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I recently had a good chat with David Trippett, the Blackpool Show committee chairman and he told me, ‘Keith, to date the show has donated £2,713,687 to charity. To SHINE (formerly ASBAH), the major charity, £576,881. Regarding this year’s show, we are still considering its allocation, but from the 2019 show we donated £44,000 to various charities. As a matter of interest the first show in 1973 at Doncaster donated £3,000, and in the show’s prime in the late 1990’s sums of over £100,00 were donated each year.

The committee reflects the ethos of the show; the majority have associations with its roots: Dora Pounder and Sharon Barker are relatives of Les and Myrtle Henshaw, neither of them are pigeon fanciers but both care so much about the legacy of the show; Susan Fox is the daughter of Alan Heath, again not keeping pigeons but passionate about the show; and of course myself, whose father like the Henshaws and Alan Heath were part of the founding of the Show. We also have Charlie Perry and Terry Allan, both of whom are fanciers and with Dora Pounder have been working in various capacities at the show since it began in 1973. In more recent years we have asked other members to join us to give their particular expertise; John Robilliard represents the Showing community and does a tremendous job of recruiting our judges every year; David Higgins brings experience and organisational abilities to the committee through his experience as a Region Secretary and ex-President; our latest recruits David Bridges and John Wheatcroft offer us even further experience and contacts and bring us up to date. The President and CEO of the RPRA sit on the committee in an ex-officio capacity. A mixed bunch, but all caring deeply regarding the ethos of the Show, fiercely determined to retain its impartiality and maintain its original principals and objectives to both provide a service to the pigeon community as well as maximising the money raised for charity’.

On the road with Keith Mott

I mentioned in that conversation with David that I attended the first BHW Blackpool Show held at the Winter Gardens in 1977 and recalled it was to host the 15th Pigeon Olympiad. David told me the ‘Show of the Year’ had previously been held at Doncaster, but had moved to a bigger venue, the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, to fit in the Olympiad bird.

I remember a gang of us went up to Blackpool in 1977 in a hired mini bus, which broke down on the M1 Motorway and we struggled into Newport Pagnell Service Station where we spent nearly two hours hanging about while the bus was being repaired. We finally arrived at out hotel, The Albion, just around the corner from the Winter Gardens, at 20.00hrs and because we were so late, our evening meal had been thrown out. We finished up our first day at Blackpool in a Chinese nosh shop, where we had a really great mixed grill. At the end of our first day in Blackpool we were all well cheesed off and looking forward day two and visiting the main event, the BHW ‘Show of the Year’.

Next morning we had a good breakfast and the three ladies in our party set off on a coach trip of the Lake District and the ‘four lads’ were outside the Winter Gardens for the 9 o’clock opening, but first we looked around a brand new pigeon transporter which Catterall had on show in the street next to the Winter Gardens. Little did I know at that time what a great relationship I was to have with this wonderful pigeon transport firm in later years, convoying for the London & South East Classic Club. Needless to say the transporter was first class, with a brilliant watering system and ventilation, and was decked out with wicker baskets. Once in the Winter Gardens we walked around the ‘Show of the Year’ first and it was packed to the rafters with fancier from all four corners of the UK. We met up with many interesting pigeon racers, including my ol’ acquaintance, Gerard Van Hee, and I met the Belgium champion, Emiel Denys, for the first time. At that time I was on the RPRA London Centre committee and I bumped in to Claude Hill and Edgar Dodson who were long time members of the committee. The show was so crowded it was a bit uncomfortable trying to walk around and we made one or two purchases from the trade stands we could get near. I wanted to get up to the Opera House Foyer to meet the BHW scribe, Elizabeth O’Reilly, who wrote the ‘Ladies Loft’ column at that time and she was holding a coffee morning, to meet up with fellow scribes. Since the start of the ‘Ladies Loft’ I had written about ten items for her column and thought it would be nice to meet the lady. I finally met up with Elizabeth that afternoon and we had a chat about the fancy press in general. Next on the agenda was to see the Olympiad classes which we had not been near up to that point. The hall was very nicely set out and I remember there was a constant crowd around the British team bench. Back at the hotel, after the evening meal we had a night in and I had a good few hours chat to several fancier, who were also staying there. The first of many Blackpool shows we have enjoyed through the years!

