by Drew Callan, Press Officer

2016 Tarbes

The Blue Riband race of the 2016 season saw the birds once more at Tarbes ready to take on the challenges of competing from this absolute bruiser of a race point. As usual, once the birds were liberated fanciers across the country would come alive with hope and expectation for some it would be time well spent, for others their dreams will have been put on hold for another year. The early lib gave hope for a clutch of day birds, but the heat in France was to be the undoing of many of the convoy and they were slowed down sufficiently in their journeys home to ensure all but a brave few spent a night under the summer stars. I feel that if we had the race on the traditional date in early July when we have around 30 minutes more daylight then a few more warriors would have been home for the night. A  look at the early morning timings shows that they were about in decent numbers and there were quite a few who must have been up with the larks and getting home ward again to warm the hearts of  few fanciers who were up and about waiting. The race itself definitely fitted in to the mould of a classic Blue Riband race with 7 section winners in the top 10 and a few absolutely stonking performances that coated the birds and fanciers in fairy dust. One such bird was the bird that stood up to the challenge and claimed the top spot flying a fantastic 712 miles in to the western reaches of Section L. The loft that will step up and collect the most coveted set of silverware is Mike Locke who flies up on The Wirral. Originally from County Armagh, Mike came over to The Wirral with his family as a young boy and I can report than he now sounds like a local. Mike is probably one of the best distance loft in the UK and no stranger to winning at the highest level and has been doing so for many years. He timed a small to medium Strawberry mealy hen, beautiful in the hand, lovely balance with excellent pectoral muscles -  Just the job to fly and win at 712 miles.  She now goes by the very apt name of ‘The Phoenix’, following on from a year of trials and tribulations that Mike and his family have faced.

The Phoenix shortly after arriving home.

The breeding is Van Bruaene, and Mike has cultivated these birds with wise crosses of different lines of Van Bruaene since the initial purchases 35 years ago from Albert Bennett of Church Stretton himself a winner of 1st Open TNFC Pau, and from Bobby Mayo of Chester, and to this day birds from both men heavily influence the bloodlines that Mike has such devastating results with. By the way, Mike was really humbled when Albert rang him to congratulate him and to thank Mike for continuing to improve the strain.

 Bred in 2014, this hen flew all stages to 200 miles as a young bird. As a yearling she flew a bad smash from Fougeres winning 2nd Federation and 3rd  amal and 2 more channel races, all in good time and always arrived very fresh. This year she had 4 races to the coast on RABT then sent with the MNFC which after a 9 day holdover was liberated from Bedhampton. She was re paired the day after Bedhampton and laid out in 9 days. She was sent to Fougeres sitting 8 day eggs and had a 10 hour plus flight and was then set up for Tarbes and sent using Mikes special system for distance hens. The grandsire of this hen is ‘Bordeaux Wiggins’ 1st  Section 7th  Open MNFC Bordeaux on the day winning an RPRA award for the longest flying bird on the day. She also has other Van Bruaene lines via Brian Denneys (Tuff Nut ) X Van Bruaene, 5th  Open TNFC Tarbes. The same day as this years epic win, her full sister was 2nd  West section MNFC Bordeaux and the section winner of this race is also from Mikes birds. This loft wins at all distances and in very good company ie. TNFC, MNFC North west Combine, Chester 2 bird Specialist club, Beeston Castle 2 bird Specialist club , the latter 2 being won on a regular basis and several times taking 1st and 2nd. 

. On the morning of the race Mike was up and about with the dawn chorus, and went down to his lofts not really expecting a bird so early but as with all of us was hopefully optimistic. Nearing the lofts he noticed the bob wires pushed aside and thought, ‘oh no,’ thinking a cat etc had got in. Hardly daring to look Mike eventually did and saw a Tarbes arrival looking back at him as if to say ‘where the hell were you?’ That arrival was the Kings Cup winner Phoenix.

Feeding for the race birds is mainly Gerry Plus with added Irish Mix but before sending to a distance race feed is changed to Versele laga fat mix with added peanuts. All corn is supplied by P&C Tilstons from White Cross Farm feeds. All  the birds are fed to appetite as Mike wants them for the short end of the season and wants fuel in the tank and flesh on the bones for when its need as was the case from Tarbes. Mike would like to thank all those who have congratulated him on his win and to congratulate in turn all the section winners and any fancier who times in. I would like to thank Geoff Blackhall for his help in getting this information collected and sent to me, thanks Geoff.

