Few members of the North Road Championship Club have turned out more consistent performances over many years than 76-year-old Terry Winterton and, after a host of near misses, he has made the breakthrough at last to an open win.
Twice he has been runner-up in the Lerwick Blue Riband race, and many times he has been a section winner across the programme, and now he has won the NRCC’s latest race from Perth.
Liberated on Tuesday June 5th, after a holdover because of poor weather over the days from the scheduled Saturday liberation, (NRCC weather strikes again!) the winner to his Holbeach Fen, Lincolnshire, loft raced home to record a velocity of 1704 yards per minute, arriving before Terry was properly prepared.
The winning pigeon, a two-year-old blue widowhood cock bird, is a grandson of Terry’s now ageing star, Pure Pleasure.
The sire is one of the first pair off Pure Pleasure. One registered seven wins, and the other had three wins to his credit when he took a knock and, as a consequence, was put to stock and, paired to a hen given to Terry by long-time friend and clubmate, John Lensen, produced the bird to win the Perth race.
It had been Terry’s best yearling last year, with a number of minor cards to his credit, but disappointed by being late home from this season’s NRCC opener from Dunbar.
His open win was his fourth race of the season and, when we spoke, Terry was contemplating whether to send him back to the second Perth this coming weekend.
Terry sent 15 birds to the race and had them all home, clocking seven but one having a night out. He said that the returning birds were in excellent condition and a tribute to the manner in which they had been looked after by the convoyer.
A serial winner at club, Federation and NRCC level, he says he has made a slow start to the season (a characteristic which he says has often been the pattern) and, like most fanciers, had difficulty in fitting in the required training in the awful Spring weather.
Retired potato salesman, Terry, a fancier since boyhood, says he has particularly enjoyed the sport during his retirement and he believes the extra time available has led to better performances.
Despite being thrilled by his breakthrough NRCC win, his real dream is to win the coveted King’s Cup from Lerwick, and twice he has been so close in second place.
Although he has enjoyed many wins since starting in the sport, and has had many excellent birds in his loft, Terry attributes much of his recent success to the ace pigeon called Pure Pleasure – for the obvious reason that it is a pigeon that has given him a great deal of pleasure with its numerous wins and, before the time came when it could no longer fill its eggs, its ability to turn out winners from the stock loft. . . the type of pigeon that many of us can only dream about.
In a previous interview, Terry told me all about this champion: “If you counted up his firsts, with all organisations, it was something like 26,” he said. “I think he won the section in the Federation nine times. He was born in 2006. He is in the stock loft and keeps churning out good birds. He was not just a good racer, but is also breeding good pigeons.
“While I was racing him he was paired to one particular hen because I daren’t part him while he was doing so well racing.
“Once he kept winning, I only sent him as far as Perth. Until he had started to win, I had never bred from him and the first two I bred off him, a nest pair of cocks, one won seven firsts – and his father beat him a few times – and the nest-mate won three. I have still got them and they are in the stock loft now. (One the father of the Perth winner, as already mentioned).
“They are the basis of a nice family. They are all toeing the line. The first year I put Pure Pleasure to stock, I took a son off him and paired that to one of my long distance Lerwick pigeons and, off that mating, that is where my Lerwick section winner came from in 2013.
“The team has evolved from pigeons I acquired from the North East several years ago.”
Terry is now in the midst of planning his 2018 assault on Lerwick, and says:
“Lerwick is one of those races I always try to enjoy, if that is possible. I look forward to that, and it is only once a year.
“I exercise the cock birds around home twice a day, but my hens, they don’t fly so much. I can’t get them to fly round home so much, that is why I send them regularly to races. I don’t train in between races, only the hens leading up to Lerwick. They go nearly every day in the week before basketing for Lerwick if I can do it.”
In a previous article, Terry continued:
. “I suppose my team of pigeons now is as good as any I have had, because I have more time now. I like to try to bring a hen in every couple of years, but it is hard to bring in a bird that can help me. I have brought some in during recent years and they have not measured up.
“You have to keep trying, otherwise your loft can get too inbred. On one side my family is Soontjen and Janssen based, but on the other side I have some Jan Aarden and Van Bruane which I have had for 30-odd years and they are the real distance pigeons.
“I bought a Jan Aarden from Massarellas years ago, about 30 years ago, and I had some good pigeons from that, and then I had a hen from a chap who had the Van Bruanes for years, AH Bennett, of Church Stretton. I did buy a granddaughter of his King’s Cup winner, and that bred me no end of winners. Consequently I have kept the basis from there.
“After a few years of flying odds and sods you realise that you need something different. I bought some Kirkpatricks from Rob Wright when he lived at Swineshead (Rob won the NRCC Kings Cup from Lerwick in 1974 after he had moved to Bourne). I had a motor bike then, and I went there because he had advertised some birds for sale. He had four left to sell but I could only afford two, and he gave me the other two. He was a lovely man, a real gentleman. In 1970 I had a pigeon that was second open in the King’s Cup and that came, on one side, from one of the pigeons I had from him. That was one of my best results – you can only go one better, can’t you? (Since then he has had a second runners-up placing from Lerwick).
“Of course, that is something I would love to win. When you have been flying for more than 50 years and have not won it, it seems a bit of a bitter pill. You set your goals . . .
“I use widowhood mix mainly, Versele Laga mixes. If I need to support them with anything else, a few more peanuts or a few maples, I do that. It depends on how the season is going.