There is one thing guaranteed when fancier travel to Blackpool for the British Homing World ‘Show of the Year’ and that is they will have a great time! With the show being staged in the North West of England in January, some years the weather is a bit cold and wet, but the 2020 show weekend was treated to blue skies and wall to wall sunshine, which made that year’s event even more special. Thousands of fanciers made the drive up to Blackpool in mid- January for the main event of the Show Racer calendar, the 43rd British Homing World ‘Show of the Year’. Everyone anticipates and looks forward to this wonderful weekend in Blackpool, not only for their annual fill of ‘pigeon fun’, but mostly to meet up with good pigeon friends. That year’s event attacked a show entry of 2,000 birds and ‘Supreme Champion’ was judged by Mr. I. Bardos, the president of FCI, who was assisted on the night by David Bridges and Les Blacklock. ‘Supreme Champion’ and ‘Best in Show’ over all at the Blackpool show was won by a handsome racing pigeon blue chequer cock named ‘Pole Dark’, which also won ‘Best Racer in Show’ and was owned by Eric and Nick Yule of Aberdeen in Scotland. Eric and Nick continue the Scottish dominance of the ‘Supreme Champion’ trophy at Blackpool, with McCord & Turpie winning it in 2019, and John & Alice Bell winning it in previous years.

On the road with Keith Mott

Eric Yule has been racing and showing pigeons many years and his son, Nicky, has always taken an interest in his dad’s hobby and joined the present day partnership when he was 13 years old. Eric races 40 pairs on the roundabout system and keeps 20 pairs of stock birds. Nicky is the show man and picks out pigeons to exhibit and conditions then at his loft. Nick’s show loft is separate from the racers and it has four sections, all with deep litter on the floors. He told me that in his opinion, the loft design has no consequent as long as it is clean and dry, and there is no big secrets in winning, dedication brings you success with pigeons. The more you put in the more you get out! His first pigeons were Kirkpatrick crossed with the Ko Nipus pigeons, and in the early days the young Nicky was very influenced by the late Bob McDonald’s wonderful racing and showing performances. Nick is a tile fixer by trade and says his biggest thrill in his 31 years in the sport was winning ‘Supreme Champion’ and ‘Best in Show’ at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2020.

The Eric and Nick Yule partnership has an excellent racing and showing record over many years, with the highlights being: 1st North Section SNFC Rennes (643 miles), three times 1st North Section SNFC Sartilly (587 miles), 1st North Section SNFC Frome (415 miles), 1st North Section SNFC Littlehampton (451 miles), ‘Best in Show’ at the NEHU Show, ‘Best in Show’ at the RP Old Comrades Show, three times ‘Best Racing Pigeon’ at the BHW Blackpool Show, three times ‘Best Racing Pigeon’ at the RP Old Comrades Show and the most recent, ‘Supreme Champion’ and ‘Best in Show’ at the BHW Blackpool Show. A wonderful all round loft performance!

The base family of pigeons at the Aberdeen loft are Bob McDonald and Dickie Greame, with new stock being added every year. Nick told me when selecting a new pigeon to bring in, it has to look good and handle well. He has brought in ten to fifteen birds from Leir Market in Belgium for the last seven years and had winners every season. The racing team have not been paired for the last three years, with the cocks racing to nest boxes and the hen to the perch. They race from the first race through to the last and are fed on a good widowhood mixture, with a pot of Barley in front of them all the time. The birds are parted in early August, to ensure they have a good moult and then get them ready for the shows. During the moulting period they are fed on a ‘moult’ mixture and are given vitamins in the drinking water. Nicky says, he has no really thoughts on inbreeding, as almost all his birds are crossed. He breeds 20 late breds every year and these are trained in the winter mouths of that year.

