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Smyth Brother's
Ballymena, Co. Antrim, N.Ireland
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Over the past 55 years, the name of these fanciers and their fantastic team of Kenyon pigeons have become legendary, not only in Great Britain and Ireland, but throughout the world.
Most people involved in pigeons know how successful they have been but very few know the complete record and will be surprised at the level of consistency achieved.

I know the complete record and will be surprised at the level of consistency achieved in National and Derby racing in what many describe as the hardest racing in the world, across two channels into Ireland.

The brothers, as most fanciers know, are Bobby and Hughie. Unfortunately, Hughie passed away during 1996 after a lifetime dedicated to pigeons. Setting clocks in his club or at the Derby centre, he was always to be found.

He is sadly missed by Bobby, as their lives were spent around the garden and loft, discussing the breeding and racing of their pigeons. All their results have been achieved sending an average of three or four pigeons to each race.
As all breeders know, it is a difficult task to keep a strain going successfully for very long and is a task which requires intelligence and a good stock sense. The extent to which the Smyth brothers were able to carry this out can be seen clearly in this article.

As young men the Smyth brothers were like all the other local fanciers, trying to find birds capable of flying upwards of 600 miles, so it was decided they would send to England and the loft of Jim Kenyon to obtain new stock.

Major WH Osman, editor of Racing Pigeon, writing on June 27, 1937, stated that “one of the most consistent pigeon racers in the British Isles and maybe in the world was Mr Jim Kenyon of Upholland”. And so Bobby and Hughie made what was to become their greatest decision in pigeons. From 1943 and over the next few years, some well-bred pigeons were brought from Jim to the Teeshan loft including a grandson of the famous “What’s Wanted”

A son of a Black Velvet cock rung 36-1378 was also obtained and at the time, Jim Kenyon noted: “There is no better bred bird of the black pied strain now alive.”
The Kenyons made an almost instant impact. In 1946 the brothers were fourth Open from Dover Derby. But the glory years really started in 1948 when a hen was eleventh Open from Rennes (510 miles/Old Bird National). She was named “Rennes Queen” . There were only 12 birds in race time.

In 1949 “Rennes Queen” was timed again from Rennes, finishing eighteenth Open but this time she was beaten to the loft by her own daughter “Northern Leader”, seventh Open in a race where only 25 birds were timed. Second and third Ulster Combine from Guernsey were also won that year.
The grandson of Jim Kenyon’s “What’s Wanted” had been mated to “Rennes Queen” and these two were the sire and dam of “Northern Leader”. How meticulous Smyth Brothers were with records and their attention to detail can be seen by the fact that “Northern Leader” was sent sitting 12 days on eggs and growing her third flight. “Rennes Queen” was sent in exactly the same condition. The 1950 National from Rennes was a lot faster but again two pigeons were clocked, one being “Northern Leader” again. She won £10 pool money, just outside the prizes. In 1951, the old birds and young birds both scored, 23rd Open Rennes in another hard race (won around 800 YPM),6th Open in the Young Bird National.

In 1952 there was no competition in the Irish National Flying Club, but another superb year followed in 1953 with 33rd Open NIPA Derby from Landerneau, 62nd and 75th in Old Bird National from Redon (532 miles) and again 6th Open in the Young Bird National.
An amazing story took place around this time as the brothers let the first Kenyons to be sold from their loft go to a namesake of their own, Robert Smyth, from Larne, approximately 20 miles from Teeshan lofts.

Robert was very proud of his two Kenyons but unfortunately, one of the birds, a late bred, escaped from his loft. A few days later, Bobby had the pigeons closed up for the night, as the weather was atrocious and sat down for a night at the fire, when the door knocked, and there was Robert standing with the water running out of his clothes. He had ridden the bicycle from Larne to see if the late bred had returned. But unfortunately, or fortunately as it later turned out, it hadn’t appeared.
Bobby took him up to the loft where the young birds had just been weaned and gave him a youngster in place of the lost late bred.

This young bird turned out to be the great “National Producer”, a grandson of “Rennes Queen”. Two hens alone from him – “National Queen” and Continental Queen” – had fantastic results, including 40th Open Redon; 11th Open Rennes; 10th Open Redon; 15th Open Les Sables; 70th Open Les Sables; and 17th Open Les Sables. So it was worth Robert’s trouble that night! In 1954 it was another hard National race (Redon) with only 28 birds home in race time (the winner 790 ypm) but Smyth Bros again made distance flying look easy, clocking three birds, winning 20th 21st and 24th Open. Two of these were grand-daughters of “Rennes Queen”, the 21st Open being a yearling. The loft was also Seventh Open in the NIPA Young Bird Derby that year. Nineteen fifty-five was another National (Redon) with the velocities down in the 700s but the hen who had been 21st in 1954 finished 4th Open and was named “Leading Lady”.