Taking top honours in Section J and runner up spot to Mike is the Telford loft of Malcolm Hope. Malc and Mike are good friends and regularly swap pigeons with each other. Now, if this little lady had a bit more lick on her side and had gone one better in the result there would have been some party and she will have pulled off a unique double. The reason for this is that the section winner for Malc is "Piaf", his BBC Bordeaux winner from 2015. This class act was sent on the same condition as last year on a 7 day old youngster and it clearly worked as motivation because it got her to the front of the pack. On arrival, Malc had to double check her ring number as she was very fresh and in excellent condition -  a credit to her constitution and the care given to her by the race team. In preparation for Tarbes she had a couple of inland races to limber her up then a short channel race 5 weeks before the main event. Then she only had a few short training chucks with the young bird team 2 weeks running up to basketing before being sent off to Tarbes.

Mal would like to mention Bob Briscoe and Brenda and Martin Benting at Donnington club for dealing with the formalities that allow him to compete at the level he does.

Piaf 2nd open Tarbes for Malc Hope.

Topping Section P and having the pleasure of going to bed as a national winner on the Saturday night after being amongst the first to verify we have the loft of Tom Williams. In this game you get to talk to some very interesting people and Tom is one of these. This is what he had to say:

‘Firstly I would like to give thanks to the workers of our sport at Chichester marking station where I take my birds for the NFC races.  It is a first class marking station run in a first class manner.  Secondly to Tom Firmager and his helpers at Bromley clock station.

My bird who was 1st section P and 3rd open at 562 miles with only 6 on the day flying 14 and a half hours on the wing is now named Son Of Seagull.  He is a two year old pied widowhood cock.  His sire named Seagull is a gay pied who was presented to me from Dave McSween from Sunderland.   Seagull is a double G/Daughter of Wearside Lass who was 1st 24th 40th and 78th UNC Bourges.  The G/Father on the dam’s side was Lionheart who was 2nd 47th 73rd and 142ND UNC Bourges.  His dam was bred from a Mealy cock named Finley who was 1st Northern Classic 544 miles from Saints then second Northern Classic the next year.  The Dam was presented to me by Don Pickard who races in the Barnsley fed.  Thanks lads for those fantastic birds.  I have sent birds to Dave McSween and to Don in return for the birds they sent me.

As a young bird Son of Seagull was not raced just trained into the wind, North East South and West about 14 times then left to grow on.  As a yearling he had four channel races with my local club then he went to Saintes with the NFC 390 to me. He did win one of those club races and very consistent in the others.  He flew Saintes with the NFC in 9 and a half hours when I clocked 7 of my 8 in 45 minutes to gain 129th 175th and 187th open with 3740 birds in the race.

As a two year old the plan all along for them seven birds and the other 5 was Tarbes with the NFC.  They all had two short inland races with the midweek at 84 miles then into France with the BICC from Falaise 171 miles when Son of Seagull was my 1st bird in 4 hours 45 min.  Next race was Alencon 203 miles when he was 2nd bird in 6 hours 49 minutes.  Then the birds went back to Alencon 2 when he was my 2nd bird in 6 hours 57 minutes.  I then had my birds checked by the vet Henk De Weerd as I thought they were not on song properly when it was reported they had a high canker count  I treated them with TriColi STOP that clears up 99.8 % of canker in just three hours.

Now they were ready for Saintes at 390 miles with the NFC.  I sent the 9 of my remaining widowhood cocks - I start with just 12 - they were up at 9am.  Son of Seagull was my 3rd bird on 10 hours 52 minutes and I had 7 of the 10 on the day and two next day.

Tom Williams 3rd Open Tarbes

I now had 3 weeks to get them ready for Tarbes 562 miles.  I took them to Devils Dyke at Brighton on the next Saturday and put them up at 6 50am to fly the 45 miles home.  The next Friday I took them to a place we in Orpington call suicide ally, we call it that because if the birds are not right they can take hours to do the 20 odd miles.  They did it fine in 32 minutes.  Their last toss next day was again Devils Dyke at Brighton 45 miles.   They beat me home and they were now ready to show me what they are made of at the race of the season for me Tarbes with the NFC against all the greats of our country.   Mark Gilbert being number one in my eyes who I never dreamt I could beat.  My Son of Seagull proved me wrong and put his heart and soul into it all day long for 14 and a half hours to get home on the day with just 6 other gallant birds to take 1st section P and third Open Tarbes at 562 miles.  What will say in my mind is the fact that all night long I was the winner until the morning when two fine birds beat me into 3rd place and I congratulate both of them birds and their owners on a stunning performance.

