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    The Magical Amanda

John Lavery former Chairman of the Chimney Corner HPS pictured with Amanda Mitchell holding the super Hen '85' John has been a wonderful help also to the Mitchell partnership. John had a super record racing along with his brother into Antrim as Lavery Bros for many years.
Amanda Mitchell pictured lifting her award of Top Prize Winner from Rose McCormick during the Chimney Corner Awards Night at the Top of the Town Bar in Antrim.
(Jack & Len Magee) This formidable partnership from Lisburn have been instrumental in the success of the Mitchell loft in Antrim.
Amanda Holding 'Toes' a 2007 Y/Bird bred by Jack and Len Magee of Lisburn. This young bird had a wonderful season with the highlight, winning the Section from the Rosscarbery Y/B National.
The new Y/B Loft 8ft x 4ft for the 2008 season built and constructed by Liam Prunty.
The Magical Roundabout Loft which has served so many successful fanciers before equally doing as good for Amanda and Son Curtis.
The one and only stock loft which house's the very well selected stock of Amanda Mitchell.
A snap of the Old Style Y/B Loft which will also be used this year in conjunction with the new one but a small number will be raced as normal.

The Magical Amanda

It is a great privilege at any time to sit and pen an article on a fancier who impresses during the course of any racing season, one of those said fanciers has come to my attention over the last couple of years, the fancier in fact is a lady who races under the partnership name of Amanda Mitchell and Son in the Chimney Corner HPS, Northern Ireland. The Chimney Corner club in Antrim is part of the very strong Section B of the mighty NIPA, a Section that boasts many of the great names ever to race pigeons into Ireland. So when a lady such as Amanda starts racing in 2003, takes 2005 out to move house, and finishes runner-up in the title chase for the crown of Section B Fancier of the Year Award three times, you can start to see the dawn of something very special. Amanda racing along with son Curtis, now 14 years old joined the Chimney Corner HPS in 2003 racing young birds for the very first time, so keen where the pair they basically lived in the pigeon loft and the enthusiasm of Curtis was immense, so much so he used to catch a Y/B from the loft and ride his bike to other side of Antrim town release the Y/Bird then try and beat the pigeon home on his bike. (Just Fantastic).

The partnership raced just Y/Birds in 2003, 2004 they raced the O/Bird and Y/Bird Seasons, 2005 took one year out to move house, 2006 and 2007 raced both O/Birds and Y/Birds and during that short spell of racing Amanda and young Curtis have won 33 x 1st Clubs, 34 x 2nd Clubs, 23 x 3rd Clubs, they have been six times winners of the Section B of the Mighty NIPA, also six time runner-up in Section B of the Mighty NIPA, and even reached the ultimate heights by topping the NIPA Open in 2007 with over 5,000 pigeon competing.

Such is the impression that Amanda is setting around the pigeon scene in Ireland, the local BBC was in contact with the NIPA Secretary Mr Fred Russell enquiring as to whether there where any ladies involved within this sport of pigeon racing a sport that has been going for well over 100 years and to be fair has always been associated with the male gender. Fair play to Fred he was straight on the ball and highlighted this young lady from County Antrim who has invigorated this sport into a new and some what different direction, at times showing many of the already well established male fanciers how to race pigeons. The BBC spent a number of hours at the home of Amanda before the final Y/B race of the season accompanying her down to the Chimney Corner Club for Race Marking and were all back at Amanda’s home the following morning for the pigeons returning from the race. The programme was named Inside Out and was aired during the racing season last year.

Now for those of you who seen the programme you won’t need me to tell you how small an operation the Mitchell’s have, sending around 10 to 12 pigeons a week in the O/Birds when as you have in every Club other fanciers sending much larger numbers, this never worries Amanda as she knows all her pigeons personally so much so any one of them would take a peanut from her mouth without hesitation, with many refusing to re-enter the loft without flying onto Amanda’s shoulder for their daily treat. When you hear of stories like this just makes you wonder about pigeon racing and the art of getting them to love their home and the different area’s of motivation that is used to inevitably make the racer return quicker.

Hence the impressive record that this new fancier to the game has earned over the last four year period. I will just list the Section and Open Positions gained in the last couple of season’s enough done I might add to gain the Runner-Up Spot in the race for NIPA Section B Fancier of the Year.

Remember Amanda and young Curtis have finished Runner-Up in the Section title race three times, only racing four years and one of those years just Y/Birds were raced.

