December 14, 2019

Sportsman FC Presentation Night

The club held its annual prize presentation at the Sportsman in Toft Hill on Wednesday 23rd October. Our main guest Peter Virtue made the long journey down from Scotland along with his good friend Duncan Knox to be with us. Both have a long association with the Scottish National Racing Pigeon Club (SNRPC) and are very active in the national racing. Peter has developed a family of birds which excel at the distance and has amassed 13 National wins. Duncan is also a previous National winner and is the Press Officer for the SNRPC. We also had the pleasure of having Mrs Hazel Gaskill and her grandson Liam join us for the evening. This was especially poignant as it was 10 years to the week that her late husband George called the inaugural meeting of the Sportsman club which now has well over 40 members.

Chairman Jeff Walton got the night underway promptly, introducing the guests and offering a warm welcome to everyone. Jeff went through some of the season’s highlights and thanked the many sponsors and supporters of the club including, Paul Stobbs, Vanrobaey Feeds, Terry Knox, Mr and Mrs Harry Crowther. There was also a special mention for our hosts Belle and John who really do look after us during the year making us feel welcome.

The Chairman kicked off the prize presentation by asking Mrs Gaskill and her grandson Liam to present the much coveted George Gaskill Memorial Trophy to Bob Mckie winner of the Cholet National.

Then Peter Virtue came forward and addressed the audience saying how delighted he was to be invited. Describing how he always followed the clubs progress in the pigeon press adding how tough it was to compete in the NFC when flying so far North. Peter was full of praise for the winners and urged Sportsman members to keep going as he was confident that one day an Open winner would emerge from our midst.

First up to the table were Ian & Lyn Carter from Middlesbrough who gained a 4th club & section in a testing Fougeres National where returns were desperately poor. Unfortunately, the rest of their season was a bit patchy because of a pending house move. I understand they are now settled in their new home and a new Eco loft has been erected and everything is being geared to the 2020 season. Best wishes are sent to Lyn who could not make event.

It was then the turn of Brian Hopper and Son from the small village of Greenside to come forward having scored an excellent 2nd club 2nd Section N from Messac. These lads moved their lofts last year and had only a capful of birds to compete with but still achieved some excellent Channel results. So, beware Sportsman members as many years ago I flew against Brian’s grandfather Bill Taylor who scored many fine victories at the distance and they plan to emulate his achievements.

Our hardworking Chairman Jeff Walton & Son from Coxhoe was next up after winning a 2nd and 5th club & 2nd and 7th section Cholet. This has been quiet year for him and his son Matthew who does a great job hosting the club website. However, there is no doubt that blending their Jos Thone/Peter Virtue bloodlines will bring the loft back into future contention and success.

It was then the turn of Allan and Carol Walker from Stockton who in the last few years have quietly acquired some top distance bloodlines. They are big supporters of the National Flying Club and Sportsman and this year they won 3rd club & section from the difficult Fougeres National, following this up with a strong 4th club & 8th section Sigogne and an excellent 2nd club & section Coutances Old hens. There is much more to come from this loft which is improving year on year.

There was then a big applause as Barrie Blackett from Butterknowle stepped up to collect his prizes and the Owen Shaw Trophies cup. An exceptional distance flier Barrie has created his own chaos” system and exploits it with great effect in both Saturday and National racing especially with his yearlings. He won 1st and 2nd Sportsman & section from Fougeres, winning the sponsorship prize of £50 from Mr & Mrs Harry Crowther. Barrie also won 4th club 5th section Cholet as well as winning £140 for being runner up in the Messac Show Race. I want to say a big thank you to Barrie for his unstinting support to the clock committee where he looks after all our ETS.

Last season’s top prize winners were next to the table, Dave McSween & Jim Sexton from Sunderland. They won 5th club & section Messac, 3rd club & 7th section Sigogne, 3rd club & section Coutances Old Hens and finally another outstanding 1st & 2nd club & section in the Coutances Young bird National. Every year these lads set their young bird team up for this national which is over 400 miles to their lofts. They have consistently hit the mark and I know they will be trying even harder in 2020. Also many lofts are flying well with their birds including the very successful Tom Williams in Orpington, Kent. Tom has achieved many fine performances in both the NFC & BICC in recent years flying no more than 12 cocks on widowhood with their best bloodlines.

Next up, our hardworking Secretary/Treasurer Bob Mckie from Blackhall Mill, who was Joint winner of the Averages by taking 1st and 3rd Club & section Cholet, scooping the Paul Stobbs £100 sponsorship prize. Then 1st 2nd and 5thClub, 4th, 6th & 9th section Sigogne. Timba a 5 year old Cheq Cock who won Cholet race was runner up Bird of the Year.

Finally, it was the turn of Brian Wiemer & Son from Hartlepool to step forward. Joint winners of the Averages winning 1st, 3rd & 4th club & section Messac and picking up £210 for winning the club Show Race. In the Coutances Old Hens race they were back on top winning 1st, 4th & 5th club & section from Coutances Old Hens. Their winner achieved the highest open position of the season in the club when taking 94th Open. Their 3 year old Mealy hen winner from Messac was also unanimously voted Bird of the Year.

Bouquets of flowers were presented to Mrs Gaskill and Belle before everyone enjoyed another great buffet provided by our hosts.

I must make a special mention and offer our thanks to Kevin Winter who was also with us for the evening. Kevin was the judge of our Messac Show race back in February and what an excellent job he did. Kevin kindly donated a basket full of Pigeon products/supplements which were raffled during the evening and the lucky winner was Tom Cuthbertson. This was a popular results as Tom is a hardworking member of the club who timed out of the difficult Tarbes race but just out of time. Thanks again Kevin your generosity is much appreciated.

As usual the crack was good and during the evening Garry Heslington auctioned a small number of lots presented by this year’s club winners. Thanks to those members who pledged the auction lots and best wishes to all the buyers.

Although the turnout this year was a tad disappointing, everyone I spoke to thoroughly enjoyed the evening and were already thinking about next season.

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