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Tommy Harper Of Ireland
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The research undertaken for this subject was not an easy task but I have gathered what I consider to be reliable material to pay due tribute to one of the greatest fanciers that Ireland has produced since the appearance of the sport in the Emerald Isle. In the 1950s, of the last century, as a young 16 year old I heard the name of Tommy Harper over and over again whenever and wherever pigeoners gathered. Even those in the north west of Ireland who owned Tommy Harper pigeons always referred to them with pride and many fanciers from there and elsewhere were successful with his bloodlines. And there are today those who still claim to have his bloodlines. To have such admiration bestowed upon one surely confirms that the subject admired was a master of the sport and his strain second to none in the eyes of many. From as far back as 1956 I recall a media report of the Ballymena, County Antrim, fancier winning in four channel races a 1st, two 2nds and one 3rd under the auspices of the giant Northern Ireland Provincial Amalgamation of Racing Pigeon Societies Championship Club. At the same time if my memory is correct Harper also won 3rd Open Ulster Continental Club from St.Malo in France, after about 15 hours on the wing. In the St.Malo race only three pigeons were clocked on the day according to the archives. The research undertaken for this subject was not an easy task but I have gathered what I consider to be reliable material to pay due tribute to one of the greatest fanciers that Ireland has produced since the appearance of the sport in the Emerald Isle. In the 1950s, of the last century, as a young 16 year old I heard the name of Tommy Harper over and over again whenever and wherever pigeoners gathered. Even those in the north west of Ireland who owned Tommy Harper pigeons always referred to them with pride and many fanciers from there and elsewhere were successful with his bloodlines. And there are today those who still claim to have his bloodlines. To have such admiration bestowed upon one surely confirms that the subject admired was a master of the sport and his strain second to none in the eyes of many. From as far back as 1956 I recall a media report of the Ballymena, County Antrim, fancier winning in four channel races a 1st, two 2nds and one 3rd under the auspices of the giant Northern Ireland Provincial Amalgamation of Racing Pigeon Societies Championship Club. At the same time if my memory is correct Harper also won 3rd Open Ulster Continental Club from St.Malo in France, after about 15 hours on the wing. In the St.Malo race only three pigeons were clocked on the day according to the archives.

The base of the Harper strain were 8 youngsters obtained from the famous British fancier Dr. Buckley. In fact a fellow pigeon
journalist of the distant past once wrote that upon their purchase the late Dr. Buckley informed Harper that the babies were 'The best ever to leave my lofts'. We will never know what motivated Tommy Harper to go to this source but the history of his successes and that of others underlines the wisdom of it. For indeed their descendants have won well beyond the shores of Ireland.

Reference to this master of the sport could not be made without reference also to Harper's Iron Man. For this outstanding black cheq cock- an icon of the Irish fancy- was sent across the channel 22 times and was clocked 21 times. Scoring 16th Open Dinard twice, and from St. Malo 30th Open. The Iron Man in fact won from 100 to 500 miles with velocities as low as 600ypm and as high as 2,400ypm. He was also an outstanding breeder.

In his illustrious sporting career Tommy Harper won many positions, a few of which is as follows: 2nd Open National Redon (beaten by 1ypm for the King's Cup, the blue riband of Irish distance racing), 3rd Open National Nantes ( a daughter of the Iron Man), 8th Open National Rennes, 11th Open National Nantes, as well as 5th, 20th, 27th, 32nd, 41st, and 45th in other National Opens.

What I have written as an introduction to Tommy Harper and his strain does not contain one speck of exaggeration although I concede that respectful emotion is dripping from my pen in the act of writing. Harper and his strain occupies an elite spot in the history of the sport in Ireland for without boring the reader: to cross one stretch of water is difficult enough, and here I have in mind the English Channel, but then to continue across the temperamental Irish Sea and perhaps the St. George's Channel confirms the outstanding endurance of the Harper's. In fact some of the older fanciers believe that they will never see their like again.

Liam O Comain  -
by: Liam O Comain

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