The Canaries have been singing at full throttle in Norwich this summer and, right now, there is not one of them more chirpy than Kevin Crotch who won the North Road Championship Club’s race from Fraserburgh, sponsored by Bamford’s Top Flight.
. The Norwich men had dominated the first race from Dunbar, when the highly-rated King family partnership, had been the victors. That had not come as a surprise because weather conditions were very much in their favour.
But Kevin led the latest Norfolk onslaught in a manner which left so many other competitors bemused and stunned on a different kind of racing day. Sitting in their gardens waiting for the birds after a two-day holdover, rivals elsewhere in the country will have noticed that what little wind there was came from the east, or south east – a day for an inland victory, perhaps? Certainly not conditions for a whitewash by fanciers from Norwich, and beyond down the east side of the country? Well, it appeared that a batch of pigeons, went on a recce of their own and found a helping wind by hugging the coastline, or drifting over the sea, hence an unexpected and decisive result. It is no surprise that Kevin Crotch was the best of the Norwich stars, and the best of the 220 fanciers who sent 1803 birds, because he has been a classic winner waiting to happen. This was his sixth win of an incredibly successful season in the strong Mile Cross Club and, if you win in that club on NRCC day, you are more than likely to win in the NRCC.
And so it was for 52-year-old self-employed carpet fitter thanks to a two-year-old blue Frans Zwols widowhood cock bird now named Kev’s Gift. Why? Because it was Kevin’s birthday the following day.
What a birthday present! It was also something the whole family could enjoy with Kevin as they are all interested in the sport. He says he could not manage without the input of wife Mary, while 21-year-old son Jack and 14-year-old daughter Annalise follow the fortunes of their chosen pigeons. Older son Tom takes a similar interest from afar as he is working in London.
Kev’s Gift has been lightly raced but has always shown promise, flying Perth as a yearling last year before being stopped. However he was not one chosen as a pool pigeon in a club where they splash the cash on backing their birds. He will continue in the race team another year as Kevin still has his parents, both of which are still young, and he has brothers of the national winner. He will also be on show at the highly anticipated NRCC Day of Champions at Springfields Exhibition Centre, Spalding, on Saturday December 5th.
Looks as if they could be bringing a coach load of winners from Norwich for this new event the way the season seems to be turning out.
The Mike Cross Club, with a one-mile radius, is one of the fairest and most challenging clubs in which you could compete, says Kevin. It is packed with top-class fanciers and is building an impressive list of open winners. “You could say that Norwich is a hotbed of pigeon racing,” he said.
He says Leroy King sets the pace and is tremendously competitive, which is an incentive for everyone else. “I think Leroy could pick a team of pigeons off the streets and be competitive in a short space of time,” said Kevin.
He himself is a fastidious fancier, and certainly does not make life easy for himself. He has an array of small lofts (I think I counted seven that he mentioned in our conversation) and likes to see them scrupulously clean and tidy, and cleaned out every day. That is one of the areas where Mrs Crotch is a big help. He even cleans the corn.
And then he races different systems, widowhood and natural, with variations along the line to keep the birds interested and motivated.
Motivation, he believes, is an essential ingredient to success, and he works hard at preventing his pigeons from becoming bored.
He will, for instance, allow his natural birds to sit for a while, and then part them to add a bit of keenness, and he will also give them three or four eggs at various times.
Although he started in the sport as a 23-year-old in 1986, he is now re-establishing his loft after starting again in 2012 after a five-year break taken when he found that pigeon racing was taking over his life. He has also had his participation in the sport disrupted by house moves.
Today, however, he is still as dedicated as ever, and is obviously making rapid progress back to the top of the ladder. Compare his one win last season, with the total of six brought by the Fraserburgh success. His mentor was the revered Doodles Lambert. “He was like a father to me,” said Kevin.
His summer routine sees him up at the crack of dawn to let the widowers out at 6-25am, all three sections together. Mrs Crotch supervises the exercise of birds in the other sections after Kevin goes to work at 7-30am.
He does not have ETS because of complications caused by having so many lofts, and times in with a T3, and has stall traps. While the widowers trap smartly, the natural pigeons are a bit more casual and he has lost races because of this.
He and last year’s NRCC Perth winner, Roy Wilson, train together and generally help each other. In fact, Kevin bred the parents to Roy’s open winner, and now they intend to create a family around their two national winners.
Kevin hopper feeds a mixture created from three Versele Laga brands, and there is food before his birds all the time.
His widowers and naturals compete equally successfully. He says that his pigeons are very tame, and he believes that they race home to him. Kevin gets pleasure in helping other fanciers, and, among others, has helped his cousin Eugene get started with the gift of youngsters, including two off Kev’s Gift, and Eugene has already featured in the NRCC results.
Kevin’s Frans Zwols pigeons come mainly from Stuart Wilcox sales. He sent 10 birds to Fraserburgh and had eight home on the day, and another the next morning.
Kevin ended our conversation with a prediction: “Spud Rudledge could be the next national winner from our club. He is flying very, very well at the moment.”
The Fraserburgh race was the stiffest test so far for new convoyer Darren Shepherd, and his patience was rewarded by excellent returns. Race secretary Ian Bellamy praised Darren for his diligence and care of the birds, and also had a special mention for assistant convoyer, and driver, Merv Greatrix, a great and loyal asset to the NRCC.
Chairman and race advisor, Brian Garnham, was also full of praise for these two, and was delighted with the success of the race.
Increasingly, the new website masterminded by secretary Ray Knight is proving a useful tool for the organisation, offering the opportunity for online verification and online entries, plus keeping members fully informed at all times.
Again there were many excellent performances throughout the radius served by the NRCC and provisional section winners are: Section A – G Bell, Calverton; Section B – Mr and Mrs L Gilbert, Grantham; Section C – Mr and Mrs Bob Boulton, Skegness; Section E – Arnold Bennett, Peterborough; Section F – K Crotch, Norwich; Section H – GW Chalkley and Son, London; Section I – W Hall, Felixstowe.
The next race is the big one, the King George V Challenge Cup race from Lerwick on Saturday June 27th. This is sponsored by Unikon.
George Wheatman. Presss Officer