Just to finish I feed my birds on Versele-Laga corn, I use the Henk De Weerd health programme and I do not have any theories.  I go along with Geoff Kirkland -   If they are good birds they win races, if they are good stock birds they breed winners.  Geoff taught me this theory a long time ago when I went to see him to learn how to race pigeons at the distance.  Thanks Geoff, I will never forget that wonderful day with you all those years ago.  I have two others to mention who helped me in long distance pigeon racing.  I class these two men as my very dear pigeon friends; they are Bob Donaldson and Jimmy Gibbon who have both won the UNC from Bourges.   You were good teacher’s lads and I was a first class student who hung on to everything you taught me.  Thanks a million.

‘Lucky ‘ 1st Section B for Mark and Julie Gower.

Topping Section B and a very impressive 4th open we have the loft of Mark and Julie Gower. The little lady who took the section honours has a bit of a story to her and I think demonstrates the patience that good distance fanciers show.  she was born with a weak left leg, and when she is tired her foot goes in a clench and she then walks on her knuckles, this was  only noticed when she raced as a young bird and  the partnership  thought she would never make it as a racer! As a yearling in 2014 they sent her to NFC Messac and she never returned, a week later Mark received a phone call from The Cornish Bird of Prey Centre saying a farmer had brought her to them. Apparently the farmer saw a peregrine take her from the sky to the ground and was about to devour her when he chased it off. She must have been frightened silly after being caught by a falcon only to be taken to a bird of Prey centre !! She was fairly damaged with a big hole through the skin on her side and on the top of her head, they  sent for her and when they opened the box she was in a pitiful state but with a bit of care she healed up, mind you she would not go out of the loft for 6 weeks though! 

In 2015 she had a couple of short channel races and then NFC Ancenis race and came quite well, she then went to NFC Tarbes in that year to be my first bird home and finish 58th Open. This year she maintained her consistency and after each race and “hobbled” through the trap on her weak left leg like Long John Silver ! She had 2 short channel races and then to NFC Ancenis again where she took 12 hours to come home. Mark decided to just exercise her around the loft after that with a couple of 50 mile trainers on a Saturday afternoon. All year she has been on a roundabout system and then re-paired for this race sitting 7 day eggs when she went. Seeing her come on the night is a sight that the partnership  will never forget especially as they knew it had turned in to  a hard old race.

She is a Noel Peiron pigeon bred from a pair Mark purchased from Noel direct while on a trip to The Fugare show in Belgium ( good friends Guy Reed & Andy Parsons & Mark go there every other year mainly it seems to have meaningful conversations late at night while drunk in a bar about long distance racing) !! Mark would like to say well done to Mr Locke and his gallant pigeon and a thank you to good friend Andy Parsons for his advice given during their long chats about distance racing ( even though he sometimes doesn’t know he’s given it ) and his lovely wife Julie who helps with the young birds & texts him  when any late pigeons come home while he is at work


Mel and Sue King

Taking 5th open, and the 5th section winner in the result we have the ever present lofts of Mel and Sue King who ply their trade in section C. Their  latest section winner is a Casaert x Vandenabeele hen called “Stourcrest Belatrix” her sire has won for them 1st  Section NFC Cholet, 2nd  Section NFC Cholet and 4th  Section NFC Saintes he was bred from two direct Casaerts on loan to the partnership from Brian Goodwin. Her dam is a Vandenabelle from their multi-national winning family based on The Shadow of M & D Evans she won 2nd  Section, 2nd Open  C.S.C.F.C Young Bird Truro beaten only by a loft mate. All birds are fed on Country Wide corn from A James.

Mel and Sue would like to congratulate the winners and all the section winners on a fine performance, to have 7 section winners in the first 7 open positions must prove this was a very fair race. So well done to all involved.  

Nigel Templer holding ‘Hey Joe'

Topping section G and claiming 6th  open spot is a loft that is better known for racing a top middle distance bird, but has dipped his toes in to proper racing Nigel Templer.  The bird that topped the section was gifted to Nigel as a young bird in 2014 by Joe Raeburn which he is truly grateful for and has now named ‘Hey Joe’ as a thank you. The breeding is the best of Joe’s family, with the sire being his Saintes section winner from last year and the dam has got "Gwen" running through her veins.

This season this cock has been 7th  section, 26th  open Messac,9th  section and 124th  open Saintes and now provincially 1st  section G and 6th  open Tarbes flying 578 miles on the day, - all these with the N.F.C.

