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  1. The Joe Murphy Column


    I had a phone call from a vet from Dundee; who said he had one of my pigeons brought into him.
    The ring number was GB1826509; I asked him how he gained my number and he replied he
    obtained it from the RPRA. He informed me that the pigeon was in a poor way and he thought a
    cat had caught the bird, and the pigeon was suffering and the nicest thing to do was to put the
    pigeon down. So I agreed with him, on checking my Pigeon Loft Organizer on my computer, this
    pigeon was not on my filing system. So, I don’t know how he thought the pigeon was mine.
    Anyway, whoever it belonged to will know that the Vet put the pigeon out of misery.

    My Trip down Memory Lane

    Over the years I have become very good friends with Guy Reed of the Isle of Wight; who raced
    (and still does) the Bernard DeWeerdt family of pigeons. I went with Guy; and his good friends
    Mark Gower who lives near Fordingbridge and his good friend Andy Parsons of Salisbury, we
    had a great weekend and these fanciers were ‘first-class’ and I thoroughly enjoyed their
    company; and have wonderful memories of my trip to visit Bernard in Belgium. Many fanciers
    throughout the world have done well with this family of pigeons over the years. Their champion
    ‘Emiel’ was named after Bernard’s father who died in 1990; and the pigeon won 1 st International
    Dax/Bordeaux against 9.493 pigeons in 1992. Other famous pigeons raced by the family were
    was ‘TED’ who scored 100% from 7 International races (3 x Pau; Dax; Narbonne; Perpignan &
    Carcassonne. ‘TOULON’ 1 st provincial Marseille (907 km); 40 th National 3.586 birds; 115 th
    International 11.933 birds. ‘KEDIR’ winner of 1998; 143 rd International Perpignan 16.025 birds;
    1999; 78 th International Dax 12.880 birds; 2000; 34 th International Dax 11.807 birds (as a 7-year-
    old still scoring from Barcelona & Perpignan) ‘ROXANNE’ in 2004 she won; 107 th National
    Barcelona 12.245 birds 18 th national hens 3.012 hens; 378 th International 24.913 birds 111 th
    international hens 6.903 hens. 268 th International Perpignan 17.570 birds 61 st international hens
    4.670 hens. Winner of 4 th provincial Ace Pigeon KBDB Extreme long distance; 13 th national Ace
    pigeon KBDB Extreme long distance (probably the best Belgian extreme long-distance hen in
    2004); 1 st Barcelona Ace Pigeon FC Gistel 2004-2006 winner ‘Golden Feather Trophy.
    RALDO scored 100% from 13 international races sent 3 times each year. MAGNUS; won 4 th
    National Dax (868 km) 3.276 birds, 19 th International 7.194 birds; 36 th International Perpignan
    (928 km) 13.367 birds 33 rd International Dax 12.880 birds his sire was Masahiko a son of
    EMIEL. Finally, a pigeon I handled and fell in Love With was ‘INITA’ she scored from
    Perpignan; won 1249 th national Barcelona 12.612 birds; 69 th National 11,484 birds & 207 th
    International Barcelona 23.708 birds; 206 th National 13.503 birds & 424 th International Barcelona
    27.669 birds; 777 th national 12.641 birds & 1621 International Barcelona 25.750 birds; Winning
    4 th best Belgian National Barcelona racer between the years of 2008-2010 and in 2011 she
    won 2829 th National against 12.170 birds from Barcelona. It is enough to say that Mark Gilbert
    and Catherine & Geoff Cooper have done exceptionally well with the DeWeerdt family of
    pigeons over the years. For example; the Cooper’s ‘George’ was the winner of 1 st NFC Tarbes,
    he is also the grandsire to 1 st international Bordeaux; 8 th international Pau; 2 nd International
    Bordeaux Yearlings; 3 rd International Bordeaux Hens and is uncle to 1 st International Pau. I was
    appalled to read recently that their loft was broken into and some of their stock pigeons stollen. I
    have since heard that 3 or 4 birds have returned with their rings cut off. This will have broken the
    Cooper’s trust within the sport and hell mend the culprits who did such a disgraceful act.