She was to become a legend and is probably the best pigeon ever to fly into Ireland and possibly any other country in the world. She went on to stamp her class as both racer and breeder.
“Leading Lady” was again prepared for the 1956 Irish National Flying Club’s Blue Riband event. This time it was from Rennes (510 miles) and she finished 6th Open with a velocity of 579ypm from an entry of 1654 birds. In 1957 it was back to Redon and another very hard race but a fabulous result. “Leading Lady”

Over the past 55 years, the name of these fanciers and their fantastic team of Kenyon pigeons have become legendary, not only in Great Britain and Ireland, but throughout the world.
Smyth Brother's

As young men the Smyth brothers were like all the other local fanciers, trying to find birds capable of flying upwards of 600 miles, so it was decided they would send to England and the loft of Jim Kenyon to obtain new stock.
Teeshan Loft

A son of a Black Velvet cock rung 36-1378 was also obtained and at the time, Jim Kenyon noted: “There is no better bred bird of the black pied strain now alive.” In 1949 “Rennes Queen” was timed again from Rennes, finishing eighteenth Open but this time she was beaten to the loft by her own daughter “Northern Leader”, seventh Open in a race where only 25 birds were timed. Second and third Ulster Combine from Guernsey were also won that year.

In 1949 “Rennes Queen” was timed again from Rennes, finishing eighteenth Open but this time she was beaten to the loft by her own daughter “Northern Leader”, seventh Open in a race where only 25 birds were timed. Second and third Ulster Combine from Guernsey were also won that year. She was to become a legend and is probably the best pigeon ever to fly into Ireland and possibly any other country in the world. She went on to stamp her class as both racer and breeder.

Also that year, a daughter of “National Effort” and “Leading Lady” bred W Erwin his OB Derby winner. Another son of this pair bred a young blue pied cock in 1964 to win the brothers their first national. As well as this he went on to stamp his authority on the family up to the present day as he was the sire to the Badwing hen – a goldmine at breeding distance pigeons.


A young bird from him was presented to the Portadown Invitation Club and was purchased by Mervyn White. This hen was sent to Dinard in 1970 as a yearling and finished 2nd Open and probably the first pigeon in Northern Ireland to win more than £1,000. Not least in 1970, the loft was 23rd Open from Nantes in the Old Bird National with 2,100 birds competing. The birds were prepared again in 1973 with the distance races in mind and again the brothers came up trumps. A hen called “Northern Lady” bred from a son of “Silverwings” mated to the Badwing hen was timed in the Kings Cup race from Nantes finishing 2nd Open –So close! In this Old Bird National, pigeons bred from Smyth Bros birds finished 5th, 19th, 21st and 45th Open. They also finished 12th Open in Haverfordwest Y/B Derby in 1973.

In 1978 they had 50th Open Yearling National and then 24th Open O/B National from Rennes. She was bred from a son of “Silverwings” when paired to a Truman-Dicken hen. In 1982 the loft was 7th Open Yearling National and 66th Open O/B Derby from Dinard with the cock that had been 4th in the Yearling National the previous year. An unsettled period for distance racing began in 1983 with the birds not allowed into France. As there was no King’s Cup race that year a National race was held from Folkestone where 9th, 13th and 20th Open positions were won. The 13th Open pigeon was the one clocked 7th Open Yearling Nat. in 1982. He was called “Darkie” and was a son of 3rd Open Y/B National in 1979. The O/B Derby was held from Eastbourne (396 miles) and again a good result was achieved, 16th and 38th Open, with the latter being the pigeon which finished 9th Open Folkestone.

In 1988, racing returned to France. The O/B National was again held from Rennes and the loft was 64th and 145th Open, the second pigeon being clocked at 10.45 on the day.
In 1993, the Smyth Bros loft was 12th Open in the NIPA Old Bird Derby from Dinard with a grand-daughter of the Sartilly National winner.

finished 9th Open and was beaten to the loft by her own cousin “National Effort” who finished 6th Open, 1218 birds competing. “National Effort was sent sitting eight days on eggs and perhaps strangely, he was the first cock the brothers had timed in national competition. “Leading Lady’s”

record then of 21st, 4th, 6th and 9th in today’s national competitions would have qualified her for a Hall of Fame and gold medal but unfortunately, these had not yet been introduced in the 1950s.