Nigel wants to thank Joe for a truly gutsy pigeon, small in stature but big in heart, [the bird not Joe]. Nigel says it is a different feeling doing so well in a race of this calibre and he could n’t stop smiling for a day or two. He would like to congratulate the fanciers above him especially the first two doing 6 and 700 miles brilliant - well done and a good job by the race.

Phil and William Curtis-1st Section K .

Taking top spot in Section K, 7th open, and one of the stand out results of the race as they only had a single entry is the NFC Chairman Phil Curtis who races with his son William. Phil is a man of few words for a Yorkshireman but I eventually got this from him:

‘First of all on behalf of the committee may I congratulate all those who timed in on the day of liberation, truly wonderful birds on a hard day with a head wind and extremely hot in France. To those that kept battling on further north and were eventually to become the winners of 1st & 2nd Open to Micky Locke and M? Hope,  congratulations and you must be very proud of your birds.

Well it was very close in Sect K and no doubt the 3 birds, ours, Barry & Pete Winters and Nick Adshead must have travelled up this side of the country a long way together. Special mention to Nick’s bird Millie which was 1st Sect, 16th Open last year and now 3rd Sect, 11th Open.

Our 4y/o widowhood cock has been a very consistent bird, he was our first bird from both Messac and Ancenis this year, a little bit of the pace when the birds were coming back from the west side of the country. Last year he was 5th Sect Ancenis and 2nd Sect Saintes, 28th Open. After Ancenis our focus was on Tarbes although it took a lot of will power not to send him to Saintes. In the days leading up to basketing he really came in to himself, chasing wood pigeons on nearby houses, going in other sections and chasing cocks, playing me up by not coming in, generally being full of himself. William spotted him coming, clapping as he approached on the same line as when he came from Saintes last year. This is what pigeon racing is all about and why there is no greater feeling than waiting and watching for a bird to arrive from a NFC race. He is bred in the purple, his sire bred by Mark Gilbert is G/S of Southfield Supreme and Perpignan 06, his dam bred by Brian Denney is a daughter of Charm, 5th Open NFC Tarbes. Thank you to you both for helping to achieve one of our dreams. It only seems like yesterday when my granddad George Rowbottom put me in partnership with him in the late 60’s and we had some great times. Looking at pictures of him before Tarbes, with the birds he timed in from NFC San Sebastian races in the 30’s and of his wonderful hen the Pride Of Granton, one of the greatest birds to have ever  flown in the YMR, gave us hope that our Cheq cock would earn a picture of himself alongside them. ‘

What Phil neglected to mention is that this game cock now called ‘Williams Boy’ was their sole entry and was well fancied by Phil and William and so was pooled accordingly.  He was also in the Car nom and has duly won it for the partnership some achievement at 736 miles. Last year it was won by Rob Rome at 606 miles with his great little hen Fabia who finished ( I think) 15th open. This time round The Curtis boys have pulled off the same trick but at 6th open. Phil and the committee would like to thank all those involved in the sponsored car and Hartwells for their support.

We stay in Section K for the next 2 positions and 2 more top long distance performances.  Claiming Bridesmaids spot we have the loft of Pete and Barry Winter past winners of the Blue Riband race with Little Gem a few years ago. These guys live for Tarbes and the preparation is meticulous, and it nearly paid of this year as they had a second bird close up that is just outside the top 10 but worthy of a mention.   Their first arrival was a latebred in 2014, not raced until 2015 where she was raced with the YB's, her 5th race was in the NFC Guernsey Old Hens National.  Lightly raced in 2016, set up for Tarbes she was sent on her first nest of 3 day old young birds.  She was bred for the job, being a daughter of a full brother to Little Gem when paired to a direct daughter of Little Gem.  

Their second arrival being a Dark cheq 2013 cock who was sent driving, a condition that suited his nephew Little Gem.  This cock being of pure Chris Hebberecht descent, bred from Little Gem's Sire to a Hebberecht hen bred by Jimmy Mark up in Scotland from his Axl line of Hebberechts. Peter and Barry would like to thank Jimmy for breeding this hen for them.

Milly the top Tarbes hen for Nic Adshead.

Next up for 3rd Section K and 9TH Open we have the loft of Nic Adshead. Nic has developed a reputation from this race point over the past few years and this year is no different. Once more his first timer was Milly who won the section from Tarbes last year. This year Milly was sent sitting 18 days on basketing and was was only lightly trained this year with the local club and only one channel race from Falaise the week before the Tarbes National.  Milly is bred from a Half brother to Mark Van Den Bergs 1st International Bergerac winner, Sanne, when coupled to Nics current best Breeding Hen Ulrike, who was bred by Menne and Daughter from their super breeder Paul. Well done Nic, this little lady was once more up with the leaders  - you have something a bit special there. I make no apologies for mentioning it again, but what could these 3 section K birds have done with 30 minutes more daylight?