    Another time while on holiday in the Lake District I visited Andy Gregson who also had the
    DeWeerdt’s family of pigeons and had done exceptionally well with them. John Little of
    Ecclefechan won my Sporting Challenge in 2010 with a hen bred down from stock off Andy. At

    The Joe Murphy Column


    the time John wrote; Hi Joe; please find the details of my pigeons in your sporting challenge; it is
    indeed a privilege to once again be part of this fantastic competition. Everyone down here in the
    south section try to get into the first 3 in section from the Gold Cup race as this is your
    opportunity to take part in challenge and I was lucky enough to gain 2 nd section and open last
    year with my candidate named ‘Little Miss Darci’. She is a 07 bred chequer hen and won 1 st
    Hoddam flying club Worcester in 2008 and she was also 2 nd section A 2 nd open SNFC Alencon in
    2009. As a young bird she only had one race and as a yearling she flew 7 races up to
    Mangotsfield 249 miles. Then as a 2-year-old she had 5 races before going to the SNFC
    Newbury inland national. She is home bred from a pair of pigeons from Andy Gregson from
    Preston; I took a fancy to the sire at Blackpool show and Andy selected a hen to pair to it. The
    cock was actually raced by Andy before I bought him and he had scored on a number of
    occasions through to Fougeres 378 miles. He gained 1 x 2nd; 1 x 3 rd ; 2 x 5th; and 2 x 6th in club
    and 1 x 15 th federation. These 2 pigeons purchased from Andy were bred in different years but
    are identically bred the sire and dam both being bred by Jac Van Der Wagen from Steenburgen
    with the famous De Barcelona Hen 65 20234862 featuring prominently in each side of the
    pedigree of the sire and dam.’
    I also met Andy at Blackpool show where he had a stand and did very well; as a matter of fact, I
    got on really well with Andy; and I purchased some of his DeWeerdt family to go into my own
    introductions. Another great recollection was when at Blackpool Show Charity Auction, I sat
    next to Dennis Dall who was interested in Tom Riding of Stockport pigeon which was direct off
    his famous ‘Pau Cock’. Dennis paid over £100 for the pigeon which was more than my weeks
    wages at that time. He bred off the hen the following year and a youngster from her won the
    Auchtermuchty Classic young bird race, winning over £100 so he got his money back. He
    winked at me when I asked him the breeding and he said ‘Joe, Blood Aways Tells’ and he was
    right and I have always remembered that. The nearer you get to the ‘Champion’ be it a national
    winner, Gold OR Silver Award winner. The closer you get to the direct ‘Winner’ then the more
    chance you have of breeding a ‘The Good’s’; we are not stupid enough to think that EVERY
    BIRD will breed winners; but somewhere along the line be it a grandchild or great grandchild;
    the winning line will come out. I also have a pleasing memory of going to visit Tom & May
    Riding in Southport. Kevin was a small boy at this time but wanted to keep me company. We
    departed early in the morning and by the time I drove to the Forth Bridge he was sleeping. We
    stopped at Southwaite service area for something to eat; and soon after he was sound asleep; by
    the time I arrived at Tom’s he had woken up. After seeing Tom’s Pau Cock and handling some
    other quality pigeons; his wife May had made us something to eat; she had an old-fashioned
    range and when she gave Kevin some rice pudding; he was nearly licking the plate. He swears he
    never tasted rice pudding like it in his life. When we started to drive home, he fell asleep and
    woke up as we came over the Forth Bridge; and said ‘I’ve had a good day’, which I laughed at as
    he had slept most of the time. When we got home all he could talk about to Margaret was about
    May’s ‘rice pudding’ we both had a good laugh and these are great memories indeed.


    Wilma Peggie of Methilhill;
    I was sorry to read about the passing of Wilma age 73, on 14 th January 2023; She was the wife of
    Jimmy, and mother to son Gary and his sister Gail; and mother-in-law to Jackie and Terry. Also,
    Gran and Gaga to Reis and Neve; dear Sister, Auntie, and special friend to many. Wilma will be
    sadly missed by all. The Funeral service will be held in Methilhill Bowling Club on Friday 10 th

    The Joe Murphy Column


    February at 10-15am; thereafter to East Wemyss Cemetery where Wilma will be laid to rest at
    11am, to which all family and friends are respectively invited.
