubt on their way home to England from their winter quarters! Race marking wasn’t until 3pm and as I was to show some slides at the club, we collected the projection apparatus and went to see the Catacombs at St Paul’s in Rabat. Dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries, and used by the early Christians, I found them very impressive. Carved out of the rock, incorporating meeting places and quite large halls, they must have required immense effort and a huge labour force working over many years to end up with the complex Labyrinthine system that remains. Ashley was getting bored, he’d seen it all before on his many visits to Malta, so we went to see some pigeons, Arthur’s to be exact. It gave me vertigo just to think of him climbing up the door to grab the mealy on the trap. What he had was a happy colony of birds, nesting under the floor grilles and in all sorts of corners. We still had time in hand so off we went to the Quayside market at Marsaxlokk. Site of the old seaplane base. The place where Dragut the pirate landed in 1565. And Napoleon in 1798! It is a fishing village with Luzzu boats, eyes painted on their bows, drawn up out of the water for repainting. Joe certainly showed his skill as a driver that day. And in parking!

Back once again at Joe’s loft, the ten birds were duly selected and off we went to Mosta Club where I met up with Carlos, Eddie, Bob Reeves, Arthur and Carlos’s father. An affable opposition politician and a born raconteur. I showed the local fanciers some of my slides and talked a bit about diseases (medication and diseases are a major preoccupation in Malta) then it was back to the Misty Blue in Bugibba then to bed. Pleasantly tired.

Tuesday, our last day in Malta, started, as usual, cold and wet. It was reckoned to be the second wettest, coldest February ever! Or so I was told, but it certainly hadn’t spoiled anything for me. It was time to do some shopping (we’d acquired a taste for Maltese wine) and to go and see Ginger’s birds. Joseph, to give him a proper name, obviously has ginger hair and is a stocky, expansive, voluble, very likeable man who has a nucleus of tried and tested birds. Which I was most impressed with. If ever there is going to be a Maltese breed of pigeon these are the kind of birds it will come from. An attractive family of pigeons, a nice range of lofts and a beautifully furnished home. I’d met Ginger in Utrecht and we’d corresponded since then. It was nice to meet him on his own patch and to see his birds.

One last meal at Joe’s place and off to say our goodbyes to Nino the butcher (he’d got 9 out of 10 back from the race) and it was time to be off. Arthur dropped by with a present for my wife and some wine for a friend of mine whom he’d met in Malta. We shared a good laugh with him and said our goodbyes as we were due at Luqa airport for 7pm. It had been the holiday of a lifetime. A mixture of the best in pigeon racing and access to a history that I’d only been dimly aware of. So, wherever you are Mr Fitzgerald, be it in Australia or County Cork, thank you. You did much more for me than just fix my teeth.


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The End Of An Era Sale

Berlingo Lofts are having a complete dispersal sale on the 08-11-2013 For all details contact Sean Wolohan Contact details07866621198

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