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February 16, 2019

Secretary’s Report


On the 30th January all roads led to Toft Hill for the Sportsman FC. Annual General meeting. In October this year we will celebrate our 10th Anniversary during which time we have made brilliant progress year on year in the NFC. We now have own North East Section (N) and marking station at Toft Hill financed by the Sportsman club and every year have seen stronger performances being posted. However above all it is the wonderful friendships we have built up with fellow national fanciers across the UK who have unselfishly supported our club. The list is too long to thank all of these fanciers individually suffice to say they embrace the real positive aspects of our sport.

The poor weather did not prevent another excellent AGM turn out which is a credit to our members who have an average journey of over 25 miles to reach Toft Hill. After a short General Meeting where we had one resignation and several new applicants (the club membership is now 47) we moved quickly into the AGM. Officials for 2019 confirmed as Chairman, Jeff Walton, Secretary/Treasurer, Bob Mckie. The Balance sheet was unanimously accepted with the club in a strong financial position. No changes to club rules were required. Annual club subscriptions remain at £20 per loft. Club Prize monies as 2018 with recognition included for the winner of Averages, Highest Open position achieved and the club Bird of the Year. Negotiations with Sponsors are also ongoing.

As in 2018 we will be ferrying the birds down to Sheffield to meet up with the NFC transporter. Arrangements will be finalised before the end of April which will include club members accompanying the birds. Clock Committee arrangements as 2018 where the use of our Group text operated by the Chairman has proved so successful. (Thanks Jeff).

Annual Young Bird Sale

The club will again run a telephone young bird Sale in April which Jeff Walton will lead on. Several excellent youngsters have already been pledged so watch out for our advert in the weekly Pigeon Press. There are always top quality stock available at competitive prices.

2019 Show Race

Gary Heslington, outlined the arrangements for the show. It will be held at Toft Hill on Saturday the 16th February. Race point Messac National with penning between 11.00 to 12 noon. Entry fee £5 per bird (all paid out) limited to maximum of 2 cocks/2 hens per loft. Race prize split 60/40% with £100 added prize money. There will be a single £10 nomination, winner take all. BIS/BOS prizes of £25.

Show Judge, Kevin Winter, from Sunderland.

Finally our Annual presentation will be held on the 24th October and our next General Meeting will be on 20th March.

What is ahead for Racing in 2019

It is that time of the year when fanciers are conjuring up many thoughts of the racing ahead. For the predominantly sprint minded fancier their plans will be in full swing. Many will be paired and some will already have their 1st round of babies separated. This however is not the preferred approach for many distance/extreme distance fanciers whose target National races don’t take place until late May, June and July. Nevertheless you have to be on top of things and there is always something to do around the lofts preparing your charges. Personally I will shortly have to think about changing the birds over from their winter feeding regime to their regular breeding mix. All birds including stock were vaccinated early December and will be out every day weather permitting from early February. To be fair the weather has been very kind to us in the North East and some of my own hens are already acting quite amorous. Weather permitting I will start pairing stock birds up in the next couple of weeks and the race team from early March.

Whether your preference is sprint or Distance racing 2019 appears to be more unpredictable than ever before. With no sign of any Brexit breakthrough we must remain positive and assume that the National racing programme will go forward as scheduled. The elephant in the room is without question Climate Change.

I believe this will be the biggest challenge facing our sport in coming years. Yes the BOP problem is problematical in many areas but the dynamics of Mother Nature should not be underestimated. Extreme heat, atmospheric disturbances and tropical downpours are set to test our metal with 2018 giving us a taste of what could be around the corner. Remember that on days when weather conditions appeared to be perfect for racing many birds failed to make it home with erratic returns being more and more the norm. I ask the question how many fanciers have really exercised their mind about team management as the sport evolves in a changing climate environment. Is your approach to breeding and training still fit for purpose or do you simply continue to apply old dated and tired routines.

I sincerely believe we need to be smarter and smell the coffee otherwise results will suffer and I suspect losses will hit new levels.

Race Controller/Convoyer Roles

I do not envy those who take on these responsibilities and would urge all organisations, Amalgamations, Combines and National clubs to give due care and diligence to the decision making process to all races but especially from across the Channel. Current weather forecasting techniques and the use of high tech equipment provide much more information than in years past, still there is scope for the process of telephone contacts on the line of flight and especially along the full channel coast line from East to West. Many years ago the great National fancier Jim Biss urged the NFC to develop this approach because channel conditions not least the formation and movement of fog banks were so problematical. Also if we see the extreme temperatures repeated in coming seasons Convoyers should not hesitate to consider mid-afternoon liberations. I accept this will force all birds to spend a night out but heavy losses at distance events is bound to attract bad publicity under the banner of animal welfare which we must avoid at all costs.

North East Central Route FC

Finally we wanted to mention this new club at Ferryhill which will start racing in 2019. There are a number of fanciers hesitating about joining the National scene because of a fear that losses will be heavy. Well here is a club which will be racing down the centre of the country providing an excellent chance to give your birds valuable experience on a flight path more in tune with the NFC race programme. This club will be holding a top quality youngbird sale in the coming weeks which will be in the fancy press to raise funds to purchase race baskets/crates. Definitely a sale to watch out for. For more information ring John on 07955392127 or Jeff on 07966495952

November 6, 2018

National Flying Club at NEHU Show

Just a quick update about the 3rd November when I attended the NEHU Annual Show promoting National racing and raising awareness about the challenges and benefits of joining the NFC.

Arriving early I quickly had our stand and Banners in place in a great spot opposite the Racing Pigeon and Boddy & Ridewood before the doors opened at 10 am. There was a steady stream of fanciers coming through the doors with a good flow both old and new dropping by our stand to seek information and pass comment about the 2018 racing season. I handed out numerous NFC application forms. There was much interest and comment about the National scene however there remains a strong fancier loyalty to the UNC the main objective being to win Bourges. This is a commendable aspiration despite recent racing data analysis pointing to deterioration in results similar to the experience of other organisations.

