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Pigeon Racing Into Ireland
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A Introduction

The sport of pigeon racing in Ireland of whatever distance contrary to opinion has a long history involving the old Scottish and Irish routes, and pioneers like John Carroll and the Dalys in Dublin. One of the Daly's, Christy, went into partnership with a Scottish born fancier Stewart Cant and this partnership became the first to fly 500 miles from the continent into the city of Dublin in 1932. And as Belfast was the centre of the linen industry the men who traded linen with Belgium, like Putman and Barker, gave Belfast a headstart in the sport. Initially, the racing was confined within a circle running through Dundalk, Monaghan and Omagh, in the days when pigeons still flew the post to Rathlin Island. In fact in the 1880s in the city of Cork pigeon racing was well organised and pioneering members of the Cork Homing Union in the nineteen twenties of the last century were working to organise races from various points in Scotland. Since then the sport of pigeon racing has come a long way. The sport of pigeon racing in Ireland of whatever distance contrary to opinion has a long history involving the old Scottish and Irish routes, and pioneers like John Carroll and the Dalys in Dublin. One of the Daly's, Christy, went into partnership with a Scottish born fancier Stewart Cant and this partnership became the first to fly 500 miles from the continent into the city of Dublin in 1932. And as Belfast was the centre of the linen industry the men who traded linen with Belgium, like Putman and Barker, gave Belfast a headstart in the sport. Initially, the racing was confined within a circle running through Dundalk, Monaghan and Omagh, in the days when pigeons still flew the post to Rathlin Island. In fact in the 1880s in the city of Cork pigeon racing was well organised and pioneering members of the Cork Homing Union in the nineteen twenties of the last century were working to organise races from various points in Scotland. Since then the sport of pigeon racing has come a long way.

A northern fancier, Nelson Corry, believed that the key to its progress was the move from rail to road.Corry once wrote: "I well remember advocating road transport at the time when the railways did not want pigeon club business and gave our organisations a very raw deal. As road transport became a fact, I predicted, rightly as it turned out, that it would revolutionise the sport. Now, almost every town and village has a pigeon club." At the time of writing this piece the author may have been influenced by the healthy state of the sport in the north- east of the island, especially the reference to every town and village; it could not be said, however, to be the case throughout the rest of the country, although the growth beyond Dublin in recent decades is welcomed even to the extent of being organised in the far west of the island (the City of Galway); and as seen by the continuing success of southern fanciers in the south road national competitions. Obviously this growth will benefit the Irish racing fraternity as a whole for as with the best pigeons we need new blood.

The Beginnings

Before the advent of the national flying clubs the south road races from the European mainland were run under the auspices of a northern based Irish Combine. The last Irish Combine winner in 1947 was Mrs.E.E. Frazer of Antrim and the race was from Le Bourget in France. The first Combine winner was R.Hawthorn of Ligoniel in 1932 from Le Sables. Incidentally the
runner ups from the latter race were the Dublin based partnership of Daly and Cant.

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Irish Combine Winners:

1932 Le Sables R.Hawthorn, Ligoniel
1933 Le Sables E.A.Robinson, Shawsbridge
1934 Redon J.McGugan, Belfast
1935 Laval F.W. Pelan, Lambeg
1936 Rennes J.McCormick, Lurgan
1937 Redon E.A.Robinson, Shawsbridge
1938 Redon McBride & Brown,Belfast
1939 Redon F.R.Best, Lurgan
~~~
1943 Penzance J.Smith, Belfast
~~~
1946 Guernsey S.Mayberry, Antrim
1947 Le Bourget Mrs. E.E. Frazer,Antrim.

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The northern based INFC was not the only national club to be formed at the time of the demise of the Irish Combine for the southern based INFC (North Road) held its first national race in 1949 although then it was known as the Eire National Flying Club. Initially the membership of the ENFC was restricted to southern fanciers but based upon demands from northerners to fly the northern route the latter club was extended to the island as a whole.

