National Flying Club


Report by Cameron Stansfield & Les Parkinson of

Robby Prettejohn. Photo courtesy of Mike Underhill.

The NFC’s overseas programme got underway last Saturday when the convoy of 4,338 birds were liberated in St Nazaire at 6.45am. Visibility at the site was excellent and the wind was light north-east. It was expected that the birds would meet a 10-to-15mph north-east wind in the Channel so initially a difficult race was anticipated. However, by noon it was evident that birds racing up into Lancashire, Shropshire and Cheshire from the French coastal racepoints were recording 55mph!

One of the great things about flying with the National is that you can log onto and see the race unfold before your eyes when the verified pigeons are uploaded. The early birds were slow to come through and were concentrated in Cornwall and the West Country, but gradually birds were being recorded ever eastwards and there was a grouping of birds in the Bristol area. Not long afterwards a wave of birds were timed into Section J which indicated that after a slow start, the race was going to favour the further flying birds on the west side of the country as they picked up on a southerly component in the wind. This was the order of the day and there were many excellent birds timed into Section L, indeed 12 of the top 20 first bird verifications were in this Section. However, the early race leaders, J & R Prettejohn of Plymouth and Mr & Mrs Hodge of Cullompton were not to be denied and, after a nervous wait, they were confirmed as the race winners and runners up respectively.

With all the comments flying around, there were plenty of fanciers looking at the NFC transporters. With some good people telling them the true facts, the vast majority went away happy that their birds were in good hands and would be safe in these ultra-modern vehicles. The losers were those members who would normally have sent but on this occasion decided to leave their birds at home. There were many, many good comments expressed to us by fanciers regarding the splendid condition in which their birds arrived home – this despite the heat and the heavy atmosphere on race day.

On another point, the NFC committee were earlier criticised for not announcing a full race programme early in the season. The reason they did this was because they believed Channel racing would be possible and that they had an obligation to try and provide it. The NFC will be flying FOUR old bird Channel races so the committee’s decision to be patient has paid off. Also please note that at the decisive meeting with Defra prior to Channel racing going ahead, the National Flying Club provided a Risk Assessment document compiled by a leading Vet and this proved influential in Channel racing being granted.

The NFC had enquiries about taking other birds to this race and decided that they would convoy one of the Scottish National clubs. The numbers were not in the thousands, in fact less than 200 were entered, yet a fantastic performance was put up by a game bird racing to the loft of John Proctor, which covered some 613mls on the day of liberation being timed at 9.37pm. John remarked on the A1 condition of his winning bird and the same was said about his next bird early next morning. We understand that by 9am next morning there were 9 birds home into Scotland. This could become a part of the future in National racing with the likes of this club coming on board with the NFC and helping to offset the costs. Extreme distance racing would be available to the fanciers north of the border should they wish to take up the challenge. Right, now onto the leading pigeons…

On the Saturday afternoon at about 3.10pm we had a phone call from Nobby Henley who had gone along to verify the winner of the St Nazaire National for Robbie & Janet Prettejohn. Nobby was telling us how pleased Robbie was but we did say that there was still time for this pigeon to be beaten by birds flying further up country. However, Nobby had done his homework and in his opinion this one was not going to be denied the top honour. The winner is a yearling dark chequer cock raced on the w/h and comes from the Camphius/Janssens via Karl Frenken in Holland. Robbie first brought these pigeons over in 1995 when he went over and made his own selections, and since that time they have done whatever he has asked of them. They have been the only bird on the day in more than one race, they have won well in the Sun City race, and wherever he has sent them they have won for others. The grandsire topped the fed on five occasions and is a grandson of James Bond. Robbie was telling me that it is difficult to keep pigeons in his part of the country because of the peregrines. Training on your own is lethal, so he trains for the National races with the fed or with a training service. These losses make it hard to get an established team but Robbie’s yearlings fly so well they keep the loft to the forefront. National racing is the aim and the pigeons are sent to the fed races only as preparation for the big events. The birds are fed individually in pots with a tablespoon of feed made up of Natural Super Widowhood plus a touch of budgie seed with crushed cloves of garlic, which is also used on a Tuesday in the water. Robbie was very pleased with the pigeon and said that on the day he was the one that he expected taking into account the way he had previously flown in similar conditions.