Let’s hope future returns improve and at the same time we see a more lofts picking up the gauntlet and trying the National racing scene where despite some tough races returns into the North East improve year on year.

As to the show itself I had little opportunity to look around but did manage a chat with James Parker and Ian Stafford on the JPS Stand where trade was very brisk. James had an excellent year racing with the NFC. But what can you say about the partnership of Stafford and Wilson who fly in the UNC and existing members of the Sportsman. Their race results in 2018 were absolutely brilliant. Ian is fully committed to flying with us in the Nationals in the near future which will be great and interesting to see how his birds perform.

That’s all for now and thanks to all the members who stopped by for a chat,

Bob Mckie

November 5, 2018

Sportsman FC (NFC) Prize Presentation Evening

Well the 17th October has come and gone and another great night at the Sportsman to mark the end of a most testing season.

The doors opened at 7pm and by the time we kicked off with the presentation it was standing room only.

Our Chairman Jeff Walton, got things underway by welcoming everyone for coming along to share the evening with us. He introduced our main guests Barry and Peter Winter who had made the journey up from Howden, East Yorkshire. There was also a special mention for our friends from the SNRPC who made the long journey down to be with us.

Jeff went on to thank our sponsors Vanrobaey Feeds and Terry Knox for their continued support, the Gaskill family and Paul Stobbs of Stonehaven Lofts along with the many fanciers who donate and bid at our Annual Young Bird Sales. And the Best family for their transporting of birds to Sheffield and to Charlie Smith, for providing the use of his Transit Van whenever we needed it. Also to our hosts John and Belle who always offer us a warm welcome.

Barry and Peter were then invited forward to present the prizes.

First up to the table was new member Alf Fellows from Ferryhill who was dipping his toe into National racing for the first time gaining a 5th Club 9th Section N Coutances.

Next came Brian Wiemer & Grandson from Hartlepool who were 4th Coutances Oldhens.

Then it was M/M Allan Walker from Stockton who won 5th Messac and 5th Coutances YB.

Experienced Channel flier Brian Caley from Framwellgate Moor was next with a 3rd Club & Section N, in a very tough Messac National.

The excellent loft of John & Stephen Best from Stockton stepped forward next after winning 2nd Club Messac and 3rd Club Sigogne. The cock that came out of Sigogne was an old favourite of John’s and before the race he expressed every confidence in this bird.

Then it was the turn of our hard working ETS expert Barrie Blackett to step forward. Barrie who flies into the village of Butterknowle is a previous Queens Cup winner who has developed a strong family of National birds and is always in the mix when the going is tough. A very studious fancier Barrie is not afraid to try something different and every bird has to earn its perch, the basket being the master.

The small team partnership of Tom Cuthbertson & Derek McWilliam from Willington, were next up with an excellent win in the Old Hens National from Coutances with their 4 year old Dark Cheq Busschaert hen called CC. It won 1st club, 1st Section N and 173rd Open. Adding to the excellent 1st Sportsman & 6th Section N from Messac which it won in 2017. Top performance.

We then had the fast improving partnership of Malcolm, Heslington & Jones, from Wingate step up to collect their awards. They kicked off their season in great style taking 1st & 2nd Club 5th & 6th Section N Coutances. Followed by 4th club & 5th Section Ancenis as well as a 4th Club & Section N, Coutances Young Bird National. It is important to mention that their Coutances winner is quite special, known as The Quiet Woman, she was also their first bird from Ancenis and a few weeks later won the North East Greater Distance club race from Le Mans. This 5 year old hen has been nursed by the partnership and really rewarded their patience this season-well done.

Club Secretary, Bob Mckie, from Blackhall Mill, was next to come forward after winning 3rd club 7th Section N Coutances, 6th club Messac, 2nd 3rd & 6th club 2nd 3rd & 11th Section N Ancenis, then 1st 4th & 6th club and 4th Section N, Sigogne (639 miles and the longest flier in the Open). The Chequer cock which won Sigogne having been 3rd Ancenis 5 weeks earlier. (525 miles)

It was then the turn of Chairman Jeff Walton from Coxhoe, to step up to the table. Flying only a capful of birds Jeff flying in partnership with his son Matthew had a great year winning 1st & 4th club 1st & 4th Section N Messac. Following this up with 1st club 1st Section N Ancenis taking the £100 sponsorship prize kindly donated by Paul Stobbs. In the Coutances Old Hens race the partnership grabbed 3rd & 5th club and Section N. Mrs Hazel Gaskill was asked to step forward and present Jeff with the late George Gasgill Memorial Trophy. (George being the driving force in establishing the club in late 2009.)

Dave McSween & Jim Sexton of Sunderland then came forward as our main prize winners receiving a great round of applause. They scored 4th club 8th Section N Coutances National. 2nd club & Section N in the Coutances Old Hens race and a brilliant 1st 2nd & 3rd club and Section N, 227th Open in the Coutances Young bird race (flying 75 miles further than all the birds above them in the result.) They ended up as the 2018 Average winners for good measure.

Finally for the first time the club had a competition in 2018 to recognise the best performing bird in the current season.

The overall winners were Jeff and Matthew Walton with their an outstanding 3 year old Chequer hen which won 1st club 1st Section Messac, 14th club 22nd Section Coutances and 3rd club & Section Coutances Old Hens race.

Runners up being the loft of McSween & Sexton with their Young Bird national winner Red 52.

Following the presentation our hosts laid out an excellent buffet which was very well received, there then followed a small sale of birds presented by this seasons club winners as well a generous gift of a proven stockbird from ex Sportsman member & good friend Peter Brunskill of Toft Hill. Our main guests Barry & Peter Winter brought a late bred youngster for the sale which was much appreciated. Our resident auctioneer Gary Heslington did an excellent job in extracting every last pound from the buyers. Thanks Gary it was all good fun an excellent performance on your part.

The club members would just like to thank Jeff Walton who once again generously provided a framed photograph for all race winners to their proud owners.

