Who are the pigeon fanciers?

4 Dec 2010

The National Pigeon Association is the governing body of Fancy Pigeons in Great Britain.  The NPA caters for over 200 varieties of Fancy and Flying Pigeons.  The NPA has a wide variety of fanciers from the very experienced exhibitor to the novice, and are very keen to introduce young people into a rewarding and not necessarily expensive hobby.

I expected the pigeon show in Newark and West Bridgford to be full of men aged between 40 and 60 and I was right. I’ve only been to two pigeon shows and spoken to around 12 people, but have been welcomed into the world of pigeon fancying with open arms.

I admire the men (and the few women) who dedicate their time to this traditional hobby. Its obvious that pigeon fancying requires a huge amount of commitment, with most fanciers getting involved as children and some having kept pigeons for up to as long as 65 years.

Most of the men here today would rather sleep with their pigeons than their wives, that’s how serious and dedicated they are about keeping pigeons! John Elsdon, President of the National Pigeon Association for Great Britain.

I’ve met some of those dedicated men (and women) at the National Pigeon Association (NPA) Championship shows in Newark and West Bridgford.

John Elsdon, President of the NPA
John Elsdon, President of the NPA

John Elsdon is the president of the NPA of GB.

I’ve kept pigeons for 65 years. I have 100 pigeons that I keep in my garden loft.  Its an important part of my life, I wouldn’t like to work out the amount of hours I’ve put into it.  I don’t just judge shows, I write for a magazine and I’ve done that for many years.

I raced in my early days for 7- 8 years, it was good fun but expensive. There is a racing pigeon club in every town of Britain and can result in winning very big prizes. Its a very thrilling thing to do, to race pigeons, I can say that because I’ve done it. As much as I love these fancy pigeons and showing them I cant say that they make my hair stand on end like it did when I had a pigeon flying 513 miles from the Shetlands to my home.




Christine Right, former secretary of the NPA

Christine Wright is the former secretary of the NPA, she is now retired, but still attends the shows to help out.

I keep Modea pigeons, I have about 80 and show them at the NPA Championship shows.  We (Christine and her late husband) would judge each others birds. He was in to it first and then I followed. You get into the hobby together and you’re never stuck for anything to talk about. We used to have competitions with each other. I sometimes won, but he didn’t like it when I did ha ha haaa! I did enjoy it.

When I got the life membership award from the NPA, I was proud. If I win a class, I take the birds home and tell them how clever they are, because they have stood there all day and looked so proud and won.

David Barraclough, President of the Modea Pigeon club

David Barraclough is the President for the National Modea club.

I keep Modea pigeons, Im showing 73 today. I’ve currently got 5 on victory row (this means that he has 5 pigeons selected and one will win overall best in show).  I first brought my wife a pair of pigeons for her 19th birthday in 1976. But she wasn’t interested.  She allows me to continue, but as far as she is concerned they are flying rats. Its good in some ways, she has got her own interest and we get on with it.

I’ve only been racing pigeons for 3 years but came 14th out of 687. The pigeon had to fly 207 miles and won me £210. A racing pigeon is an athlete, you put in a similar food regime as you would an athlete.

Richard Greenwood, pigeon fancier and member of the NPA

Richard Greenwood is a member of the NPA and a keen pigeon fancier.

I have had pigeons for 55 years and been showing for 45 years. I have 400 croppers, both the Spanish and English types. I’ve been awarded best Norwich and Spanish cropper today at West Bridgford’s NPA show.

Its about showing and winning. Coming second doesn’t mean anything, you spend as much time as you need to with them. Its all about regularity. The more you put in, the more you get out.

I’ve been married 40 years, I get 100% support from my wife, it doesn’t always go down well. When your dedicated you need to be a bit selfish. Maybe I should have sometimes put it on the back burner but I haven’t.

Jill Fisher, Pigeon fancier and member of the NPA

Jill Fisher shows as part of J&D Fisher. The ‘D’ stands for David that’s my husband.

