Thursday Sep 18

U N C's Visitors

Down The Years

It was love at first sight. There it was, a big, white pigeon sat all hunched up on the guttering of a pre-fabricated house. White as white can be in the gathering darkness. I let the darkness gather a bit more. Then came back and pinched him off the roof! For a boy aged 10 that was a not inconsiderable risk. Peter Ferguson, for that was his owner’s name, was older than me, bigger than me and enjoyed a reputation amongst his friends as a right handful!

Running home with the bird up my jumper I instantly fell out of love with my rabbits. Which were pretty smartly evicted from their hutch which was quickly converted into a place for my newly acquired  100% racing pigeon. Next thing was a hen for him, purchased within days for the princely sum of half a crown. From Terry Sandburg who kept his pigeons in a converted washhouse on the doctor’s premises where his mother worked as a cleaner. Not yards from where Herbie Elliott once lived and flew his birds. I now know that the mealy pied hen was half tippler/ half racer but I didn’t at the time. The white cock couldn’t have cared less!

I then learned lesson number one. As soon as I let him out the white cock went home. Homing pigeons do. And I had a problem. How to get him back without admitting that I’d stolen him in the first place? Peter Ferguson himself solved that problem. Peter you see knew the score. He knew that his pigeon had been sleeping out on the roof guttering that night. He knew that I’d bought a hen off Terry. And that I had sold my rabbits. It hadn’t taken much working out!

His bird had been sitting out because his hen had died. Peter didn’t need him anymore. Peter also knew that I got more pocket money than he did and was pretty sure that I had his pigeon. And that I wouldn’t dare to come back for him. So showing all the instincts of a modern-day Shylock he set me up via a mutual acquaintance. Would I like to buy a white cock, white, called Bonza Bill, a snip at a mere seven shillings and sixpence. Three weeks pocket money! So his pigeon became my pigeon and was reunited with his hen. And I learned lesson number two. There is more than one way to skin a cat!

I hadn’t known it when I “lifted” that bird, but I’d gained entry into a completely new world: That of pigeon fanciers and racing pigeons. One which has obsessed me ever since, which I have never left. And never will. Tay Street. Hope Street. Egerton Square. Ryknield Way. School Loaning. Run down pre-war council estates and post-war, pre-fabricated dwellings. Small houses with big families! Kids by the score were running loose most of the time, and always there was a game of some kind going on. Outdoors!

We ate bread and butter sandwiches with sugar on and dripping sandwiches. We wore “Police” boots. Received food parcels and got free school meal tickets. Cardboard covered up the holes in your shoes, and margarine to keep your hair in place. Different coloured patches decorated the seat of your pants. You get the picture? Money was short. But what a time and place to grow up in! You came home only to eat or to sleep. And if you could get some bread and jam somewhere else you only came home to sleep. That way your mother couldn’t keep you in. We knew it. And they knew it!


We attended one of three schools, Harton School, Stanhope Road School and, for those able to pass the 11 plus exams, the “High School.” And everywhere you looked there was livestock. Pigeons, rabbits, dogs. There wasn’t a kid in the street that didn’t have at least one scruffy mongrel running by his side all day. Mine was Rex, known locally as “The Bin-Men’s Dog.” He was a lean, unwashed, long-haired, black and tan, streetwise mutt of an animal. He became mine when I fed him one night as he stood sentry duty on next doors bitch which was in heat. He never left me after that!

Technically Rex belonged to a woman in the next street, but in reality he was a free spirit. Living off the land and running loose all day. The one place he could be guaranteed to be found was at the bottom of our street on the day that the Corporation bin men were due. He would then follow them around until their shift finished. Partly because they fed him the leftovers from their bait, but mainly because Rex knew there were easy pickings to be had from the bins!

When I eventually asked the woman if I could have him she was delighted. “He’s never really been mine you know.” Everyone knew that! Rex got on well with little Ringo, Geordie Watson, the one-legged miner’s dog, because she was a bitch, and tolerated her by my side. But he hated old Mr Bengston’s dog Prince and was forever challenging him. Always coming off second best! Prince was the top dog in the area. Big and heavily muscled, he had a fine technique for maintaining his dominance. He would nip every dog in the area when it was a puppy. Thereafter they would give him a wide berth even when he was old and toothless. This performance was not wasted on me. You can learn a thing or two by watching dogs!

