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SPENCE BROS ENTER THEIR 40TH YEAR OF PIGEON RACING
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After reporting the achievements of the Lisburn partnership of Spence Bros around this time last year, I never for once thought it would be possible for them to mirror such list of performances again in any one season, how wrong I was. The father and son partnership have this year entered their 40th year in competitive competition and have already notched up yet another Ulster Federation Open win in the first week of racing in 2007.

Brian and Roy race with two clubs namely the NIPA affiliated Lisburn & District HPS (known locally as the big Club) and the Ulster Federation affiliated Lagan Valley RPC one of the hardest Clubs to win in the Federation with most prizes filled within seconds. Brian is the only founder member of the Lagan Valley Club still to be racing at the age of 75. The partnership also at a time competed in a third Club that being Lisnagarvey HPS from 1988 until 1995.

Just to give the readers an explanation and exhaust the confusion, when I write about Spence Bros I am talking about Brian flying along with son Roy the partnership was formed by Brian for his two sons back in 1967 but Roy was the only one to catch the pigeon bug and with the loft being sited in Brian’s back garden it was only to lead to one thing a formidable racing partnership of father and son.

What a partnership I must add, last season they were to win the Highest Prize Winner award with the Lisburn & District HPS and were crowned Federation Fanciers of the Year with the Ulster Federation having just been piped to the top spot in the other Club they race with namely the Lagan Valley RPC, in 2006 they were to reclaim that accolade in the Lagan Valley and as the heading goes completed the Treble by reclaiming the previous two honours mentioned. Fanciers from Northern Ireland will know what magnitude these consistent performances merit, in my eyes Spence Bros are a very consistent winning partnership at a very high level and have been for some time and no doubt will continue to be for many years to come. Remembering that Lisburn is sited approx 10 miles outside of the Ulster Federation’s Heart Beat namely Belfast with the Lagan Valley Club being the only Club to compete in the Federation outside of Northern Ireland’s main city.

On arrival at Brian’s home early one Saturday morning on the basis of catching Roy who works shifts and had just completed night shift that particular morning and with the sun splitting the slates I decided to view the loft set up and the birds in question (as the saying goes make hay when the sun shines) as it very seldom happens in Ireland. Most years I think we get more sun in the winter than we do in the summer.

Brian is a joiner by trade and Roy an engineer so its wasn’t a surprise to see a super loft set up that graces the spacious back garden. The main racing loft is 12 ft x 6ft raised on top of a 5ft tall brick built store, with a cemented staircase leading to a side door. This loft was constructed for widowhood although over the years Brian and Roy has found more success on Natural. Fresh air has every opportunity of entering the loft as 1/3 of the complete frontage is wire meshed with sliding shutters in case of bad weather, no forgetting at the bottom of the frontage is five sizeable plastic louvers, one of which slides down into place and is removed when birds require basketing with brackets installed to allow for the hamper to sit nicely over where the plastic louver used to be. Roy explained due to his father and himself working full time it makes things some what quicker each day when tossing and on Friday’s when basketing for a race, with the same system deployed in the Young Bird sections the birds are learnt from kids when they are required to enter the hamper with no fuss or the annoyance in catching them. Brian explained that this also keeps the birds calmer and less stressed which is a must for ultimate health.

The Y/Bird and additional racing loft is again very open and airy at the front with again shutters made to fit encase of extreme weather, I state extreme as with the roof over shooting the front of the loft by about 3ft it is well sheltered unless the rain is swirling with high winds. The loft measures 21ft x 6xft split into three sections two of which are for young bird racing. With the shutters already made to fit these would be used to darken the Y/B sections as the partnership race the youngsters solely on the darkness system.

Tucked away in the corner between the two main lofts sit’s a 8ft x 6ft loft which holds the cream of this successful partnership. Fitted with an angled aviary that is not that noticeable from the front but spacious enough to gain access with a bath.

All the lofts are fitted with sloped roofs from front to back with about an inch of a cap at the back allowing for stale air to escape, the partnership ensure all the lofts and nest boxes are scrapped on a daily basis.

