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    Donnelly Brothers - The Indestructible Winners

The formidable partnership of Richard and John Donnelly (Donnelly Bros) Newry City winners of 27 x 1st NIPA Opens.

Harry McKeown Treasurer of the Glenavy & District HPS pictured with Glenavy Gold Ring Winner Richard Donnelly of the Donnelly Brother partnership included also in the photo is Stefan of Versa Laga Pigeon Corns.

Young Richard Donnelly must have had sore legs after the NIPA Ladies Night just past in November seen here lifting just one of the many awards won by his father Richard and uncle John.
“Champion Scarecrow” winner of 3 x 1st NIPA Opens and 6 x R.P.R.A. Awards
“Pin Point” Champion Y/B In the Massive NIPA 2005 also RPRA Y/B Performer of the Year in Ireland and England in 2005, Winner of 1st Open NIPA and a host of other prominent prizes

Donnelly Brothers - The Indestructible Winners

Richard and John Donnelly of the Newry City Invitation in Northern Ireland, winners of 27 x 1st NIPA Open’s with birdage often topping the 28,000 mark! NIPA Section G Fancier of the Year 9 x Times! Northern Ireland Fanciers of the Year 3 x Times! Add to that countless Club, Federation and NIPA Section Wins, and I mean Countless. In 2007 the brothers sent to all four races from Talbenny in South Wales including O/Birds and Y/Birds, they topped the Club, Section and Federation from them all, not sure if that has been done before in Northern Ireland, and this was just one of the many reasons why these brothers merited a visit from myself.

Knowing beforehand that the family own and run a very substantial and successful farm in Newry City over looking a glorious view of the picturesque Mourne Mountains, I thought it wise to make prior arrangements to meet up with them rather than as I usually do just arrive, think I was more worried about arriving unexpected and getting one of the many delightful jobs that you would find around a 140 acre farm. (My mucking out skills weren’t called upon thank goodness) although I got some what anxious when John started a conversation with Richard as to whether I required Wellington Boots before going down to see the Birds. Must have been the Turkeys he was talking about because the lofts, which were many, were also immaculate.

With many lofts yes come many birds, but knowing the record that John and Richard have you would expect many pigeons, leave out the multiple Club Winners, just think about the amount of Federation, Section and Open Winners, never mind the many unlucky ones, finishing 2nd, 3rd or 4th Open in the NIPA beating some 25,000 other pigeons which as you would expect with such a prolific winning portfolio you always have many of the unlucky ones. (I would take just a couple of the unlucky ones any year).

John was the first of the two brothers to be talked and encouraged into this magnificent sport by Alfie Magill, a legend within the County Down town of Dromore. He would have been at the Donnelly’s farm on many occasions delivering lorry loads of feed for the farm animals and built up a friendship so strong that Alfie actually assisted in the building of John’s first loft, a loft still standing to this day 29 years later and now housing many of the modern day Champions, including the immortal “Champion Scarecrow” a winner of 3 x 1st NIPA Opens and the very first pigeon I handled during my visit.

Firstly to run a farm the size that the Donnelly’s own assisted by their father Ray is not easy with many early starts and late nights, then when you see the vast array of lofts and the guts of 250 to 300 pigeons you can only start to imagine what a weeks work load is. These lofts are scrapped twice per day most of the time but guaranteed to be once a day at least pending on other work pressures. This is very evident by the very high standard of the pigeons, I handled a lot and as I commented to the brothers you tend to handle a lot of pigeons in my game as a scribe but never before have I handled so many at one location that were all faultless, the sheer silkiness in the hand, the complete health of the inner mouth and complete over all appearance would have had the worlds best judges working for hours trying to select the best eight.