Also to Vanrobaey Feeds & Terry Knox for their continued support and generous race sponsorship whereby each race winners received 2 bags of corn and a range of excellent Vanrobaey products. It is very much appreciated.

The list of our supporters is extensive and we thank them all and in particular the staff at both the British Homing World and Racing Pigeon for their excellent presentation of our articles throughout the year.

National racing now has a firm hold in the North East, hopefully this will continue to grow whether you fly independently or as members of the Sportsman the challenge of extreme/distance racing is enormous but the success can be so rewarding. You only have to look at some of the performances by our club members and the independent fliers M. Anderson & Sons, John Rumney and Mr & Mrs Brian Hicks to see what is achievable when you put your mind to it. The question is do you have the ability and determination to handle the pressure????

Hope to see you all again next year.

Alf Fellows of Ferryhill receiving his prizes from Barry WinterAlf Fellows of Ferryhill receiving his prizes from Barry Winter

Brian Wiemer & Son of Hartlepool receiving their prizes from Barry WinterBrian Wiemer & Son of Hartlepool receiving their prizes from Barry Winter

Allan Walker of Stockton receiving his prizes from Barry WinterAllan Walker of Stockton receiving his prizes from Barry Winter

Brian Caley of Framwellgate Moor receiving his prizes from Barry WinterBrian Caley of Framwellgate Moor receiving his prizes from Barry Winter

John Best & Son receiving their prizes from Barry WinterJohn Best & Son receiving their prizes from Barry Winter

Barrie Blackett of Butterknowle receiving his prizes from Barry WinterBarrie Blackett of Butterknowle receiving his prizes from Barry Winter

Barry Winter presenting Tom Cuthbertson with their trophies - Cuthbertson & McWilliam of Willington winners of the Coutances Old Hens raceBarry Winter presenting Tom Cuthbertson with their trophies - Cuthbertson & McWilliam of Willington winners of the Coutances Old Hens race

Barry Winter presenting Kevin Jones & Gary Heslington with their trophies - Malcolm Hesligton & Jones of Wingate winners of the Fougeres raceBarry Winter presenting Kevin Jones & Gary Heslington with their trophies - Malcolm Hesligton & Jones of Wingate winners of the Fougeres race

Mrs Hazel Gaskill & granddaughter presenting Jeff Walton & Son of Coxhoe with the George Gaskill Memorial trophy for winning the Ancenis raceMrs Hazel Gaskill & granddaughter presenting Jeff Walton & Son of Coxhoe with the George Gaskill Memorial trophy for winning the Ancenis race

Jeff Walton & Son of Coxhoe winners of the Messac & Ancenis races, Best Performance 2018 & 3rd highest prize winners receiving their prizes from Peter WinterJeff Walton & Son of Coxhoe winners of the Messac & Ancenis races, Best Performance 2018 & 3rd highest prize winners receiving their prizes from Peter Winter

Bob McKie of Blackhall Mill was R_U for the Sportsman FC averages - Bob receiving the Tom Riddle Memorial trophy from Barrie Winter for winning the Sigogne raceBob McKie of Blackhall Mill was R_U for the Sportsman FC averages - Bob receiving the Tom Riddle Memorial trophy from Barrie Winter for winning the Sigogne race

Peter Winter presenting Jim Sexton & Dave McSween of Sunderland with Best Performance of 2018 R_U trophyPeter Winter presenting Jim Sexton & Dave McSween of Sunderland with Best Performance of 2018 R_U trophy

Peter Winter presenting Jim Sexton & Dave McSween with their trophies - McSween & Sexton of Sunderland were highest prizewinners in the Sportsman FC & won Coutances Youngbird race & the Sportsman FC Averages trophy 2018Peter Winter presenting Jim Sexton & Dave McSween with their trophies - McSween & Sexton of Sunderland were highest prizewinners in the Sportsman FC & won Coutances Youngbird race & the Sportsman FC Averages trophy 2018

Guests John McFall Duncan Knox & Peter Virtue from the SNRPCGuests John McFall Duncan Knox & Peter Virtue from the SNRPC

October 14, 2018

NEHU Show 3rd November at South Shields

Bob Mckie will be attending this years show as a representative of the National Flying Club. Please drop in at the stand and find out more about National Racing into the North East. Also find out more about the Sportsman FC which is the Gateway to National racing in Section N.

October 9, 2018

Secretary’s Report

2018: A Challenging Year All Round

There were several negative challenges in our Sport throughout the 2018 season not least the horrendous wet spring and damage caused by the Beast from the East. This was followed by the hottest summer on record which impacted the old bird season. Then many fanciers endured some cruel experiences with young birds both through illness and heavy losses.

Sadly a good number of fanciers have decided to call it a day and this outcome is quite understandable. Organisations controlling weekly club racing really need to grasp the nettle and take action to prevent or at least delay the demise of our Sport. It is obvious that we have too many clubs, federations and specialist clubs. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee!!!! We need to take a long hard look at race programmes and revise their thinking on the approach to young bird racing. Certainly we can learn a lot from the Belgium approach of having combined old/young bird racing. I think the shift to National racing will trend upwards in coming years and some bold but pragmatic decisions by the NFC, BICC & BBC will be necessary. It strikes me that there is scope for these bodies to work much closer and share both resources and experiences for the betterment of our Sport. I will return to this question over the winter months. Above all the question of Communications is key and across the Sport, despite all the new technology available we seem to be missing a trick not least in removing the risk of clashing and improving our understanding of Weather conditions.

However I am forever the optimist and always look for the positives of which there are many including:

  • the sense of togetherness which pigeon fanciers display in times of adversity.

  • the resilience of so many when times get tough.

  • the ability of fanciers who manage their birds to deliver outstanding results despite adversity.

This is both at a local and UK wide level of which I will mention just a few:

  • Roger Sutton at Congleton, whose birds have put up some wonderful team performances in 2018.

  • M. Anderson & Sons of Washington who have displayed real skill in winning in longer distance National events.