Team Staddon 3 generations of good looks and ability.

Topping off the top 10 and taking Bridesmaids spot in Section G we have the partnership of John and Dave Staddon. This is what an understandably elated Dave had to say:

"Drew we are on cloud nine. It was one of our goals to time a day pigeon from the Blue Riband Tarbes NFC Grand National. This year with an early lib, we got our chance and our little yearling hen stuck at it, to be timed at 21.21 for the 560 miles in rapidly darkening conditions. What a thrill. We have named her John's Joy as it really made dad's year to see her drop in. She was raced widowhood and had three BICC Channel races plus Saintes NFC before Tarbes. We think the current NFC race programme gives us a chance to condition our birds better for the long races and we sincerely hope the Tarbes race remains on its current date. She is bred from two pigeons bought from Geoff & Catherine Cooper. A son of JW also the sire to our Saintes Section winner this year and her mother is a daughter of George 1st Open Tarbes NFC for Geoff and Catherine. We'd like to offer our congratulations to the winner and all section winners, with a special mention for that man Nigel Templer. A fantastic flyer at the middle distance who nailed this Tarbes race with a fantastic day bird into Bristol. Well done Nigel and your champion pigeon ".

P and L Mc Mahon

Around The Sections.

Section A

Topping the section is the loft of P and L Mc Mahon. This Brighton based loft has an enviable record from the blue riband race and won the section from here in the early 2000’s.  Pete and Leon focus heavily on this race and each year a team is identified and meticulously prepared for it.  The partnership would like to start by congratulating the winners and all who timed in as it’s never an easy race. They personally love the feeling of clocking on the day, and to them that is what national racing is all about. Their section winner is a Jan Aarden x Wegan x Muller and  he was t the heir second bird last year. His sire was bred by Magic lofts’  Paul Stowell and is a  Machiel Buijk Jan Aarden, and dam bred by Ponderosa  Stud , and she is Wegan x Muller. The partnerships pigeons are hopper fed all year round and when racing starts they feed super star plus mixes with SS corn number one widowhood mix. The Tarbes team are pairs in the second week of March, they sit for 18 days then they take the hens away and then they  are on widowhood.  The team go to the first 4 national races then Pete picks out his final selection for the Tarbes team. This year their last race was Fourgeres with the BBC and then rested for Tarbes. Pete would like to say thanks to two top men for the help over the years  - namely Ron Dodds and Ken Abbott.

Second section is D and D MC Fadden. I could not get an answer on the phone number I have for them.

Section B

Second Section is the ever present loft of Andy Pasons. Andy has a formidable reputation in these sorts of races and his whole ethos revolves around the longer distance races, with the birds slowly prepared over their first couple of years of their lives with lots of private training at all pints of the compass. I was unable to get in contact with Andy in time for the report to go to press.

Mr and Mrs Hodges

Section C

Runner up in Section C is the loft of Mr and Mrs Hodges. I have written previously about the regularity with which this partnership is in the mix in any national race, but especially as the distance increases. Their timer on this occasion was a yearling hen raced on their own brand of The Chaos system. Her sire is from Sheldon Leonard in Ireland and is  Vandenaheede cross, and the mother is from their own established Camphuis family. The race team for Tarbes were given Garvo Marathon corn over the last 10 days leading up to basketing to increase the fat and energy levels.

Bob Brown 1st Section D

Section D

Topping the section is the very popular Bob Brown. Fellow NFC members were worried recently about Bob’s mental wellbeing as he was witnessed helping to load baskets at the marking, and as this is completely out of character they were understandably shocked and concerned. So much so in fact that a few photos were taken of the event for health insurance purposes. Bob, the lads would like you to let them know if you are doing this again so they can get Chris Sutton down to take some action shots!! Bob clocked a 4 year old hen sent on a freshly chipped young bird which wasn’t the plan as he likes them sitting up to time or just over on eggs but it did her no harm. This little lady was 6th section from Saintes a couple of years ago and is a consistent hen. She is a Jim Emerton based Stichlebaut crossed with a Pete Barker based bird. She was followed in by a bird that Bob rates as his best racing hen, having had 5 trips to Tarbes and never being outside the top 10 in the Section. She is similarly bred to the section winner with the addition of some Jim Biss blood. As a 2 year old this hen won the Pau Challenge for Section D. Both hens were lightly worked in the run up to Tarbes with a couple of inland races and  couple of the shorter channel races before Bob put the final polish on them for Tarbes. Speaking to Paul Naum, he was surprised at how good Bobs’ birds are as Bob himself can’t punch his way out of a paper bag!!