Now for the stock, to have been as successful as Roy and Brian have been over the years I already new we were into a lengthy debacle as to what is and has been the most successful they have ever owned. Brian won’t go any further than Cattrysse for these he says are the ultimate breed capable of every distance and type of day. On the other hand Roy has varied views and has bought numerous pigeons over the years and has encouraged Brain to look further a field than the Cattrysse Strain. At present in the stock lofts they have Cattrysse, Verheye, Van Den Bosche from John Kirk and one exceptional pigeon bred off John‘s superstar ‘Magic Man‘, Van Loons, Dean Pallet (Van Reet), the late Jim Chambers (Sootjen), Cosworth Stud, Brownlee Nee Sons and Ward (Van Reet), last but not least Alec Crawford (Sootjen). Alec Crawford is very well known figure around the Northern Ireland sale’s and isn’t shy on spending money to obtain the best from where ever it happens to be, Brian and Roy have had an unbreakable friendship with Alec for a very long time and it isn’t a surprise to hear that two of the Spence’s Federation Open winners this year are bred down from Alec Crawford birds.

Over the years Brian says they owe credit to a lot of people who have bred exceptional birds for them, these fanciers include Eddie Malloy from Portadown, Ron Cross from Rochdale both Cattrysse men, Alan Reid from Blackwood in Wales with direct Lefabre Dehanens (Alan supplied them in 1995 with the best racer to date a Blue Cock who on the road won the partnership over £5,000 he was lost on the road in 2000 from Skibbereen in a strong blow home.) also Kevin Hurst who supplied the partnership with Busschaerts. They also with the help of Alec Crawford purchased Busschaerts from the Clearance Sale of Roy Bradley in Barnsley.

Like so many fanciers who fly in the Lagan Valley RPC the partnership participate in the annual trip to Lier Market in Belgium, they have brought super pigeons back for next to nothing so much so that Roy includes the Lier market young ones each year in his quota of Young Birds to race normally bringing back around a dozen. Although always on the look out for Cattrysse pigeons which are hard to find, Harold (Brian’s brother) who race’s as B & H Spence did spot some in 2000 and bought the seven that were left and the partnership have enjoyed a good level of success with them.

Roy would along with most of the membership purchase Y/Birds from the Natural Breeding Stud run by Colin Surtees on the way home. The success of the latter is evident as the Lagan Valley Bird of the Year is bred down from a hen purchased at the Natural Breeding station when mated to a cock Roy brought back from Lier Market, this Blue Sootjen won 3 x 1st Clubs.

The Old Bird racers which number around 70 along with the stock birds approx. 24 are normally mated around the Blackpool weekend, they will then stay mated until the end of July. I will point out that the partnership believe in keeping no prisoners and try to buy new stock as babies so as to have them flying out and in, which gives them a variation of options when it comes to mating. Feeding is the same all year round with the exception of about 4 weeks before breeding normal feeding is Raymond Russells (No Bean) which is supplied by Henry Beattie. This is hopper fed to the pigeons young and old all year round with Barley being the only difference for a four week period prior to breeding. Treatments are the usual Cocci, Canker and Worms normally administered six weeks before pairing. The partnership would on average treat for Canker every four weeks when racing commences, and would pay extra attention to them if there should be a hold over.

Red and Black minerals along with grit are always available, with the only substitute in the water being Johnston’s Tonic once per week. The young bird supplements would be a bit extra as they get Aviform Ultimate in the water a couple of days per week and every race day they would have electrolytes in the water on return. Old and young would both get a little Red Band as a tit bit.

Tossing again is the same for old and young, every day bar a Friday. Roy admits to working them hard this includes out morning and evening for their usual fly around the loft. After the winter break tossing would commence around two weeks before the first race same for the young birds, this would entail them being restarted at 1 mile, then jumped to 5 mile and then to 10mile continuing up to around 22 miles as the bird would fly approx. 30 mile by road, they will go no further.