  • Wearn Bros. & Neilson at Ramsdean the 2018 NFC Tarbes National an outstanding winner. Probably the most arduous race in members living memory and one we do not wish to see repeated.

  • Mark Bulled at Harlow whose team has put up some tremendous individual performances in both the NFC & BICC.

  • Small team flier Tom Williams from Orpington sending 3 to Tarbes he achieved 19th and 63rd Open simply top, top flying.

  • McSween and Sexton of Sunderland who won 1st, 2nd & 3rd Section N in the NFC Coutances Young Bird National ending up 237th Open flying 402 miles (75 miles further than the birds which beat them) brilliant.

  • And right at the top, Mark Gilbert at Winkfield whose performances in 2018 epitomise what many of us can only dream about.

It is these very achievements which spur many of us forward looking to do better. Roll on the 2019 racing season!!!

Sportsman FC (NFC) Coutances YB National

Flown on the 1st September it seems to have been a good race on which to end a difficult season.

At the Sportsman FC we had 5 members send 20 YBs and 7 members send 24 OHs to Coutances with members flying between 390 and 402 miles.

Dave McSween & Jim Sexton of Sunderland took the top three Club & section prizes showing us all how to race youngbirds from four hundred miles plus. Their birds were all on dark system. They fly 402 miles & their first bird, a mealy hen won 227th Open. It was hatched in February & from their old UNC Bourges stock. Their Ybs are fed on Vanrobaeys No 37 YB mix. Their 2nd & 3rd YBs are actually nestmates, bred from the Tom Williams cock paired to a daughter of the famous Wearside Lass. Their winners preparation was six, fifty mile tosses then two races from Wetherby 65 miles & two races from Worksop 108 miles and then jumped to the Coutances race. She had just thrown her first flight and was not paired up but fresh & showing to the young cocks in the loft. A sister to her won the Sportsmans YB race from Guernsey in 2015 being the only bird on the day. Their 2nd & 3rd YBs preparation was 6 x 50 mile tosses, 2 races from Wetherby 65 miles then jumped to Buckingham 204 miles with NEGDC (liberated with Yorks birds so last 70 miles to fly alone) Rested the following Saturday then jumped to Coutances. Was paired up and just starting to drive his hen. Over the years these lads have gained many successes when racing youngsters at the extreme distance. They have successfully blended an excellent family of distance birds that are winning across the UK for others. They win our Vanrobaey sponsorship prizes including bags of corn and an array of their excellent race products

We then have Malcolm, Heslington & Jones from Wingate taking the 4th spot in both club and Section with a natural YB from Alan Kelly of Ireland stock. This rounded off a successful season and I think we will see a lot more from this loft in coming years.

Finally taking 5th position in the Sportsman we have Mr & Mrs Allan Walker from Stockton. We will hear a lot more about this loft in the future as they steadily build up a National team.

Old Hen’s National

Taking 1st Sportsman & Section N and 174th Open was the partnership of Tom Cuthbertson & Derek McWilliam of Willington, Co Durham who timed their excellent Dark Chequer Louella Busschaert hen doing 1395.277 ypm. Tom said this hen had obviously been down for a drink but still pulled off a great win. They keep a small team of around 20 birds and really enjoy National racing and are good workers for our club. The winning hen is one of the stars of their loft and in 2017 she was 1st Sportsman 6th Section N from NFC Messac

Big well done lads and congratulations on winning the Vanrobaey sponsorship prizes.

In second place and only just squeezed out of doing the double was Dave McSween & Jim Sexton of Sunderland recording a velocity of 1394.557 with a yearling celibate hen. It was only lightly raced during the OB season & was bred from one of their own crossed with a hen bought from Staddon Bros. It’s preparation for the race was 6 x 50 mile tosses with their YBs followed by two private training flights from Northampton 190 miles & Buckingham 204 miles. Then a weeks rest before being jumped to Coutances.

Jeff & Matthew Walton of Coxhoe timed 2 excellent birds to grab 3rd & 5th Sportsman & Section N to complete an excellent season including 2 x 1st Sections. These lads only fly a capful of birds and their hens have been on fire this season. Their first bird a 3yo sitting 10 day eggs topped the section from Messac this year. She had two 5th sections NFC in 2017. Her sire had won from Bourges 557miles & is from a grandson of Sumo paired to a granddaughter of Poco & her dam another direct from their good friend Jos Thone’ is from a full sister to Cavendish. Their second hen, a 4yo & granddaughter of the same stock pair was flying to a 7 day old YB. She won 2nd section Fougeres in 2017.

Brian Wiemer and Son from Hartlepool take 4th & 6th Sportsman & Section N. Their first hen was a five year old from their Kirkpatrick/Van Winkel stock to round off a satisfactory season.

Returns were excellent with other members including Barrie Blackett & Malcolm Brown timing on the day.

So another season has flashed by and not without its controversy which will fuel much debate in the winter months.

Sportsman FC Presentation evening

This will be held at our HQ on Wednesday the 17th October and our main guests are Barry and Peter Winter.

Doors open at 7pm and Kick Off is at 8pm all are welcome new and old friends.

August 26, 2018

Coutances Old Hens & YB Nationals

Toft Hill marking for the Coutances Old Hens & YB Nationals on Wednesday 29th August between 6:00 - 7:00pm at the Sportsman Inn Toft Hill.

August 6, 2018

Secretary’s Report

NFC Tarbes

At an average distance of 800 miles to all our member’s lofts we had 8 birds entered by 4 lofts. When race day arrived it is true to say that we thought a late afternoon liberation would be on the cards. Given the intense heat and high humidity it seemed that an enforced night out for all the birds was the most sensible approach to gain the best outcome. This was not to be and the Convoyer who has an unenviable task in these conditions had them away early. Unfortunately when the race closed no birds had been timed in Section N and at the latest count I understand that Ray & George Anderson at Washington and our own Mcsween & Sexton at Sunderland had birds back. These gallant birds had stuck to their task and are a credit to their owners.

