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I would just like to wish Tommy and Jim all the best with the rest of the 2015 young bird season, and wish them every bit of success in the years to come.
Article also featured in The Racing Pigeon
As most of you know I'm not a fan of putting up a lot of results with loft reports as it's boring to list them but also boring to read them so I will just list a few that stood out for me - winners of Gold and 3 NIPA silver diplomas - this year they are enjoying a very successful season indeed, once again with their old birds making it home in good time in the tough races as well as the 'blow homes', to prove their birds can face any weather condition. They told me they have bought in a few other families to try against their own but noticed that mostly they did the damage with their own family of birds from Jack Gilmore.
The partnership starts the season with 20 pairs of old birds and 60 young birds which are all raced on the natural system. The old birds are let out the same time every day but also get a lot of road training with the help of Ronnie Williamson's transporter being used from the first race to the last. The men are big fans of road training to get and keep the birds race fit, especially for the longer distance races with the INFC which are a focus. What I found here for their winning birds is that no two birds handle the same, with both long flighted and short flighted birds doing the damage. The first bird I handled was a pied, going by any theory and in my opinion a perfect sprint pigeon (how wrong was I). Jason then told me it was one of the most successful pigeons for the partnership this year to date, which pretty much sums up that no matter how good the hands of the fancier are or the strength of his eyeglass is, pigeons will always prove us wrong now and again.
successful is how I would describe these fanciers. To give you an idea of what I mean, the rain we get in Northern Ireland (which is a lot) runs off the shed roof and into a gutter where it then drops into a water butt which they use daily in their birds' drinkers. Everything about this partnership is kept very simple, even the feeding being by hopper all year round with the best of farm beans, maize and now and again a handful of Beatties mixture to build them up when needed.
Upon arrival we were greeted by Tommy's grandson Jason Campbell who also has a lot to do with the pigeons and loft management. As we walker down the alley between houses we found ourselves on a private piece of land surrounded by houses and businesses, which is where they race into the main street of Cookstown. Set in the private grounds that the partnership rents from their local church stand two very open lofts which reminded me of the old type lofts that every fancier would have raced to in the 70s and 80s that were mostly dowelled at the front with an aviary box having a simple 'drop it' trap and two holes slowing them down for timing on the ETS. Very basic, laid back but so
On Saturday 8th August 2015 I made arrangements to meet up with the two men who have been together since 1978, to finally get to meet the fanciers who have done extremely well with racing pigeons in Northern Ireland for quite some time now. At arriving at the lofts of my good friend Mark Johnston and watching the return of his birds in the Ulster Fed race on the same day, we stopped off at his local club to see how well he had done before heading off on the one hour drive down to Cookstown.
After quite a few successful years together, the partnership of Jim Speirs (72) and Tommy Campbell (82 years young) has been a name I always look for in the weekly results, especially when it comes to the longer distance races with the INFC.
Back to basics...yet so successful
In his short time racing pigeons, Stuart would like to thank Tommy and also John Farrell for all the help and good advice since he took up this great sport. Personally, I wish you all the best Stuart for the future and no doubt I will see your name at the top of Club, Section and Open results for many a year to come.
Article also featured in The Racing Pigeon
So in his first year, Stuart won the 2013 Novice of the Year Award with 3 Club cards and 2 Fed cards. In 2014 the loft was hit very badly with Young Bird Sickness and Stuart only raced four times. However in 2015, with old birds, he managed to get his first win with a black tipped Janssen hen gifted to him by Clondalkin RPC Club mate Tommy Dunne back in 2013. The hen won in the Truro race - 220 miles from South West England across the Irish sea to Clondalkin in West Dublin. She was 1st Club, 3rd Section 12th Open with 6 hours on the wing and the only pigeon back home on the day in the Club. A great feeling to clock on the day from the Channel in his first full year racing. A great way for Stuart to start and reap the rewards for all his hard work throughout the year as he strives to learn and be more successful in the years to come.
At the age of 36 Stuart was telling me he started up racing on his own since 2013 with a handful of 2012 late-bred birds from a couple of local fanciers. Racing on his own, it was all down to trial and error with these birds and they never did much damage. However they certainly helped Stuart catch the racing pigeon bug that we're all familiar with.
in their day and that seems to be the way it has carried on through the family, with Stuart's cousin John Farrell learning from both men. John is now a very successful fancier in the family having started back up after 14 years out of the sport. It's good to say he is back with a Bang. John races in the same Club as Stuart and has been his backbone for support and advice when it came to anything Stuart needing answering.