Clive Turner.

1st Section A goes to Clive Turner who only came into pigeon racing because of an odd turn of events. The story started when Clive sent his son David out to buy a sheep and he came back with a loft and pigeons. As time went by, David decided that he no longer wanted the pigeons but by this time Clive had become attached to them so took them over. The pigeons are left on an open hole but are fed both morning and evening. The winner is a blue chequer yearling hen whose channel experience was having two Guernsey races as a young bird. The sire goes back to the old blue cock Baltazor who comes from a long line of winners from the well-known early Busschaerts including a 5 x 1st Fed winner. The dam is Lucy, purchased from Steve Sutton’s sale in the Midlands, and she is out of Sambo who was also a winner of 5 x 1st Feds. Clive was saying that pigeons get into your blood and you cannot let them go which is why he has not regretted taking them over in the first place. When I enquired about David’s interest he said he still asks about them and he thinks he may come back into the sport one day.

Moody & Mitchell.

One of the in-form partnerhips of 2006 is that of Moody & Mitchell. I spoke to Gary Moody when they were 2nd Section at Sennen Cove and he told me that his ambition was to win St Nazaire. It was not to be as conditions were against birds racing into their vicinity, but the next best thing was to have won the Section. On this occasion I spoke with Dave Mitchell who said it was quite a thrill to have topped the Section and to have had 8 out of 10 home on the day bearing in mind the wind (they had another early Sunday). Dave said his 1st and 2nd birds home were ‘absolutely immaculate’. They fly natural and their Section winner is a 3y Van Der Wegan x Janssen hen. On the Janssen side she comes down from birds Dave originally bought from Louella Pigeon World. He bought 8 stock pigeons and won the first race he sent to with one off them and thereafter they didn’t stop winning. The Van Der Wegan sire was bought at an auction. Their winning hen was their first bird from last year’s Tarbes National, finishing approx 230th Open and in addition has had some really good Fed positions. She was racing to a large youngster and was sat 4/5 days on her third lot of eggs of the season. This is the first year Dave has flown natural. He feeds an ounce and a half per pigeon per day and trains regularly from 50 miles, the number of tosses being determined by the distance of the forthcoming race. For St Malo, for example, he would aim for 4 x 50 milers, for longer races, fewer tosses would be the order of the day. Monday is bath day, and this is the only day the birds are allowed outside of the loft during the racing season. They are toying with the idea of sending their Section winner to NFC Saintes, though she might go to St Malo first.

Terry Cadden & Alan Pusey came out on top of C Section racing to Axminster. Prior to Terry moving to his present address he raced his pigeons with Alan Pusey but now races on his own, ably assisted by his better half Shelagh. On the Friday before this race it was Shelagh’s birthday so this 2y light chequer cock, who was sent sitting 7 days, is now known as Shelagh’s Reward. The sire is a g.son of 1st BICC Pau winner Nemesis of Tony Twyman & Son, a pigeon that was based on the old English distance strains. Terry had a pair from Tony and the cock from the pair is the sire of this winner. The dam is from Steve Neal of Chard who presented two nest sisters to Terry from the Jan Aarden lines. These pigeons have blended together to produce some good winners. Terry was saying that it has taken him 7 years to get a good team of pigeons together and they are now proving their worth. While we were gathering info from Terry he had a peregrine attack so was not best pleased!

Pete Wells (left) together with the secretary of Phoenix Flying Club, George Housden.

Pete Wells is 1st Section E. Pete had two drop together but one decided to go to the pond for a drink! The winner is a yearling chequer cock known as Haley’s Comet, named after Terry Haley who bred the pigeon. Pete was telling me that the pigeon came his way after he was judging a show and gave several good winning positions to Terry. After the show they were talking and Pete was saying what a nice stamp of pigeon they were, so Terry presented this pigeon to Pete. It has alsogained good positions in the NFC Sennen Cove race and with the L&SECC. The breeding is good being a g.son of Misty Lady. Pete’s returns were good and his pigeons were in excellent condition.

Frank Lloyd & Eamon Kelly.