We send our congratulations to the Open winner and all those who timed in race time. Special well done to Tom Williams, at Orpington in Kent who timed 2/3 of his entries to take 19th and 63rd Open. Great flying with bloodlines Tom had from Mcsween & Sexton of the Sportsman.

NFC Sigogne

This event quickly came around and on Wednesday the 18th of July we had 9 Sportsman members entering a total of 19 birds. With a distance of between 600 and 639 miles to cover another testing race was expected. When word came through that the birds had been liberated at 6.30 am in a South Westerly wind there appeared an outside chance of something making it into the North East on the day. All eyes were on the NFC early leader board and whilst it was not awash with early arrivals there was still hope that a brave little gladiator might make it up here on the day. However when nightfall came I eventually left my allotment after 10pm disappointed that nothing had been recorded on the day into Section N. So next morning it was back to the loft by 4.30 am. still filled with hope and expectation. During the course of the day word came through that 3 brave birds had been recorded in Section N but nothing in the Sportsman club.

It was not until just after 6am on the 3rd morning when I clocked my 2015 bred Chequer Cock, Virtue, to take 1st Club 4th Section N. I was absolutely delighted to see him as he made straight for his nest to see the baby that had just chipped at his departure. 5 weeks earlier Virtue, had flown 3rd Club and Section from Ancenis (523 miles) so as you can see he is a real trier. Being a grandson of Virtue’s Pride crossed with the best of Patrick Bros. Barcelona bloodlines. I was quietly confident that he would do the distance.

Bob McKie of Blackhall Mill Newcastle Upon Tyne 1st 4th 6th Sportsman FC 4th Section N SigogneBob McKie of Blackhall Mill Newcastle Upon Tyne 1st 4th 6th Sportsman FC 4th Section N Sigogne

Taking 2nd Sportsman is the ever consistent Barrie Blackett at Butterknowle who timed his 3 year old Blue Hen which was sent sitting 10 day eggs. In her breeding is a mixture of his Queens Cup winner, his outstanding National Hen Jass blended in with various top Scottish loft bloodlines. Barrie also had the added excitement of using his brand new IPigeon ETS system for the first time but more of that later.

Barrie Blackett of Butterknowle 2nd & 5th Sportsman FC 5th Section N Sigogne pictured with Rod AdamsBarrie Blackett of Butterknowle 2nd & 5th Sportsman FC 5th Section N Sigogne pictured with Rod Adams

John & Steven Best at Stockton timed a 5 year old cock at 0746 on the Tuesday. Speaking to John before the race he was very confident that this single entry would do the journey having successfully flown the channel many times.

John & Steven Best 3rd Sportsman FC Sigogne NatJohn & Steven Best 3rd Sportsman FC Sigogne Nat

I timed my 2 year old Chequer Cock, Latte, at 7.10 am on the Wednesday to grab 4th Club. Sent feeding a 9 day baby his sire is Patrick Bros. when paired to a Jan Aarden hen bred by Peter Virtue.

Barrie Blackett, takes 5th Club with his second entry a 3 year old Blue Hen bred on similar lines to his first bird and sent feeding a 2 day baby.

Finally just before the race closed I got a third bird my yearling Red Hen called AA. This young hen was sent feeding an 8 day baby. She was previously 8th Section N from Messac (490 miles) 7 weeks earlier and given her calm demeanour and all round fitness I was convinced she would do the distance. Bred by my friend Alan Astin, at Carnforth, from his distance family was a critical factor in my decision to send AA. It will be interesting to see how she develops as a 2 year old.

Jeff Walton also timed just out of race time giving us a 33% return rate with hopefully a few more to drift in.

Vanrobaey Sponsorship

Your truly was the winner of the Vanrobaey race sponsorship prizes which included 2 bags of No. 56 and a range of products including Grit, Pickstones & HYP 1000. I must say that I find the Vanrobaey No 193 Non Stop and No 35 High Fat mixes excellent when preparing for the longer races.

National Racing in the North East

Whilst appreciating that for some years there has been a disappointing level of interest in National racing there is no doubt that we have seen some exciting results recently highlight what can be achieved when you set your mind to it. I have picked out a couple of examples to highlight this fact. The first being that of Ray & George Anderson of Washington who put up a brilliant performance in the NFC Sigogne National on the 22nd July taking 1st Section N, 47th Open flying 637 miles when they timed a 2 year old very early second morning recording a velocity of 1232 ypm with 2660 birds competing. This incredible performance from a bird which had earlier in the season won 1st Section N 491st Open in the Coutances National against more than 6500 birds. This has to be the stand out performance of the race not least as they were flying 240 miles further than the excellent Open winner of Roger Lowe of Reading which was doing 1325 ypm.

The second example is that of Mr & Mrs Brian Hicks of Murton. On the 26th July when flying in the BICC Bordeaux event a distance of 686 miles they timed a fantastic 3 year old early second morning (6.50 am) take 1st Section E and Provisionally 25th Open from 833 birds. The velocity was 1202 ypm this was despite some very adverse weather conditions on the English Channel where the wind was a strong West, South West coupled with intermittent heavy showers and thunder in the UK. Simply outstanding.

These performances were achieved by fanciers both dedicated and single minded in approach to long distance racing with of course top quality stock and management. They demonstrate to the North East fancier what can be achieved with hard work and I hope that this may encourage others to pick up the challenge.

IPigeon ETS

As I mentioned earlier Barrie Blackett is the first of our members to be using a new IPigeon ETS. There was a great deal of interest among members to find out how it compared with other more established systems. Like any new toy” there were some teething issues but overall Barrie was more than content with performance. I thought it was testing to set up (lots of cables) but once sorted everything went smoothly and efficiently. The ability to load a different manufacturers chip rings caused no problems and is certainly an added bonus.

Climate Change

By the time this article hits the press it will be August and the question is, will we be still experiencing the heat wave”? For many it is their first experience of such a long spell of continues high temperatures however for some like myself who can recall previous extended spells not least 1976 the difference is that this current spell is accompanied by high humidity and predominantly east winds. This combination is very unusual and clearly has an impact on our racing birds.