I have had the great pleasure of judging several times at the NEHU Show at both Peterlee and South Shields over the years, including ‘Best in Show’ a couple of times. On one occasion that I judged BIS in 2011, Eric and Nicky Yule won ‘Best Opposite Sex’ with their wonderful blue chequer cock ‘Andy Carroll’. This champion cock won many shows and was ‘Best in Show’ at the NEHU Show the year previous, in 2010. I could write all day long about the Yule’s wins at Open and National show, but two other outstand pigeons were: ‘Murphy’ winner of many firsts, including ‘Best in Show’ at the RP Old Comrades Show and ‘The Blackpool Cock’, also the winner of many firsts, including winning first two years on the trot at the BHW Blackpool Show.

I visited Eric’s Aberdeen home in 1997 and was greatly impressed by the man and his wonderful team of multi-purpose pigeons, which have excelled at racing and showing. Over the years Eric has recorded many major positions in national long-distance races, with 1996 being his best season, winning 3rd North Section Sartilly (1) SNFC (587 miles); 1st North Sect Rennes SNFC (631 miles); 1st North Sect Sartilly (2) SNFC. At that time the loft had won Best Racer in Show at the BHW Blackpool Show twice and also twice at the RP Old Comrades Show. Eric had had outstanding success with his good Kirkpatrick red chequer cock which won ‘Best Racer in Show’ at both the major shows in one season. A fantastic performance! ‘The Red Cock’ had also been a good racer, winning many cards in races up to 300 miles. At that time Eric’s, smart 20ft loft had four sections and the birds were trapped through drop holes. The main loft had a closed-in front to keep the inmates warm and dry and the nest boxes were also very secluded, with hardboard fronts. Eric began in the sport in 1963 with a pair in a rabbit hutch and was only really interested in long-distance racing. His 40 pairs of natural racers were paired up in early February and, after rearing a pair of squeakers, were parted again. They were trained and race the first four races apart, and then were re- paired for the rest of the season, it with the long-distance nationals in mind. The old birds got three 25-mile training tosses every week through the season. The birds were hopper fed a good mixture, with extra maize being added as the distance increased. The star bird on my visit to the Aberdeen loft was a blue chequer cock and he was a blend of several top long- distance families which run through the loft. This cock had won several cards racing, including 1st North Section, 85th open Rennes (SNFC) 631 miles, being sent feeding two big youngsters. A good type as well as good performance was preferred when selecting stock birds. Stock birds were paired up the same time as the racers so their first round of eggs could be floated in the racing loft. Since my visit to their loft in 1997, Eric and Nicky have won it all, including ‘Supreme Champion’ and ‘Best in Show’ at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2020. Congratulation to them both!