    Joe’s Joke

    Angus Broon of Glasgow comes to the little lady of the house exclaiming, "Maggie, could ye be
    sewin on a wee button that's come off of ma fly? I canna button ma trousers." "Oh Angus, I've
    got my hands in the sink, go up the stairs and see if Mrs MacDonald could be helping ye with it."
    About 5 minutes later, there's a terrible crash, a bang, a bit of yelling and the sound of a body
    falling down the stairs. Walking back in the door with a black eye and a bloody nose comes
    Angus. Maggie looks at him and says, "My god Angus, what happened tie ye? Did you ask her
    up the stairs like I told you too?" "Aye," says Angus. "I asked her to sow on the wee button, an
    she did, everything was going fine but when she bent doon to bite off the wee thread, Mr
    MacDonald walked in."

    Please continue to keep the news flowing; to Joe Murphy Mystical Rose Cottage 2 Flutorum
    Avenue Thornton by Kirkcaldy KY1 4BD or phone 01592 770331 or Email to
    joejmurphy1@gmail.com REMEMBER THE J IN THE MIDDLE or you can also view online
    editions on: www.elimarpigeons.com www.fancierchat.co.uk www.pigeon-chat.co.uk -
    www.Pigeonbasics.com - Pigeon Racing the Basics! - thecanadianpigeoninternational.com
    www.internationalracingpigeon.com Who wish my weekly contribution portfolio on pigeon
    topics from Scotland?

    Preview attachment Bert.jpg

  2. Paul & Helen Johnson & Chris Greenwood of Hull.
    I first met Paul Johnson while I was on a weeklong filming tour in Yorkshire in the mid-1990 and at that time he was racing in the very successful Johnson, Wilson & sons partnership. Harry Wilson is no longer in the sport and Paul has been very successful racing in partnership with his wife, Helen, from there garden in Burton Pidsea, near Hull, for the last fifteen years. There is a third partner, in the form of Paul’s good friend, Chris Greenwood and he concentrates on the stock birds and breeding side of the partnership. The Johnson partnership has been the highest prize winners in the Holderness Flying club and East Coast Federation in the 2017 and 2016 racing seasons. They have won 36 x 1st, 30 x 2nd, 32 x 3rd, 28 x 4th in both the clubs, and 14 x 1st, 12 x 2nd, 10 x 3rd, 9 x 4th in both the Yorkshire Middle Route and East Coast Federation in those two seasons. They have also won 3 x 1st, 3 x 2nd, 2 x 4th, 2 x 5th, 2 x 6th section in the Midland National Flying Club in the last four years. Fantastic pigeon racing by any ones standards!
    Premier racers in the Johnson loft in recent seasons have been: ‘Jonno’s Boy’ winner in 2017 of 1st club, 1st Federation Huntingdon (895 birds), 1st club, 1st Federation Reed (972 birds), 1st club, 1st Federation Maidstone (779 birds), Beaten by loft to win 2nd club, 2nd Federation Billericay (548 birds). ‘Jonno’s Boy’ is the sire of winners, including 1st Federation and also an RPRA Regional Award winner in the 2017 racing season: ‘Legs Eleven’: 1st club, 1st Federation Redd (972 birds): ‘Treble One Seven’: 1st club, 1st Federation Peterborough (1,223 birds): ‘George’: 1st club, 1st Federation Huntington (673 birds): ‘Jackson’: 1st club, 1st Federation Billericay (548 birds) Beating ‘Jonno’s Boy’ by one second on the ETS: ‘Henry’: 1st ENE section, 1,089th open MNFC Coutances (8,903 birds): ‘369 The Monkey Drank Wine’: 2017: 2nd ENE section, 191st open MNFC Coutances (3,651 birds) Only two birds in the region on the day.