Former Pau National winners Eamon Lloyd & Frank Kelly took top honours in Section F with a 2y blue cock, which has always been knocking on the door. Jim Foley bred him from the Grooter lines of Pat King, and he is a cousin of their Pau winner Little Margaret. Eamon said their birds arrived in brilliant condition (a lot better than from Sennen Cove). They sent 20, clocked 8 and had 16 home on the day. The partners usually fly widowhood up to St Nazaire then pair for the longer races, but this year they flew St Nazaire on natural, their winner being sat 10-12 days. Peter Gilbert does all their training, which involves 2 to 3 x 50 mile tosses per week. Feed is Versele Laga Gerry Plus inland building up to 25% Gerry Plus, 75% Irish Mix plus peanuts. The heavier the mix, the less well they fly around home so the more important the training becomes. This is the way they fed when they won the Pau National. They also use garlic in the water 4 times a week, using 3 to 4 cloves in a drinker topped up morning and night. They do nothing specific regarding medication unless something seems to be amiss. In recent years they have brought in Roger Maris pigeons via Petron and these have done very well, the idea being to have a bit more speed in their team, their established Grooter line being ideally suited to hard days. Eamon wanted to say well done to clubmates Paul Kenny and Paul Kendal, likely 2nd & 3rd Section F.

Alan & Kim Bedford.

1st Section G are Alan and Kim Bedford of Bristol who clocked a 3y widowhood cock who won 4th Fed Fougeres and took a minor prize in the St Nazaire National last year. His dam is a Houben from Brian Ferris of Bristol and his sire is a Meuleman off a son of Ron Davies’ Saintes National winner. Alan said this cock had been racing from out of the south-west route this year and hadn’t shown any real form so he didn’t fancy him strongly, but he certainly comes alive once the Channel is put in front of him. Alan, who has been in pigeons for 30 years, says the Houbens and Meuelmans plus some Van Loons are the backbone of his loft and they are capable of winning up to 400 miles. He is a previous winner of the Nantes National having won it back in 1984 with a Busschaert (a line which has more or less gone from the loft now). He says Kim is a great help, looking after the birds when he is at work. He had 3 out of 4 home when I spoke to him on Sunday morning and said they were in lovely condition on arrival. Next target is St Malo with the National.

Brian & Cornelia Long.

Whenever I phone up Brian & Cornelia Long for info on their winners the conversation always goes on to other things and we appear to forget why I rang in the first place. However, I did manage to gather some information on this 1st Section H winner, which is a chequer cock raced on the w/h. Brian was saying that he is very pleased with this pigeon because it was a late bred in 04 from his good friend Bruce McAllister, who has an excellent team of stock birds. The sire is the Coward-Talbot top pigeon Beckham so has good breeding from the start and, coupled with the fact that the hen is the very good Marvel Hen, winner of many prizes, you cannot go far wrong. The pigeon only had one channel race in 05 but has been to all the BICC races this year and in the process has covered some 2,000mls. Brian said that the week before the race he had to be away so Cornelia took charge of the pigeons. I asked Brian, a Section representative with the NFC, what he thought the future was for the National, to which he replied: “I feel that the club now has a good committee which has created a good atmosphere and the club are going forward.” Brian then went on to say: “This is the best that my pigeons have ever come back from a National race and I am very pleased.”

Mr & Mrs Roy Stretton pictured with Doren Kneller on the occasion of a previous NFC Section win.

1st Section I is the NFC chairman Roy Stretton of Rugeley who clocked a 2y Vale Barcelona/Supercrack x Wildemeersch cock, sent sitting 10 days. Earlier in the season this pigeon had been on widowhood but Roy was mindful of him becoming fed up so he paired him. This was the cock’s first real performance but he has always been consistent. This year he had been raced inland to Kingsdown then was tossed from Oxford the previous Thursday when Roy went there for a BICC marking. Throughout the season Roy usually gives his birds one really decent toss a week. Feed is a mixture – as much as they want as there is always corn about. A week before a big race he might give them some seed and, as for supplements, he favours Johnson’s Tonic. Roy sent 10 birds, his second being an hour later, had 6 on the day and a further one early on Sunday morning when I spoke to him. He said they were all in excellent condition. The Wildy side of the breeding comes through birds Roy had from Walters & Broadhurst in the 1980s and on the other side of his pedigree he shares the same grandparents as Roy’s great racing hen Boudicea. The main target for Roy this season is Bordeaux with the NFC, for which he has a team of 12 earmarked. This has been one of the best Section I lofts of recent years with a record that reads: 4 x 1st Section (St Malo, Pau, Fougeres, St Nazaire), 9 x 2nd Section and 4 x 3rd Section.

