Rev TAB Sawyers & Son, Banbridge –
Rev T A B Sawyers & Son, Banbridge –
This is a partnership that has made a major breakthrough at the highest level over the past number of years. The management of the lofts is now in the hands of Wesley Sawyers a son of the Rev Tom Sawyers who was a Church of Ireland vicar. Apart from his flock he was interested in farming and most sports including horses and pigeons.
The Rev Tom was a Director of Coleraine Football Club and on a Saturday always had a prayer with the players in the changing rooms before they went out to play, but if any of them were sent off he had a different prayer for them when they came back into the dressing rooms.
I would have liked to have met him as he always kept a few brood mares and had a horse in training with Frank Carr of York. Wesley is really interested in distance racing as he runs a very busy Estate Agents in Banbridge and Dromore.
The Truman-Dickin birds are the base of his family and were first introduced when the late Jim Biss of Hiillside Lofts sent over Amigo the Grizzle cock who was half-brother to Bartholomew, Amigo was 2nd Barcelona. Subsequent introductions included a cock called The International again from Jim Biss being a son of Black Velvet 1st Perpigan 600 miles when paire to LOscura 1st Barcelona and 2nd Marseilles. Amigo and The International cock were gifts from Jim Biss. Wesley had become a good friend of Jims having conducted two Public Auctions for him in the 1980s and 1990s. Always looking for good top distance birds a g/g/son of Knightsdale Lady six times Palamos 657 miles was purchased. Also a son and daughter of Hermana and Hermano of Fear Bros, plus a son of Conqueror the 1,000 mile record winner into Scotland.
In 1990 two grandsons and a greandaughter of Bartholomew were purchased along with other top birds from Geoff Hunt of Westmarsh. Bartholomew was 24th Palamos and was sire of 1st Barcelona, 2nd Palamos and 2nd Lourdes. The search for distance blood continued with introductions from R & M Venner of Street. Genes are the priority when bringing in a bird. If the family tree is right good birds will keep emerging.
Wesley prefers the greater challenges of Cross Channel and National racing. Racing overseas into Northern Ireland is very hard and the birds need to be extra special to cope. The Irish Sea can be very intimidating for a tired pigeon on its own having flown all day.
The birds are paired mid-February after all treatments have been carried out. Birds must be 100% healthy before pairing up. After the first round the race team are separated before the hens lay again in order to hold the wing moult. These past few years Wesley has done only limited training before racing, as he wants to keep the birds fresh.
Training is intensified leading up to the big Nationals with numerous tosses, always into the wind, up singly of two together. A favourite toss is Portrush on the North Coast where Wesleys mother lives. It is approx.. 60 miles to Wesleys loft in the opposite direction from the race points. He reckons that if a pigeon cant fly Portrush it will not fly the Nationals.
In the two weeks before the Kings Cup Wesley moves every bird that is not going to France for more air, and nothing is allowed to disturb the Kings Cup birds. Wesleys favoured nest condition is sitting 12 days on eggs. Every bird in the loft is bred for the job, though they may not be good enoughso they have to be sent subject to fitness, health and form. You will soon find out your breeders as well as your racers.
48 positions have been won from France in recent years. In 2010 nine birds were clocked with seven making the Open Result 15th, 65th, 71st, 133rd, 137th, 173rd, and 242nd Kings Cup Vannes and 14 birds home in race time. In 2011 the loft won 58th, 119th and 242nd Open Kings Cup with 11 home from 14 sent.
The Dolly lines from Burns Bros have been introduced recently. Dolly is a class Pied hen winner of 28th Open East Down Combine Lamballe and in the same year 21st Open Messac. Add to that 33rd Opem Messac, and 40th Open Messac winning the INFC Hall of Fame Diploma. Dolly was four times France clocked on the day in all four races. Wesley has in the stock lofts three sons and two daughters of Dolly plus three half-sisters. It is important to note that the sire of Dolly is a son of a Geoff Hunt cock purchased in Blackpool.
Wesleys 2011 Merit Award winner Mourneview Kathryn winner of 58th Kings Cup in 2010 and 242nd Kings Cup 2011 is a helf-sister to Dolly paired to a grandson of the Gold Medal winner. The latest introduction that has crossed very well is the Mall Cock. He is sire to many good pigeons especially on hard days including 44th Open INFC Yearling Nat, 63rd & 104th Open INFC Penzance YB Nat, 73rd Open Lamballe, 109th Open Portland & 205th Kings Cup, 153rd Open Talbenny and 87th Yearling Nat. The Mall Cock bloodlines are De Smarago 11, Invincible Spirit and Viekje. A son of N Black & Son Kings Cup winner when paired to their 2nd Kings Cup winner has bred nine birds to fly France and a class Van Reet from Jeff Greenaway a son of his No 1 Pair has bred Mourneview Lady four times France and a Merit Award winner.
Around 80 young birds are bred, trained, sent to 3 or 4 races and stopped. Once they are stopped Wesley makes his own fun on a Saturday his birds are let out when the NIPA batches are going overhead. The young birds can take all day to come home and sometimes it would be Sunday. Wesley believes it is a great education for the youngsters. His first toss is 20 miles, never insult the intelligence of your young birds with two and three mile tosses. YBs have to build up their own natural immunity, only perches cleaned in the YB Loft no Winter treatments of any kind. Colostrum is given to the young birds (a cows first milk after she calves) for five days half Colostrum and half water.
Yearlings race through the NIPA programme get 2 or 3 cross channel races then the Yearling Nat. It they cant fly the Yearling Nat, he has found they wont fly France. Wesley noted that 12 yearlings were recorded in the Top 50 from the Kings Cup in 2011 including 1st & 2nd Open, so a few yearlings would be included in his 2012 Kings Cup entry. The search for quality distance pigeons still goes on and it is a path not many fanciers will chose.
Wesley in his younger days was an all-round sportsman winning school boy honours in Hockey, Captain Irish Schools and full International Volley-Ball honours.
Wesley let me know that the Kings Cup has been won into Banbridge 5 times, he is hoping that he may make it six and why not as his loft houses a strong team of distance pigeons. Irish Rover.
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