The Tarbes Grand National for 2018 will be remembered as one of the toughest in recent years but as ever, top performances by class pigeons and fanciers prevailed. To those farther flyers in the club I feel for you because some things are insurmountable for our birds and the combination of the dehydrating effect of the east winds with high temperatures prevented them reaching home in race time. I am in no way condemning the birds, it is just making a point as I know the high quality long distance pigeons are there, it was just that on this occasion everything was against them. When they do return home, they will be given complete rest and recuperation in preparation for yet another chance to shine in one of the greatest races in the UK. It is a difficult yet unpredictable race which is why we love it so much. Birds of the highest calibre can rise to the forefront year after year to make themselves famous in the Racing Pigeon world and reduce their owners to tears after yet another nerve racking seasons build up from the first trainers to the clocking in.
Wearn Bros 1 & Neilson knew that when they timed early in the morning there was every chance of them being beaten further north. They had calculated that if the birds had roosted overnight on the north coast of France, it would be around three hours after sunrise before they got to the south coast. Eric still made the journey to the loft situated at Jimmy’s home very early the next morning and after rounding a few stray calves off a roundabout on his way, he got there around 5am. Jimmy was already up and waiting but at that time it was cold enough to require a fleece sweater and a hat, but after a while it warmed up and sure enough, around three hours after sun rise, they saw their pigeon come. It was verified with the club secretary who gave them the verification number of 3, so Jim thought theirs was the third bird verified and the race would build from there. History shows us that many hours can go by before the Grand National winner is announced and it could be anywhere in the country mostly on the second day.
Checking the provisional result for an hour or so, they realised no other birds were showing so considered it to be a glitch within the new website software or their own computer. But after a while the phone calls from other fanciers started so they looked again and to their surprise, only one more bird, a little hen called “The Proof” was the only other one on there. She had gone one better than last year to record second open for Heath Archibald in Dover and they recognise she is a fantastic pigeon which as I said, the NFC Grand National gives them their stage. So something very exceptional was happening, his exceptionally well bred pigeon, after months of preparation with years of trying could actually go on to win this one! The rest of the day was a blur, with phone conversations from fanciers calling to congratulate them.
Jim Wearn and his partner Eric Neilson have held the ambition to win the NFC Grand National race all their lives. Before he sadly passed away, Kenny Wearn would look after the breeding loft and many years were spent trying to win the big one with top class pigeons being introduced as they became available. Jim saw a star shining on the horizon and he decided to purchase a youngster bred by Mark Gilbert offered for sale on the PIPA Auction website, and his instincts have proved to be correct. Mark had presented a youngster direct out of “Starlight” when paired to “Southfield Mellisa” which is in fact exactly the same way bred as Mark’s BICC Pau winner the week previous to Tarbes! This was then paired to a daughter of Geoff and Catherine Cooper’s “George” which has resulted in the Tarbes Grand National winner 2018 and a combination of bloodlines that has dominated these hard-east wind nationals experienced this year.
Jimmy and Eric have decided to call their pigeon “Ernie’s Blue Star” in tribute to Ernie Deacon a close friend who would come a sit with them when waiting for Tarbes pigeons in the past years. He was raced on the widowhood system and when I visited them 24 hours after clocking in, he was bouncing around the loft. We had liberated him after the photos and he clapped around for a couple of laps showing his top form, before landing right on que for my camera shutter to capture the “landing gear out” moment. I asked how he was prepared and was told he had been given Gems Superstar Widowhood ad lib. Jimmy said that he buys it in bulk and since they had begun to use it, two National wins have come their way. A club nearby called “The 100 Club” run by local pet store owner and fancier Kevin King is used for training, and he goes most weeks to Carentan or Falaise which is a tremendous help for local fanciers in preparation for the nationals and is of course fully subscribed.
I asked them what their next goal in pigeon racing was and was told to let them come down off cloud nine before expecting an answer to that one. It will be a moment to remember for years but does not compare with a federation race years ago from Dax when they got the only bird on the day, with rain all through France and darkness falling, Jimmy saw a bird drifting in over the house and as he ran to open the door of the loft, it went straight through his legs! “Nothing in pigeon racing will ever top that” he said, but having spoken to him on several occasions, I doubt he will ever stop trying to top it.
Well done Jim and Eric, Kenny would be proud of you both and I think he sprinkled a little bit of stardust, when you decided to buy that youngster out of “Starlight” to couple with Geoff & Catherine’s pigeons, as the future will prove even further. I predict the beginning of a new era in Ramsdean.