The first race under the control of the INFC (South Road) was from Rennes in 1948.The winner of this race was Sammy Robinson of Belfast with his Duchess of Darkness.This being the first Irish (South Road) National proper.

Under the auspices of the northern based national body Irish pigeons have been raced (at least) since 1948 from Rennes 17 times; Le Sables 7 times; Nantes 11 times; Redon 9 times; St.Nazaire once; St Malo 3 times; Rheims once and Messac twice.

There was also 2 races from Lerwick, 2 from Thurso; 3 from Sartilly; and twice Jersey. The slowest velocity recorded was the first national proper, 515 yards per minute; whereas the highest velocity was 1526 y.p.m. by the winner of the Rennes National in 1977, for G.Lyons of Lisburn. The difficulty of the route is reflected in that of the approximately 60 races races held since the formation of the INFC for the King's Cup only approximately 18 have attained a velocity over one thousand yards per minute, and over half of the latter did not reach eleven hundred yards per minute. Of course there was also the scandal surrounding the winners of a number of national races in the period between mid '85 and mid '95.Of course skull duggery can be a part of any sport.

Today (Autumn 2004) the Irish National Flying Club (South Road) membership would be composed of approximately 2,000 lofts island wide and its management committee has equal representation from both the United Kingdom based Royal Pigeon Racing Association (Irish Region) and the Irish Homing Union.

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Irish National Flying Club (South Road) Winners:

1948 Rennes S.Robinson, Belfast Vel 515
1949 Rennes McDowell Bros, Dromore Vel 672
1950 Rennes D.Cochrane & Son, Banbridge Vel 1344
1951 Rennes F.Phillips, Belfast Vel 801
1952 No Competition
1953 Redon A.McDowell & Son, Newtownards Vel 790
1954 Redon Thompson Bros, Gilford Vel 706
1955 Redon Parkinson Bros, Lisburn 727
1956 Redon Pett & Ptnrs, Comber Vel 607
1957 Redon H.Spratt, Ligoneil Vel 655
1958 Redon Chambers & Smyth, Banbridge Vel 1079
1959 Redon McCartney Bris, Moira,Vel 870
1960 Le Sables L.Burns, Dromore Vel 1026
1961 Le Sables J.Blair, Carrick Vel 820
1962 Le Sables S.Banks Snr, Moira Vel 1116
1963 Le Sables A.McDonnell, Coleraine Vel 821
1964 Nantes Goudy Bros, Muckamore Vel 1111
1965 Nantes R McKnight & Son, Banbridge Vel 1105
1966 Nantes Doran Bros, Gilford Vel 885
1967 Nantes R.Dunlop, Belfast Vel 899
1968 Nantes W.Erwin, Ballymena Vel 980
1969 Nantes N.Corry, Dunmurry Vel 860
1970 Nantes W.McCluggage & Son, Larne Vel 765
1971 Nantes Samuel Bell, Dundonald Vel 1150
1972 Nantes T.Cairns, Monkstown Vel
1973 Nantes McDowell & Son, Newtonards Vel 518
1974 Nantes A.Simpson & Son, Randalstown Vel 711
1975 Rheims S.Topping, Donacloney Vel 735
1976 Rennes F.Adams, Belfast Vel 898
1977 Rennes G.Lyons, Lisburn Vel 1526
1978 Rennes Connor Bros, Dundrum Vel 982
1979 Rennes T.Spears, Dublin Vel 1125
1980 Le Sables G.Douglas, Lurgan Vel 954
1981 Le Sables E.Reid & Son, Dublin Vel 1111
1982 Le Sables Joe Doheney, Dublin Vel 914
1984 Thurso Connor Bros, Dundrum Vel 1005
~~~ Lerwick Russell & Moffat, Banbridge Vel 641
1985 Thurso Mrs A. Cheevers, Crossgar Vel 1143
~~~ Lerwick J.Crossan, Downpatrick Vel 605
1986 Jersey A. Darragh, Cullybackey Vel 891
1987 Jersey Campbell & Francey, Harryville Vel 1328
1988 Rennes A.McDonald, Portadown Vel 1333
1989 Rennes R.Carson & Son, Banbridge Vel 1087
1990 Rennes G.A.Willis, Portadown Vel 778
1991 Rennes B. Evans, Dundalk Vel 963
~~~ Sartilly Smyth Bros, Ballymena Vel 700
1992 Rennes J.Cullen, Dublin Vel
~~~ Sartilly R.Clements, Ballymena Vel 558
1993 Rennes Campbell& Francey, Ballymena Vel 960
~~~ Sartilly W & L McCan, Ballymoney Vel 734
1994 Rennes H.Beattie, Laurelvale Vel
~~~ Sartilly D. Campbell,Ballymena Vel
1995 Rennes J.Patience, Dollingstown Vel 1076
~~~ St.Malo Livingstone Bros, Ballymena Vel 1027
1996 Rennes N.Black & Sons, Dromore Vel
~~~ St.Malo Campbell,McGeary & Campbell, Armagh
1997 St. Nazaire P. Rock & Son, Cloghran Vel
~~~ St. Malo W.Gibson & Ptrs, Ballygally Vel
1998 Rennes A.Murray & Son
1999 Redon O.McGillivary & Son, Balbriggan
2000 Redon Jeff Hogan, Kilkenny Vel 1209.7
2001 No Race Due To Foot And Mouth Disease
2002 Redon J Doheny Malahide & Dist. Vel 913.
2003 Messac D & T Brennan Hillfoot. Vel 642.
2004 Messac J Greer Cullybackey. Vel 1149.

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As noted at this time (1947) fanciers to the south of the island formed the Eire National Flying Club (to be renamed the Irish (North Road ) N F C decades later in the mid seventies) and held their first race in 1949.

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Irish (North Road) National Flying Club Winners:

1949 Cupar Flynn & O'Reilly, Dublin Vel 982
1950 Ballycastle Hore Bros., Wexford Vel~
1951 Coleraine E.Yeats, Dublin Vel~
1952 Ballycastle S.Chant, Dublin Vel~
1953 Ballycastle G.Roche, Wexford Vel~
1954 Fraserburgh Hore Bros., Wexford Vel 1160
1955 Fraserburgh S.Cant, Dublin Vel~
1956 Thurso J.Magner, Drogheda Vel 934
1957~~~
1958 Thurso M.Lennon, Dublin Vel
1959 Fraserburgh T.Crosbie, Wexford Vel 747
1960 Fraserburgh S.Campbell, Balbriggan Vel 910
1961 Fraserburgh W.Flynn, Dublin Vel 719
1962 Fraserburgh P.F.Ambrose, Dublin Vel 1003
1963 Fraserburgh M.Brannigan, Drogheda Vel 939
1964 Thurso P.Whitmore, Wexford Vel 546
1965 Thurso E.Ingle & Son, Dublin Vel 1147
1966 Thurso W.Whitty, Wexford Vel 716
1967 Thurso Duggan Bros, Rosslare Vel 878
1968 Lerwick M.Siggins, Wexford Vel 650
1969 Thurso W.Whitty, Wexford Vel 635
1970 Thurso J.Hore, Wexford Vel 593
1971 Glasgow M.Siggins, Wexford Vel 1230
1972 Thurso T.Moore, Carlow Vel 877
1973 Thurso Kennedy & Son, Dublin Vel 1047
1974 Thurso J.Franey, Wicklow Vel 896
1975 Lerwick W.Whitty, Wexford Vel 1184
1976 Thurso P.Whitmore, Wexford Vel 645
1977 Thurso Aherne Bros., Youghal Vel 691
1978 Lerwick G.Cervi, Dublin Vel 1050
