Something which may have gone unnoticed was the fact that W & J Smyth from Ballymena & District HPS had Mid Antrim Combine Bird of the Year in 2012 and that their Champion Ken-Aird Boy also won the award the year previous. On checking out the details I discovered the ace racers in the big Ballymena Club won Bird of the Year as well in 2009, giving them the title for three seasons in the last four. That no doubt helped then achieve Top Prize-winner in the Ballymena & Dist HPS in the same three seasons and with almost two dozen members racing in the club in 2013 it will be interesting to see how it all works out in the new season.
Without doubt the W & J Smyth loft brothers Billy and Joe have been top racers for as long as I can remember, going back to when we first started racing Ballymena Championship had a number of duplicators from both Harryville and Ballymena & Dist. Harryville cards were always returned first and many times we were in with a shout for a prize, that usually changed when the Ballymena & Dist cards turned up, and birds for W & J Smyth and George Barr were more often than not in front of us. It’s a lot different now but duplicating was good fun at the time.
The favourite race for the loft is without question Penzance, numerous prizes have been won from there at 330 miles for several seasons. Penzance is the final leg of the RPRA (Irish Region) Meritorious awards for single bird performance over two cross channel races, the other a fortnight earlier from Talbenny in South Wales. The competition is run in each of the NIPA Sections with a cup presented to the overall winners. W & J Smyth were the winners in Sect B in the 2009 season and then again with Champion Ken-Aird Boy in successive seasons in 2011 and 2012. They were the overall winners in 2011 having the best velocity. In Ballymena & District HPS they have been the loft to beat up to Penzance.