While the North Road Championship Club’s highly successful first race of 2015 was dominated by Norfolk fanciers, there were, as ever in this competitive club, excellent performances to win the respective sections.
These winners were:
Vice-President of the NRCC Frank Widdison, of West Bridgford, was winner of Section A, and, with the wind conditions all against his section, this was a welcome boost for a man who has been a member of the organisation for 60 years – ever since he was a boy.
The section winner was a two-year-old blue hen of Soontjen x Wildermeersch breeding. In fact 71-year-old Frank had an excellent race, also taking 4th, 7th and 9th positions in the section.
Mother to this hen was a Soontjen from Kev Smith, of Chapel St Leonards, a winner of NRCC open positions from both the Lincolnshire coast and from Boughton, and has had 1st, 3rd and 8th section placings to her credit.
Frank, a member of both the Ruddington and Carlton clubs, has enjoyed a good start to the season and this latest section winner is one of a group of hens that have been showing encouraging form.
He feeds wheat, barley and beans, adding small seed to help with trapping.
The latter is a vital ingredient because Frank does not have ETS, traps through the open door and is not very mobile because of back problems. So the pigeons go to him, rather than him having to catch the pigeon! Obviously very tame and well trained, and always looking for a tit bit on return from a race.
Frank had become a little disillusioned with happenings in the close season and had even contemplated changing to the south road, but his real loyalty has always been to racing from the north and particularly with the NRCC.
He hopes to compete in all the other NRCC old bird races this season, but has not bred a young bird team to race. The only young birds he has reared are for the interest of his grandchildren.
Frank is a past open winner from Fraserburgh, and this was back in 2002 when he won from an entry of 5,088 birds on a velocity of 1134ypm.
The winner then was a blue chequer Wildermeersch widowhood hen, which had twice been fifth club before its big success. She remained a member of the race team during the season following her open win but, when a visiting fancier questioned the wisdom of this, Frank put her in the stock loft where she enjoyed the freedom of the open hole.
This, however, probably led to her demise as one day she went to the fields and never returned.
Ironically she never produced her like, but now Frank has a granddaughter which is showing signs of being a star.
Wife Vivienne, who has done her stint as club secretary, is a constant support, and the Widdisons have been great NRCC supporters and competitors over the six decades they have been members. They have had many good positions, often on the more difficult days, and have a record of consistency from Lerwick.
It is good to see a committed worker for the organisation receiving a just reward.
Another past open winner is the top man in Section B.
That man is the Spalding ace, John Bellerby, who put the icing on the cake of many years of success when, in 2012, he won the NRCC open race from Perth.
Since that triumph John, who also acts as convoyer for the Peterborough Central Federation, has continued his winning ways, and his birds have been in their usual good form in the early part of this season. Proving the point is a yearling Vandenabeele widowhood hen, which was bred by his friend John Ellerby, of Hull.
She was one of six youngsters gifted last year, and one of seven Mr Bellerby has been “playing about with” this season.
“I have been experimenting,” said John. “I don’t really know what I am doing. But they are boxed up. One was injured but seems to be making a recovery. They don’t fly round home very much, and are always keen to get back to their boxes, or to me. They are not too bothered about their cock birds, and have a light feed of mainly barley, except that they have a good feed on Thursday.
“They had a five-hour flight from Alnwick the week before this Dunbar race and, since they only fly for 12 or 13 minutes round home, that probably did them good.
“It was a good win and I was very pleased with it. I think that this is only something you can do with yearling hens. They get too wise when they get older.”
John had started the season with three club wins and three Federation wins. He says he has more pigeons than normal this season, with 16 widowhood cock birds supplementing his seven-strong hens team.
John’s 2012 open win from Perth was with a two-year-old blue white-flighted widowhood Van Reet cock bird with the name of Chappie who was bred by Val and Alan Chapman. Unfortunately, Chappie no longer graces the Bellerby loft, having been sent to one race too many and biting the dust from Newton Aycliffe.
The week after his NRCC Perth triumph, he had been sent to a club race from Alnwick – and won. He continued to win out of turn until his failure to return from what should have been a routine race.
In the huge talent pool within the NRCC there is a group of fanciers who are the cream of the crop, consistently prominent in the results year after year, race after race, not only with just one timer but with an in-depth team.
Richard Mamwell, of Louth, is one such fancier. He was No 1 on the leaderboard for sometime but – rightly as it turned out – he always had a feeling that the race would be won in Norfolk. His consolation prize was to win Section C and have several more among the leaders.
In fact he had two more on the loft as the first one was timed in.
The section winner is a yearling celibate blue pied cock bird bred by John Douglas, of Whitby who always exchanged pigeons with the NRCC legends, Mamwell Brothers (Richard’s brothers) before the unfortunate death of one of them brought the racing partnership to an end. Richard has always raced on his own, and was among the keenest rivals to his hugely successful brothers.
Mr Douglas was still to confirm the breeding of the Dunbar section winner, but it is believed to be of Wily Jacobs origin.
Richard flies his yearling cock birds on the celibate system, and says that this seems to work well for him as they fly so well around home, with the help of a bit of flagging. He also flies some cock birds on the traditional widowhood system.