Data shows that over the last 10/15 years the Earth temperature has gradually being increasing year on year not least because of the greenhouse gas affect. Furthermore scientists are predicting that this trend will continue and the cause and effect cannot be reversed before 2050 but this will only happen if all Governments across the World get their act together in the fight against Global Warming.

From a personal perspective I believe that we cannot ignore the evidence and need to act now to ensure the welfare of our birds is protected. There are many who will disagree, some will bury their heads in the sand and many that will simply pay lip-service to the problem. However it is time to take positive steps to prepare pigeon racing for the changing environment, if we don’t and are found wanting we will inevitably face external pressures which may gain traction and result in racing being curtailed. There is no time to waste and much to do. For a start off the transporter standards and their associated issues needs a full review. Now this could lead to some painful decisions with serious financial implications yet gone are the days when it is acceptable to say we have always done it this way”. There is mounting evidence that complacency is no longer acceptable.

Best of luck to everyone with the coming young bird season.

July 3, 2018

Secretary’s Report

It is fair to say that across all organisations racing has been choppy. However for the avid distance flier June and July is the business end of racing and many will have nursed their main charges through early events hoping for a supreme effort in the main Nationals. Additionally one or two unexpected candidates will have pushed themselves into the frame and with extremely warm conditions forecast in late June and July there will be surprises. Wishing you all good fortune in the remaining old bird Nationals.

Ancenis National

With our members flying between 490 and 523 miles to Ancenis which really does test the calibre of our stock.

Marking took place on Wednesday the 13th when 44 birds were entered by 13 members which may seem low but this simply reflects the very tough national programme we have already experienced. Several lads remarked how birds continued to drift in from Messac with some carrying the odd injury indeed I have at least 4 latecomer’s all of which I suspect have sustained damage from overhead power cables. However their recovery rate is swift and hopefully they will carry no long term ill effects.


It was welcome news on the Saturday that the birds had been liberated at 6.10am in very favourable conditions at the front end of the race. Followers of Solar Activity/Magnometer data would have been aware of the weather frontal changes being predicted. Well this was certainly the case for the longer flying lofts in the top end of Section K and North East where we experienced thunder storms and prolonged heavy showers in the crucial final 60/70 miles. However it was no surprise when word came through that Jeff & Matthew Walton at Coxhoe had timed at 16.55 pm to win the Sportsman FC and their second Section N win in two weeks with a 2yo hen flying 509 miles & sitting 14 days eggs, Having only her second competitive race. She flew NFC Coutances four weeks ago. Her sire is from Peter Virtue of Cockburnspath & grandson of Virtue’s Pride 2010 SNRPC National winner & her dam is a Jos Thone’ hen via Brian Long flying 509 miles.

Close behind taking 2nd and 3rd positions in the Sportsman and Section N was yours truly, Bob Mckie at Chopwell with 2 celibate cocks at 17.26 & 17.45 pm flying 523 miles. (Longest flying loft in overall Open result) The first bird Timba a 4 year old Chequer Cock from the best of Brian Denney x Peter Virtue lines. Racing only in national events Timba has scored in 4 out of 5 races. I had actually set him up for Tarbes but 10 days before Ancenis he seemed very fresh with Hot Feet” and booked himself a ticket. My second bird, Virtue a Jan Aarden is a grandson of Virtue’s Pride another brilliant racer/breeder for Peter, the dam being bred by Patrick Bros. Virtue along with Timba will be prepared for Sigogne if they hold their form. My 3rd bird on the day is a son of the Driver x with another excellent Virtue stock hen & was 6th Club.

Bob McKie 2nd & 3rd Section N Ancenis pictured with Rod AdamsBob McKie 2nd & 3rd Section N Ancenis pictured with Rod Adams

In 4th club were Malcolm, Heslington & Jones of Wingate with a celibate hen that was previously 2nd Sportsman Coutances. These lads are having a cracking season winning the NE Greater Distance Club Le Mans race a couple of weeks ago with the Quiet Woman” the hen that was 1st Sportsman out of Coutances this year.

Taking 5th place we have Barrie Blackett from Butterknowle who timed at 18.23 pm. Barrie also had two early morning arrivals on the Sunday. Brian Caley from Framwellgate Moor takes 6th club timing at 20.29 pm

Barrie Blackett of Buttonknowle 5th Sportsman FC Ancenis pictured with Rod AdamsBarrie Blackett of Buttonknowle 5th Sportsman FC Ancenis pictured with Rod Adams

In the final analysis we had 7 birds home on the day from the 44 entered which after 3 nights in the crates was a great outcome. Several other members also recorded arrivals on the second day. Also in Section N Ray & George Anderson at Washington entered a strong team of 14 birds and take 4th Section N with another four good birds home on the day. Top flying all round.


Jeff & Matthew Walton win the £100 sponsorship prize from Paul Stobbs of Stonehaven Lofts fame in addition to taking the Vanrobaey Feeds prizes of corn (their new line of Lady Mix No 56) and a range of various products. These will be well received as Jeff is a firm advocate of Vanrobaeys Premium Power range of feeds. Many thanks again to both these generous sponsors.

Jeff Walton with some of his Vanrobaeys sponsorship for the Messac & Ancenis racesJeff Walton with some of his Vanrobaeys sponsorship for the Messac & Ancenis races

Peter Virtue

Peter lives in the delightful village of Cockburnspath which is situated on the east coast a few miles in front of Dunbar. He is another loyal supporter of the Sportsman donating young birds to our Annual Sale and I can say without fear of contradiction that with 15 National wins he is in the elite brigade of Scottish distance fanciers. Indeed there are many successful lofts across the UK using his bloodlines which can be traced back to the 1960’s. And it is fascinating to talk Doo’s with him, being a fountain of knowledge and straight talking. He believes in keeping loft management simple and retaining a keen eye on the team during exercise sessions. His bloodlines run through most of my own loft and the Sire of Jeff Walton’s 1st Section winner was bred at the Virtue establishment with the dam being a top quality Jos Thone hen. Furthermore this loft keeps on turning out winners, despite several breeding pairs of Peregrines living within a 10 miles radius of the lofts. Strikes are regular causing havoc with many top class birds having succumbed to their talons in recent years.

