Mick Freeman NRCC Lerwick winner
Only those who have scored a hat-trick on the football field, hit a six at cricket, or dropped a hole in one on the golf course will know of the ecstasy that comes with success on the sports field. These are moments to savour; memories that linger.
Now Mick Freeman is rejoicing in such feelings thanks to the performance of a pigeon he now calls Mad Mick 1 – leaving the door open for any future stars of his Norwich loft to follow the trademark name.
Mad Mick? That is what Mr Freeman is called by his friends, to his face and on-line. Why? “Because I have done a few rum things in my time,” he explained.
Mad Mick 1 is a three-year-old blue cock bird which won the King’s Cup with a scintillating performance in the prestigious North Road Championship Club’s longest race of the season from Lerwick.
After a one-day holdover the winning velocity for the 526 miles to Mick’s loft was 1479 yards per minute, which prompts the theory that the bird, a Dordin x the Old East Anglian Pieds, perhaps made much of the trip out to sea where there was the assistance of a north wind.
The winning pigeon had races from Driffield, Whitley Bay and Perth as build-up to the big test, and in 2012 showed a lot of promise in his performance from Thurso, and also flew on the south road from Guernsey as a young bird.
Moreover, it is a broken pigeon as Mick and ever-supportive wife Kay moved home half-way through their short-lived four-year career as pigeon fanciers.
Although 62 years of age, Mick had never been involved in the sport (apart from having two pigeons in a rabbit hutch when he was about 13) until it caught his attention through friends who were fanciers. He went along to watch their birds come home from races, and caught the bug.
He competes in the strong Drayton club, and this year will be his fifth season of young bird racing, but already he is attracted to the distance races – although some fanciers have told him that his birds are too big for long distance racing.
“He is as big as a turkey,” said Mick, “but on a hard day he can do the job. I like flying the long distance but other fanciers told me that I had the wrong type of pigeons for that.”
The emphatic answer came with the Lerwick win.
Mick missed the arrival of Mad Mick 1 and also his second bird, a pure Dordin, as he was decorating at a friend’s house, and Kay did the timing honours. She reported that the bird was exhausted – “with his nose on his chest” – on landing, but soon recovered his composure.
He sent 11, timed three on the day, and had eight back in the loft on the second day.
When the ‘phone calls started, telling Mick that he was topping the leader board, he was “all of a dither” waiting for news of the longer flyers. “I was wary of the Ipswich fanciers, and the boys from London.”
Now he and Kay are making sure that they enjoy every moment of their success, and they have decided to retire Mad Mick 1 from racing.
To the rear of their bungalow is a pretty big garden, measuring a quarter of an acre, and pleasant-looking lofts adorn the rear end of the garden.
From the outset, Mick had a firm idea of the type of loft he wanted, and produced his designs on paper from which a joiner friend created a loft which Mick described as “a nice piece of garden furniture.”
When he decided to take up the pigeon game, he answered an advertisement by a fancier in Swansea, and that is where the Dordins came from. The East Anglian Pieds came, via a friend, from an old fancier, no longer alive, in Lowestoft.
Mick’s aim is to blend them into a long distance family. He reckons he is not doing too badly so far, but believes that it will take him something like eight years to reach his goal. “I have every confidence in the pigeons, and want to have a good quality team inside eight years.”
In the meantime, a win from Lerwick will do nicely, thank you.
He has two youngsters off Mad Mick 1 in his 40-strong young bird team this year, which supplements his team of 40 old birds.
Mick flies a completely natural system. “I don’t like to operate them as an assembly line,” he said. “The Lerwick winner was sent sitting. They are let out twice a day, and fed twice a day.”
The birds have to fit in with Mick’s work schedule as a lorry driver four nights a week, a job he secured after previously being made redundant which caused him to curtail south road racing.
He is the fifth Norwich fancier to win this Blue Riband race, the others being Caston and Son (1962), M Waller (1996), Fox and Wise (2003) and Gordon Cockaday (2005).