These two pigeons were later mated together and had a great influence in continuing the success with the Kenyons, as we will see further on. “National Effort” was sent back in 1958 to Redon and clocked to finish 36th Open. A grand-daughter of “Leading Lady” was also clocked to win 38th Open. In 1959, the loft was 7th Open Young Bird National from Milford Haven.

Another great year started the Sixties, with 27th Open OB National from Les Sables (610 miles), 7th Open St Malo OB Derby, 56th and 77th YB National (330 miles).
The following year –1961 – it was back to Les Sables again, finishing 21st Open and 16th Open in the YB Derby.

In 1962 they moved from Teeshan to their new homes in Ballymena and a new team of racers had to be built up. One of their first YBs won 36th Open YB National that year, thus picking up where they had left off at the old address.

Also that year, a daughter of “National Effort” and “Leading Lady” bred W Erwin his OB Derby winner. Another son of this pair bred a young blue pied cock in 1964 to win the brothers their first national. As well as this he went on to stamp his authority on the family up to the present day as he was the sire to the Badwing hen – a goldmine at breeding distance pigeons.
In 1965 the loft won 41st Open Dinard OB Derby and were 49th and 50th YB National. Other notable achievements that decade included:
1966 - 49th Open OB National Nantes (570 miles); 27th Open NIPA YB Derby.

1967 - 8th Open OB Derby Dinard; 6th Open YB National Penzance. 1968 – 22nd Open OB National Nantes.
1969 – 63rd Open OB National Nantes; 31st Open OB Derby Dinard.
At the beginning of the 1970s, it would be almost impossible to continue with such startling results but what a start they made with 2nd and 6th Open Beauvais (517 miles). The Badwing hen was dam of 2nd Open and grand-dam of 6th Open. This was the Vaux Usher race and the birds were liberated with the Up North Combine. This on a day when the Irish birds were held over in Okehampton. Approximately eight pigeons came home on the day. By coincidence that day a fancier arrived for some young birds he had ordered and was in time to see the 6th Open bird clocked. This was to start another great era with the Kenyon pigeons as the fancier’s name was Jackie Patience and he went on to win the King’s Cup and the Old Bird Derby. He also had 5th and 6th and a host of other positions from France.

Jackie quoted, “Almost all these positions were won by pigeons coming down from Smyth Bros”, who he considers “the greatest long distance racers ever to fly into Ireland”.
1970 also started a great success story for a cock called “Silverwings”. He was from a grandson of “Rennes Queen” when paired to a grand-daughter of “Leading Lady”.

A young bird from him was presented to the Portadown Invitation Club and was purchased by Mervyn White. This hen was sent to Dinard in 1970 as a yearling and finished 2nd Open and probably the first pigeon in Northern Ireland to win more than £1,000. Not least in 1970, the loft was 23rd Open from Nantes in the Old Bird National with 2,100 birds competing.
In 1971 a hen bred from a son of “National Effort” and “Leading Lady” was clocked to win 45th Open in the Old Bird National from Nantes but was beaten to the loft by her daughter 24th Open. Clocked in the NIPA Old Bird Derby just outside open prizes but winning a prize in the section in 1972.

The birds were prepared again in 1973 with the distance races in mind and again the brothers came up trumps. A hen called “Northern Lady” bred from a son of “Silverwings” mated to the Badwing hen was timed in the Kings Cup race from Nantes finishing 2nd Open –So close! In this Old Bird National, pigeons bred from Smyth Bros birds finished 5th, 19th, 21st and 45th Open. They also finished 12th Open in Haverfordwest Y/B Derby in 1973.

The next two years were not as outstanding but they still clocked three birds in Dinard winning section prizes in 1974 and also clocked in Dinard the following year, winning a section prize. The young birds came to the fore and were 14th, 39th and 71st Open Penzance Y/B National as well as 40th Open Skibbereen Y/B National.

Another star of the Kenyon family was clocked in the 1976 Old Bird Derby from Dinard at 5am on the second morning to win 17th Open and was called “ Early Light”. He was bred from “Silverwings” and a daughter of the number one stock pair at this time – a grandson of “Leading Lady” mated to a grand-daughter of “Rennes Queen”.
A son of “Early Light”, later named “Bobby”, went to a fancier in Wales named Geoff Howells This cock was the sire of a hen to win the Welsh National from Lerwick (600 miles) and she was aptly named “Leading Lady II”. “Bobby”s dam was from the 6th Open Beauvais cock and a grand-daughter of “Silverwings”. In 1977 the King’s Cup race was probably the fastest on record with many pigeons clocked.