Up North Combine (UNC) Bourges 2018 / West Durham Amalgamation (WDA) Tours 2018

Over the weekend beginning Friday June 22nd these two North East Classic races from France took place. Both were difficult because of the extreme heat with reports of strong head winds over the continent and on the channel. Unfortunately returns on the day of liberation were thin and the 1st bird timed wins the UNC with 1360 birds entered. This brave little gladiator was in the clock at 19.59pm to the delight of its owner Eric Wilson at Hartlepool. Simply brilliant performance.

Sportsman club members Jim Nicholson and Ian Stafford & Mark Wilson both timed cracking birds early next morning taking strong top 10 positions in the Combine. Many congratulations to both lofts.

In the WDA from Tours it was a similar picture with only one gallant bird home on the day. This was timed at 9.22 pm at the loft of Dennis Mckenna at Esh Winning, Durham. Maurice Jenkins from Cockfield and another one of our members timed on the second day winning the Federation and a top 10 position in the WDA. Well done Maurice.

Annual Pay-out Night

Just a quick reminder to all members and friends of the club that our Prize presentation will take place on Wednesday the 16th October (Doors open 7pm)

June 19, 2018

Secretary’s Report

Messac National 2nd June

After a satisfactory first national from Coutances with good returns the expectation was that we would have an improved turn-out for Messac. However many of our members are big supporters of local Saturday clubs which unfortunately have experienced the most difficult start to a season for many years. Training opportunities have been restricted with races being cancelled because of the poor weather conditions. So many fanciers have been playing catch up and consequently the national events suffer.

When we gathered at the Toft Hill marking station on marking night 13 members rallied and we race marked just over 100 birds. The average race distance of our members being between 465 and 490 miles. As always there was much optimism about the race although some had reservations about the changing weather with a threat of thundery conditions. In the end this and an easterly wind were to prove very problematic over the final 150 miles into the North and another very tough race was endured.

Again the marking went smoothly and it was good to see the return of a couple of Carlisle (Section O) fliers in attendance. Everyone played their part in helping out and we soon had the crates loaded up and on the way to Sheffield where the NFC Transporter was parked up. Quickly transferred, there was time for a chat and a couple of photos with convoyer Barry Smith & driver Bob Stone before the lads were on the road back home. It was also confirmed that our birds would be freshly watered and given a light feed early Thursday morning before marking at Sheffield got under way. This is good to know given the time they are in the crates.

Race Day

I have to admit that several of our members were very surprised to learn not only that the birds had been liberated given the overall UK weather picture but that they went at 6am. Again I do not envy the Race Controllers who have to make these crucial decisions but as long as the welfare of our birds is factored into the process then we have to have confidence in their actions. As it turned out the race proved to be a tough affair with some outstanding birds clocked on the day. Certainly on reflection Sunday (pm) and Monday were no better indeed the weather was worse up here in the North East for racing.

Many congratulations to the Open winner Terry Luscombe in Plymouth whose winner managed to edge 1500ypm. And a big well done to all the Section winners.

Moving on to the Sportsman result where we had a much longer wait, yet in the final analysis there was less than a yard between the first two birds. Section N birds had to face extreme weather conditions for the last 120 miles of the race. Heavy rain, thunderstorms & poor visibility had to be faced by these gallant birds. Only five brave birds made it on the day. 1st & 4th Club & Section flying 477 miles were Jeff & Matthew Walton of Coxhoe with two Jos Thone’ hens, half sisters, same sire, who was a winner from Bourges 557 miles & is from a grandson of Sumo & a granddaughter of Poco. The section winner was on a six day old squab when going to the race. She had previously won 5th section Fougeres & 5th section Coutances OH in 2017 & is a granddaughter of Beer Sedna. Their second bird was sitting 14 day eggs & is a granddaughter of Jos’ Nightflyer. Both hens have been trained to 230 miles then into the NFC programme. John & Steven Best of Stockton were 2nd club & section with a 3yo roundabout cock bird flying 467 miles whose breeding is Starlight Melissa x Kruger Black Power. Brian Caley of Framwellgate Moor, a relatively new comer to the Sportsman and national racing won 3rd Club & section with a 3yo roundabout hen flying 482 miles bred from Sid Rushton & Billy Curry of Heworth stock x Brian’s own channel family. M/M Allan Walker of Stockton were 5th Club & section with a 4yo roundabout hen flying 465 miles bred from Billy Tarren x Chris Gordon stock. Very early Sunday morning Bob McKie of Chopwell probably the longest flier in overall race result had 7 arrivals. Flying 490 miles his first was a summer bred yearling hen trained to 50 miles and is a daughter of the Driver x Philippa (1st section Saintes 636 miles) 2nd bird a yearling red hen was bred by Alan Astin of Carnforth from his distance loft. 3rd bird a yearling hen is a Bruggman and G/D of Dave Impett’s brilliant racer Lee Star. Barrie Blackett of Butterknowle also had a couple of early arrivals. Overall returns were patchy because of the atrocious weather experienced in latter part of race with birds still drifting back 10 days later.

Walton & Son 1st & 4th Sportsman FC 1st & 4th Section N MessacWalton & Son 1st & 4th Sportsman FC 1st & 4th Section N Messac

Vanrobaeys Sponsorship

Jeff & Matthew Walton, in addition to being well pooled in the Section also win the Paul Stobbs sponsorship & the Vanrobaeys sponsorship including two bags of corn and a range of Vanrobaeys products. These will be well received as Jeff is a firm advocate of Vanrobaeys Premium Power range of feeds.

We now move on to the Open Ancenis National which will prove another big test. Let’s hope Mother Nature” will be more favourable for this event which is generously sponsored by Cornelia Long, The House of Aarden & Axholme lofts. Best of luck to all.

