Beggs and Hall of Larne: Ace loft in East Antrim Hot Bed
HARDWORK + GOOD PIGEONS = WINNING
A simple and straight forward sum, but not many of us can get it right. One partnership that have come up with and are achieving the answer, are the Beggs and Hall partnership of Larne in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Larne & District HPS can be very proud of calling itself one of the largest Clubs that fly pigeons in Ireland, North and South, with a flying membership of 50 the plush and spacious Social Club can any week send well over 1,000 pigeons. Like many they have seen a dwindling in the numbers over the last 10 years, birdage no, but yes the over-all membership would be down 1/3rd. Looking over a result from 10 years ago the club had at that time a membership of 75, all the same in this day and age to have a club of that size especially with another Club within the town is some achievement. To be Top Prize Winner in 2006 and 2007 is without doubt a bigger achievement and the reason why I thought it time to call with Adrian Beggs and Maria Hall (Beggs & Hall) of Seacoast Road, in Larne.
Always a Larne man Adrian has been involved with pigeons from the age of 16, the year was 1980 and he enjoyed success flying in the Millbrook HPS (a club like many that has now folded). A full-time forklift driver by trade any hours that aren’t spent at work are spent with the pigeons. With a family of four and a couple of grand-children it can’t be easy, Adrian’s partner Maria is the rock of help and support that many of us men need and is assisted with daughter Lisa who is also very keen, when I heard about the involvement of two women I poised the question did he think the woman’s touch was important? quick to the answer was Adrian with “as long as they do what they are told“. Although admitting that with the level of work that is required to win, you need all the help and support you can get.
This is Adrian’s second spell in the pigeon game he decided to move house in 1999 and sold up completely, he continued to follow the sport he loved best and never missed a publication any week keeping an eye what was happening just not in Ireland but around Europe. When the pigeon bug became unbearable, he decided to set up, following a conversation with his neighbour’s making sure they had no objections he set about getting lofts built. Arguably the biggest challenge was bringing in good pigeons, when Adrian says good pigeons he knows what he is talking about and he quotes you can use all the hard work on this earth but you can’t make a bad pigeon a good pigeon. With this in mind and following four years of reading he made a couple of phone calls to fellow fanciers in Northern Ireland seeking the stock that was to put the partnership on the map for a second time. The two fanciers to be thanked are Andrew McAuley of the A & R McAuley partnership in Coleraine, Adrian was telling me that he can’t thank Andrew enough for all his help and endless supply even up to this day of award winning pigeons, these were bolstered together with a best of the Frans Van Wildemeersch coming from Pat Shields a very good friend of the late Cyril Fletcher, fanciers won’t need reminding that the Fletcher family from Portadown had the absolute cream of the FVW in Ireland, some would say the World.
One of the biggest disadvantages with Adrian and Maria’s set up is the space, what they would not give for more space the garden would measure around 24ft wide by about 40ft in depth, but believe it or believe it not, he has managed to get in two 16ft x 7ft lofts and a further 24ft x 7ft loft, so you can just imagine how cramped it is room wise, the last time I seen lofts so close to each other was the lofts of L Magee & Son of Lisburn. But like the Magee’s it hasn’t prevented or decreased the chances of winning. All Adrian’s lofts are of timber construction with sloped roof running from front to back, all fitted with sliding doors and traps. The layout is as follows one of the 16ft lofts is used to house 32 Widowhood pigeon across 2 x sections all with fitted boxes, the other 16ft loft is used for the Y/Bird’s again two sections, the 24ft loft is split into three sections with two 5ft sections used for the stock pigeons and these are the only two sections with aviaries at the front, the further remaining 14ft of this loft is used to house the widowhood hens, Adrian was telling me it was a nightmare last year with the hens mating up to one another, so to rectify this in 2008 he has installed 2 x sheets of ply both running at slopes towards each other meeting in the middle towards the centre of the floor this prevents the hens from landing, only space then they can go is to the designated hen box/perch.