    The Johnson partners have always raced around 40 cocks on widowhood right from the beginning to the end of the season, and over the last two years when time permits they have been trying 12 widowhood hens racing to old cocks, but Paul maintains, there is still a lot to be learnt! The stock birds are usually paired in early December and rear their first round. The racing widowhood cocks are paired in early January for the proven cocks to rear some youngsters and also take some of the second round off the stock birds. The shorter distance cocks are broken down at the start of the week on depurative and then slowly building them up on Gerry Plus, then on to the widow mixture and fats at the end of the week. The longer distance birds only see the lighter food on their return and on the Sunday morning and have as much as they need especially the days leading up to basketing. The hens aren’t usually shown to the cocks before an inland race for two reasons, with no time after rushing home from work on a Friday afternoon and they think it excites them too much. The cocks know exactly what is coming after going to a couple of training tosses with their bowl turned over in an open nest box! On their return from the race the cock usually see their hens for approx an hour before being taken out. The cocks can usually have five or six tosses before the first race and sometimes have a livener in midweek race if they think it’s necessary for the first six weeks of the season, but never in freezing cold North winds in March. Paul says, ‘the season is a Marathon not a sprint’. The young birds are trained hard starting at one mile and working up to 12 miles, and are often put up in two’s and three’s on the River Humber bank when time permits. Because of the Humber and distance need to travel over the Humber Bridge the birds are very rarely trained from Lincolnshire. These days they only race the birds with the Yorkshire Middle Route and the East Coast Federation for the inland races and use the Midland National Flying Club for the channel racing. Paul thinks club and Federation channel racing will soon become a thing of the past, with the rising costs and Federations being reluctant to join together, and the birds learn a lot when having to split early from the pack and do it on their own. They treat their birds for canker and respiratory every four weeks alternating fortnightly, also using Naturaline and Cider Vinegar in the water and Gemthapax and herbal oils on their food. While moulting they feed the birds a strong protein mixture and while they have cast their last flight then start to bring them on to a depurative mixture before pairing early in the New Year. The young cocks and hens are split and the cocks are expected to start to claim a box in the widowhood section for January’s pairing up, and the new season ahead.
    I asked Paul if he liked long distance or sprint racing and what was some of his best recent racing performances, and he said, ‘we like all distances for racing but prefer 150 miles up to 500 miles. We have a 2009 hen off Stuart Ward’s ‘Sophie’ lines and her grandchildren are now producing Federation winners. One of her sons topped the YMR from Maidstone as a young bird beating a loft mate by one second, then as a yearling he topped it again from Eastbourne. Another top breeder is the 2013 bred Premier Stud / Sablon hen that breeds winners in every nest paired to four different cocks. Our most recent successful pigeon, ‘Jonno’s Boy’, is off a daughter of the Rawson hen crossed with the Sablons Freddyinx bloodlines. He topped the East Coast Federation three times in the 2017 season and was beaten by a loft mate by one second on his fourth attempt. We also in the last race of the 2017 season had a young hen win 2nd section MNFC Coutances (331 miles), with only two birds on the day and not many day birds in the country after a two day hold over. On the day she folded her wings and dropped straight into the loft after a 10 hour fly into a Northerly wind. She was bred out of a young Van der Merwe cock from Stuart Ward’s charity sale in 2016 when paired to a Jan Hoagland hen from his distance lines bought off Alun Jones / Red Star website. Some of our best performances have been mentioned above but another good performance came from ‘That’, a Van der Merwe cock direct off Stu Ward. He topped the YMR from Clermont, then topped the East Coast Federation two weeks later from Billericay and then went on to win the ‘Humberside Trophy’ that year for his outstanding Combined results. My most thrilling experiences in the sport so far was going up to collect the prestigious ‘Humberside Trophy’ in 2011 and topping the MNFC ENE section from Carentan three years ago for the first time and seeing the young hen come from Coutances just before dark in the 2017 season’.