I won’t even attempt it just some of the Stars placed before me included :- “Champion Scarecrow” winner of 3 x 1st NIPA Opens and 6 x R.P.R.A. Awards, “Pin Point” Champion Y/B In the Massive NIPA 2005 also RPRA Y/B Performer of the Year in Ireland and England in 2005, Winner of 1st Open NIPA and a host of other prominent prizes, “Little Duck” 2 x 1st NIPA Opens also winner of 2 x RPRA Awards, “Northwest” Sire of 5 x 1st NIPA Open Winners and many other top NIPA Prize Winners, “Master Timer” winner of 2 x NIPA Opens and Sire and G/Sire to NIPA Open Winners, “Nightmare” Winner of 1st Open Talbenny Y/B National and now the dam of 2 x Gold Ring Winners, “Cynthie” 3 x times France and 3 x times Penzance always in the money, “Lucky” 3 x times France and dam of a host of winners including 1st Open Penzance Classic, 1st Open Mallow and 5th Open Yearling National, “Champion Awkward” 1st Section G, 1st Open NIPA Pilmore Beach 26,000 pigeons and 5th Open NIPA Mallow Five Bird both results achieved in 2007, “No Norman” 1st Open NIPA Tramore 25,000 pigeons he is a son of “Northwest”, “Alan’s Choice” winner of 2nd Open, 3rd Open, 9th Open etc and sire of “Champion Scarecrow” 3 x 1st Open NIPA, “Visa” 6th Open Yearling National and now dam of 7th Open Portland O/B National, “555” 9th Open Yearling National and 2nd Section G Rosscarbery Y/B National. “Classical Lad” 1st Open Penzance Classic, “Golden Eyes” 1st Open Glenavy Gold Ring Race, “Blue” Winner of 2 x NIPA Opens Sire, G/Sire and G/G/Sire to countless winners including in 2007 1st Section G, 4th Open NIPA Talbenny.

The list of Champions is endless far longer than my memory, although I think I did ok with the ones listed above.

The incredible bit of this particular part of the story is that one pigeon is involved in all of the above named pigeons namely “G2” Grondelaer/Geerts hence the name “G2” now this pigeon was bought at the Clearance sale of the legendry W V Troughten of Bleary which was held at the Glenavy Protestant Hall in 1990 one of twelve that the brothers bought that day, and how handsomely it has repaid the brothers faith. The pigeon itself was a winner as a Y/Bird prior to the Clearance Sale scoring from Tramore finishing 8th Open with some 20,270 pigeons competing and went on the following week in fine form to finish 2nd Open NIPA Skibbereen Y/B Derby, National as its known now with 5,504 pigeons competing beat to 1st Open by a loft mate. Ever since the rest is history for this Dark Cheq Cock will go down in the record books as probably one of the best ever breeders in the World. Sire, G/Sire and G/G/Sire and more importantly G/G/G/Sire to 27 x 1st NIPA Opens Winners, absolutely incredible. There are very few around the World with a record like that, yes you will come across a few that are responsible for that amount of 1st Prize Winners but they are not beating 20,000 plus pigeons every time.

The lofts which are many are also varying in style and design, no fancy stuff or state of the art mod cons I might add just bone dry and immensely clean with varying levels of ventilation pending on the size of the loft construction, amount of sections, shape of the roof should it be pitched, tiled or sloped you will find it all here. Health is very important to the Brothers as far as the pigeons are concerned, their mind set is geared for that every minute of the day, with a lot of just common sense approaches and a bit of hard work, I must add that the birds are fed and watered twice per day all year round and even with the close season I struggled to find a pigeon carrying access weight.

Breeding of the annual generation of Champions normally commences around mid January starting with the race teams, the Widowhood pairs will rear one round and are expected to do so up until weaning which is around the 25 day mark. They will then sit the second round of eggs for seven days which will spell the beginning of another season’s hard work for the prize winning team consisting of around 24 Cocks and 24 Hens. John and Richard also dabble at the Roundabout and Natural Systems which gives them a varying amount of form at different times of the year which is handy for the specialist affairs, for instance “Scarecrow” a winner of 3 x NIPA Opens was raced on the Widowhood System but yet for instance this years Open winner from Pilmore Beach for the brothers was yet a Cock raced on the Roundabout System. This is something I am starting to find with a lot of the successful fanciers, they are all peddling at this Roundabout system, all claiming of course that it is nothing new or special not discounting them in any way, but you would have to admit that with more and more fanciers opting for roundabout rather than the Widowhood System a system that has been practiced for many years by the Worlds best fanciers this new era of Award winning fanciers now opting for the Roundabout method once more would lead me to believe that they have found that extra dimension to make this but old system, now popular once again.

