What a great weekend it was for the fair city of Norwich, and especially for one of pigeon racing’s favourite dynasties, the partnership of Mr and Mrs O King and Sons.
They won the North Road Championship Club’s first classic of the season, the Belgica Deweerd Dunbar race, while their favourite football team, Norwich City, clinched the 99th local derby against old rivals Ipswich Town to take a step nearer to a possible return to the Premier League.
While their birds were arriving helter-skelter with the aid of a strong north-west wind, the men who run the partnership nowadays, brothers Joe and Leroy, were also tuned into the radio to keep tabs on the soccer match. Their spirits soared as timings and goals arrived hand in hand.
Now, while the Canaries await their Wembley fate in the play-off final at Wembley against Middlesborough, the Kings have been overwhelmed with congratulations on their popular win. It is their second open win with the NRCC, the first also being from Dunbar with young birds in 2009.
They have named their latest winner, a three-year-old blue widowhood hen, Owen’s Pride, in honour of their father who died last year, and who would have been particularly proud of his sons’ achievement.
Owen’s Pride is the first champion to book her place in Champions’ Row in the bonanza of a close-season celebration that is planned at Springfields Exhibition Centre, Spalding, on December 5th. And Joe has promised that she will be there.
She will be a fitting presence at this NRCC Day of Champions because, although conditions were very much in favour of the Norfolk fanciers, she had the ability, and preparation, to take full advantage and beat off the challenge from many other talented lofts in the same favourable positions. Moreover she proved her versatility by romping home at nearly 2,000 yards a minute while the previous week she had had a good, tough race from Whitley Bay at 1,000 ypm.
She had always been a good, consistent performer and had scored with the NRCC from Perth and Arbroath in the past.
Now, she can take a good, long rest, for she is to be retired from racing.
In the aftermath of all the joy and celebrations – and not a little emotion. Spokesman for the partnership, Joe, said she would join their previous NRCC winner in retirement. The past winner, he said, had raced on for another season and gained some minor placings, but there was always anxiety and concern until he had made it back home. They would not endure that with Owen’s Pride who had done all they had asked of her.
Joe, a 50-year-old plumber, and Leroy, who is 47 and works for Anglian Water, are the third generation of pigeon fanciers, and they are ever hopeful some of their children will also eventually take up the sport.
Their father was a well-liked fancier but, in the earlier days, he was happy to win every now and again. That changed with his sons’ involvement and the partnership became competitive in every race and every season.
Ironically, their dad had told them they were wasting their time in flying hens, but was happy to change his mind when he saw how they were out-performing the cocks when flown on a system Joe had picked up from one of his many visits to Belgium.
The only time the hens see the cock birds is on their return from a race.
The pigeons are still kept at the family home, much to mum’s delight as she and her family are also steeped in pigeon racing history, although the stock birds are kept at Leroy’s home. Both boys live close at hand and share the duties, depending on which one is home from work first, although Joe exercises the birds each morning, from 5-30am, first the cocks and then the hens.
Owen’s Pride was bred for the job. The mother is related to their previous open winner, and the sire is a Syndicate pigeon from all-conquering Mark Gilbert.
The partners sent 17 to Dunbar and had two still missing on Sunday. They timed 11 in 12 minutes so they will feature heavily alongside clubmates when the open result is finalised.
Saturday’s success was the continuation of their fine start to the season in the Mile Cross and Norwich and Norfolk clubs, and this in turn adds on to many successes over the years.
They are in the middle of highly enthusiastic NRCC members, who love their racing with this historic classic club and now make up the largest section within the organisation.
Just to win the section is highly commendable. To win the race outright, well . . . that is really putting the icing on the cake.
Leroy is particularly well-known for all the hard work he puts into the sport, being club secretary, race controller and, every fourth week, convoyer, as well as representing his section on the NRCC committee.
The brothers always like to be a help to others, and Joe says that they get great pleasure from seeing other fanciers succeed with their birds, citing a friend in Liverpool who has won 26 first Federation positions in the three years since he had six youngsters from the Kings, all six proving winners.
Joe likes to have a sociable drink with fellow fanciers and has made friends wherever he travels. These contacts enable him to bring in new blood to the loft on a regular basis. He says that you cannot stand still if you wish to succeed in the sport today because, while there may be fewer in numbers, there is a lot of knowledge available to fanciers, many of whom are very dedicated and hard-working in their search for success.
The race attracted an entry of 2, 315 birds from 205 members and, in this new era of the NRCC, race secretary Ian Bellamy said it was a great success with birds mainly timed in within a two and a half hour spell from top to bottom of the organisation.
Said Ian: “I think that special mention must be given to our new convoyer, Darren Shepherd, supported by the assistant convoyer, Merv Greatrix, for getting us off to a great start in this new NRCC era.
“From a personal point of view our new website worked extremely well in sorting the provisional result, and my thanks go to secretary Ray Knight for his time and commitment.”
The new website, says secretary Ray, is still under development. It has a newsletter facility where people are required to sign up to receive a newsletter on previous and future races.
Also by signing in and creating a log in they can verify online. Some did it for this first race. It is quite siple and your name appears on the provisional result instantly.
Said Ray: “On Thursday we had something like 28 people who had created a log in but by this morning (Sunday) 127 people had done it. Hopefully more people will verify come Perth.”
Of course, as usual, there were outstanding performances throughout the whole area covered by the NRCC and these will be revealed when section winners are clarified and, hopefully, will receive appropriate publicity in due course.
Next big date is the Racing Pigeon Perth race on Saturday May 30th, marking on the Friday, and last date for entries Tuesday May 26th.
All the races this year are sponsored, and the committee tender their thanks to all sponsors.
There is still time to join the NRCC for the remaining races this season.