John and Alice Bell of Scotland won Reserve ‘Best in Show’, ‘Best Show Racer’ and Best Young Bird’ at the 2020 BHW Blackpool Show with their beautiful dark chequer hen, Cheeky Girl’. John and Alice have a brilliant record at the Blackpool Show, previously winning ‘Supreme Champion’ a record six times. Talking to John after the Blackpool Show, he told me he and Alice had had a wonderful 2020 show season. The first event they competed in was the NEHU South Shields Show in November and they won Best in Show (400 birds), with their five year old blue chequer cock, ‘Young Supreme’. This was the second time this champion cock had qualified for the ‘Supreme Champion’ class at the BHW Blackpool Show, previously winning ‘Supreme Champion’ at Blackpool and ‘Best in Show’ RPRA Southern Region Show in 2016. The following weekend the Bell partners exhibited at the Hurlford North Road Open Show (400 birds) and there were eight classes of racing pigeons and eight classes of Show Racer on the day. John and Alice won all eight Show Racer classes and ‘Best in Show’ with a young red hen, which also qualified for the ‘Supreme Champion’ class at Blackpool. The next show was the Clydesdale Open Show (500 birds) and they won three classes and ‘Best in Show’ with a two year old blue chequer cock, which again also qualified for the Blackpool ‘Supreme Champion’ class. The day after the Clydesdale show John and Alice travelled 225 miles each way to Snainton near Scarborough to win ‘Best in Show’ and Reserve ‘Best in Show’ at the BSRF Open Show. Two weeks later they showed at the Kingdom of Fife Open Show (450 birds), winning seven of the eight Show Racer classes and ‘Best in Show’ with their champion dark chequer hen, ‘Dottie’. This great hen had previously won ‘Best Opposite Sex’ as a young bird at the BHW Blackpool Show and ‘Best in Show’ as a yearling at the RPRA South Region Show. The following day they travelled 300 miles to Dordin for the Black Country Open Show (500 birds) and won five classes. John and Alice’s last show before Blackpool was the SHU Open Show at Symington and there was nearly 800 birds competing. They won three classes and ‘Best in Show’ with the pigeon that won ‘BIS’ previously at Snainton. John and Alice had five birds that qualified for the ‘Supreme Champion’ class at the 2020 BHW Blackpool Show. They had a brilliant Blackpool Show, winning four classes, Reserve ‘Best in Show’, ‘Best Show Racer’, ‘Best Young Bird’ and lifted eleven trophies.

The 2019 event attacked a show entry of 2,000 birds and ‘Best in Show’ over all at the Winter Gardens was won by a beautiful Show Racer silver blue cock owned by Darren Christie of Dunaghy in Northern Ireland. Darren has named his champion cock, ‘Barney’, and tells me he has had a lot of good wins previously, including ‘Best in Show’ at the INFC Show in Lisburn in 2017 and also won ‘Best in Show’ at an open show the week after the 2019 Blackpool event. He named his silver blue cock after his friend, John Barnes, who gifted him a silver blue hen which was his dam and his sire was blue cock bred through gift pigeons from Jimmy Fitzpatrick of Cambuslang in Scotland.

When I asked Darren what he looks for in a Show Racer he told me, ‘what I look for in a pigeon is a good darker eye, nice strong colour, pear shape in the hand and a good strong head. At present my birds are my own family and to create this family, I obtained birds from James Fitzpatrick, Alistair Tankard and John Barnes’. Darren was 12 years old when he started up in pigeons, the main reason being because his next door neighbour, Andy McCook, kept pigeons and he has now been in the sport 30 years. He obtained his first stock from Thomas Rouke and he gave Darren a pair of mealies to start him off and his first winner was a mealy hen. Thomas Rouke, Harry Spratt and Fitzpatrick & Fleming drew his attention on their performances in the early years. T. & K. Mawhinney of Ireland have a wonderful family of blue pied racing pigeons and they won ‘Best Racer in Show’ twice at the BHW Blackpool Show, first time winning ‘Best Racer in Show’ in 2014, both with blue pied cocks. Darren’s first successes were achieved with the Thomas Rouke and the Fitzpatrick & Fleming pigeons, when competing in the Northern Ireland Show Racer Society and his first loft was 10ft x 6ft, with two sections. He considers T. K. Mawhinney who shows Racing Pigeons to be the best fanciers in his area and he is a good friend, who gives Darren advice and help when needed. Darren was in partnership with Thomas Rouke for twelve years and they were known as Rouke and Christie. He tells novice to get pigeons from top fancier and look at different loft set up before choosing they own loft set up. Darren works as a council worker and is a part- time DJ, and told me his biggest thrill in his time as a pigeon fancier was winning ‘Best in Show’ at the BHW Blackpool Show.