Young Birds would number around the 100 mark with around half of those put onto the Darkness System which sees the lofts darkened around 5.00pm at night until 8.00am in the morning. Opting for an extensive education the Y/Birds start their training programme always around the 3rd week of May starting around the three mile mark but this is obviously very dependent on previous weather conditions and if the birds are ranging far enough. An extensive education continues up until the first race when the tossing would ease down to around a couple to three times per week from a distance of 25 miles. They would be expected to attack the skies around the mountainous terrene twice per day for around one hour, with all areas of the country like this you are always prone to attacks from Hawks and many a year the Donnelly’s are blighted with that very problem. With Newry now viewed as an Ariel route that the mass of race birds cross on a competitive occasion its only common sense that the competitors would choose to toss the birds on the line of flight and this also has to be taken into account during the education of the Y/Birds, as at an early age they could very well be dragged away by one of the many large daily batches that cross the skies above the Donnelly Brothers Y/B lofts. Feeding and supplements are very simple but yet ample according to Richard, they are very concerned about the rising tide of Y/B Sickness in this country which was probably at its highest levels to date in 2007, it did seem to take its time in 2007 before rearing its ugly head but this would have been greatly helped by the fear factor within the pigeon fancy that seen fanciers have the choice of using their own crate at the Club up until the later part of the Y/B season then as we progressed through the middle of the race programme birds finally were mixed up within the crates, then we had a holdover and bang the problems started. Richard and John have had it like so many other fanciers but think they now have the problem resolved, again Richard puts it down to observations and treating them with first of all some good Natural alternatives, which will work if caught in time, Bill Cowell who scribes under the name of Bilco in the BHW has come up with a Natural Cure called ‘Xerek’ it has a very high rate of success so much so the Dazer International now package and distribute the product for Bilco. I myself as a scribe was very impressed with the reports from fanciers and have opted to now stock this product for anybody who needs it in Ireland very quickly you can be assured 2008 will be no better.

Richard Donnelly does feel that the panic factor forces many to the point of desperation often changing Natural Cures or even Antibiotics to soon without running the directed time scale and with an Antibiotic being used you must then use a Pro Biotic to build up the pigeons inner defences that have been torn apart because this is a very common thing with fanciers, the birds seem to turn the corner so the fancier stops using the Antibiotic doesn’t give a Pro Biotic and then bang within a day or two you are worse than ever with the problem from then on its down hill.

Natural feeding is the preferred choice for the Donnelly’s with the Breeding Mixture used for that particular part of the year, as for the racing both O/Birds and Y/Birds are fed the same that being Depurative and Widowhood Mixture, this again is fed very similar to many fanciers a combination of both with depurative taking a progressional back seat as the week progresses and more so as the distance increases and paying particular attention to the wind conditions on any particular race weekend. Both brothers openly admit that feeding is very important not so much the brand but how it is dispatched. Not every two pigeons will require the same amount of corn, you can have big broad bodied pigeons and have thin apple shaped pigeons, they certainly won’t require the same level of feeding, and this is where the observation aspect comes into it.

All Widowhood pigeons are fed in their own boxes twice per day as much as they want of what is being given to them at any one time, the feeding of the youngsters is exactly the same although it is communal feeding in the hopper. Supplements are very few, John and Richard don’t buy into this fancy packaging and great statements of what these products can do for your pigeons, they even opt to feed the same vitamins to the pigeons that the Turkeys get on the Farm Richard explained they were far cheaper than the Commercial packaged ones and of course going by the results, who can argue. Hormoform is used mixed with some Red Band and a few pea nuts as a supplement at times. Indeed I recall a couple of the Donnelly birds winning the Harkers Hormoform Bird of the Year a few seasons back. Both O/Birds and Y/Birds on a return from a race would be fed a higher protein mixture that would have already been coated with Garlic Oil and have had a sprinkling of Brewers Yeast on the top, the water fountains would only see, Pure Garlic, Cider Vinegar or plain water within any seven day week.

The Y/Birds are vaccinated on leaving the nest, and all the race teams are treated for Canker three times per year, before racing, the middle of the racing season and at the end of the racing season. Many of the treatments used are Has Van Der Sluis of Holland. No other medicines are given unless the brothers would see a problem but before treatment they would seek professional opinion.