Tarbes Grand National 29th June

Just a quick reminder to all members that marking for the Tarbes Grand National race will take place at Toft Hill on Monday the 25th June between 6.30pm and 7.30pm.

Stop Press

Provisional winners of the NEHU Open Burbure race and Queens Cup flown Monday 11th June are Ian Stafford and Mark Wilson, members of the Sportsman FC.

Many congratulations lads from everyone at the Club.

June 4, 2018

Secretary’s Report

The Waiting Game

There are many aspects where your patience is really tested in national racing. I have said many times before that it is not a place for the feint hearted and whilst success can come early, for most it is very much a waiting game. If you’re to have any chance of success you need to carefully research your stock requirements, feeding regimes, training and race management plan. Developing a successful team of long distance national birds in the North East really does test your metal and your commitment can be pushed to the limit. One race with poor returns frequently dints enthusiasm and yet the high spots really do make it all worthwhile.

During the long winter months you can study your breeding and map out pre-race training plans but you will also need mother nature” on your side. And as we all know this has not been the case this season with the first few weeks of the 2018 racing being fraught with ups and downs”. Racing has been badly affected across the UK and many fanciers have found themselves short on training through no fault of their own with many birds not getting the necessary hours on the wing. It is clear from recent race results that entry levels have been well down so it was no surprise when the NFC also felt the pinch for the Coutances National. However the marked improvement in weather conditions 3 weeks preceding the national probably lessened the blow because our members mustered around 6500 entries which was very encouraging considering all factors.

Toft Hill Marking Station

When Sportsman members gathered at our new Marking Station on Wednesday the 16th May there was a great atmosphere with several new members in attendance. The average distance from Coutances to our lofts is 390 miles and as an excellent pipe opener for the rest of the National programme.

We had 24 members sending around 200 birds, which were race marked crates sealed and loaded by 7pm and on their way to Sheffield where they were transferred to the NFC Transporter by 9.30pm. This gave them plenty of time to settle down for the night. Followers of the club will know that our birds have to spend an extra night in the crates, it is therefore key when preparing them that you consider adjusting your feeding regime to compensate for this.

John Best with the NFC team at the Sheffield marking station loading the birds - Take note of the built-in watering systemJohn Best with the NFC team at the Sheffield marking station loading the birds - Take note of the built-in watering system

Once marking is finished I often wonder what thought or imagination individual fanciers exercise about the challenges facing their birds both in the crates and on their journey home. And more importantly what is the psychological condition of the birds-are they calm, will they water and feed ok during the journey, is their motivation in balance. Have we done enough to ensure they are ready for the arduous fly home and hope they avoid predators and wires? Let’s face it we really have no idea what perils our charges will endure and if you’re like me you are always delighted to see them arriving home safely.

Race Outcome (Provisional result)

When word came through that the birds were up at 7.15am the forecast looked really promising with a warm day predicted. However the temperature was much higher than expected yet overall the conditions were good and the general opinion was 8 to 9 hours should see the leading birds reaching the lofts of our members. It was no surprise when word came through that the in-form partnership of Malcolm, Heslington and Jones at Wingate had timed 2 birds at 15.53 and 16.04 pm. (Vel.1333 & 1304 ypm) Flying 392 miles their first birds were both celibate hens. Well done lads 1st and 2nd Sportsman and a great start to the national season.

Then Bob Mckie at Chopwell flying 406 miles timed a couple of Bruggman birds from his Dave Impett stock at 16.24 & 16.33 pm to take 3rd Sportsman.

The ever consistent loft of McSween & Sexton take 4th with a 2 year old Chequer Hen bred by Nick Adshead of Selby.

We then have Alf Fellows one of our new members flying at Ferryhill timing at 16.03pm flying 390 miles. (Vel. 1299 ypm) Alf sent 3 full sisters and had all birds back in good order.

Several members had their clocks checked including John Fellows, Jim Nicholson, Brian Caley, Jeff Walton, Tom Cuthbertson & McWilliam, Thurlow, Strong, Fisher & McCluskey, Brian Wiemer, Barrie Blackett, Brian Caley and Ken Dodds our longest flier at 410 miles out at Hexham.

Overall returns were good with the odd exception.


Gary Heslington of Malcolm Heslington & Jones with some of their Vanrobaeys sponsorship for the Coutances raceGary Heslington of Malcolm Heslington & Jones with some of their Vanrobaeys sponsorship for the Coutances race

Malcolm, Heslington & Jones win the Vanrobaey race sponsorship prize which includes 2 Bags of their No 56 and a range of products including a 10 kilo tub of grit, pickstones etc.

Interestingly enough many of our members now use Vanrobaey Feeds with their Premium Power range of corns regarded as ideal for national racing.

NFC Website

Unfortunately due to problems outside of the NFC control we were not able to enjoy the fun of seeing how the race was developing via the leader board. Nevertheless it was great to feel the excitement once again of racing against some of the best lofts in the UK. Hopefully everything will be OK for the Messac National.

Social Media

This is a very powerful tool when used in a constructive and positive manner. However it can also be very destructive and harmful to our sport if users lose sight of protocol and forget that the rest of the world is only a click away.

Whist individuals may be passionate about the sport we all need to exercise a degree of caution when hitting the keyboard. Thankfully we are all free to express our personal opinion and criticise the establishment by utilising social media. But not everyone is hooked on this communication channel indeed probably far less than 50% insofar as pigeon fanciers are concerned. We must therefore endeavour to work harder in an attempt to engage more of our members. But and this cannot be over stated remember whatever medium we choose there are organisations out there looking for an edge” as a way of curbing the sport of racing pigeons. Animal Rights Groups are alive and kicking we are firmly in their sights under the banner of protecting animal welfare so please be careful what you say.

Finally if you have any ideas or proposals for improving the NFC please do something about it. Submit these to the NFC Secretary for consideration and copy me in and I will follow them up.

Bob Mckie/Jeff Walton

M. 07828961442


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