The partnership rear around 60 youngsters and with the Belgium youngsters added would expect to the start the tossing campaign with around 80, as mentioned earlier the boys race solely Darkness, something Brian has noticed over the years, he would lose the most amount of his (Darkies) the first week he takes them of the Darkness, so this year he has decided just to fly them at home that week to see if it makes a difference. They will be on the darkness system from around the 28 day mark up until the middle of June.

I will now list last years club performances in the Lagan Valley RPC which won the partnership Top Prize Winner (20 bird limit) and Champions of the Belfast based Ulster Federation for the second year on the trot and will also list the Club performances for Lisburn & District HPS (N.I.P.A.) which crowned them Top Prize-winners again for the second year on the trot.

Lagan Valley RPC O/B
Kildare (1) - 3rd & 5th Club, 4th Open 193/3030; Kildare (2) 4th & 8th Club; Thurles (1) 5th & 7th Club; Thurles (2) 2nd Club; Thurles (3) 6th Club; Talbenny 10th Club; Skibbereen 7th Club; Bude 1st,2nd & 8th Club, 2nd & 12th Open 171/1626; Sennen Cove 3rd,6th &10th Club, 4th Open 135/799.

Lagan Valley RPC Y/B
Navan (2) - 6th Club, 19th Open 201/4572; Kildare (2) 9th Club; Thurles (1) 1st,5th & 7th Club, 4th Open; Thurles (2) 2nd & 10th Club, 19th Open 196/4069; Fermoy (1) 1st, 3rd & 8th Club, 1st, 9th & 15th Open 187/3178; Fermoy (2) 1st,2nd ,3rd & 4th Club, 1st ,3rd & 6th Open 145/2160; Skibbereen 1st & 2nd Club, 3rd & 8th Open 90/794.

Lagan Valley Ulster Federation Derbies
Sennen Cove Derby 4th Open, £296.35; St Malo Derby 2nd Open, £471.00 Plus winning the Clock; Fermoy 5/Bird Derby 5th Open £161.78; Talbenny Y/B Derby 1st Open £682.75 Plus winning the Clock; Fermoy C/Baraniff 5/Bird 1st & 2nd £493; Skibbereen Derby 3rd & 8th Open, £276.11.

Lisburn & District HPS O/B
Mullingar - 1st & 6th Club, 3rd Sec, 36th Open; Tullamore 2nd, 3rd & 6th Club, 12th & 19th Sec, 76th & 157th Open; Thurles 2nd,5th & 6th Club, 9th Sec, 146th Open; Thurles 1st & 4th Club, 1st Sec; Rosscarbery 1st & 3rd Club, 1st & 8th Sec; Pilmore Beach 4th & 6th Club; Talbenny (1) 1st & 3rd Club, 1st & 6th Sec, 30th & 61st Open; Talbenny (2) 7th & 10th Club; Thurles C/B 3rd & 10th Club, 29th Sec, 153rd Open; Sennen Cove 8th & 11th Club.

Lisburn & District HPS Y/B
Mullingar- 8th & 9th Club, 21st & 24th Sec, 37th & 42nd Open; Tullamore 2nd, 4th, 5th & 7th Club, 3rd, 8th, 5th & 12th Sec, 4th ,9th,28th,37th Open; Thurles 3rd Club; Thurles 6th Club, 29th Sec, 79th Open; Fermoy 3rd & 6th Club, 5th, 20th & 31st Sec, 28th,,119th & 151st Open; Pilmore Beach 9th & 10th Club, 28th & 30th Sec, 136th & 148th Open; Tullamore C/B 3rd & 8th Club, 14th, 32nd & 35th Sec, 75th, 120th & 123rd Open; Fermoy 1st & 5th Club, 2nd ,31st & 43rd Sec, 4th, 79th & 120th Open; Tullamore C/B 1st & 4th Club; Thurles 4th & 7th Club, 10th, 23rd & 27th Sec, 45th, 112th & 131st Open.