“Norwich is a big city, but it has a tight knit pigeon racing community, and they have been smashing to me,” said Mick, who is looking forward to the presentation so that Kay can have a good night out. “She is a big help, keeps all the records and is ever so gentle with the pigeons.”
Convoyer Stephen Spinks and race adviser-chairman, Brian Garnham, gave North Road Championship Club members an excellent race for the 98th time the club has flown out of the Shetland Islands, from Lerwick.
The birds were held over a day and given a 5am start on Sunday, with pretty well all areas represented in the provisional results.
As with all distance races, some fanciers were left licking their wounds, others walking around with beaming smiles on their faces, while the majority enjoyed, or suffered, emotions between these two extremes.
Lerwick remains a magical race point and any bird that completes the trip on the day of liberation, whatever the conditions, has earned a lot of respect.
Something in the conditions must have favoured the strong Section Four in some way, particularly those fanciers in Norwich.
The provisional outright winner, Mick Freeman, comes from Norwich, and the first three fanciers in the provisional results are all from Section Four. The winning velocity was 1479 yards per minute for a distance of 526 miles.
In second place on the verifications is that highly successful fancier, on both north and south routes, Terry Roughton, his bird flying 521 miles at a velocity of 1474.
M Bishop and Son, of March, flying 528 miles on a velocity of 1472, are in third place.
John Norris, of Grantham, flying 500 miles, wins Section Three with his entry which is fourth in the provisional open results on a velocity of 1455. John won the King’s Cup from Lerwick in 1995.
One of the most consistent fanciers in the NRCC, and particularly adept at competing from Lerwick, is another Section Four man, Terry Winterton, of Holbeach. He is placed fifth in the open result, flying 512 miles at 1447ypm.
Brian Brooks, of Carlton Rode, continues his fantastic season by taking sixth open, and winning Section Six, with a velocity of 1440 over a distance of 536 miles. He also won this section from Arbroath.
Former Lerwick open winners in 2009, Walton Bros, of Ollerton, are placed seventh open and also top Section One. The distance they fly is 481 miles and their velocity was 1439 – the same as that of RP Hicks, of Norwich who, flying 527 miles, appear in eighth spot in the open list. They are another Section Four loft.
The in-form loft of Dave and Pat Evans, winners of Arbroath NRCC open a couple of weeks earlier, are to the forefront again, taking first place in Section Two and being placed ninth open in the provisional result on a velocity of 1429 over a distance of 480 miles.
Another Norwich and Section Four loft, that of G Staff occupies 10th open position on 1428 over 521 miles, while Simmons Partners,of Dereham, also in Section Four, are 11th open with a velocity of 1425 over a distance of 526 miles. They take a provisional seventh Section Four.
Section Six member, P Peters, of Bury St Edmunds, is 12th open on 1423. His distance from Lerwick is 553 miles.
Other provisional section winners are: Section Five, the ever-present Miss M Judd, of Ramsey (534 miles) on 1385, and also 21st open.
Section Seven: J Lamprill, Cheshunt, flying the longest distance of the section winners, 586 miles, on a velocity of 1370, and also being placed 24th in the list of verifications.
The incredible, seemingly unstoppable, 85-year-old Peter Crawford, of Ipswich, wins Section Eight yet again. Flying a distance of 567 miles, his velocity of 1399 also earns him 18th open in the provisional results.
Hard-working race secretary, Ian Bellamy, who scarcely has any time for himself in the hectic schedule of summer racing, points out that the last verification on the first day was at 9pm by G Akers, of Ipswich, flying 570 miles. That is 16 hours after liberation, and this bird must take the prize for courage and determination.
But then every bird that flies Lerwick needs these qualities.
Next NRCC race is from Thurso on Saturday July 12th, last date for entries Tuesday July 8th, marking Thursday July 10th.