2006 O/B :- 22nd April Thurles 32nd & 44th Section B 187/4,487; 29th April Fermoy 5th Section B 196/4,272; 6th May Thurles 29th Section B 192/3,565; 13th May Rosscarbery Inland National 8th Section B 83rd Open NIPA 955/7,832; 20th May Pilmore Beach 15th & 30th Section B 175/3,300; 27th May Talbenny (1) 1st and 31st Section B 171/2,288, 21st Open NIPA 1,075/14,998; 3rd June Thurles 18th Section B 146/1,524; 3rd June Talbenny (2) 41st Section B 154/1,497; 10th June Mallow Five Bird 5th & 9th Section 90/373, 37th & 60th Open NIPA 603/2,642; 23rd June St. Malo O/B National 6th Section 274/274, 70th Open NIPA 549/1,792.

2006 Y/B :- 5th August Thurles 10th & 19th Section B 178/4,471; 12th August Fermoy 1st and 22nd Section B 161/3,934, 90th Open NIPA 1,036/22,489; 19th August Pilmore Beach 3rd & 7th Section B 135/2,451; 26th August Tullamore 1st and 8th Section B 115/2,049; 3rd September Fermoy 7th and 33rd Section B 112/1,655; 3rd September Rosscarbery Y/B National 14th Section B 77/480 97th Open 515/3,824; 16th September Thurles 5th, 23rd and 34th Section B 67/685, 46th and 151st Open NIPA 358/4,151.

2006 INFC :- 166th Open Sennen Cove Y/B National 440/1791.

2007 O/B :- 12th May Pilmore Beach 2nd and 16th Section B 185/4,286, 84th Open NIPA 1,214/26,056; 20th May Rosscarbery O/B National 20th and 28th Section B 121/784; 26th May Pilmore Beach (2) 15th, 18th and 22nd Section B 190/4,052; 4th June Talbenny 5th Section B 170/2,203, 50th Open NIPA 1,031/13,659; 9th June Talbenny (2) 33rd Section B 149/1,333, 136th Open NIPA 850/8,300; 9th June Roscrea 32nd Section B 113/1,150; 17th June Mallow Five Bird 11th Section B, 137th Open NIPA 534/2,272.

2007 Y/B :- 28th July Mullingar 1st Section B, 1st Open NIPA 185/5,348; 12th August Roscrea 3rd and 23rd Section B 165/4,553; 25th August Pilmore Beach 8th and 10th Section B 132/2,771; 1st September Tullamore 5th Section B 105/1,944; 8th September Fermoy 6th, 9th and 17th Section B 101/1,365; 15th September Rosscarbery Y/B National 1st and 7th Section B, 45th Open NIPA 536/4,143.

Some fanciers will not have amassed those amount of performances in a life time, but for a lady to race like that in two seasons is quite something else remember those are just Section and Open Positions racing against some of the great names that race within Section B of the NIPA a Section that also incorporates the highly regarded Mid-Antrim Combine.

Now for the race and stock teams, well as mentioned before I have never witnessed a smaller operation in all my travels, and many fanciers would tell you this is the type of fancier if you start to race pigeons to buy from, as with such a small team and such a prolific racing record you can be assured what ever the Y/Birds are off they are sure to have done something. The basis of the original stock are Busschaerts which came from very good friends and I must add extremely good fanciers Len and Jack Magee of Lisburn, coming from Lisburn myself I know all about the partnership and anybody who follows the racing scene in Northern Ireland will also recognize the partnership of L Magee and Son. To say they are prolific would be an understatement. So when you have a fancier like Len supplying you with birds and advice which I must add is very rare, you can’t fail and of course Amanda’s hubby is Alan Belshaw formally of the Derriaghy HPS were he raced with his father Jack for a number of years another partnership very much feared come race day, they had a very strong base of Soontjen pigeons and some of that old family have also been passed onto Amanda with a couple of Hartogs from the Colin McBride era combined with some from Alec Kerr also introduced this year for the first time. The stock loft caters for nine pair the loft itself is 10ft x 6ft of wooden structure with a slopped roof from front to back.

The mother and son partnership race the O/Bird team on the Magic Roundabout as she calls it, again this loft is of wooden structure again flat roof with a slope from front to back the loft is fitted with nine widowhood boxes in one partitioned section with a the remaining two foot off the overall length around 12ft used for the hens with 9 perches installed, the tameness of the pigeons is something else as you would come to imagine, even with a stranger such as myself with the loft door open they had a chance to fly away when I put my hand out to lift a particular pigeon, perched it remained until I had it lifted as did the rest, a pleasure to see and a true credit to the Mitchell team. Amanda did emphasize that they did have to be tame to win, they have to come to you, food and tit bits are the ultimate prize of trust with her team, doesn’t matter when she enters the loft for what ever reason they always get something each before she leaves the loft, should it be Red Skinned Pea Nuts, Hemp, Red Band or Hormoform these are just some of the treats for good loyal behaviour. The only down side Amanda admits is being to close to them and with having such a small team when you lose 1 or 2 it’s heart breaking. The Roundabout pigeons are trained up about three weeks prior to the first race, always starting at the same location they started off with as youngsters just to get them thinking. They will then weather permitting, be increased in distance and tossed as much prior to the first race as possible. Once racing is started they will then be restricted to training around the loft 1 hour morning and night.

