Mid Antrim Prize Nights 1976 -

A look back at the 1970's through the Archives
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willie reynolds
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Mid Antrim Prize Nights 1976 -

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Mid Antrim Archive – text James Martin

In the early day’s photos were in short supply with dinner reports, the photographer had to be ordered in advance and not every time they turned up, weekends were very busy and it was not possible to cover everything. It did help a lot if the Mayor was in attendance and the late Sandy Spence was a great supporter of the fancy and attended numerous functions in my time. At one time we set up our own darkroom, it was some craic, and the finished article was usually not as good as the real thing. So different today in the era of the modern phone and newspapers are full of pictures from various functions.

Harryville HPS had a disappointing turn-out in 1976 for the annual dinner and prize presentation which took place in the Adair Arms Hotel on Saturday evening. I estimated only half of the membership thought the occasion merited their attendance. At the top table were the Chairman Davy Campbell and his wife, with principal guests Mr & Mrs Harper (Ballymena), Mr & Mrs EG Leckey (Cullybackey), Officer Gorman Chairman of Muckamore, James Martin for the local newspaper and not least Mr Billy McIlhagga the Harryville President with his wife Sharon who always gives the club his unlimited support.

The Chairman welcomed all who had attended and wished everyone an enjoyable evening, and he called on Mr Gorman to say grace. The meal could not have been bettered the service at the hotel is excellent, and sometime, in the near-future, this venue will accommodate the NIPA Ladies Night. With the dinner completed we all raised our glasses and drank the toast of The Queen who is Patron of the RPRA the parent body which our respective clubs are affiliated.

Since the band was itching to get underway the distribution was dispensed with in a most dignified manner by two of the lady guests – Mrs Harper handing out the cash awards and Mrs Leckey the silverware. Tommy Harper was prevailed upon to say a few words and had nothing but praise for the enthusiasm and endeavour of the Harryville HPS members. The will to win from the word go was much in evidence there and he wished the club every success in the future.
In replying for the visitors Officer Gorman, always good for a yarn, as well as some realistic thinking and facts, spoke in glowing terms of the incredible performance of Tommy Harpers birds during the past season.


Before the tables were pulled back to allow more room for dancing a presentation from Harryville HPS was made to Michael Reynolds whose departure for the USA on December 31st will leave a gap in pigeon circles that will be hard to fill. All Michael’s friends wish him well his help withy news items for this column has, been very much appreciated by me. I hope in the not too-distant future he will be able to avail himself of the opportunity to accept the sporting offer from Officer Gorman and try out the Van der Espt in Florida.

Although the past season had its ups and downs the successful run of Harryville club with its 32 members in Section B continued. At club level competition has been fierce with 24 lofts sharing the prize money. For the twelfth time in 15 seasons the ever-consistent partnership of Campbell & Francey are well out on their own with £63 cash. Second with £42 is another name That needs no introduction that of McMaster Bros. The brother’s performances during the past season are the acme of consistency. Third highest with £37 is the Mr & Mrs Swann partnership having a great season especially with their young bird team. Fourth highest prize-winners were J Houston & Son followed by Wray & McFadden, and Fred Swann who were 5th and 6th. Then came the challenge of the Slaght members of the club John Sinnerton and Tommy Cotter each receiving amounts in the region of £16. The total cash awards paid out during the season was £370.
A brief summary of the seasons top performances at Club, NIPA and INFC level is as follows:-

Old Bird:- 1st Arklow J Eagleson 4th Sect; 2nd Arklow McMaster Bros 2nd Sect & 2nd Open; 1st Wexford Campbell & Francey 8th Sect; 2nd Wexford McMaster Bros 1st Sect; 1st Dungarvan Mr & Mrs Swann; 2nd Dungarvan J Eagleson; Haverfordwest J H Sinnerton 1st Sect & 3rd Open plus 1st Sect & 2nd Open CC; Haverfordwest B Rankin & Son 3rd Sect & 4th Open; 2nd Haverfordwest Campbell & Francey 3rd Sect plus 1st Sect & 3rd Open CC £200; Okehampton Campbell & Francey 2nd Sect & 4th Open plus 1st Sect & 2nd Open CC £230; Dinard R H Clements; Rennes Kings Cup Wray & McFadden, Fred Swann and Billy Ramsey all in the money.

