The INFC Friendship National has a chequered history starting out as the Vaux –Usher International with the INFC being placed in the Irish Section.
The INFC Kings Cup winners from Nantes in 1964 Goudy Bros of Muckamore won the race from Beauvais in 1970 with Smyth Bros of Ballymena & Dist 2nd & 6th. The famous Smyth Bros went on to win the race in 1991 from Sartilly. The 1976 race from Beauvais was a very difficult race with only 17 birds home in race time. The race winners were Jennings & Rea of Ballynahinch on a velocity of 885ypm. Anthony McDonnell of Coleraine the 1963 Kings Cup winning loft clocked two birds to finish 12th and 13th Open flying 538 miles. The only other loft to clock two birds was J R McCracken & Son of Banbridge, 9th and 15th Open. The race in 1973 vwas flown under the INFC as the Friendship Nat with the Up North Combine Cup going to Fleming Bros of Crumlin the race winners from Beauvais. The Sartilly race of 1991 saw only three birds in race time, Smyth Bros of Ballymena & Dist 1st & 2nd with the late Benny McKeown of Derriaghy 3rd. Was this the worst race the INFC had from the Friendship Nat? – No it was Not!
From Fourgeres in 2004 only two birds were recorded in race time. Ronnie Williamson of Bondhill winning 1st Open with Mr & Mrs Beattie of Gilford 2nd Open. The race point for the 2005 National was changed to Picauville and the winner was once again Ronnie Williamson of Bondhill. Ronnie enjoyed great success from the Friendship National winning in 2004 and 2005 and 2nd Open in 2006 and again in 2008. Mr & Mrs Beattie were 2nd Open in 2004 and 2nd Open the year previous 2003.
The 2003 race was flown from Fourgeres and was won by the 1986 Kings Cup winner Alan Darragh of Cullybackey who went on to time his second pigeon for 3rd Open. Ronnie Williamson was 7th Open here. Alan Darragh went on to win the race for the second time in 2006 from Portland with Ronnie Williamson 2nd Open. Alan Darragh and Ronnie Williamson are two of Ireland’s great fanciers, both winning the Friendship Nat twice.
The race has been won twice by another loft Houston & McDonald of Moira, this outstanding Nat loft first won in 1981 from Avaranches and then again in 2002 from Fourgeres. The Ballyholland loft of Peter Murtagh & son took 2nd Open with Jimmy Cleland of Annsborough 3rd.
In 2008 Donnelly Bros of Newry City won the race from Quimper with the Black w/f hen “Lily” the only bird on the day. Ronnie Williamson of Bondhill was again 2nd Open with Paul Dunlop of Edgarstown 3rd Open. The second fancier to win 1st & 2nd Open was Malachy Maguire of Newry in 2009 from Picauville. Arnold Thompson of Ballyclare was 3rd Open with C & L Woodside of the same club 4th & 5th Open.
In 2007 from Portsmouth the race had a record entry of 1,443 birds and the winner was Mick Conlon of Banbridge. Paul Dunlop was again 2nd Open and it was a very close finish – Conlon 1134.8 and Dunlop 1134.7, Ronnie Williamson was 5th Open.
Sartilly proved to be a difficult race point for the Friendship Nat during the 90’s. 1992 from Sartilly saw only six birds in race time and the winner was the outstanding Ballymena loft of Roy Clements velocity 558ypm. Gallagher Bros of Annsborough finished 3rd Open and went on to win the race in 2000. 1993 and the race winner was the longest flying loft of W & L McCaw of Ballymoney on a velocity of 734ypm, this loft won a Merit Award in 2012. Runner-up in the race was Belshaw & Anderson of Derriaghy who also won a Merit Award in 2012.
1994 saw only 13 home and the race winner was deleted from the result. Grattan Bros finished 2nd Open on a velocity of 596ypm and Jim Cleland of Annsborough was 3rd Open. The race point for the 1995 Friendship Nat was St Malo and another Ballymena & Dist winner Livingstone Bros with winning velocity 1027ypm, a much better race. 1996 and anoter good race from St Malo – the winners from Armagh Campbell, McGeary & Campbell on a velocity of 1465ypm, a fast race! A great result for the Diamond Bros of Coleraine Premier 2nd and 3rd Open 1439 and 1437ypm. Sean Diamond is the man behind the successful North Coast Classic.