NIPA & INFC Nationals
Rosscarbery NIPA 4th & 40th Sec, 11th & 237th Open, £639.59; Sennen Cove NIPA 21st & 25th Sec, 184th & 196th Open, £10.00; Portland National NIPA 15th & 83rd Sec, 17th & 90th Open, £191.65; Talbenny Y/B National NIPA 6th & 13th Sec, 68th & 200th Open, £ 159.48; Fermoy 5/Bird Y/B NIPA, 10th Sec, 23rd Open, £108.68; Rosscarbery Y/B National NIPA 2nd & 17th Sec, 17th & 109th Open , £299.66; Sennen Cove Y/B O/H National 98th Sec, 117th Open Y/B 41st Sec, 48th Open O/H £38.80; Skibbereen INFC National 5th, 57th,60th,141st & 170th Sec, 10th, 93rd, 96th, 194th, 227th & 223rd Open, £658.39.

In total I had calculated in my previous report on this monster of a partnership that they had neared £22,000 in pools and prize money in the last 5 years of racing, in the 2006 season alone they topped £6,600 plus two new T3 Clocks. Excellent flying from a small team back garden loft, no large studs here and birds for sale are few and far between. This year to list all awards and averages won would take up more space than the following performances which I am going to include :-

1981 - I.N.F.C. Kings Cup Les Sables 35th Open, 72nd Open, 81st Open,
127th Open and 166th Open.

1983 - I.N.F.C. Skibbereen Y/B National 16th Open;
N.I.P.A. Y/B Derby Skibbereen 15th and 38th Open.

1985 - N.I.P.A. Skibbereen O/B Derby 32nd Open,
I.N.F.C. Yearling National 156th Open,
I.N.F.C. Skibbereen Y/B National 39th, 43rd, 63rd, 70th and 161st Open.

1986 - N.I.P.A. Skibbereen O/B Derby 3rd and 5th Open,
N.I.P.A. Dungarvan 2nd and 5th Open,
I.N.F.C. Kings Cup 6th Open,
N.I.P.A. Guernsey Derby 1st Section 25th Open,
N.I.P.A. Skibbereen Y/B Derby 19th Open.

1987 - I.N.F.C. Penzance Classic 22nd, 38th, 59th and 92nd Open
I.N.F.C. Skibbereen Y/B National 20th Open
I.N.F.C. Yearling National 94th Open
N.I.P.A. Skibbereen O/B Derby 1st Section 1st Open
I.N.F.C. Penzance Friendship National 38th and 40th Open.

1988 N.I.P.A. Y/B Derby Skibbereen 14th Open
I.N.F.C. Skibbereen Y/B National 69th and 155th Open

1989 U.FED Dinard O/B Derby 2nd Open
U.FED Skibbereen Y/B Derby 19th and 20th Open
I.N.F.C. Skibbereen Y/B National 47th Open
N.I.P.A. Skibbereen Y/B Derby 78th Open

1990 N.I.P.A. Skibbereen O/B Derby 8th and 27th Open
U.FED Skibbereen Y/B Derby 5th and 49th Open
N.I.P.A. Dinard O/B Derby 1st Section 1st Open

1991 I.N.F.C. Kings Cup 32nd Open
N.I.P.A. Skibbereen Y/B Derby 18th Open

1992 N.I.P.A. Penzance Classic 21st, 31st and 86th Open
N.I.P.A. Talbenny Y/B Derby 32nd Open

1994 N.I.P.A. Skibbereen O/B Derby 17th, 56th and 71st Open
U.FED Skibbereen O/B Derby 4th Open
N.I.P.A. Penzance O/B Classic 13th, 52nd and 66th Open
N.I.P.A. Skibbereen Y/B Derby 58th Open

1996 N.I.P.A. Rosscarbery O/B Derby 5th and 37th Open
U.FED Skibbereen O/B Derby 9th Open
I.N.F.C. Rennes Kings Cup 80th Open
N.I.P.A. Rosscarbery Y/B National 6th and 17th Open