Young Bird:- 1st Dublin K Gillen & Son; 2nd Dublin J Houston & Sons; 1st Arklow McMaster Bros; 2nd Arklow J Houston & Sons 6th Sect; 1st Wexford Campbell & Francey 1st Sect; 2nd Wexford Wray & McFadden 4th Sect; Haverfordwest McMaster Bros 4th Sect & 10th Open £232; Penzance T Cotter 17th Open also F Swann, Wray & McFadden, J McFall & Son in the result; Dungarvan McMaster Bros; Skibbereen T Cotter 1st Sect & 26th Open £173, New North Dungarvan J Houston & Sons 3rd Open £42; Skibbereen Nat Mr & Mrs Swann 4th Open.

NIPA Dickson Trophy best average Okehampton & 1st Wexford YB won by Campbell & Francey. Michael Reynolds Secretary of the Mid Antrim 2 Bird Club presented the club trophy for the Best 2 Bird Ave Dungarvan Young Bird to Campbell & Francey.

Joint presentation for Randalstown & British Enkalon -

Randalstown & British Enkalon reported a full house for the annual dinner and prize distribution which took place in Halls Hotel in Antrim on Friday. Upwards of 200 fanciers and their friends turned out for this occasion which is one of the star attractions of the social season. The attendance was the best of any function I have attended this year and a great credit to the organising ability of the man who had all the arrangements on his shoulders, none other than the 74’ Kings Cup winner from Nantes in France Arthur Simpson. The principal guests of Randalstown HPS were local licensee Gerald Lynch accompanied by his wife, Mr & Mrs E G Leckey (Cullybackey) and for the local paper James Martin. For British Enkalon the manager of the Social Club W Addison who had been of great assistance in keeping the pigeon section in the limelight. Because the workers are from a wide area duplication is through their respective clubs, and therefore the British Enkalon HPS had members from most clubs in Sect B of the NIPA. I was pleased to see one of my Ahoghill Club members Tosh Bamber going up to the table for his share of the prizes.

The Randalstown distribution was the first to be carried out and with speeches being kept to the minimum from the Randalstown Chairman R Adair and President J Shaw the presentation was well under way with this pleasant task being entrusted to Mrs Leckey. The Randalstown HPS prize money is paid out immediately the racing season is over, an arrangement I would have no hesitation recommending to other clubs. Total cash paid out was £175 plus almost £250 in pools and DTW. Out in front once again as premier prize winners were the remarkable partnership of Bell & McDowell with nearly £33. Second with £16 are Joe Boyd & Son followed by Houston Bros £13 and in 4th spot the clubs good inland racer T Stevenson. Magill Bros and S McComb had over £10 each followed by A Simpson & Son, and a further 15 members sharing in the prizes of the 32 members who had raced – 25 had prize money to collect. An omen that competition is really-keen in the club.

Once again, the 1976 season has been one of outstanding success for Bell & McDowell who lifted most cups including Old Bird Derby Cup, Cross Channel Ave, Old Bird Ave, Best Ave OB & YB Derbies and Combined Average. With 14 Diplomas they were the club Ace Racers. T Stevenson always good down Ireland won the Inland Ave and a top result from Bude while Stewart Bros win the S Millar Cup. In the OB Nat Kings Cup from Rennes it was Eric Ross who kept his clubs name to the forefront with first bird timed and with it the Mr & Mrs David Bell Cup.

With the young birds the racing pattern changed and what an impact the partnership of J McKay & Son made on the racing scene winning the YB Average Cup in their first season full racing. Houston Bros had the best bird in the Skibbereen Derby and in the cross-channel Derby from Haverfordwest it was C Shaw who had the best local pigeon and well placed in Sect B. The G Lynch Shield was won by Sammy McComb for the Best Ave in the two Wexford races. Although a non-fancier the local licensee is keenly interested in the club and spoke in glowing terms of the newly acquired clubrooms but regretted that one of their new members James McAteer who had been a great help with his services in the renovation job was unable to be present owing to illness. All present wished Jimmy a speedy recovery to good health.