Richard always reverts back to the health issue and he adamantly quotes “keep the lofts dry, clean and most of all the water fountains have to be clean, you can have the best birds in the world have the best system in the world and feed the best products in the world but unless you have 100% health your wasting your time and money”.

I have as I always do spend hours researching the last couple of years results, below you will see just the Section and Open positions won by John and Richard the list is excluding the many 1st Club’s and countless North/South Federation success’s.

Donnelly Bros Newry City Inv

2006 O/B :- 22nd April Thurles 2nd, 4th and 21st Section G 119/2,592, 107th and 137th Open NIPA 1208/27,075; 5th May Yearling Hens National 5th Section G, 57th Open NIPA 268/967; 20th May Pilmore Beach 2nd and 7th Section G 111/2,061, 6th and 39th Open NIPA 1,087/19,598; 27th May Talbenny (1) 2nd, 4th, 8th, 11th and 16th Section G 105/1,441, 14th, 24th, 36th, 47th and 66th Open NIPA 1,075/14,998; 3rd June Thurles 4th, 19th and 41st Section G 69/740, 8th, 59th and 162nd Open NIPA 634/7,131; 3rd June Talbenny (2) 5th, 6th, 14th, 20th, 21st, 36th and 43rd Section G 98/1,111, 23rd, 27th, 57th, 83rd, 85th and 152nd Open NIPA 989/11,205; 3rd June Sennen Cove 3rd, 5th and 7th 89/845, 47th, 65th and 132nd Open NIPA 932/8,839; 10th June Bude 9th, 19th, 24th and 26th Section G 85/791, 138th Open NIPA 913/8,868; 10th June Mallow Five Bird 3rd and 17th Section G 67/273, 83rd Open NIPA; 17th June Sennen Cove 2nd, 3rd and 5th Section G, 25th, 36th and 74th Open NIPA; 23rd June St Malo O/B National 5th Section G 49/128, 83rd Open NIPA 549/1,792.

2006 Y/B :- 5th August Thurles 13th, 26th and 30th Section G 106/2,545, 56th, 125th and 145th Open NIPA 1078/25,456; 12th August Fermoy 3rd, 25th, 27th and 37th Section G, 21st, 157th and 161st Open 1036/22,489; 19th August Pilmore Beach 10th and 15th Section G 81/1,580, 32nd and 45th Open NIPA 843/14,890; 26th August Tullamore 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th Section G 46/1,060, 4th, 6th, 7th, 10th and 15th Open NIPA 550/10,235; 3rd September Fermoy 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 19th and 26th Section G 70/1,171, 17th, 29th, 34th, 37th, 117th and 155th Open 718/10,713; 3rd September Fermoy 5 Bird 1st and 2nd Section G 39/164, 6th and 10th 293/1,247; 9th September Rosscarbery Y/B National 3rd, 6th and 13th Section G 46/322, 29th, 58th, 108th and 183rd Open NIPA 515/3,824; 16th September Thurles 4th and 29th Section G 21/278, 120th Open NIPA 358/4,151.

2006 Irish National Flying Club :- Skibbereen North O/B National 20th Open 359/2,355; Sennen Cove Yearling National 9th Open 859/3,804; Vannes Kings Cup 110th Open 675/2,163; Portland Friendship National 7th and 74th Open 371/1,740; Sennen Cove Old Hens National 9th Open 95/324; Sennen Cove Y/B National 50th Open 440/1,791; Skibbereen North Y/B National 90th Open 401/3,047.