1979 Thurso M.Siggins, Wexford Vel 1136
1980 Thurso Scallon Bros., Wexford Vel 919
1981 Thurso T.Walsh, Kilkenny Vel 1123
1982 Girvan D.Redmond & Son, Wexford Vel 1080
1983 Thurso S.McDermot, Dublin Vel 487
1984 Malin Head, Mr & Mrs. Jones, Dublin Vel 1135
1985 Malin Head P.Byrne, Wicklow Vel 1144
1986 Inverness R. & J. Sheehan Limerick Vel 996
1987 Thurso M.Mahony, Wexford Vel 625
1988 Thurso T.Delaney, Kilkenny Vel 1396
1989 Thurso L.O'Brien, Arklow Vel 1022
1990 Thurso A.Hubbard, Wicklow Vel 856
1991 Thurso M.Aherne, Youghal Vel 1151
1992 Thurso T.Walsh, Kilkenny Vel 919
1993 New Pitsligo P.Lambert,Arklow Vel 1067
1994 New Pitsligo T.Walsh, Kilkenny Vel
1995 Thurso E.O'Neill, Wicklow Vel 827
1996 Thurso M.Phillips, Wicklow Vel 644
1997 Fraserburgh P.Dowling, Kilkenny Vel 969
1998 Fraserburgh J.Bergin, Wexford Vel~
1999 Thurso- No Birds In Race Time
2000 Perth M. Phillips, Wicklow Vel~
2001 No Race Due To Foot And Mouth Disease
2002 Thurso J.Willis, Mallow Vel~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Prior to the formation of the north road and south road national flying clubs a few years after the end of the Second World War and aside from the races organised from the continental mainland by the old Irish Combine other races had been organised from across the water into Ireland. Paddy 'Cocker' Daly was the first to fly Thurso into Dublin in 1907, and 1911 saw the first pigeon to fly Thurso on the day for McKenny of Drogheda in County Louth. The north route was always a tough task into Ireland and it was another 45 years passing to see a bird fly it again on the day. The legendary Dalys however were strong supporters of south road racing and Paddy Daly was flying Penzance and Landemeau successfully before the advent of war.

National Trophies And Awards The national trophies such as the Kings Cup was competed for via The Irish Combine (TIC) races before the advent of the northern based national club. Being won twice under the auspices of the Combine by the same fancier i.e. E A Robinson of Shaws Bridge in 1933 and 1937. Another twice winner was A McDowell and Son of Newtownards in 1953 and again in 1973 under the auspices of the INFC (South Road). Since it came into the ownership of the northern based national body the King's Cups first South Section winner was T Speers of Dublin in 1979. Since then Joe Doheny of Dublin has won the Irish National twice. Following the institution of the Hall of Fame and the Gold Medal Award in 1970 and 1982 respectively the first winners of the former award were Sutherland and Devoy of Killyleagh and W M Thompson of Muckamore. The Hall of Fame being awarded for a pigeon who achieves three open results in the Kings Cup. The Gold Medal Award is for the pigeon who registers four times in the open of the Kings Cup and its first recipients in 1982 were G Kirkpatrick of Lisburn and J McCartan of Annalong. Anthony McDonnell of Coleraine registered the longest winner of the Kings Cup from Les Sables in 1963 with 'Bann King' at a distance of 633 miles whereas Jack Patience of Lurgan in 1995 remarkably registered 1st and 2nd Open National in pursuit of the trophy.

The Taoiseach's Cup which was the most sought after north road trophy was competed for for the first time in 1949. The racepoint was Cupar in Scotland and the first winners were Flynn and O'Reilly of Dublin. Since then it has been flown for from many different racepoints on the north road and indeed records confirms that three different fanciers have won the cup on three different occasions namely W Whitty of Wexford in '66, '69, '75; T Walsh of Kilkenny in '81,'92,'94; and Marty Siggins of Wexford at a distance of 578 miles from Lerwick won the cup for the first time in 1968 and again in '71 and '79. A noteworthy fact is that the Scottish born Stewart Cant who finishered runner up in the south road nationl in 1932 in partnership with Christy Daly bred four winners of the Taoiseach Cup. Something that his native country should be proud of.

Conclusion

I hope that this brief and sketchy introduction into the origin and the development of Long Distance and Marathon Pigeon Racing into Ireland is of some value if but a humble tribute to our pioneers alone.

 



Liam O Comain  -
by: Liam O Comain

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