W Gibson & Partners from Larne set a new velocity record of 1592ypm for 1st Open St Malo in 1997, this point was proving very successful for the Friendship Nat. W & L McCaw former winners from Ballymoney finished 4th Open.
The race-point changed again for the 1998 Friendship Nat, Dinard was the venue and we had the first South Sect winner, Jason Carey of Malahide & Dist, only 38 home in race time (three days). St Malo was back again for the 1999 race and the winner was Jackie Waring & Son of Lisburn on 1167ypm, Grattan Bros of Eastway were runner-up again and Ronnie Williamson finished 4th Open. The club changed again in Millennium year 2000 and the winners Gallagher Bros of Annsborough velocity 542ypm. Yes – it was Sartilly, Ronnie Williamson was again 4th.
In 2001 we had no race, 2002 and this this time the club flew from Fourgeres. Winning the race for the second time Houston & McDonald of Moira velocity 1031ypm, Jimmy Cleland of Annsborough was 3rd Open.
Two lofts were to dominate the race from 2003 to 2006 – Alan Darragh and Ronnie Williamson. Alan won in 2003 and 2006 and Ronnie in successive seasons 2004 and 2005. 2003 saw Alan Darragh win 1st & 3rd Open from Fourgeres. In 2004 we had only two birds home, Ronnie Williamson and Mr & Mrs Beattie. Picauville was the race point for the first time in 2005. Ronnie won 1st Open on a velocity of 996ypm, double Kings Cup winner Joe Doheny was 3rd Open and Alan Darragh 5th & 7th.
In 2006 the race was not flown from France but Portland and saw an entry of 1,740 birds compete. Ronnie Williamson took 2nd Open, race winner was Alan Darragh. The next year 2007 and again the race was flown from England – Portsmouth the race point and a very popular winner in Mick Conlon & Sons from Banbridge. In 2007 it was back to France with Quimper the race point and Donnelly Bros of Newry the winner with the only arrival on the day of liberation. Newry won again in 2009 with Malachy Maguire & Sons taking 1st & 2nd Open.
The South Sect recorded its second victory from the Friendship Nat when N & C Shields from Skerries took 1st Open on a velocity of 1160 in the 2010 event from St Malo. Joe Doheny was 3rd Open with Donnelly Bros 5th & 9th Open. Joe Doheny won the 2011 race from St Malo, winning velocity 1052ypm. This was Joe’s third OB Nat victory from France having won the Blue Riband Kings Cup in 1982 from Les Sables and in 2002 from Redon. Houston & McDonald took 2nd Open having won the race in 1981 and 2002.
The 2012 race was very successful with all the Open prizes won. Aidan McAteer & Son of Ballyholland was 1st Open velocity 995ypm, the race was flown from Quimper. Paul Swindell of Newry was 2nd & 10th Open and Ronnie Williamson who has a great record from this race point was again 4th.
In 1975 A McDowell & Son from Newtownards won 1st Open from Beauvais and they also have two Kings Cup victories, 1953 from Redon and 1973 from Nantes. The Newtownbreda HPS had two victories, A Marshall & Son Bertie in 1983 from Folksatone and Tom Marshall & Son David took 1st Open in 1986 from Guernsey, the only time we used this race point.
1988 saw 1st Open go to M Milligan & Son of Laurelvale, the race flown from Sartilly. The first time the race was flown from Sartilly the 1st Open winner was Frank Scott & Son of Dromore.
The race was flown twice from Scotland. 1994 the winners were Connor Bros of Dundrum who won the Kings Cup in 1973 from Rennes – Thurso was the race point and the following year it was Thurso again with Mrs Ann Cheevers of Crossgar the winner.
The late Henry Beattie of Laurelvale was another fancier to win the Kings Cup and the Friendship Nat. He had 1st Open in the 1979 Friendship Nat from Falaise and the Kings Cup from Rennes in 1994. Mr & Mrs Magill of Randalstown took 1st Open from Sartilly in 1989 and that year secured the INFC Nat Championship.
The top National loft of Jimmy Anderson Cullybackey took 1st Open in 1980 from Beauvais.
This Friendship OB Nat is very popular with the National minded fanciers and has been flown from no less than 15 different race points, four from England, two from Scotland, eight from France, and one out of Guernsey. I hope fanciers will find the history of this race interesting.
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