Taking runner up spot is Graham Buck, who is often to be seen on the ringer at Kingsteinton marking station. I think Graham was out enjoying the sunshine as I failed to make contact with him for details on the pigeon.

Graham Buck

Section E.

Topping the competitive section E we have a partnership who are no strangers to mixing it with the big boys. Bob and Anthony Besant. This is what Ant had to say :

‘ We were lucky enough to have had 2 day pigeons of 8 in total from the previous BICC Agen National 499 miles and won 4th and 7th Open National so we felt pretty confident that the birds were good enough to try and make it on the day from 563 miles, although with the slightly later lib than we would like and the days drawing in we knew it would be difficult for birds to get home.  When we got to nightfall and nothing we were slightly disappointed 6 brave birds had made it home which was very impressive.  It meant that we had a very early start the next day for when the race reopened at 5.09am.  Bob re-opened the loft at 5.00am and very shortly after “Ants Choice” entered the loft at 5.03am he must have literally been around the corner or even on the house roof over night.

“Ants Choice” is also full brother to “Stitch” the pigeon who scored 4th Open BICC National Agen 499 miles on the day a month earlier so he had some form.  They have been raced on the widowhood all season and have just got better and better.In terms of breeding the sire is “Diamond Prince” a grandson of “Euro Diamond” possibly the best distance pigeon in the world ever and “Indy” 1st / 8th NFC Tarbes and the dam is “Indy Anna” a grand daughter of “Indy” of Matt Rakes 1st/8th NFC Tarbes. Tarbes was our last race we didn’t know if we would make it as it seemed so far off from the early season but we kept in mind 5 cocks who had the experience and breeding to come well. The team are now on a well deserved rest until next year.’

Bob and Ant Besant

Runner up in Section E is the loft of Khan Brothers.  On this occasion they clocked a well fancied hen to take the runner up spot. She was sent sitting eggs and this was her 4th Chanel race this year. She is bred from Ace Lofts stock, with her sire being a son of IRDB x daughter from their famous Tipsey when paired to the mother of the L ring hen. The brothers would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the winner on a wonderful performance at a fantastic distance.

Khan Brothers

Section F

Coming top of the heap is the partnership of Sherman and Wells. This is a partnership with a definite plan to succeed atTarbes and this plan was put in to place 3 years ago and they are now reaping the rewards. The team would like to congratulate all section winners and Mick Locke on his open win from Tarbes which turned out to be a very hard race. Their section topper is the same bird that was 3rd section from Tarbes last years race. They got six birds home on the second day all Southwell based birds crossed with other long distance birds that they have handpicked from a few choice sources. Steve tells me that they  are shaping up to be a good family of distance birds which  the partnership like to call Sherwells. Well done gentlemen, keep it up.

Sherman and Wells

Runner up is the Devizes loft of F J Quinn. Frank would like to firstly congratulate all the winners in a tricky Tarbes race. His first timer is a  chequer cock  that was flown separated he scored from Tarbes last year being 11th  sec,  274th  open and was the 3rd  bird to the loft. Frank doesn’t call them a 500 mile pigeon until they have do it twice or more, so this guy can now be called one. he is 100% Wilf reed off Monmouth fame. Frank hopes he does not follow the route of all the 1st birds from Tarbes for the last 4 years who the hawk saw off before they had a chance to go back again. Let’s hope this fellow breaks the mould. He would like to pass on this best wishes to all the members in his section for the future.

Frank Quinn

Section H

Taking the top honours is the loft of T, E and J Stygall right out on the northern edge of the section up near Norwich. The winner is a 3 year old blue cock that is Bryden x Van Hee. The sire is from their old established Van Hee blood that has served them well on the north road and now on the south road. The partnership have now got some Brian Denny blood to put across the old family and they are now reaping the rewards. The partners use The East Anglian Federation is used for training purposes and they only get a clock set for the NFC races. The section winner had 4 inland races and Ancenis before Tarbes and went on widowhood, having seen his hen on return from a short toss two weeks before basketing and never saw her again until his return.The partners would like to congratulate John Barber who was 2nd section to them and they rate him as by far the best at this distance in their part of the world.

Team Stygall with The Boss in the middle.