2007 O/B :- 21st April Tullamore 5th Section G 114/2,347, 13th Open NIPA 1,192/25,350; 28th April Roscrea 10th, 11th, 14th, 23rd, 30th and 32nd Section G 125/2,905; 5th May Clonmel 5th, 37th and 40th Section G 126/3,033, 111th Open NIPA 1,277/28,928; 12th May Pilmore Beach 1st, 3rd and 25th Section G 121/2,838, 1st, 4th and 58th Open NIPA 1,214/26,056; 20th May Rosscarbery O/B National 11th, 17th and 18th 70/612, 76th, 109th and 111th Open NIPA 862/6,762; 26th May Pilmore Beach (2) 3rd, 6th, 19th and 35th Section G 118/2,566, 6th, 17th, 60th and 102nd Open NIPA 1,191/24,862; 4th June Talbenny (1) 1st, 16th, 28th and 31st Section G 98/1,230, 2nd Open NIPA 1,031/13,659; 6th June Yearling Cocks National 9th Section G 36/169, 76th Open NIPA 319/1,268; 9th June Talbenny (2) 1st and 25th Section G 78/796, 4th Open NIPA 850/8,300; 9th June Roscrea 25th and 31st Section G 61/735, 34th and 43rd Open NIPA 529/5,920; 17th June Talbenny (3) 1st, 13th and 15th Section G 70/533, 2nd, 75th and 82nd Open NIPA 656/5,514; 17th June Mallow Five Bird 5th Section G, 6th and 181st Open NIPA 534/2272; 23rd June Sennen Cove 11th, 17th and 21st Section G 78/698, 28th, 57th and 71st Open NIPA 798/7,911; 28th June Lamballe O/B National 6th and 10th Section G 50/151, 32nd and 91st Open NIPA 513/1,518.

2007 Y/B :- 28th July Tullamore 6th,7th, 12th and 15th Section G, 6th, 8th, 27th and 32nd Open NIPA 209/5,422; 12th August Roscrea 3rd, 5th and 10th Section G 105/2,806, 7th, 11th and 18th Open NIPA 1,061/26,474 Birds; 19th August Clonmel 1st,8th, 20th and 22nd Section G 91/2,556, 1st, 15th, 82nd and 84th Open NIPA 969/23,014; 25th August Pilmore Beach 2nd, 19th, 21st, 25th and 28th Section G 88/2,047, 4th, 74th, 81st, 90th and 100th Open NIPA 846/16,880; 1st September Talbenny Y/B National 1st, 7th, 8th, 12th and 16th Section G 53/274, 16th, 42nd, 50th, 95th and 146th Open NIPA 582/3,420; 1st September Tullamore 2nd and 6th Section G 23/483, 65th and 97th Open 421 members sending 8,219 Birds; 8th September Fermoy 2nd, 8th, 11th, 14th 22nd, 25th, 26th, 32nd, 39th and 42nd Section G 70/1,120, 15th, 45th, 52nd, 67th and 132nd Open NIPA 715/11,440; 8th September Fermoy Five Bird 9th Section G, 54th Open NIPA 327/1,369 Birds; 15th September Rosscarbery Y/B National 1st, 14th, 17th and 20th Section G 42/343, 16th, 108th, 177th and 196th Open NIPA 536/4,143 Birds.

With success always you will have jealousy, just not in the sport of pigeon racing but in every aspect of life, when one in life is better than the other in what ever area of living life you seek to look. I know their has been no other loft maybe with the exception of one that has had more drug tests carried out on their pigeons than the Donnelly Brothers of Newry City. It went one stage further in 2007 when the partnerships clock was removed for testing along with clocks belonging to fellow members of the Newry City Club, an episode that has hurt the respect and the love of the pigeon game once held by the brothers. I must point out that of all the tests carried out on the pigeons and more recently the Clocks everything was found to be above board and no irregularities were found. But I know if it happened to me I would be greatly annoyed, little chance of that happening in the immediate future because I don’t have those many hours and dedication that the Donnelly Brothers put into their pigeons, I for one except that, even when you do put the hours and hours of Dedication and Time into pigeons it still isn’t a level playing field no sport is, because even when your at the top you improve to stay at the top because the people behind will be trying to improve to get your top spot if you stand still in the furore of success for two long then your beat. Richard and John Donnelly are in the sport of pigeon racing a very long time and have learned many painful lessons, it was only after years of those painful mistakes that they learnt and have improved hence were they are today at the top of Irish Pigeon Racing Scene.

I enjoyed my Sunday afternoon at “Home Farm Lofts” just outside Newry City and look forward to reporting on many more years of successful competition from one of the top partnerships currently in Europe today. Many thanks to the Ladies of the house, who treated me with great hospitality.

Adie McCormick
Ireland’s Own Pigeon Auctions
Tel (028) 92604778
Mobile 07835709877

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