We bought, sold, swapped, stole, and lived pigeons eventually getting around to racing them against each other for money. We played football for money. And we raced for whatever money we had in our pockets at the particular time that we fancied a race which was usually a shilling or thereabouts. That was enough to get you into the “dog-end” of the local fleapit to see “Deadwood Dick” or his like. We kept our birds in pigeon shanties, for that is what they were, were made out of whatever you could get your hands on. Fencing posts old doors, internal or external. It made no difference. Packing cases, conveyor belting from the pit heap, demolition timber and brand new stuff obtained, after dark, from any convenient, inadequately policed, building site. Already primed with council- pink undercoat!

Most of the houses on the council estates where we lived had completely unfenced rear gardens. “Backs” we called them. Unfenced because we’d used the fencing that had originally been there to build our pigeon lofts! Our pigeon palaces sat in splendid, if unsafe, isolation. Security was no big deal really. Not when our birds spent most of their lives up on the ridge tiles!

Lesson number three was given to me by old Peter Bengston. Up North Combine winner and pigeon club secretary. A man who was badly affected with arthritis, he was in the habit of going to bed after dinner. He was Mr Bengston to us boys! And greatly feared! I was just about to heave yet another stone at my mealy cock sat up on his roof, when the crook of a walking stick encircled my neck from behind. And I was reeled in like a fish. These never to be forgotten words reverberated menacingly in my ears.  “You’ve kept me awake all bloody afternoon bouncing those stones off my roof. Use potatoes!” The kick up the pants that followed had no real venom in it. The elder of the tribe was simply passing down the wisdom of his years. Pigeon man to pigeon man. Thereafter his gutters flourished with a bounteous annual crop of potatoes.

“Baskets” were built. Not bought. And required a boy at each corner to carry them down to the station! Concessionary British Rail labels, entitling you to half-price transport on any train, were acquired from Betty, the middle-aged spinster in the station parcels office. We ran messages for her. The older fanciers buttered her up. The end result was the same. We saved up our pocket money and were soon in business as inexperienced, miniature, unlicensed, pigeon fanciers.


In my case it all began modestly enough with race from Jarrow. No more than a mile away. Walk there. Release the birds. Walk back. And wait, sometimes for a day or two. We had no speed merchants in those days! Often entries had to be retrieved from “The Colliery Hotel” or from the coal staithes down by the river. In time we got as far as Sunderland. Say six miles away. It was a private race held on Christmas day between me and Davie Barras. My sole entry was chequer & white cock, a Scottish stray that I had patched up, against Davie’s “black’un” , a true-bred, red-eyed, red-legged, out and out “docker.” They were released at 9 am into a snowstorm and both birds last seen landing on a nearby church. It was won by the “black’un.” On New Year’s Day and was truly a milestone in both our careers in the sport.

We moved on to Newcastle. Double or quits. Both birds carried in brown paper bags were released from the train whilst going over the High Level Bridge above the River Tyne. Thrown out and down towards the river, whilst the train was moving. Still in their bags! Returns were100% returns. And I got my money back. Convoying was very simple then. No rubbish such as checking the weather forecast. I felt ready for the big time. This was racing from Stockton, all of 30 miles. It had been attempted many times before by my cronies. But no pigeon had ever flown it on the day!

By this time I had the red hen. Another Scottish stray picked up off the washer at Westoe Pit by Geordie Watson a one-legged miner who lived on the next path to me. I loved that pigeon. Thought she was the business even though she flew about with her legs hanging down. This didn’t bother me one little bit. She was a racer you see. We collected together what pocket money we had. Saw Betty, the parcels clerk at the station, got a concessionary label and amended the wording on it. From “Please liberate, weather permitting” to “Wind, rain or snow let these buggers go!”And on to the early morning train went the cream of the “pudding club” birds.

Stanley Street Bridge, a footbridge over what was then the South Shields to Sunderland railway line, was roughly in the centre of our stamping grounds. So the winner was to be the first one to that bridge and standing in the middle of it carrying his pigeon. No rubber rings for us. Proof was the pigeon. And only the pigeon! No clocks. No watches. And most certainly no bikes. You had to run there. Bikes were not allowed. Because some of us had bikes and some hadn’t. I used one once and was threatened with grievous bodily harm and disqualification even though I was well over on the other side of the bridge when I met Herbie running towards me with his bird up his jersey.