The Enkalon prizes were handed over by the manager of the Social Club and with the help of R Patton and R Goudy the presentation was efficiently dealt with and although previously mentioned the wide area from which the Enkalon HPS draws its membership the distinction of being top racer for the second successive season came to Ballymena – or should I say to the Harryville partnership of the now well-known McMaster Bros. Their achievements over the past two or three seasons in both Harryville and Enkalon are phenomenal and must rank as one of the top lofts in the NIPA. The other Harryville member Tommy Cotter also had his successes in the INFC Penzance YB Nat and followed up an outstanding performance from the NIPA Skibbereen YB Derby when the loft scored 1st Sect B & 29th Open plus £173. Enkalon prizes presented by Mr W Addison and his wife, cups and diplomas to the following members. Inland Ave & YB Average McMaster Bros; Dinard Cup and YB Knock-out Hanlon & Lavery; Haverfordwest YB Derby McMaster Bros; Best Ave YB Wexford and Skibbereen YB Derby T Cotter; Best Ave Okehampton & Weymouth Fears & Bell; OB Kniock-out R J Goudy. McMaster Brros emerged as top prize-winners for the second season in a row with nineteen awards, R J Goudy was second with sixteen prizes, R Patton third with ten prizes, T Cotter fourth with nine prizes and Hanlon & Lavery fifth with eight prizes. Chairman of British Enkalon HPS Mr R Patten thanked Mr & Mrs Addison on behalf of the club.

Ross Lodge is venue for Kells presentation -

Kells & District annual dinner and prize distribution was held last week in the Ross Lodge Hotel close to Ballymena and upwards of 100 members and friends joined the celebrations. There was a slight delay with the dinner, so the officials suggested that the cups and prize money be distributed first. The Chairman Mr W McClure in his introduction welcomed the members and guests. He introduced Mr Willie Reynolds from Harryville and Mrs I Ellis who was to present the prizes. After the toast to HM the Queen a toast was also made to all the ladies attending. Mr McClure then went on to thank all the members who helped with the club duties each week, particularly Secretary Roy McFarlane and treasurer George McDowell. At club level he congratulated all prize-winners especially top winners B Swann & Son and George McDowell who took five trophies each and novice William Warwick in his first full season who lifted three trophies.

A very special mention was made on the racing performances of the past season by member Joe Wright. On behalf of all the club members he congratulated Joe in keeping the club name well to the fore in Irish Nat FC events. Performances were from Vaux Usher Beauvais 8th Open (last year the loft finished 2nd Open), from the OB Nat Kings Cup Rennes 6th Open winning £963 (only three birds on the day) and from the YB National Penzance 8th, 46th and 121st Open collecting a cash total of £750 plus a Colour TV. He also clocked from Skibbereen and his average from here, Rennes and Penzance was good enough to lift the Erwin Trophy in the INFC an early day National Champion. The chairman suggested that Joe’s performances should not only put him well in the running for Irish Fancier of the Year but also that of British Fancier of the Year.

On a sad note, Mr McClure mentioned the tragic loss the club had suffered by the untimely death of Joe Ellis. A new trophy donated by the family The Joe Ellis Memorial Trophy will be competed for by club members each year from the Skibbereen Derby. Secretary Mr McFarlane then assisted Mrs I Ellis with the presentation. B Swann & Son had most cups including OB Inland Ave, YB Average, and Best Ave 4 Arklows. George McDowell list included Cross Channel Ave, Combined Ave, Dinard Cup, Combine Ave and Best Ave 3 Derbies. William Warwick won Haverford Derby, Beat Ave 2 YB Derbies, G & A Eagleson Best Ave 2 Haverfordwests, A Wilson Okehampton Cup, A Barkley J Ellis Mem Cup, D McCullough & Son OB Knock-out.

Top prize-winner was B Swann & Son followed closely by George McDowell who was also runner-up last year, Brown Bros, J Scott & Son top prize-winner for the last two years, T Shanks & Son, and Gregg Bros. In all two thirds of the members shared the prize money. J Scott & Son were presented with the RPRA Sect B Merotorious Award for 1975. His 1972 Blue Cheq was clocked in the money from Okehampton and Weymouth, and also from Dinard. A look at some of the seasons results show that in old bird racing only J Scott & Son had two winners Dungarvan and Haverfordwest. From the 1st Haverfordwest G & A Eagleson had a great result winning the club by over 100ypm. They also took 2nd Sect B & 4th Open NIPA with 20,000 birds competing. From Dinard Derby France (465 miles) George McDowell won 2nd Sect & 6th Open NIPA plus £320 when there were only 16 day birds. In the young bird programme Brown Bros and B Swann &N Son both won twice. In the Derby races W Warwick won 17th Sect from Haverfordwest and A Barkley took 2nd Sect B plus the Nom & 47th Open plus £370 from Skibbereen. Super text as usual from the late James Martin.
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