After getting to know Stuart and his passion for the sport I thought it would be nice to give him some support and publicity after he cracked his novice status; winning his Club this year for the very first time. Stuart races in Clondalkin RPC which is also part of the successful ISRF. He has only been in the sport two years, with this year being his first full racing season racing both old birds and young birds. Stuart was telling me he comes from a racing pigeon family background. His Dad and Uncle were very successful racers
Instead of focussing on life-long successful flyers all the time I thought I would mix it up and give some credit to new starters within the sport of pigeon racing. Today my focus is on Stuart Moloney.
Success for a New Starter
I would like to thank both Gary and Colin for the fantastic hospitality and generosity both myself and my precious daughter Scarlet received when we arrived to do this loft report. I wish you both the best of luck for the rest of the racing season.
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Gary would like to thank the members of Edgarstown HPS for their hard work every year and wishes each fancier all the best for the rest of the season, Ronnie Williamson for his fantastic training facilities used by the partnership on a daily basis due to Gary and Colin both working full time, and last but not least his father Colin who he can't thank enough for his hard work and support around the lofts. Without him involved it would not be possible to manage and race such a successful loft day in and day out.
As always on a visit to a fancier's loft I like to have a look at the old bird race team and pick one pigeon out based on my own pigeon knowledge. This week's 'scribe's choice' lives in box 6 and is a lovely chequer white-flight Soontjen cock from their number one pair. He is a 3 year old roundabout cock and so far he has scored 1x1st, 4x2nd, 2x3rd plus a few lower prizes, so I reckon he will score plenty more this year.
All Gary's feeding and products come from Cyril and Hilary Beattie who not only sell the best to the fancier, but always impress Gary with the quality of their corn. Gary is a big believer in knowing each pigeon's personality and what makes them tick. While feeding them he often sits with them and monitors which pigeon needs that little bit extra for their chosen race. He told me that when the wind is on the tail of the pigeons he never really ranks high in the Club, but with the wind on their nose (headwind) his pigeons really perform their best. Although Gary measures feed every day he also watches the weather for race day so he can add to the amount of feed if extra fuel is needed to build them up for the weekend's race.
Racing systems this partnership uses are roundabout and the natural system. Young birds are mostly raced on the darkness system with always around 50-60 weaned into the darkness young bird section, and a further 25 put into a separate loft to race them on the natural system the following season. Gary told me he never found a problem with young birds on darkness performing as yearlings but just always likes to have his pigeons at different levels of moult so he can compete in the full young bird season.
After a lot of research on potential new stock, they approached Frank Sheader and Derek Parr (Lakeside Lofts) to obtain some of their best stock pigeons and still to this day they are one of the main bloodlines to be found in the Simmons' lofts. Gary refers to a certain pair of the Sheader bloodline as a 'gold mine' after they have bred over 30 1st prize winners for the partnership and other fanciers who have purchased birds from them. This partnership never sits still and is always looking for the next winning bloodline. After Sheader and Parr the next fancier they approached to obtain new blood from was the late Frank Tasker. Gary described him to me as a true gentleman who helped him get on the map in pigeon racing and when Gary had any sort of problem in the loft with the birds, Frank was always only a phone call away. Obtaining bloodlines from Frank's best, such as 'film star' Halterman's and De Rauw Sablon's have meant being able to breed winners out to Penzance (300+ miles). A Tasker cock bred them a 3rd Open YB National and 7th Open Yearling National as well as three Breeder-Buyer winners paired to two different hens. Recently this partnership has turned its interest towards the longer distance racing and bought in stock from some of the best, such as N Black & Sons, John Halstead, Billy Graham (a close friend from Scotland) and most recently from one of Ireland's finest long distance flyers and stock man Sid Collins.
stock loft. She was from a pair of pigeons bred by the late Benny Beattie, who was the first man to give Gary pigeons as gifts. Three years later Gary's race name changed to G & C Simmons, after Gary's dad Colin began to also take an interest in racing pigeons. Since then the lofts have changed from a small 10ft X 6ft 'starter' set-up to a 24ft X 6ft loft, and then extended further to house new stock birds brought in - stock that has made the partnership successful from the first race to the last.
My friendship with Gary goes back to our childhood playing football together in school and in the Mid-Ulster League, and growing up in the same area. Gary tells me he first got involved with pigeon racing at the tender age of 13, racing as G Simmons in Drummanon HPS, winning his first race from Penzance with a chequer hen known as 'The Penzance Hen'. The Penzance Hen went on to win from this race point three times more as well as breeding winners in the
On arriving at the lofts of G & C Simmons on a very damp day, a cold easterly wind greeted me and my daughter Scarlet as we stepped out of the car. In contrast our greeting from 'the main man' himself Gary 'Simmo' Simmonds was much warmer. The weather was depressing yet spirits were high and smiles were plentiful for our arrival. After a quick catch up with each other we made our way down to the numerous lofts to have a look around and handle some of the winning bloodline that's doing the damage within the Edgarstown Club and NIPA. Racing in such a strong Club against some of the finest and experienced fanciers of Section E is never an easy task nor one for the faint-hearted, yet a challenge this father and son partnership is well up for.