With most Louth fanciers, so successful with the NRCC over the years, now flying south, Richard and the remaining north road flyers send their birds as trainers with Peterborough and District Federation. He races his hens on the south road and is managing to be successful on both routes.
He was runner-up in the £1,000 nomination last season, having won it the previous two years – another pointer to his consistency and ability to pick the right bird.
He sent 23 to Dunbar and had them all home, except one which was reported in Hunstanton but died before it could be repatriated.
Richard started this year’s race programme without training his birds pre-season having been busy renovating a cottage, something he had always wanted to do.
He said he was confident that his birds looked well for the Dunbar race, and got his usual kick out of NRCC racing. “I love it,” he said. “It always gives me a big buzz. NRCC racing is still something special.”
It is always a pleasure to talk to Richard, and I would not take bets against him registering more success this season.
Eighty-three-year-old retired farmer, and member of the Deeping club, Arnald Bennett won Section E with a two-year-old blue Alan Darrow hen which had previously had two minor cards.
“It is a good pigeon,” said Arnald, who sent all of his 18-strong race team to Dunbar, and had one missing.
He said his birds were flying well round home and he was grateful to his friend Billy Pell for taking them training, including a toss to Caenby Corner in preparation for the Perth race.
He says that, despite having troublesome knees, he still loves his pigeon racing and, in particular, competing with the NRCC.
He has kept pigeons since he was six years old, although he did take a ten-year break to enjoy his daughter’s successful involvement in show jumping.
Once the pigeons were restored to his life, Arnald has had an unbroken run in the sport until the present day.
He says he has spent a lot of money on buying pigeons over the years, and one of his best purchases was when he acquired eight young Janssens from Louella some 25 years ago. They cost him £60 each, which was quite a lot of money at the time, but he says he has never been able to find a family quite like them since. “They were very good up to Thurso,” he said.
He is also pleased with more recent purchases of Perry Bros and Son Vandenbrouckes, and also has some Ceulemans which are racing well.
Arnold reckons he has been a member of the NRCC for at least 50 years, and recalls the halcyon days of Tom Ferrar, John Lovell and Frank Perkins among other great fanciers.
Outright winners of the race, Mr and Mrs O King and Sons, faced particularly tough competition from fellow Norwich fanciers to also win
the most competitive section on a helpful day windwise. They have named their latest winner, a three-year-old blue widowhood hen, Owen’s Pride, in honour of their late father who would have been particularly proud of his sons’ achievement.
The section winner proved her versatility by romping home at nearly 2,000 yards a minute while the previous week she had had a good, tough race from Whitley Bay at 1,000 ypm.
She had always been a good, consistent performer and had scored with the NRCC from Perth and Arbroath in the past.
She has now been retired from racing.
Paul Aldred, of the E Aldred and Sons partnership, said it last year when they won their section from the Berwick old bird race, and he said it again after another section success from Dunbar: “We like west winds in Lowestoft.”
Add a touch of north to the wind, and that is even better, and it proved to be very much to the liking of the old boy of the section winners, a seven-year-old widowhood cock bird that made light of the 279 miles to the Aldreds’ loft.
Obviously a pigeon well thought of, otherwise it would not have survived that long in a regularly winning loft. He has won a few cards over the years, said Paul, and had flown all the races this year.
Paul, who is 53 and has been enjoying the sport for 35 years, and his brother John, continued the partnership after the death of their father two years ago. It is very much a family affair, with their sister also helping out. He said that there was a gap of about ten minutes before their second bird arrived, but they sent 20 and had 19 back on the day. They are members of the competitive Oulton Broads North Road Club.
They were planning to send the same birds to the second race from Perth and, no doubt, hoping for the same conditions – and the same result.
In his weekly column, Brian Woodhouse revealed recently that his varied career had seen him work as a chef and as a demolition contractor – among others things – so it would seem appropriate to suggest that this highly successful Wanstead fancier had cooked up a demolition job from Dunbar in this section.
The pigeon that helped him to another major success was a chequer yearling hen from a winning line of pigeons going back to his Berwick Combine winner (a 07 pigeon) and a Janssen purchased from Herman Beverdam which also goes back to the 019 line.
The hen, now named Dunbar Princess by Brian’s ever-supportive wife, Pat, raced consistently as a youngster.
New names appear at the top of this section in the form of husband and wife team, Chris and Mandy Reeves, whose weekly racing is with the Norfolk and Norwich club.
Their section winner is a five-year-old blue chequer cock bird.
Explained Mandy: “We bought this cock while we were on a trip to Belgium. We had bought some birds from Lier Market and went into a bar on the square where there were some young birds for sale. This bird caught our eye so we took him home.”
Chris is a poultry farmer and Mandy an accountant, and they share their hobby together. They have been members of the NRCC since 2009, having started in the sport in the old Eye club in 1992.
“On and off,” says Chris, “we have done fairly well.”
The section winner is a sprinter, but did not seem to come into form last season, but has put all that behind him now, although he was not scheduled to go to Perth.
They sent six to Dunbar and they all came well, with the second one just a minute behind the winner.
This race was sponsored by Belgica Deweerd who are always available to provide health advice on fanciers’ birds.
More images will be posted later, please call back