I distinctly remember that I was wearing a watch that day. I also distinctly remember where Herbie told me I could put it! I should never have attempted to use it as proof of the time that my pigeon had arrived and never did so again! The winner of our so-called races was usually on to all of three shillings which, depending on who he was, was enough to treat Bob Smith’s sister, Paula, to the pictures. If she condescended to go! It was very nearly a matter of principle to ask her. Etiquette almost demanded it. Paula was one of the boys, only different. And it showed!

For the Stockton race we had blue skies, sunshine. And a tail wind. Naturally, no day birds were expected! After all it was 30 miles away. An enormous distance to us kids. Someone brought a football and a game of “gates” was organised at a shilling a man. Three goals against you and you were out. Right in the middle of play the unthinkable happened. It would have been about 4 pm. Peter Ferguson’s “Chocolate Cock” came right over our heads, landed on the pre-fab next to where he lived and peered down at its closed-up little home.

You have never seen ten kids move so quickly with Peter well in the lead. It was incredible, a race from Stockton flown on the day, a first ever in our young lives. The “Chocolate Cock” became famous immortalised. Almost a tourist attraction and remembered to this day. What a race that was. What a pigeon! The only bird on the day! Peter didn’t even have to run to Stanley Street Bridge. We’d all seen the bird come.


Racing thereafter took off. If Stockton was possible, anything was. By now all of us had our “stars,” notable and noted pigeons. Some were not always noted for their racing ability. Mark Chatton’s grizzle cock became well known because a partition door fell on it and killed it. Leather hinges, heavy doors. It was an accident waiting to happen! Duncan Mason had the only “proper racer” the only non-stray in the area. A blue Logan cock gifted to him by a local fancier. It was notable for its singular lack of speed and erratic sense of direction. It could always be easily picked off the loft front by anyone. Not because it was tame. But because when it came back, from wherever it had been sent, no matter how short a distance, it was far too tired to bother moving away!

Herbie Elliott, “Stubbins” to his mates, had an uncle who flew pigeons. A little man called Geordie Odix. He had the “Seagull” breed. Mainly whites and chequers with “soapy beaks.” So that is what Herbie eventually got. And kept them in a hut together with his rabbits! Besides my red hen I had been given two “proper” racers as well, a heavily wattled chequer cock and a mealy pied hen. Matty White gave them to me. Both were four year old ex-racers. They became the new loves of my life and bred me some bonny mealies. Bob Smith, Paula’s brother, had a good chequer cock. Raymond Sparks a red cock. Brian “Korky” Kirkwood had an excellent red as well which, in time, went on to fly Peterborough, distance 172 miles. On the day, more than once, and was always in the hunt for honours.

Then there was Lennie Arnold, younger brother of the infamous “Black Ned”, who kept his birds in with his ducks and Ray Wilson whose sister went on to marry a pigeon man and Danny Mackins with his fine selection of strays. Other lads came into the area. All raced. All had their champions. But the daddy of them all was Gibby’s mealy cock. Come Selby. Come Gibby’s mealy cock. It always won from Selby. It never missed. It had us sick. Herbie and I held a council of war. What to do? It was obvious to us that it had to go. We had a straight choice to make. Either we stole it or we murdered it. Not many thirteen year olds have scruples. And we had absolutely none!

Sportsmanship and morality never entered our minds? I couldn’t even spell those words. Let alone know what they meant. But I knew what losing all my pocket money was about. That was for sure! We watched. And we waited. All that was needed was a dark night. And the mealy cock too well fed to come in. That was arranged. And up the drainpipe I went. I never got near the pigeon. The bathroom light went on as I drew level with the window, and that was me off running flat out closely followed by my fellow conspirator. A few days later Herbie had a try but mistimed his grab. And that was that.

Plan B. And we had murder on our minds. An ingenious plot was hatched. It was absolutely foolproof with no risk at all to us but lethal for Gibby’s mealy. All we needed was to be sure that he was in his little shed on the appointed night instead of on the house roof. We’d done our homework and staked the place out for days. Geography was the key. Knew how and when the dirty deed was to be done. And like all good skullduggery it was not to be a hands-on affair but done from a safe working distance.