Second section is the partnership of Barber and Wilkinson, with John Barber carrying the torch following the death of his partner. John clocked a 4 year old widowhood cock who was lifted off his box without having seen his hen. The last time he had seen her was when he came home from Pithiviers with the EECC 3 weeks earlier. The cock is steeped in the best of proven distance birds that have been tested out of Tarbes as this is John’s chosen race in fact he has not failed to clock since 2002 from the Blue Riband race.  Prior to this performance the cock was 5th Section Saintes I 2014 and 6th Section H from Tarbes last year. His sire is turning in to a top producer cock and is already sire to birds to score 2nd, 4th and 6th Section Tarbes.

The corner stone is the Jim Biss birds and in fact the cock can be traced back 5 generations to the mighty Turban. When a fancier who lives along the coast from John called Barry Dix packed in the birds John had some off him to put through the Biss birds. These birds originated from George Barr who lives in Ballymena in Northern Ireland and is a member of the Barr family of fanciers who have been top national men for many years in to Ireland. These birds clicked with the Biss birds and have served John well at the distance for many years. He has recently brought in a few select Jan Polder birds to put across the existing family, so watch this space.

John Barber - consistency from the distance.

Section I

This section saw the battle of The Titans, and it is the young Apprentice claiming the bragging rights over the Old Master, with Alwyn Hill nudging a head of Keith Bush. The section Topper for Alwyn is a direct son off the legendary Wing Down , and as you would expect he was paired on to a bit of class the dam of the section winner is ‘The Antonides Hen’. She is off a cock who got himself in to the clock from Barcelona at 850 miles. The section topper was on widowhood for the majority of the season but this year the cocks were repaired and he was sent covering 7 day old eggs. The second bird across the pad for Alywn is something a bit special, a real belter of a red cock who was at Tarbes for his 4th trip and he now claims a Certificate Of Merit for his efforts incidentally he is the third bird to win this prestigious award for Alwyn. This section win and clinching another COM will be a real tonic to Alwyn who has had ongoing health concerns and he has had to rely heavily on family to do the day to day care of the birds at times throughout the season, especially his grandson. He will have been on hand to put the final polish on the team in the run up to Tarbes and all the hard work has once again paid off.

Claiming second spot and with a cart load of subsequent timers we have the loft of Keith Bush. Keith once more peppered the result in a very hard race and had 7 provisionally in the top 20 of the section.  His first arrival was a 3yo hen on a small youngster, she was the third bird from Tarbes last year. Her sire scored from Tarbes a few years ago and he is the grandsire to Keiths second bird which was again on a small youngster and she was on her third grand tour being the third bird home from Tarbes in 2014. This demonstrates quite clearly that it is definitely a case of horses for courses. Keith is a very modest man and a result like this is an annual event and whilst he makes it look easy it is the result of meticulous care 365 days a year and the raw material he works with is the result of the basket being the selector at the distance, both north and South road over the past 60 plus years for the family.

Section J

Taking the runner up spot is The Potteries loft of Keith Pettitt, a recent convert to distance racing with the NFC, with this Tarbes being his first blue riband race.  Ken has raced almost all his life and has two families of birds to race that being Walter Docx from Joe Spedding a sprint ace and a few Vandanabeeles which are also sprint birds however Ken does not only fly these faster shorter races he sends through to Saintes 505 miles with his local club Blythe Bridge.
It was as a result of the efforts of his friend Michael Burden that Ken eventually came round to the idea of competing past the 500 mile mark, it has taken 4 years of gentle persuasion, then last year he said he was going to join and race in the NFC, so he did. He has sent to every race with the NFC this year always timing good birds in on each occasion. Then he sent 10 to Tarbes which is 680 miles. Michael took his birds to the marking as usual because although of retirement age Ken is a farmer and always busy.
Now Michael was totally amazed when he  got a text off his wife Shirley shortly after he timed in, a two year old Walter Docx at 10.19am on the second morning of the race, taking provisionally 28th  open, 2nd  sec. Then even more amazed that he timed another in at 14.32pm to win provisionally 75th  open, 5th  sec J. The second bird has had all races with the NFC this year and was timed after 10pm from Saintes and what is more remarkable is she is only a yearling of his blood. He is unsure what blood she contains as he broke her out after picking her out of his good friends loft Roy Jones, MNFC president, loft. That was some baptism of fire for Ken, and a good effort for a cock that is supposedly a sprint bird?.Ken mustn’t have told him. Well done Ken, and welcome to the Club. Thank you Michael for your help in getting this information.

Brian Littlewood picking up more silverware.