The Beggs and Hall partnership race around 40 - 50 O/Birds all on Widowhood with them being re-mated for the further channel challenges later in the season. Feeding is now Natural Widowhood having previously enjoyed using the Versa Laga widowhood mixture, but due to the drastically increased prices over the last year they have opted to move onto Natural Grains because of the extra 5KG for a price something similar to the Versa Laga which is only 20Kg. This is a subject that is causing great concern around the sport of pigeon racing, but again as is with the crude oil prices globally, what else can we expect with the corns with many containing so many oil seeds. I think the price of the small bird feeding has increased far more than the pigeon corns, and like many things, shows no signs of getting any cheaper, straying away from the profile on hand, just to add some thought to this subject, visited a very good fancier in the Belfast recently and to my utter disbelief, he is feeding polished farmed beans and chicken pellets, that’s it full stop, and this fancier is holding his own within a large club and figures regularly at the top of his respective organizations top results. Bet that has got a few of you thinking, no doubt !! Adrian was keeping the supplements aspect close to his chest, and why not I thought, because and he quite rightly commented pigeon racing has over the last few years got very competitive and nothing is cheap, you have to do a lot of experimenting with products at a huge cost before you finally find something that clicks, must point out that Adrian gets good assistance with this part of the winning process as his sister is a Veterinarian, a lady that many fanciers go to for assistance in the area, and no doubt question as to what her brother is using. I must stress with regards the feeding although fanciers in Northern Ireland will be aware the change in feeding this year hasn’t affected the performances of Beggs & Hall, just on Saturday past they topped the Larne & District HPS from Roscrea, with 46 members sending 816 pigeons.
The O/Birds are flew around the house and depending on their work rate, this is what determines what tossing if any they get from week to week, the more time you spend with your pigeons they will tell you when they are fit and ready to go, as Adrian commented he hopper feeds the Widowhood pigeons during the week, with additional seeds fed to them after the hopper feed Thursday and Friday in their own cully pots. Good healthy fit pigeons, will not overeat, if they do something is wrong. Hawks are a nightmare for Adrian again the pigeons will either carry the head of you when vacating the loft or they just won’t leave at all, this tells him that there is something not to far away. Remembering, that the pigeons see far more from the loft, than he does from the house. But when the pigeons fly around the house they do fly, many in the Larne area will tell you this, Adrian’s pigeons have been known to fly more than two hours at any one time, is this down to hopper feeding I wonder, another thought of Adrian’s was that when you hopper feed there is greater urgency from the pigeons to eat what ever they see in front of them rather than pick and choose, if you feed them in their respective boxes they will always pick their way through any feeding at any given time, never a balanced diet in his mind.
Y/Birds as with almost everybody now are on the darkness, with the hours specifically geared around his working week. They will number around the 80 mark, these will be separated before the first race, and if there is an over spill too great for one of the 8ft sections, they will then be transferred into the Widowhood hens section as by this stage they will be re-paired to the widowhood cocks. Tossing will start from a distance of 10 miles only when they are ranging very well around the house, again tossing with the assistance of Bertie Robinson will only happen when and if Adrian decides that they need it, when you have won 22 x 1st Club’s with a further 69 prize cards, including 2 x 1st Sections and 4 x 2nd Sections (Not easy into Larne) and an NIPA Open with 25,000 + pigeons competing and have lifted £3,500 in prize money just at Club level in a three year spell, you will know when the pigeons are right. Feeding has always been breeding up until the start of training when they will move onto Gerry-Plus which will be mixed with Widowhood mixture when Adrian sees the need to do so, which is mostly determined by distance. The Y/birds are never, ever hungry, in fact extra care is taken with the young to make sure they fill out body wise and feather wise to complete the more strenuous tests that lie ahead of them as yearlings. Y/Bird losses are very few, a lot of this is down to the way that they are looked after.
As for the stock which number around the 24 mark or 12 pair, they are housed in 2 x 5ft sections with aviaries attached at the frontage of the sections which are part of the 24ft loft.
I will pen off by wishing them continued success with many more Red Cards this season in a real hotbed of East Antrim, and look forward to meeting up with them again, probably at the prize distributions later in the year.
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