Just three of the stars of the loft I handled included the ‘85’ Hen Busschaert bred by L Magee & Son she has won 1st Club, 12th Section B Kilkenny; 1st Club Tullamore; 1st Club Mallow; 1st Club, 5th Section B Fermoy, 1st Club, 29th Section B Thurles; 1st Club, 8th Section B, 87th Open NIPA Rosscarbery O/B National; 2nd Club, 36th Section B Pilmore Beach; 1st Club, 5th Section B, 37th Open Five Bird Mallow, 1st Club, 15th Section B Mallow Five Bird. Plus many other prize cards she is also Grand Dam of this years Section and Open Winner from Mullingar for the partnership. “Toes” Busschaert bred once again for Mandy and Curtis by L Magee & Son of Lisburn. Named “Toes” because one of his feet are turned in forcing him to limp about, but as the Magee’s quite rightly quoted “he flies with his wings not his feet” and what a consistent racer he is only 2007 bred but already a multiple prize winner at Club level including topping the Section B of the NIPA from the Rosscarbery Y/B Inland National finishing 45th Open NIPA. I also handled a yearling hen ‘23’ who is a direct daughter from the ’85 Hen’ she has been 1st Club, 8th Section B Tullamore; 2nd Club, 15th Section B Thurles; 3rd Club Rosscarbery Y/B National finishing 14th Section B after losing 11 minutes; 2nd Club, 4th Section B Thurles; 2nd Club, 16th Section B Pilmore Beach; 4th Club Barleycove; 6th Club, 33rd Section B Talbenny. Amanda tells me this is the worst trapper they have ever raced but a very consistent pigeon.

Y/Birds which number the 40 mark are raced on the Darkness System with the hours of darkness geared towards the working week, the loft would be opened up in the morning around 6.00am and closed up around 5.00pm. Y/Birds are trained as soon as possible with a start off point at 10 miles. Can be harsh according to Mandy but even when they struggle to get back home often in one and two’s you can be assured you have selected your true Y/Birds at a very early stage. Normally after such a tough start you won’t have a tendency to lose many more after the first couple of tosses. They will progress up to Newry which would be about forty miles from the loft, once a day every day if possible, opting to toss the pigeons themselves always in batches of four or six, I must point out that the Y/Birds are never out around the home, only ever leave the loft in a basket. When the racing starts some weeks they would be dropped back to the twenty mile toss mark and they would then get that twice a day.

Now the feeding is purchased mostly from John Lowry of Crumlin, Mandy would have a tendency to mix and match some what purchasing a mixture of Versa Laga Widowhood and Gerry Plus and Beyers Y/Bird now these would be mixed together and then broke down with the small seeds fed first during the morning and then the bulk of the larger grains fed at night, so twice a day they would be fed and as much as they like, no restrictions on the feeding whatsoever. Their Y/Bird team are hopper fed with the Roundabout fed in their boxes. If they are not in the boxes when Mandy enters the loft they won’t be fed, punishment is applied through the feeding. The feeding and the breakdown of the mixtures is the same across the board with Young and Old.

Supplements and vast and varying with one or two general ones used regular these include a mixture of Seas Salts, Honey and Milk mixed together and administered through the drinkers every Sunday. On every fourth Saturday the birds are treated for Canker with the use of Medizole. Other supplements used during the week include Pro Pell Plus, Versa Lega Form Oil, Grapefruit Extract, Slijmpoeper Antiglairol and Propelouis Liquid.

What a breath of fresh air for the sport having a bit of Girl Power mixing it with some of the best fanciers around. I asked Mandy how she felt being one of the very few woman fanciers around the world, she told me she was one of very many around the world who are involved in the sport of pigeon racing but most of them sit back and let the men believe its them the pigeons are homing to. Amanda would also like to thank everybody who has went out of their way to congratulate her on the partnerships continuing success and she extends her thanks to John Lavery who has been an excellent help and encouragement around the lofts.

I will pen off by wishing Amanda former Secretary of the Chimney Corner HPS and Curtis continued success in their racing exploits that will see them joining a new Club in 2008 to race their much prized small team of Champions. Amanda Mitchell & Son are a prolific racing team that I am sure might even go that one step further and be crowned Section B Fancier of the Year very soon.

Adie McCormick
Ireland’s Own Pigeon Auctions
Tel. 028 92 604778.

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