    Paul and Helen’s present loft is 70ft long with two 10ft sections for the young birds, a 5ft section for a few racing hens on widowhood, two 10ft sections for the widowhood cocks, a large section that houses all their hens on poles and last, but not least, a section that houses the white racing birds that are only used for Helen’s wedding and funeral business “Dove Occasions”. The loft is well ventilated with the old fashioned clay pan tiles letting air through them, but no drafts and Paul is very adamant that the loft MUST be kept dry. The young birds are on deep litter right throughout the year, even after the young cocks have gone to claim their perches in the widowhood sections at the end of the season, the young hens stay on it right through to the start of the next season before most of them become widowhood hens.
    Paul was born and lived in Hedon for most of his life until moving to his present address ten years ago and he says, none of his family had any interests in racing pigeons. He was a very keen amateur footballer for Hedon United on Saturday and Sunday mornings up to the age of 31 before retiring. Paul has been in the sport for 42 years, but for the first ten to fifteen years his football and work commitments in his family waste disposal company always came first. For the next fifteen years he was in a very successful pigeon partnership with Harold Wilson and for the last fifteen years, having the most success racing in partnership with his wife, Helen, from our present address in Burton Pidsea, with Chris Greenwood looking after their stock loft. The young Paul Johnson first became interested in pigeons when he met his now stock loft partner Chris Greenwood at the age of eleven when they both went to senior school. These days Paul looks after the racing side of the pigeons and Chris looks after the breeding. He became a member of the local South Holderness Flying Club at the age of sixteen and had to join under his father’s name because he was too young to join on my own. Paul obtained his first pigeons from Chris Greenwood and his father, who flew under the name of Andrews, Greenwood & sons and were the top fanciers in the area in 1970’s to the 1990’s. They gave Paul his first two pigeons and he housed them in his first small loft. They got him started and Paul said, ‘I just thought it was a case of breed a few young birds off these two pigeons, then send them to a race and they would just win! This was my first mistake as a novice. When I first start I didn’t realise the work that goes into a racing, breeding and keeping pigeons and it’s a 365 days a year sport, all about paying attention to the detail.’ Paul’s first loft was an old porta-kabin that had blown over on one of their old landfill sites that he rescued and rebuilt for the pigeons. The top fanciers at that time were, Harold Wilson, who later became Paul’s pigeon partner and Alan Sarel who both flew very well in their cubs and the Yorkshire Middle Route from all distances. In the early days flying with Harold under the partnership name of Johnson, Wilson & sons they had great success racing mainly the Cattrysse pigeons.
    For the past fifteen years under the partnership name of Paul & Helen Johnson they started racing mainly with Chris’s old strain and Van Loons, with two pairs of stock from Hughie and Colin Jackson, and a very good breeding hen from John Rawson. More recently in the past eight years they have introduced the Peter Van Der Merwe’s pigeons from their good friend Stuart Ward of Oldham and also direct from Peter Van Merwe himself. More recently they have brought in the De Rauw Sablon’s mainly from Premier Stud and they’ve producing some very good results, crossed with the Van Der Merwe’s or kept pure. Paul and Helen’s main two families of pigeons are Van Der Merwe and De Rauw Sablon and the stock team are paired in early December. After pairing they are moved off their winter mix on to a depurative to start bringing them in to shape and the heaters and lights are put on in the stock loft. When looking for new stock Paul and Chris like a medium sized bird that handles well, with a decent eye, but they maintain the eye isn’t the be all and end all. Performance is far more important to them than pedigrees, although they have them both with all their recent stock. When selecting the breeders the partners have no really views on eye-sign, apart from as long as they aren’t real wishy washy and they have one at each side of their heads! They inbreed for stock purposes only and never as near as mother and son, but we would regularly go grandmother to grandson. Chris never breeds late breds for racing because they take too much looking after during the winter months only for the majority of them to go missing early the following summer. Full article to appear in the BHW soon. (February 2023)
  3. The third installment of the 800 miles marathon fanciers
    Regards Dave
    Richard Scott of Shrophire, an 800-mile fancier
    The ultimate aim is to win Barcelona
    The ultimate aim is to win Barcelona, that is Richard Scott’s aim, it’s what keeps him ticking over he says. There are several fanciers, albeit few and far between, who relish the challenge of extreme distance racing, this is usually over 800 miles. The BICC International races allow fanciers to compete at these extreme distances with races over 700 and 800 miles. For many years now, Jim Emerton has sponsored three fantastic BICC trophies to reward those fanciers who have excelled at the distance. They are awarded to the winner of the highest velocity over 750 miles, the best two bird average from Barcelona and the ACE International pigeon award, presented to a bird recorded in two International races in the same year.