The Scottish racing partnership of John McCord and Terry Turpie won ‘Supreme Champion’ at the 2019 BHW Blackpool Show with their super blue racing cock, ‘Moerbreke Blue Boy’ and to say he is very special would be an understatement. Talking to John on the phone he told me, ‘we have called the blue cock ‘Moerbeke Blue Boy’, after our good friend Stefan van Moerbeke, who sadly lost his life in a car crash on 29th April 2017 on the out skirts of Ypres in Belgium, which was his home town. How I meet Stefan was though the Ypres race, which the Scottish National Flying Club has every season. Stefan was the man who got this race point started along with Roy Seaton and I was the convoyer with the pigeons. We struck up a good friendship with him and his family who looked after us to perfection on our trips to Ypres. ‘Moerbeke Blue Boy’ was a latebred in 2016 and stood out like a sore thumb from day one, being raced lightly in 2017 and flew the Fife Federation program in 2018. His breeding is: his sire is a grandson of the late John Ellis of Wellbank near Dundee good black pied hen paired to a daughter of ‘Andy’s Boy’, winner of 1st open London & South East

Classic Club Pau for Alister Muir of Abinger Hammer in Surrey. His dam is a daughter of ‘Kingdom Spirit’ raced by George and Brian Hunter of Dunfermline Fife and she is probably one of the best 500 plus mile racing pigeons about, winning two ‘Gold Awards’ with the Scottish National Flying Club and flew ten times across the English Channel in to Scotland. There has only ever been two pigeon in history to be double ‘Gold Award’ winners’.

Two previous winners of ‘Best in Show’ at BHW Blackpool Show, Harry & Tony Baugh of Hodnet and Jill & David Fisher of Bideford, enjoy some more outstanding success at the 2019 event. Tony Baugh won three classes at the 2019 show to follow his ‘Best in Show’ success in 2018. Chatting to Tony after the event in 2018 he said, that his late father, Harry, would have been thrilled to win Best in Show at Blackpool for the second time. Tony told me the cock was bred by Alistair Tankard and is now named ‘Koster King’. This beautiful pigeon had only had two shows that season, winning first at the Midlands Show Racer Society show, which qualified him for Blackpool, where he had recorded the Baugh loft’s second ‘Best in Show’ win. Jill and David Fisher won ‘Best in Show’ in 2016 and at the 2019 show they won two classes. Their ‘Best in Show’ at Blackpool in 2016 was won by a young Show Racer mosaic cock and when I spoke to Jill at that time she said, that the partners were thrill to win Best in Show and this performance was their best to date. The handsome cock was named, ‘Valentino’ and was a young bird champion in the truest sense of the word, winning: BIS South West SRS young bird show, then was first in the all winners class to be nominated in to the BSRF class at Blackpool, to win that and ‘Best in Show’.

On the road with Keith Mott

Lester Petty and Phillip Crawford are one of the leading Show Racer partnerships in the UK in recent years and they set a new record at the 2018 BHW Blackpool Show, by winning six classes in that show. I believe the previous record was held by Doug McClary and he won five classes. One of their best seasons was in 2011 when they won BIS and BOS at the RPRA Southern Region Show and also won BIS at the Dome Show, with a beautiful silver hen which was one of their most successful birds, also winning her class at many shows. Les and Phil ended that season winning class one (old cocks) at the BHW Blackpool Show and in the last seven years they have won class one four times. Last year they broke the record at Blackpool by winning six classes.

I recently met up with Les at the recent RPRA Southern Region Show and he told me, ‘I first met Phil Crawford when we both lived in Aylesbury back in 1998 and I was keen to acquire some show racers, and Colin Hill introduced me to Phillip. At that time Phil was very friendly with the late Paul Rogers and a lot of his birds had come from Paul. Phil gifted me my first show racers and Paul bred me six young birds, one a red hen called ‘600’, because of her ring number, bred me some really successful birds. I showed for a couple of years on my own and won my first class at the BHW Blackpool Show in 2000 with a mosaic cock bought from the sales class at the RP ‘Old Comrades’ show. We formed the partnership in 2002 and not long after that Phil moved to Wales and I moved to Northampton. We thought it would mean we could show in two societies so we joined the Monmouth and also remained members of the Midlands which we have continued to do until this day’.