The Smyth loft clocked their four entries but only one was in the prizes, 135th Open. She was a daughter of the Badwing hen, later named “Highfield Consistent”. That year also saw them finish 124th Open Y/B National.

In 1978 they had 50th Open Yearling National and then 24th Open O/B National from Rennes. She was bred from a son of “Silverwings” when paired to a Truman-Dicken hen.
Nineteen-seventy-nine started with 35th Open Yearling National. They were 48th Open O/B National Rennes with a hen they called “Highfield Expected” and also 101st Open with “Highfield Consistent”. These two hens were half sisters, both from the Badwing hen. The loft was also 3rd and 42nd Open Y/B National and 99th Open Y/B Derby. Apart from their own performances in 1979, The breeding of Smyth Bros,were 2nd, 5th, 13th, 49th and 90th for others in the O/B National race. The Eighties began with 122nd Open Yearling National and three clocked from Les Sables (611 miles) O/B National, 26th, 125th and 127th Open. The 26th Open hen was a daughter of the last son of “Silverwings” before he was sold to a Canadian fancier, when paired to “Highfield Consistent”.

The 127th Open was “Highfield Expected”. Four pigeons had been sent. Three clocked and the fourth – the hen that had been 24th Open in 1978 – arrived on the fourth morning injured.
The Truman-Dicken hen, dam of the 24th Open pigeon, came from Ted Vowles, of Meare. A cock bred from the last son of “Silverwings” when paired to “Highfield Expected” was presented to Ted and was sire to his great hen “Gwendoline Supreme”, 1st Section, 1st Open British Barcelona Club Blue Riband event from Palamos (700 miles) – a good cross for both lofts! Nineteen-eighty-one was a memorable year, starting with 4th Open Yearling National. The King’s Cup race was flown from Les Sables (611 miles) and Smyth Bros were 40th Open with “Highfield Consistent” and 58th Open with “Highfield Expected”, winning two Hall of Fame awards. These awards are for pigeons in the prizes three times in the O/B National. Only one other loft has ever won two in the same year.

In 1982 the loft was 7th Open Yearling National and 66th Open O/B Derby from Dinard with the cock that had been 4th in the Yearling National the previous year. An unsettled period for distance racing began in 1983 with the birds not allowed into France. As there was no King’s Cup race that year a National race was held from Folkestone where 9th, 13th and 20th Open positions were won. The 13th Open pigeon was the one clocked 7th Open Yearling Nat. in 1982. He was called “Darkie” and was a son of 3rd Open Y/B National in 1979. The O/B Derby was held from Eastbourne (396 miles) and again a good result was achieved, 16th and 38th Open, with the latter being the pigeon which finished 9th Open Folkestone.

The 16th Open, known as the Eastbourne cock, was later sold to Fountain Head. He was a son of 26th Open Les Sables hen in 1980 when paired to a son of 2nd Open Beauvais cock. For these great results they were awarded the “Northern Ireland Fanciers Of The Year”.
In 1984, our racing went to the Scottish route and the best of the birds were kept at home. But in the Thurso National, 3rd, 4th and 22nd Open positions were won. Minor positions were achieved in Scotland (1985) and the boat races of 1986. But in 1987, the birds again started to excel. Although 100 miles shorter than the French Derbys and Nationals, the birds were 5th Open Guernsey O/B Derby and 7th and 26th Open Les Landes O/B National as well as 10th Open in the Y/B National.

In 1988, racing returned to France. The O/B National was again held from Rennes and the loft was 64th and 145th Open, the second pigeon being clocked at 10.45 on the day.
In the Yearling National of 1989 the loft was 24th Open, 45th Open in the O/B Derby from Dinard and 41st Open in the King’s Cup from Rennes. A very successful year followed with 66th Open and 192nd in the King’s Cup from Rennes; 1st and 2nd Friendship National from Sartilly; 86th Open Y/B National Penzance. Entries were also clocked in Yearling and Skibbereen Y/B Nationals and they became National Champions of 1991. The loft was also 30th Open YB Derby.
The 66th Open King’s Cup hen was from the 5th Open Guernsey cock in 1987 and a daughter of the Hall of Fame hen
“Highfield Consistent”. The Friendship National winner was from an inbred grand-daughter of “Silverwings”. Her sister, “Silver Lady”, went to Fountain Head.