    This report is part of a short series on one of the fanciers trying to win those trophies, Richard Scott of Shropshire, whose loft is situated 830 miles from Barcelona. This is an overview of Richard’s birds and methods and his thoughts on what many consider to be the greatest pigeon race in the World.
    How did you start in the sport, how long have you raced pigeons and how old are you now please? I started in the sport after having to stop working, due to a back injury. It gave me something to do and it actually helped keep me moving, and also helped me mentally too, it stopped me getting bored. An excellent tonic! I've been racing since 2013, so coming up to 10 years now! I am 53 years old.
    Where are you from and where do you live now, is it the same place or different? How long have you raced to your present location? I was born and raised in Birmingham until the age of 8, my grandad kept racers there, then we moved to Wales. I am now living on the Welsh border in Shropshire. This is where my lofts are and where I have been racing too.
    Do you race alone or as a partnership and who has helped and influenced you along the way?
    I race alone really, but I am in partnership with Jim Emerton, but unfortunately, he lives a distance away in York, but I fly his birds and his methods. We are in contact every day, he's great to have backing you. I would have given up years ago if it wasn't for Jim's encouragement and gifts of many top quality, distance pigeons, directly from his own strain, mainly through Nick Harvey, and a few the same way bred from Chris Booth and others.
    How long have you been a member of the BICC and why did you join? We joined the BICC four years ago, to enter Barcelona, but with Covid and Brexit interruptions, we haven't raced as often as we'd like. We entered Barcelona twice, getting returns from both races, they were late, but they got home, which was a good going.
    How many birds do you keep - stock, old birds and young birds? My pigeon numbers are up and down a lot, with breeding etc, but I try and keep a racing team of 30-40 cocks and hens, and I've now got 50 adult Emerton stock to keep breeding and testing out each year!
    What are the main bloodlines that you keep and which lines have proved the most successful? I've tried many types and mixes over the initial years of racing, but never got consistent results, which puzzled me as I was doing it all right according to the books. Then I met Jim, he put me right, I read a few of his books, loved his ideas and different methods, then out the blue he gifted me 12 yearling stock birds! Great. I raced the youngsters, and they were consistent and also hardy, clever birds, so I'm sticking with these now as they've raced well for Nick Harvey from Barcelona over the last 10 years plus. So, our mission is to get my youngsters to race their way and hopefully send them all to Barcelona. This is the only race we really do it for. I'm yet to get a placing, but I'll keep trying every year if all goes well. I do have some Stichelbaut pigeons that Jim purchased direct in 2014, so I'm in the process of breeding a family from them to test out too, as that's a big part of Jim’s original strain and I love the colour and type.
    How important is it to have the right bloodlines? Do you think any bird can be turned into a winner? As stated above, I think the right bloodlines, for your preferred type of racing obviously, are essential as you've got a type to race and select the best from. Eventually I think you get the best survivors from them this way, as the basket always sorts them out. I've had supposed champions, nice coloured ones and even special named ones, they've all failed the gauntlet of reaching the 500 miles test, which is what I like them to do before sending to the big Barcelona, 830 miles to me. I've never had a buzz like it, seeing them return from that distance, and still looking good too.
    This is why I'm now sticking with the Emerton strain, to work on them and hopefully produce a good healthy, strong and determined type/ bloodline to suit my distance/marathon aims in racing. A lot of the work has already been done by Jim himself as he's raced them years ago, with great success, and we are aiming to keep the strain fresh and strong, through racing selection, with the odd bit of fresh blood if it's a special pigeon. I don't think any bird can be turned into a winner, they're few and far between, I really do think most have got the essentials, but to race over 100's of miles, many times, over years is a big ask for any pigeon, in reality.