The plan hinged on the fact that the mealy’s rabbit hutch of a place was sited at the bottom of the garden against the fence which was made out of a double row of railway sleepers. Set vertically on end and fixed together. Our starting point was Herbie’s back garden just a few houses away. Our chosen weapon was a steel post set in a cone of concrete which used to support the washing line before we uprooted it. It took a full day to construct a makeshift ramp and manhandle the post onto the fence and to position it so that we could roll it along to Gibby’s place from the other side of the sleepers which, well after dark, we did. Until the concrete cone was poised above the mealy’s little abode. One good push and that would be it. No more mealy! We pushed and ran. It bounced where it ought to have crushed and the mealy lived to fly another day. And take even more money from us!

Lesson number four. Sportsmanship is not something you are born with. It has to be acquired! Herbie and I started acquiring it that very night. I guess. I wouldn’t say that we were ashamed of ourselves. Or that we suffered at all from guilty consciences. Neither really. Not then. To be perfectly honest, as I remember it, we were mightily disappointed. For days! Kids can be cruel. Gibby never really figured out how that post came to be in his garden. And neither could we. Not when he asked us!

Our pigeons got better as we got better. And all too soon we entered the grown-up world of having to work for a living, girls, and beer in that order, usually but not always, in that order. But the pigeons remained. Most of us drifted into partnerships with older fanciers before setting up on our own and attempting to compete against such established, and quite frankly, terrifying men, such as “Tarzan” Brown. Tommy Burke. “Ginger” Scott. Jimmy Gallagher. Billy Kinghorn, and Ned Davis. What a struggle that was. But most of us got there. Looking back I now know that only the sublime ignorance and boundless confidence of youth kept me going. I never once realised the true stacking of the odds against me. I could walk on water you see.

I often think of those days. And of where the lads are now. The only one I have completely lost track of is Duncan Mason. Of the rest, time has taken its toll. Peter Ferguson, of the “Chocolate Cock” fame, died in South Africa a racing fancier to the end and still with the descendants of the birds that he took with him when he left England. Brian Kirkwood and Mark Chatton, who never went on to become adult fanciers, are both gone. Lennie Arnold, who raced for a number of years in the Whiteleas HS, is no longer with us.

Andy Frost came briefly back into the sport shortly before he died, by then Councillor Frost. A twice married Labour party activist barred from the Perseverance Social Club because, as he once told me, of some “advice” that he gave the committee. He had, in fact, “advised” them that they were “all a bunch of thieving illegitimates.” Or words to that effect! Andy was a “fixer” and a bit of a character who you couldn’t help liking.

Davie Barras has in recent years given up the birds due to ill health. He and I used to regularly do the rounds of the local shops on a horse and cart, which I loved, collecting anything that could be boiled up into pig-swill for his Uncle Billy Hunter’s pigs. Davie's Uncle was the man who picked up the injured Scottish chequer and white cock that I patched up. The very first in a lifetime of fixing up injured pigeons. And also the man whose pigs Davie and I used to secretly ride at weekends to see who could stay on the longest. We were competitive about this and money changed hands regularly. It made a change from racing our birds. And, as anyone who has ever tried it will tell you, it isn’t an easy pastime. Or a clean one!

The majority of the rest of lads who are left no longer keep pigeons though many of them still retain a strong interest in the sport and are willing to talk pigeons at the drop of a hat. There’s Alfie “The Cobra” Coverdale, who always wants to know who has won that weekend. As does first-class leek grower and show gardener Chris Gosling, Raymond “Fatty” Sparks, now retired plus a few others, all of us the survivors of a generation who enjoyed a childhood that is sadly no longer in existence.

My lifelong friend from that era, George Davison, still races the pigeons as does Jimmy Barras who lived on the same path as me when we were boys.  Both kept pigeons and lived in the same area as me when they were kids. And of course there is me, but my main rival in those far-off days for the privilege of having the company of the late Paula Smith,  Herbie “Lord” Elliott, is now gone, as is Bennie Curtis. Four Up North Combine wins, at least, can be credited to that group of boys to whom the keeping and racing of pigeons came as naturally as breathing. That is how it was, the slow and sometimes painful process of becoming a proper pigeon man with proper pigeons and the skills needed to race them successfully. We did it the hard way. By trial and error. There was no other way open to us.

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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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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