Today I’ve won 7 firsts including best in show racers and best opposite sex show racer.  Its very time consuming. We have a loft in the garden that is 31 ft long by 14 ft wide with separate compartments. The birds are cleaned everyday, given a bath every week and given conditioning seeds to keep their feathers in good condition.

Im the brains behind them. I was brought up with pigeons. My father kept pigeons, I was daddy’s little girl and would come with him to shows. I kept my own pet pigeon and showed as a youngster. I stopped showing because of work commitments and then about 11 years ago I started again.

I think you have to be obsessed. You clean, choose, basket and drive to come to the shows with very little financial gain, but they bring so much enjoyment. Its both stressful and relaxing.

Graham Bates, member of NPA management committee

Graham Bates is a judge at today’s NPA in West Bridgford and is a member of the NPA management Committee.

I’ve been involved with pigeons since I was 13 years old (Im 40 now so that’s a long while!) I’ve had experience of racing and fancy pigeons.

I keep 200 pigeons, the blowing types, called pouters. They are the types that hold air in their crop, all pigeons make a cooing sound when the air roles around in the membrane.

I am always trying to promote our hobby, its not everyone’s cup of tea as the public have a perception of pigeons as flying rats or rats with wings. Although pigeons can be very educational and change people’s perceptions. They all descend from the rock dove and people’s perceptions of doves are completely different to that of the pigeon.

Evan Murray, member of NPA management committee

Evan Murray started out as a pigeon fancier and for the last two years has been on the NPA management Committee. He is now a big part of the Nottingham shows and he now looks after the Blackpool show.

I’ve kept pigeons since I was 6 and kept for a total of around 48 years, so its been a life time hobby. I keep the blower breeds, but I’m more interested in the social side than the showing side. I did my showing as a young man.

Im an entertainer, everyone laughs at me because I kiss and cuddle everyone- women, kids, cats and dogs. Its part of the enjoyment, so people are made to feel welcome.

I met my wife through pigeons. I used to fly pigeons with her dad, so I can blame meeting my wife and being happily married for 37 years on falling in love with pigeons!  Winning is nice, we all like to win, but its not the bee all and end all. That’s how I run my life, I try to be nice to everyone. Being well-known and well- liked to me is much more important.

Brian Brook, member of NPA management committee

Brian Brook is a member of the NPA management committee and ex President

I first became interested in pigeons as a child, when my sister gave me two Birmingham Rollers for my 6th birthday.Birmingham Roller pigeons fly up into the air and perform backward somersaults, the reasons for the rolling isn’t clear but some theories link the ‘performance’ as an epileptic fit.

Many fanciers have very supportive partners, my wife included, who is a judge, specialising in Chinese Owls (a type of fancy pigeon). I don’t know any of my fancier friends whose wife’s are totally dis- interested.

My proudest pigeon moment was winning the Doncaster show and getting best Chinese Owl three years in a row. I just love them, I just love birds. I love pigeons I’m not a rabbit man, my dad was. I’m a pigeon man always have been.

If I’m perfectly honest I think the pigeon fancier is dying out. If we were stood here in ten years, this conversation would not be taking place in the same way, I hope not, but I think that because I’ve seen the decline over the years.

More images for Project Pigeonwatch

Lucy Stevens’ artistic practice examines the acoustic ecology of the natural environment, using field recording, digital illustration, performance and printmaking as a tool to visualise sound produced by wildlife, weather and other natural phenomena.

4 comments on “Who are the pigeon fanciers?

  1. Pingback: April in Paris « Pigeon Post

  2. Pingback: Camac artist residency « Lucy Stevens Binaural audio projects

  3. Hello Lucy
    I am trying to locate a pigeon fancier who lives in West Bridgford, Nottingham. He helped me treat some canaries who were ill a few years ago and I’ve lost his contact details.
    Any help you could give me would be much appreciated as I now have another canary who needs urgent treatment and the vets don’t seem to be very helpful I’m afraid. Thank you.

    • Hi Jeff So sorry this is a late response, Ive only just seen it now and unfortunately no longer have any contacts for birders in West Bridgford. I hope your canary was able to be treated? Thanks Lucy

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