1999 U.FED Skibbereen O/B Derby 3rd Open
U.FED Penzance Championship 1st Open
I.N.F.C. Redon Kings Cup 68th and 127th Open

2000 I.N.F.C. Sartilly Friendship National 54th Open

2001 N.I.P.A. Lamballe O/B Derby 1st Section 2nd Open

2002 U.FED North Region Classic 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Open
N.I.P.A. O/B Derby Skibbereen 78th, 97th and 145th Open
N.I.P.A. Rosscarbery Y/B Derby 1st & 2nd Section, 3rd & 7th Open

2003 I.N.F.C. Y/B National Penzance 28th Open
U.FED Y/B Derby Mary Bank 3rd Open

2004 N.I.P.A. Rosscarbery O/B National 77th, 118th, 142nd, 154th and 176th Open
I.N.F.C. Sennen Cove Classic 4th Section, 41st Open
N.I.P.A. Lamballe O/B National 1st Section, 66th Open
N.I.P.A. Skibbereen O/B National 147th Open
I.N.F.C. Yearling National 330th Open
I.N.F.C. Skibbereen Y/B National 87th and 163rd Open.

2005 I.N.F.C. Skibbereen O/B National - 39th, 51st, 137th Section, 39th, 51st and 137th Open
I.N.F.C. Sennen Cove Classic - 18th Section, 199th Open
N.I.P.A. Rosscarbery O/B National - 4th, 7th and 25th Section, 17th, 42nd and 212th Open
U.FED Portland O/B Derby - 4th Open
U.FED Claire Branniff 5 Bird - 1st and 4th Club, 3rd Open
N.I.P.A. Talbenny Y/B National - 3rd Section, 110th Open
U.FED Skibbereen Y/B Derby - 2nd, 3rd and 7th Club, 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 41st Open
N.I.P.A. Rosscarbey Y/B National - 6th, 7th and 8th Section, 105th, 109th and 112th Open
I.N.F.C. Kings Cup Messac - 46th Section, 54th Open
I.N.F.C. Skibbereen Y/B National - 13th, 112th and 131st Open
I.N.F.C. Yearling National Sennen Cove - 116th Section, 133rd Open.

Excellent racing from the inform partnership at the minute and I can only wish them continued success in the remainder of the 2007 seasons were I have no doubt they will excel once again. Any views or enquires with reference to the above article can be made to

Adie McCormick
Ireland’s Own Pigeon Auctions
25 Knockmore Square
Lisburn, Co.Antrim.

Tele 028 92604778
Or email celestiallofts@aol.com

Brian (L) holding Cheq Cock 1st Club, 1st Section D, 2nd Open Bude NIPA.
Brian (L) holding Cheq Cock 1st Club, 1st Section D, 2nd Open Bude NIPA.
Roy holding Blue Sootjen Cock Lagan Valley Bird of the Year.

The main Natural O/B racing loft, orginally built for Widowhood.
The main Natural O/B racing loft, orginally built for Widowhood.

The 21ft x 6ft racing loft split into 3 x section 1 x for O/Birds and the other 2 for Y/B Darkness.
The 21ft x 6ft racing loft split into 3 x section 1 x for O/Birds and the other 2 for Y/B Darkness.

The small but active stock loft of Spence Bros, Lisburn with a fitted aviary concealed around the back to the left hand side.
The small but active stock loft of Spence Bros, Lisburn with a fitted aviary concealed around the back to the left hand side.

Ash Hen (Cattrysse) winner of 1st Club, 1st Section D, 1st Open Dinard O/B Derby 1990 Vel.1475
Ash Hen (Cattrysse) winner of 1st Club, 1st Section D, 1st Open Dinard O/B Derby 1990 Vel.1475

Cheq Cock winner of 1st Club, 1st Section D, 1st Open Skibbereen O/B Derby 1987.
Cheq Cock winner of 1st Club, 1st Section D, 1st Open Skibbereen O/B Derby 1987.

 

 

 

 

 
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