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'Come on, Come on'
To the memory of my Father and my Mother and to the Pigeon Folk of those times.
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I recall across the decades my father's voice calling 'Come on, come on, ...' as he loudly called upon his racing pigeons while shaking a tin of corn expecting to feed them or to entice them to trap after a training toss or race. At times his voice split the silence of the morning or the later hours of the day during spring, summer, autumn and winter, on the outskirts of a small market town in Ireland. At times he was loud, very loud, and many a late sleeper perhaps cursed or became disgruntled but that would be all for that period of time- the 50s and the 60s of the last century- appeared to house a more tolerant populace.

Thus the cry or call of 'Come on...' was my introduction to the sport of pigeon racing even before I handled a pigeon or entered the small tin shed standing upon another tin shed in a small back yard of a terrace house where I first saw the light of day in the 1940s. Then when I was permitted to enter that upper shed for the first time it became a daily ritual as I recall my mother suggesting 'Wipe your feet' as we entered the back door of our home after being in the company of what I didn't know then were thoroughbreds. Yes, the bug had caught me- I was hooked!

After school in the fifties and early sixties I ran home to clean the 'loft', change the water and / or feed the pigeons as well as helping to basket the birds for tosses and races. By then I had learned how to ring a squeaker or treat a wound and of course I looked forward to race days as I would to the breeding period. Both were seasons of great joy and there was a bonus if we were allowed to accompany the birds on their training tosses high up the slopes of the Sperrin Mountains. In fact as a 15 year old I was so much caught up in the magic of the sport that I volunteered and became an assistant convoyer for the Northern Ireland Provincial Amalgamation in a race from Sutton in County Dublin. The birds then travelled by train and the unloading of
the large panniers at the race venue proved too much for me for after a while the convoyer suggested that I take a seat on some nearby grass as he and a few locals concluded the unloading. Perhaps inwardly cursing the powers that be in the NIPA for allowing such a sapling to become his assistant. Ah! he was a kind man and inspite of all the sight of seeing 20,000 plus young birds being liberated compensated for my weariness. It was majestic!

Of course my father's successes at the racing remains vivid in my memory especially the races from across the Irish Sea and the English channel namely Milford Haven, Haverford West, Bude, Okehampton, Penzance and the likes of those from Dinard, etc,. The failures and the losses are also there in the archives of my memory but because of our human nature we tend to recall the good times but my father was capable of using the bad days to ensure better days and that is an aspect of him as a person which I cherish. In fact he had a natural affinity with our thoroughbreds indeed with all of nature. Without a good woman at his side however things could have been more difficult in those decades of want and that is what my mother was: 'as gentle as a summer breeze, a smile accompanied with a tease, I love her still and I always will, my Mother'.

Alas, time has to march on and time changes much. We all have to grow and make our own way in life. There are things that we can control but there is that which we can't. And as the years pass by there is much that we leave behind us, much that would be impossible to take with us as we encounter the twists and the turns of life. Thus in the mid- sixties I departed from the happy world of pigeon breeding and racing, leaving it to continue with my father and my brother as I faced the future as an adult away from the valley of the Roe. Since then my father and my mother have departed and many of the fanciers of those past times have followed suit. Little did I realize however that in my early 60s in a new millennium I would fall again to the bug
of pigeon racing. Yes, I am now back breeding and racing in Derry. This could not have been possible however without the help of Tommy Cummings of Limavady for it was he who mainly supplied the bloodlines which I now manage. My only interest is 300 miles plus races and the stock obtained from Tommy is mainly of the Jan Aarden dynasty therefore I believe that I have the right tools. In fact so much so that on the 27th of June 2005 I had the experience of winning my first race since my return to the sport approximately three years ago. Upon my return I set myself a plan to hopefully win from 300 miles plus in my third or at the latest no longer than the fifth year. I adhered closely to that plan which saw me entering one bird in the NIPA
National from Lamballe in France but due to bad weather after a 5/6 day wait a decision was made to liberate at Portland Bill in England. On the day after a wait of 11 hours 15 minutes I timed to take 1st Club, 1st Fed' (the only bird in Derry on the day and none into my birthplace of Limavady), 5th NIPA Section H and 126th National position from a convoy of 1,851 pigeons. And as I stood full of excitement holding an empty thimble I heard myself softly uttering the words 'Come on, come on, ...' just prior to my pigeon's drop into the loft.

Liam O Comain  -
by: Liam O Comain

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