Section L

Claiming the runner up spot in your section behind the national winner is no small feat, and the man who achieved this in Section L is the loft of Brian Littlewood. I had the pleasure of speaking to Brian at the last NFC presentation dinner and it soon became clear that the man is one of the best kept secrets in distance racing in the NFC and his haul of silverware at 600 plus races is very impressive. Once again he is up with the leaders in a difficult race that his birds thrive on. I struggled to get a phone number for Brian as he is a celebrity in the North West, and when I eventually did get in contact he was at a private party in a Champagne and cocktails bar in Southport and was unable to give me too many details in time for the report to go to press, but Brian is in my sights for a loft report during the winter.

The section N winner taken less than an hour after her arrival from Tarbes.

Section N

These gallant birds had it all to do and, as with each NFC race the section N members have competed in this year, will have had very little company over the last 150 miles. From Tarbes we have the well established lofts of M Anderson and Sons who take the honours at a breathtaking 810 miles. The little lady who brought home the honours is a 5 year old hen with plenty of experience and a wise head a necessity at these distances. She is certainly bred for the job, with her ancestry including birds from Battenburg, Emiel Denys Brian Denny and Bruggeman brothers. The partnership had every confidence in her and knew that barring an accident on the way home they would get her. Ray was not at the lofts to see her come as he was 40 miles down the road with the young birds, that pleasure was left to George. You can imagine his excitement when he saw her drop knowing the distance she had flown. She was set up especially for Tarbes and was repaired and sitting 16 days on basketing, she had been raced on roundabout earlier in the season. She was trained with Central Yorkshire Federation through to Portsmouth and then had Fougeres and Ancenis with the NFC. She claimed 3rd section from Ancenis a distance of 522 miles to her home loft. The partnership is part of a cluster of likeminded friends who include John Rumney and Brian Hicks who are totally focused on proper distance racing at national level, and do not take part in local club racing. They believe is teaching the birds from an early age about flying on their own as they will need to have no fear of this for the extreme distance races they are wanted for later in life. The next challenge for Ray and George is to get one from Tarbes on the second day and who would bet against it.

Paul Walder

Section P

Runner up is the Sheerness loft of Paul Walder.  The timer is described by Paul as a game little hen, prior to her Tarbes success she was 1st club, 9th  fed, 33rd  Kent combine from Poitiers (340 miles). He don't normally race hens, usually just flying cocks but on the advice of the well known flyer Tommy Gilbertson this year he decided to put a couple of hens on the road, just as well he did really.

She has been bred for the job, her sire being a grandson of Brockamps champion 'Armstrong' and her dam is a Vanhee which he purchased back in 2011 in Blackpool from the Vanhee stand.

This race was bittersweet for Paul as he lost one of his best cocks which was going for his Certificate of Merit being 21st  and 35th  open in Tarbes in the previous two years.

Paul would like to thank the National Flying Club for making the new section 'P' and is hoping it gets the support it deserves. He would also like to congratulate the winner Mr Locke on a fantastic performance.

Section  W.

It just wouldn’t be a distance race without the welsh boys turning up for the party, and this year is no different. Topping the section we have the Abergavenny loft of John Smale, a giant of a man in Welsh distance racing on both the north and South routes during his 50+ years in the sport. John clocked a natural hen and she had previously been 12 hours out of Saintes 2 weeks previously and this must have set her up for Tarbes. John has to race natural as when he tried widowhood or roundabout the birds were decimated by peregrines when the exercised high and wide of the loft. I fact this year alone he has lost 48 young birds to hawks around the loft, and he made the point that 20 years ago he could rear 40 young birds and have a high percentage of these still in the loft as 2/3 year olds to compete from Thurso and Lerwick. Today he has to breed 150 young birds to have a decent team size as 2 year olds.  He forces the birds to fly for an hour twice a day and then they are locked away. He was really impressed with how the hen finished as the wind was a howling westerly on the nose and it was raining, but she was clearly made of the right stuff, indeed her father is a son of Padfield Invincible when he was paired on to a double national winner in to Holland.The dam is equally well bred containing the blood lines of Dave Impett and Wim Muller. He believes that there is too much emphasis put on different brands of corn rather than on the quality of pigeons that are housed. John will tell you that as long as the corn is clean and dry it will dop the job, but only if it’s put in to something that is up to the job.

Right, that wraps it up for the old bird programme, with just the Young bird and old Hens nationals to go in early September.

As always, I am at or 01926 817796.

All I ask is that you are sober when you call and not after 9.30.

Drew Callan