    Do you have an ideal pigeon and if so, how does your ideal pigeon look and handle? My ideal pigeon is the one that returns every time - of course, but obviously a winner would be even better, but I do love consistency. I have a weak spot for dark chequers as they gleam when in good condition.
    Can you give an outline of your top performances and those that have given you the most pleasure? I can't really proclaim any big wins unfortunately, I've had a few setbacks along the way, with my health and also predators , but I'm sticking at it. I've won many races in our small club, and even a few from France, but the main one in my eyes was getting returns two years running from Barcelona! I didn't believe it was possible for a small-time flyer like me. Five from eight in the first attempt, then three from the five, the following year. I have still got the 3 beauties. They were my first attempt, and were direct from Jim, so I've concentrated on building up a bigger team of dependable birds, so I can keep sending them every year. The last three years I haven't entered any big races due to Covid and this year I’ve been having a rough time with my damaged spine pains. But I'm now feeling a lot better and keener than ever, so really, I'm hoping my big win is in the pipeline, as I’m sure many others do. But I've put a lot of effort in over the years, as we all do, so I'm not stopping until our goal is reached, which is a day 3 return from Barcelona and a decent placing, or even a win! Wow that would be something, that would be a great result.
    Tell me about your first loft and describe your current set up. How many lofts you have now, what size are they, how many sections, type of boxes and perches etc? My first loft was my tool shed converted in one day to a loft, as I made the mistake of getting pigeons before anything else. It was a chance meeting with a local racer, while collecting logs, that got me started. Funny how things turn out! I was then gifted a couple of second-hand lofts from generous local fliers again. I've gone through many set ups over the years, but I'm not wealthy enough for a nice new loft, so I've got two lofts joined together for the racers, and the stock are housed in a handmade set up of separated sheds with aviaries on them all. A bit ramshackle maybe, but they're solid and dry and the birds stay healthy, so I'm happy with them for now, although a nice new long loft is on the cards one day. I use box perches, V perches, nest boxes of all sizes, it's a mix of what I've brought cheap, or made myself really. Old cupboards, anything that works really. They all serve a purpose. The race loft is 24 X 7 foot, and the stock sheds probably add up to about 35 X 8, with an aviary each end, so plenty of room for them, which I like. My racers are on open loft nearly every day, so only in the loft mostly overnight.
    Do you use deep litter, grids or clean daily or regularly? I used to clean regularly, now due to my back injury I use deep litter but get a fit young lad to clean them all out thoroughly twice a year. It seems to work as good as when I cleaned daily.
    How important do you think the design of your loft is to your success? Do you have any plans to change it? I don't think the pigeon minds what design the loft is, as long as it's free flowing air, not draughty, and a cosy feeling to it, then they're happy. If they are happy, they'll be keener to get home is my theory. I've seen all sorts of lofts from mucky sheds to fancy new lofts, and the flyers have had good success. It's nice to have it organised and neat looking, but I'm in the countryside so don't have to worry how they look, as long as they're dry and inviting, and obviously pest free! I do paint yearly and try to keep the lofts looking tidy.
    Is there anything in particular that you like about your loft that you would recommend to other fanciers? The main thing I like about my lofts now, is they're off the ground – eventually. I learnt the hard way with vermin getting in, and now that I fly open loft nearly all year, it's nice and easy. The best part is when they're breeding and all out together, coming and going as they please, it looks very natural.
    What system do you use to race the old birds e.g., widowhood, round-about, chaos or natural etc? My system is a mixture of natural and chaos really, they are on open loft every day, hen's one day, cocks the next. Then come April / May time I let all the racers out together to choose their own mates, I think they know best. They then pair up, nest and sit on their eggs, trying to coincide with a big race just near or just after hatching, giving them something to spur them on is my hope. I separate them about September, because after the main distance race I rest them for the rest of the year, if they've done well that is. The stock are paired in February and I get three rounds a year from them to test and I also sell some to cover the costs.
