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Willaim Erwin Of Ireland
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The Erwin family of Ballymena of which William is our subject always had a connection with the feathered world, especially pigeons. He once wrote that he could not remember being without pigeons of some sort and that he had inherited the 'pigeon bug' from his grandfather. With racing pigeons per se William Irvine recalled racing early at the short distances and meeting up with other pigeoners at a pre arranged point with the rubber rings. This was around the time after his leaving of primary school but in due course he became a member of the historical Ballymena and District H.P.S. Historical in one of a few senses, one of which is that the club produced some of the best names associated with the sport in Ireland...
The late William Erwin (r) with good friend the late Bob Harkness from Glenavy in County Antrim.
The Erwin family of Ballymena of which William is our subject always had a connection with the feathered world, especially pigeons. He once wrote that he could not remember being without pigeons of some sort and that he had inherited the 'pigeon bug' from his grandfather. With racing pigeons per se William Irvine recalled racing early at the short distances and meeting up with other pigeoners at a pre arranged point with the rubber rings. This was around the time after his leaving of primary school but in due course he became a member of the historical Ballymena and District H.P.S. Historical in one of a few senses, one of which is that the club produced some of the best names associated with the sport in Ireland...

Without much success initially at racing and then acquiring a taste or desire for racing at the distance Erwin decided at the beginning of the 1940s to purchase some distance bloodlines. He looked at some of the great British strains of the period and then decided to base his distance ambitions on the Osman strain. His first buy was a mealy cock bird from the Heathcote Bros., of Stoke- on- Trent, England, to be followed by a blue cheq pied Osman hen from another immortal of Irish racing, Tommy Harper. The Osman pied hen came to Harper via A. H. Cornes and was a grand-daughter of Osman's famous Olympic.

Erwin's choice was the right one for in due course the mealy and the pied produced winners with each other and with other stock. The mealy being the base sire of the Erwin family. Other purchases were made over the years plus a blue cheq cock known as 'Meadow Triumph' which arose from a gift of eggs from the famous Smyth Bros (whom I have written about in this series). A fateful gift for in time Meadow Triumph won the N.I.P.A. St. Malo Derby for the Erwin lofts.

 

 

Other sources of good bloodlines arose through close friendships with other great fanciers such as Bob Harkness of Crumlin, County Antrim. Harkness was another distance specialist and he loaned the sire of 'Moonlight Mannequin' who won 1st Irish Open National from Nantes for Erwin at a distance of 570 miles. Others such as the McCartney Bros. of Moira made a similar contribution to the Erwin family. In fact through the vehicle of friendship the Erwin pigeons contained some of the best distance Irish bloodlines ever. The family ultimately moulded by William Erwin was small of size with silky feathering and small heads, often referred too as pinheads, objected to by some writers in the sport yet here we see a family pivotal in the history of Irish pigeon racing with this trait. They numbered 10 pairs of racers and 3 pairs of stock birds. About two dozen youngsters were reared each year and via this small stud William Erwin competitively competed against the best in Ireland and indeed his bloodlines proved successful beyond the shores of the Emerald Isle. And when the races were tough the Erwin's were usually to the fore for they were a breed for a difficult race. Amongst other positions the Erwin pigeons scored 1st Open and Kings Cup I.N.F.C. Nantes, 570 miles; 2nd Open I.N.F.C. Rennes, 510 miles; 5th Open I.N.F.C. Le Sables, 611 miles; 11th Open I.N.F.C. Nantes; 59th Open I.N.F.C. Nantes; 1st Open N.I.P.A. St. Malo Derby, 467 miles; 2nd Open N.I.P.A. Dover Derby 410 Miles; 10th Open N.I.P.A. St. Malo Derby, 467 miles; and 25th Open N.I.P.A. Dinard Derby 470 miles. Bearing in mind that some of the above successes were in bad flying conditions and that the majority minus one were flown across two water ways namely the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

Moonlight Mannequin

2nd Club Ballymena & District, 10th Section & 25th Open NIPA Dinard OB Derby 1966 at 470 miles, and clocked from Dinard again in 1997. 1st Open INFC Nantes and Kings Cup at 570 miles in 1968 flying 17 hours and 3 minutes.

Bred and raced by William Erwin, Circular Road, Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Other sources of good bloodlines arose through close friendships with other great fanciers such as Bob Harkness of Crumlin, County Antrim. Harkness was another distance specialist and he loaned the sire of 'Moonlight Mannequin' who won 1st Irish Open National from Nantes for Erwin at a distance of 570 miles. Others such as the McCartney Bros. of Moira made a similar contribution to the Erwin family. In fact through the vehicle of friendship the Erwin pigeons contained some of the best distance Irish bloodlines ever. The family ultimately moulded by William Erwin was small of size with silky feathering and small heads, often referred too as pinheads, objected to by some writers in the sport yet here we see a family pivotal in the history of Irish pigeon racing with this trait. They numbered 10 pairs of racers and 3 pairs of stock birds. About two dozen youngsters were reared each year and via this small stud William Erwin competitively competed against the best in Ireland and indeed his bloodlines proved successful beyond the shores of the Emerald Isle.

And when the races were tough the Erwin's were usually to the fore for they were a breed for a difficult race. Amongst other positions the Erwin pigeons scored 1st Open and Kings Cup I.N.F.C. Nantes, 570 miles; 2nd Open I.N.F.C. Rennes, 510 miles; 5th Open I.N.F.C. Le Sables, 611 miles; 11th Open I.N.F.C. Nantes; 59th Open I.N.F.C. Nantes; 1st Open N.I.P.A. St. Malo Derby, 467 miles; 2nd Open N.I.P.A. Dover Derby 410 Miles; 10th Open N.I.P.A. St. Malo Derby, 467 miles; and 25th Open N.I.P.A. Dinard Derby 470 miles. Bearing in mind that some of the above successes were in bad flying conditions and that the majority minus one were flown across two water ways namely the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

The name of William Erwin is forever etched upon the history of distance racing into Ireland and his enriching time in this world confirms that one does not need a large number of birds to face and conquer the long and marathon distances.

A lesson to be learned by many for I believe that the sport has entered a crazy era through the over production of our thoroughbreds and mainly for the accumulation of the pound, the dollar, or the euro, etc.Oh the foibles of our species!


Liam O Comain  -
by: Liam O Comain

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