Two Gentlemen Bitten by the Bug
You could not meet a nicer gentleman and the hospitality was First Class. Thanks to Darren and Rene for making me feel so welcome and I wish the partnership of McMurray & Anderson every success in the years to come within our sport.
Article also featured in The Racing Pigeon
After doing this report, I heard that McMurray & Anderson started the 2015 season with a bang, winning 1st Club,22nd Section from over 3500 in Week 1 and once again in Week 2 from Tullamore taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd Club, 7th, 8th, 10th Section from 4335 birds, 51st, 52nd, 62nd Open from 23316 birds. Fantastic start to the season! Indeed I remember while I was at the lofts I picked out a pigeon that could be described as 'The Scribe's Choice' - GB14-L-19036 Blue Pied Cock - which stood out for me. Lo and behold it was that very pigeon which clocked the race from Tullamore, winning Darren the Club for the second week on the trot!
Sitting in the sun room enjoying a nice cup of tea and making my way through the plate of sandwiches Rene had prepared, I not only found myself in the company of a fantastic pigeon fancier but also a fancier who never stops thinking of how to get that extra yard from his pigeons. Every year he compares things he tried and tested on his pigeons and the result - what works and what does not work - is noted. I was surprised to hear Darren telling me of a story about certain stock pigeons getting out of the lofts, and he says the good stock birds that have bred great offspring will always return but those that have not bred anything decent will never return. Wise words that I, however, would not like to take a chance with.
Looking down the garden there are three lofts, two of which are racing lofts 24ft in length with tiled roofs and timber construction which Darren built himself with help from a friend, and a 12ft stock loft sitting at the bottom of the garden housing his very successful yet small number of stock pigeons. Darren has a few families of pigeons who fly very well for him; most are Van Loons, winning from 80 miles right out to France on the roundabout system, and also winning sections on the Channel from Talbenny, Bude, Penzance and St Malo. One of the best results he remembers to date is taking 10 prizes from Bude on only 16 birds, including 1st and 2nd Section. Darren's best thrill to date has been the Friendship National where, with only 18 birds total recorded as finishing on the day, he clocked in at 10.50pm to take 14th Open on the first day and timed in another two the next morning who were in the prizes too - a fantastic achievement with 3 birds out of only 4 sent. This is just one of the highlights the partnership has recorded so far. Another great result was in 2014 when they were given the RPRA Meritorious Award, on the back of positions such as Talbenny 5th Section (2124 birds), 24th Open from 10852 birds, Penzance 6th Section (933 birds), 17th Open from 4967 birds. Both these results were achieved by a pigeon now called 'Bev' after his good friend Desy McClurkin's wife. Desy bred the pigeon and actually clocked it in for Darren that day, and does so on other days when Darren is away on family holidays. Darren says that without help from Desy around the lofts and with training he would be lost and wants to say a huge 'Thank You' to him for everything he has done.
Darren is a self-employed window cleaner and also a very busy man with 4 adorable kids and a lovely wife, Rene, who supports him on a daily basis with his hobby. We pigeon fanciers sometimes let pigeons take over our lives but I think the support and drive from his family has made McMurray & Anderson the successful partnership it is to the present day.
Harry Anderson, Darren's Uncle, races in the partnership with him, and Darren says that without him he would struggle as Harry is always there if and when needed, as well as coming up with some excellent motivational ideas and of course his great company on race day as they await the birds coming home while sipping a few beers and talking tactics.
To be noticed as one of the strongest and best fanciers within the Ligoneil Club is an honour for the partnership of McMurray & Anderson.
Over the Hill and Far Away
On Friday 24th April 2015 I found myself at the home of 'Minto' Darren McMurray after the outstanding level of success he has had within one of the strongest, if not the strongest club within the NIPA. Ligoneil HPS Pigeon Club has been at the top of pigeon racing within Northern Ireland going back quite a few years now, at one stage having 100 members on their books and a waiting list full of people ready to take the place of a fancier who had left the sport or club. With 44 members racing in Section C of the NIPA it is never an easy task for any pigeon fancier.