    I feed layers pellets in hoppers 24/7. They have various pigeon mixes depending on moulting, breeding or racing times, but nothing fancy. I build them up for the distance races with peanuts and Hormoform mainly. But I do treat them well when sitting for pre-race with hemp seeds, garlic, nut oil, and sometimes a few vitamin and mineral powders. Having said that, I still try to keep it basic as possible for financial reasons and I like the easy methods.
    How often you train your birds? Do you train before and during racing and how far you usually train them? Training is a job to know, as I've trained them hard, and also sometimes I haven't been able too, so they've only had one or two tosses pre racing, and I've had equal results both ways. They do need training but using club racing is as good as any. Once they've done up to 50 miles tosses as young birds, I take it reasonably easy with them. As yearlings they go up to 4-500 miles, then as two-year-olds the sky is the limit, so to speak. I had two-year-olds return from 830 miles, I’ve just got to tune them in to do it faster, that is the aim now. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it is fun trying. I do keep some until 3-year-olds if I think they need an extra bit of time.
    Do you use any supplements such as vitamins and oils etc? And, if you could only use one product or supplement what would it be? If there was only one supplement I could use, it would be Hormoform, not before peanuts though, but they're just an extra feed really. I keep the medication side of things to the bare minimum, if possible, hoping to breed a stronger immune system. Obviously, I vaccinate yearly, then usually a 4 in 1 treatment before breeding, and I try and stick to that. I have treated for canker a few times if it's obvious, but I'm now trying to use natural preventatives more, like apple cider vinegar, garlic, iodine and turmeric, to see how it goes.
    Do you race your young birds on the natural system or darkness or light system? Tell me about your young bird system and any mistakes? I try and let the young birds develop slowly, to gain confidence and to get them used to their surroundings before any training or racing, meaning I don't rush to get them in the basket. They do get several tosses before a few club races, from all directions to give them some experience. I see what races well and keep an eye on them for next year. They are fed the same as the old birds. No young bird sickness to date, luckily, as it doesn't look good from what I've seen from others. The only mistake I can think of that I know was my fault was tossing them too early in my keen early years!
    What are your plans for the future? My plans for the future are to stick with the Emerton strain and get the strain well known again, by getting some great placings in the hard distance races. Obviously, the ultimate is to win Barcelona, that's what keeps me ticking!
    If you won the lottery what, if anything, would you do differently? If I won the lottery, I'd just expand my mission with new lofts and loft keeper, but would it take the fun away? As it was and still is a working man’s sport, the type who like a pint and some banter, and quite often goes together with fishing, ferreting, shooting and maybe a bit of poaching. I know as I do them all, also do many others I've met over the years. Mainly old timers, but they've all got a tale to tell. I think if it was full of millionaires, it would spoil the fun of it, as it's a unique sport, that's for sure!
    Is there anything else you’d like to add? The only bit I'd like to add is for all of us to keep trying our best, and aim for the sky, but the main bit is being able to enjoy the simple sport for what it is. Don't get too complicated. Relax and watch your birds, you'll get to know them better, plus enjoy their characters more. They are very special birds in many aspects. If you got any doubts about the birds the best advice I can give is send 'em and see. Thank you very much for allowing me to write a few words and I hope a few find it interesting, and maybe a few find it useful too.
    I would like to thank Richard for providing the information for this report and if this has encouraged anyone to try racing from the distance in the Internationals, then the BICC will be staging 5 International races in the 2023 season. These will be from Pau, Agen, St Vincent, Barcelona, and Perpignan. Anyone interested in racing with the BICC to compete in these races, against the best in Britain and Europe, can join the BICC for £40 membership with £9.50 birdage for each International race. The BICC are always keen to welcome new members and Jim would love to see a new name lift one of his trophies. So, why not give it some thought over the winter?
    Mike Jackson
    BICC Press Officer
    May be an image of ‎pigeon, footwear and ‎text that says '‎Amerton Wtand Pigeon Racing Jim Emerton Pigeon Books MAN Barcelona Dream Open UK Barcelona Miles ۔Inn 120,936 Bird's, BICC Record, RRPA Medal Longest Flying Bird Clocked in &Race Jim Emerton HIPCLUB BICC Richard Scott's Barcelona Dream‎'‎‎
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