Back in October 2014 I received a letter from the RPRA, inviting me to judge at the BHW ‘Show of the Year’, Blackpool and I was delighted to except, as I have always loved do the job and consider it a great honour to be asked. This was my third time judging at the premier show in the UK and the last time I judged was in 2007 when the BBC sent a film crew to the Winter Gardens to film me and Peter Taylor for the ‘Inside Out’ programme. I then received a phone call in December from the Blackpool Show committee inviting me to take on the premier judging job in the show world, to judge the specials and Blackpool Show ‘Best in Show’. I have been judging at top National and Show Society shows for 40 years and to judge ‘Best in Show’ at Blackpool was the crowning glory of all those years doing the job. I was highly delighted and accepted the invitation immediately. My ol’ mate, Peter Taylor, has travelled all over the UK as my steward for many years, but in recent times has not travelled because of his ‘dodgy’ knees, but I managed to get him to Blackpool to steward for me, on this great occasion. We knew the Friday of the show was going to be a hard day, with the 250 mile drive up to the Hilton Hotel in Blackpool, then attend the RPRA dinner that evening and after that the late night judging in the Winter Gardens.

It was late when we arrived at the Winter Gardens, just before 23.00hrs I think, and we were greeted by chief steward, Dora Pounder, and what a nice lady she was! Dora has been doing the job at the Blackpool Show for many years and was so efficient, directing us to all the pen numbers to sort out the show specials. On arrival, I took the first ten minutes to set up my filming equipment to record the judging on auto and finished up with a brilliant 14 minutes personal DVD of the whole weekend. There was the usual gang of show stewards in attendance and I must say a big ‘thanks’ to them all, as they were there in the middle of the night, waiting to feed and lock up the birds. I spent quite some time judging the 29 class winner and needless to say I went through them with a fine tooth comb! From the outset of judging there was only one winner of Best in Show, a wonderful Show Racer red hen and she was medium appled bodied, with good balance and brilliant feather quality. I loved the hen as soon as I picked her out of Pen 4 and from then on she was the one the others had to beat! A beautiful mealy was her runner up, but I found a major fault in her on her second handling and Reserve Best in Show went to a stunning looking Show Racer blue chequer hen. I gave Best Racer to a handsome pencil blue pied cock and although it wasn’t confirmed, I was told it might have won at the Blackpool Show in 2013. It was a great judging session to remember and we finished just before 01.00hrs, after which we jump in a taxi and went back to the Hilton Hotel. It was a very long day and I finally got to bed just after 02.00hrs! John Robilliard of Bodmin in Cornwall owned that wonderful red hen and had recorded his second Best in Show at the BHW Blackpool Show. I was so delighted to hear that great news, as John has given a life time’s work to our sport and deserves every success he has with his wonderful Show Racers. Talking to John after the event, he said, the hen is now called ‘Rocquaine Queen’ and she won as a young bird, and won a first at the Duchy Show in November 2013. She was bred from a pair of stock birds that John obtained at the Ken Jeffery of St Ives dispersal sale. John and Alice Bell of Scotland had a fantastic Blackpool Show winning: ‘Supreme Champion’, Reserve Best in Show and Best Opposite Sex. After nearly 50 years judging at National and Society pigeon shows, including five times at Blackpool, that was my highlight to judge ‘Best in Show’ at the BHW Blackpool Show!

The sad news is, the BHW Blackpool Show in January 2021 had to be cancelled because of the Covid 19 pandemic. The RPRA being the forward thinking organization it is has not taken this laying down and have organized an alternative event for the showing fraternity inJanuary. Full details to be published later! I can be contacted on telephone number: 01372 463480 and email: [email protected]

TEXT & PHOTOS BY KEITH MOTT (www.keithmott.com)

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