Remembering the success of the Truman-Dicken cross in the past, another grizzle hen was brought over of this strain and a grizzle son of her and a grandson of “Silverwings” was the sire of the Sartilly hen. The 2nd Open hen was from a double grandson of “Silverwings”. Her dam was off a son of the 2nd Open Nantes National winner. The first National of 1992 was the Yearling and 165th Open was won. In the King’s Cup race from Rennes, another super result was attained with 7th and 14th Open winning the Robinson Cup and the Harkness Rosebowl for the best two-bird average. In the Y/B National, the loft was 192nd.

The 7th Open hen was a yearling and bred again from the in-bred grandson of “Silverwings.
The 14th Open hen had been 192nd Open in 1991. She was bred from a 1982 hen full of the old distance blood. Her sire was from a brother to 26th Open Les Sables in 1980 when paired to the Hall of Fame hen “Highfield Consistent” and her dam was a daughter of the Eastbourne cock.
A full sister of the 1982 hen went to C&L Woodside and was dam and grand-dam to most of their prizewinners from France including 4th, 18th,21st King’s Cup, and many others. In 1997 they had 21 different Prizewinners from France in their loft.

In 1993, the Smyth Bros loft was 12th Open in the NIPA Old Bird Derby from Dinard with a grand-daughter of the Sartilly National winner.

The following year, 133rd and 194th Open from Rennes in the King’s Cup were won as well as 59th Open Dinard O/B Derby with a yearling grand-daughter of the 14th Open King’s Cup hen of 1992. They were 161st in the Yearling National that year, too.
That same year, Jackie Patience won the NIPA O/B Derby from Dinard and in 1995 won the King’s Cup with pigeons coming down from his original Smyth Bros Kenyons.
The 1997 Old Bird National was from a new race point, St Nazaire (554 miles) where 97th Open was achieved.

In the Friendship National of “98”, 10th Open was won from Dinard, with 245th in the Yearling National the following year. In the first year of the new Millennium, 14th Open in the Young Bird National was won with a pied hen, still the colour and shape of her ancestors 50 years before. Unfortunately this hen was killed by a hawk and found lying at the back of the loft.

Having now passed Eighty years of age Bobby’s energy and enthusiam of the earlier years was not so much in evidence and with only keeping about 16 pigeons some of the races were missed out but in 2003 a Blue Cheq. Cock was clocked in the Penzance Young Bird National being placed 67th Open. As the racing season of 2004 arrived so too did some of the old enthusiasm because of his confidence in two half brothers, a Blue and a Blue Cheq. which he intended sending to France. One of these birds was to go to the NIPA derby from Lamballe, (470 Miles) and the other to the INFC Old Bird National from Messac (524 Miles). They were both bred from a son of Jackie Patience’s King’s Cup winner when mated to his Old Bird Derby winner. The blue was a grand daughter of the Sartilly National winner and the Cheq. a grand daughter of the 14th Open hen of 1992. The Blue was sent to Lamballe and came to win the club , being the only bird on the day and the Cheq. went to Messac and was the only bird in the club winning 1st club, 83rd Section and 93rd Open from over 2000 birds. He was also 10th in the new single bird challenge in the King’s Cup race and the only member in Ballymena to clock in both races. Not bad for a young boy of 83.

Many owe their success in France to Smyth Bros and their Kenyon strain.
One of these was Alfie Gregg, of Dromore, who was fortunate to have pigeons from the great “Leading Lady”. Alfie in-bred these pigeons and got a very small hen which he called “Maypole Imp”. She was 46th Open King’s Cup in 1966 and 8th Open in 1967, while pigeons from her daughter won the Millar Gold Cup for Joe Magner and the King’s Cup for Eddie Reid. They also bred many more French prizewinners for Alfie.

A grandson of the Eastbourne cock when mated to the 7th Open King’s Cup hen bred a cock for W McKillen, which has bred 78th Open Dinard; 97th Y/B National Penzance; 136th Yearling National; 101st King’s Cup; 103rd King’s Cup; 175th Yearling National; and 23rd King’s Cup as well as many other positions with grandsons and grand- daughters.
Many others, too numerous to mention, in all countries of the world, owe their success to these great fanciers and I apologise if I have not mentioned them, but there are so many it is impossible to include them all..

I am sure they would wish Bobby much success in the future and perhaps even another national success.

Any old or new friends wanting to speak to Bobby can phone him at, “02825643740” or

write to him at,
20, OLD BALLYMONEY ROAD,
BALLYMENA, CO. ANTRIM,
N. IRELAND. BT43 6LX.


Article by:
Maurice Alexander.

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