I just want to say a big thank you to the Ward household for their hospitality and a lovely day of handling many outstanding pigeons along with meeting two of the nicest gentlemen within this sport. Keep up the good work and I wish you all the best with the 2015 season. No doubt I will see the name of J Ward & Son appear many more times on the Ulster Fed results sheets.
Article also featured in The Racing Pigeon
Racing from a small back garden set-up, their racing loft is 23ft x 6ft with 3 different sections, with just a small stock loft which measures 10ft x 4ft. Talking to them about systems, they mentioned racing the widowhood system for the old birds, both hens and cocks. Their young birds are raced on the natural system, with both young and old birds being raced on Versele-Laga and Gem corn supplied by Robert Kirkwood Lisburn. I brought up the topic of medication for their birds to which they told me they treat all their pigeons 3 weeks prior to pairing up and treat as necessary during racing. On the subject of pairing up in December every year, they told me their main family of stock pigeons is from George Slaven of Glenview Lofts, Scotland, which are Gaby Vandenabeele's. As soon as they introduced this bloodline, the Wards won in the season's first race and began scoring results such as multiple 1st Feds with George's birds and gaining a lot of Fed cards right out to Penzance. These pigeons, I was told, are super pigeons and have done fantastically well right up to today for this partnership. Father and son also have some of Joseph's old Busschaert family of pigeons which have done them proud over the years, not just for themselves but for other fanciers as well. They have brought in some outstanding bloodlines too, such as some direct M & D Evans Gaby Vandenabeele birds which are scoring for them since their first nest, and some Heremans Ceusters from Wayne Doonan of Cock Crow Stud Dromore. They have won the 5 bird Derby with Wayne's birds and see a lot more good performances coming from these super pigeons. Up to date this partnership has won over 30 x 1st Ulster Federation places, so it's results like these that make the J Ward & Son partnership something special and I can see why their own Club members fear them on a weekly basis.
As I continued through the house I was shown into the sunroom only to notice Joe relaxing and overseeing the security of the pigeons. "Morning" Joe said as he stood up to greet me. "You look nervous" was my reply. He said "I'm just keeping a close eye on the champions as they have their Sunday bath". He went on to tell me how much of a problem they have with hawks due to living on what can only be described as a mountain's edge. Looking out of the sunroom the birds seemed happy and yet always on the edge with everything they saw moving in the sky, which for me was a true indication just how much the pigeons were tortured by the birds of prey. While sipping on my morning coffee and deep in conversation with both Joseph and Joe I was impressed to hear that Joe senior has been involved in racing pigeons since the age of 8 when he raced in a partnership as Ward Brothers. In 1982 when Joe junior was born the name was changed to J Ward & Son and ever since Day One this partnership's name has always been seen around the top of the Ulster Fed result sheet, week in and week out.
On arriving at the Ward household on a fresh but breezy Sunday morning I was greeted by Joseph (the father) at the front door with open arms and a welcoming smile. "Good morning Ross, coffee or tea?" was the first question I had to answer as I walked up their lovely driveway while noticing not one thing was out of place and not one bit of dirt was around the house. I thought to myself as I tiptoed into the house after taking my shoes off at the front door "Is a maid living here or is Joe (junior) a full-time cleaner by trade?" If the regimental cleaning standards of the house were anything to go by I could not wait to see how the lofts and birds were cared for and looked after.
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Fed Naven 4085 birds
1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th Fed Femoy 2187 birds
1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 16th, 18th Fed Kildare 1751 birds
3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 19th Fed Fermoy 2152 birds
5th Fed Thurles 3257 birds
17th, 19th, 20th Fed Mallow 1803 birds
19th, 20th Fed Thurles 3618 birds
6th Fed Thurles 3478 birds
7th Fed Fermoy 3147 birds
7th Fed Talbenny 1238 birds
13th Derby, 17th Fed Skibbereen 2850 birds
16th Fed Kildare 2844 birds
Credit Where Credit is Due...
Described as one of the best all-round fanciers by many people within their local area, this father and son partnership of J Ward & Son strive to achieve success year in and year out. In 2014 they did just that and with outstanding results in the Ulster Fed and Grosvenor Pigeon Club. Below are just some of their results that stood out for me...
At the youthful age of 32 years old and having been involved with pigeon racing for the last 20 years, I have watched the sport change so much. But still to this day I honestly do not believe my local pigeon fanciers get the publicity they so richly deserve. So in an endeavour to change this, this is my first year as a scribe covering the Emerald Isle; both Northern and Southern Ireland, giving those fanciers who deserve it extra credit, publicity, backing and support. I will be bringing you up-to-date knowledge of elite flyers across the island, and sincerely hope you enjoy my upcoming loft reports.
Ross Kelly reports on the Emerald Isle Elite