Darren Roberts and Chris Davenport.

1st Section J, making it two Section wins out of two NFC races this season, are Davenport & Roberts of Chirk, near Wrexham. They clocked a late-bred yearling hen who was unraced as a youngster but which has had just about every club race this term. She is in fact a full sister to Big Al, their 1st Section NFC Sennen Cove winner, being bred from a son of their number one Hybreght stock cock The Twisted Beak Cock. She was racing on roundabout, as were all of their team of 20 entered in this race. Flying 394 miles, they clocked 8, had 12 on the day and 18 home by 6pm on Sunday. Their second bird was just 9 minutes behind their first, this one being the nest sister to their 1st Combine Picauville Old Birds of last year, and their third bird was just 6 minutes later. Remarking on the condition of the birds they clocked, Darren said: “They were unbelievable. None of them looked like they’d been.” Darren, flying first on his own and then since the start of last year in tandem with Chris, has won 18 of the last 20 Channel races he has flown at local level. He and Chris have flown just 3 races with the NFC so far, their first bird positions in each race being: 2nd Section 14th Open NFC Fougeres Young Birds; 1st Section, 7th Open NFC Sennen Cove; 1st Section, 5th Open NFC St Nazaire. This is a remarkable sequence of open positions when you take into account their loft location. As is their normal procedure, their birds were hopper fed maize, hemp and peanuts on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (marking day).

Brian Shackleton’s 1st Section K winner.

Brian Shackleton of Keighley in Yorskhire wins 1st Section K and probable 7th Open, winning the Section by over 70ypm with a 2y widowhood cock who has won one or two minor cards previously. This performance follows on from Brian’s 3rd Section NFC last season. On the sire’s side he is bred from a Ponderosa Janssen which he bought at a sale in Bradford several years ago. The dam’s side is Jan Aarden direct from Louella Pigeon World. Brian, a retired one-time transport manager who is now 68 years young, started with pigeons in 1980 but has only become National-mided in the last 2 or 3 years. His aim is to get a good pigeon or two out of Tarbes in due course and to this end he has introduced birds from Bob McDonald of Fraserburgh. Commenting on the new transporter, which he viewed at the marking, he said: ‘It is immaculate – a great advertisement for the pigeon sport.’ He had 6 out of 10 home on the day and said: ‘You wouldn’t have thought they’d been anywhere.’ Brian is hoping to send his Section winner back to St Malo.

Les & Elizabeth with g.dtr Ebony.

The next profile is odd because writing about yourself in a National race isn’t easy. You are just not sure but here goes. 1st Section L, 3rd Open goes to Parkinson & Wilkinson who saw home a Maurice Mattheeuws 5y blue hen bred in Belgium. This pigeon came our way when we were at the Bruges presentation in 2001 with Hans Vershuren. At our table were some of Hans’ friends from Germany who could not speak any English but with the help of Hans we all got on well. During the evening there was a sale of young birds so I took a look at them and the German fancier followed me round. I got the message over regarding which ones I considered were a good buy but when I came to the pigeon from Maurice I told him that I was buying that one and not his. Then when we went into the room and the sale started he bought all the pigeons that I had selected. The next pigeon was the one I wanted so I looked at him and pointed to myself and said “Mine”, so I ended up buying this pigeon. She has been in the clock a few times and her nest brother, which I also brought back with me, was 2nd in the Cheshire 2B a while ago. We started the season with all our ideas centred around a roundabout system but when the channel was confirmed I paired them up so that they were on 2-day youngsters at the time of basketing. This hen decided not to lay on time so I took her off the nest on the morning exercise and slipped a newly hatched baby plus the eggshell into her nest bowl. They had little work in the early part of the season because with the exception of a couple of days I always had the feeling that with the effort put in by some members of the sport we would end up going over the channel. What I am pleased about is that this is the second time in 4yrs that we have won the Section from this distance with the NFC, the other being when we were 1st Section Nantes.

The wing of the 1st Section L winner.

A full report plus photos will appear on within 48 hours of each NFC race having been flown. If you have not won your Section but would like to see your birds given due credit please contact Les or Cameron at