“Treatment is the normal – for cocci, canker and worms, and the paramyxo jab, and that is about it, really. I feed a lot less strong mix in the winter and mix it up myself. Quite a bit of protein when they are moulting but, as soon as they are through the moult, I introduce wheat and barley then, just to take them down really.
“I only let them out on good days in the winter, and I do like to be there because there are a few sparrow hawks about. They are always about and some years I lose several, and other years I don’t lose any. The young birds suffer the most in my opinion. Once they get upset you can’t expect anything good from them.
“I did fly south for a year or two in the 70s, I flew with Kings Lynn, but it got as though I could not do the two, with work and everything else I could not manage the two. I only raced one young bird season. I started with eight and finished with seven. They did have a lot of training and I used to single them up. They would probably be all day coming but, when it got to racing, you could not lose them.
“I would rather lose them training, than lose them racing. I do think that if you educate them early, they do pick it up and if they come on their own they have a bit more confidence.
“I normally have nine stock pairs, 20 widowhood cocks, and nine hens which I race on my roundabout system, and then I have the partners for these which I don’t race because I like to make sure that the racers have something to come home to. You do have to keep a few more birds but I do feel that it is well worth it. Before the season starts they have a few training tosses back to their partners, but as soon as racing starts there is no more training, only leading up to Lerwick. I show the hens to yearlings for a week or two at the start of the season, but once they get going I don’t show them before basketing, but they are always there when they come back.
“I think that, after they have had a few short training tosses, if they have not cottoned on then, they are not going to be any good. There are definitely some pigeons that don’t take to widowhood. You usually find them in the first year. I have to be fairly ruthless with selection as I usually have more young birds ready to take only a few vacancies in the race team. Some have to go that never ought to go, really. It is all down to numbers. It is a good place to be in but a horrible choice to make.
“I sit on an acre and a half of land here, and I used to grow a lot of vegetables on it and we used to sell at the door, but once the supermarkets got hold of everybody they all used to ride by. So I packed it up then and put it down to grass. It is all down to grass and small trees and shrubs. I can always find a job.”
In their younger days, he and John Lensen played semi-professional football, sometimes in the same team, sometimes in opposition, and in the winter months often travel together to watch Norwich City.
Their Sutton Bridge club had an excellent race from Perth, with another member, Portuguese-born Vitor Martins being runner-up in the provisional results.
“The bird is the same pigeon that won the Section C and the Peterborough Federation, also from Perth, last year, his name is Vanibaal. He is a great racer, with great performances.
“This season so far he has had four races with the Peterborough Fed, scoring well, also he went to NRCC race from Dunbar scoring 53rd open. He always gave me indications that he can go the extra mile. He is a cross between a grandson of Kannibal and a Van Loon hen. He is full of winners on his pedigree… although he took a while to trap on his arrival and I wasn’t expecting an early bird at that time and I believe that cost me valuable time. The timing was very close… But I’m pleased that the winner is from my club and Terry is a true gentleman whom I respect a lot for his dedication with his great pigeons.
“Vanibaal is normally fed on light mixture of seeds that I get from a local farm, also I feed the pigeons on Verselaga prior to the races. The birds exercise around the loft for about 45 minutes, twice a day. I race on widowhood.
“I was very confident about Vanibaal prior to the race and decided to pool him…
Due to personal circumstances I’ll be moving back to Portugal at the end of the season, so this is my last season of pigeon racing in England. I could say that it was a great way to end the season, but I’ll send the same bird to the next Perth race and hope to do well again.
“Certainly I have enjoyed racing pigeons on the NRCC and also with my great club mates. I’ll miss them a lot…
“I think the convoyer did a great job looking after the birds after a few days in the basket… And definitely NRCC made the right decision to wait for the best day of the week”
Terry Winterton paid a sincere tribute to Vitor, and said he had become a valued member of the Sutton Bridge club. Many people who have met him have complimentary things to say about the friendly Portuguese who has become a popular figure in our sport.
Just to remind readers just how Vitor came to settle in this country, and succeed so well with his pigeons, here is a taste of the article I wrote after his NRCC Section C win from Perth last year:
“A native of Portugal, he had his first taste of pigeon racing on the family farm when his father was given two birds which caught young Vitor’s imagination.
“The two expanded to more and to a taste of racing in his home country where pigeon racing is a popular pastime, but he could not afford a clock and had to run to other club members to time in – ironically an experience shared by two NRCC aces in his present Sutton Bridge club. Terry Winterton and John Lensen had to share a clock, placed strategically at the boundary of their adjoining gardens, when they first ventured into the sport in their teens.
“These two fanciers are an inspiration for Vitor, now in his fifth season of racing in this country. “They are the men to beat, and it is a big challenge,” he said. “But they, and all the other members, have given me a very warm welcome to the clu
“Vitor came to England 14 years ago, speaking very little English. Now he speaks, and writes, fluently in English. He took a job on the production line of a factory;
now he is in charge of the night shift. During that time he and his wife have purchased and renovated their own home in Holbeach.
“He acquired his first pigeons in this country when a workmate had to give up the birds. He was persuaded to have a look at the birds, with no real intention of taking any home. The result? Vitor placed 20 pairs in a shed at home, and told his wife “I will just have a few pigeons.” Now he has 150!
“But she doesn’t seem to mind, and gets really excited when her husband is successful in the races.
“This is his fifth season racing, and his third season with the NRCC, so imagine his delight when he won his section from Perth, bearing in mind that there are many outstanding fanciers in Section C.
“Vitor believes that working night shifts helps with his pigeon racing because it means he has a routine.
He flies widowhood, mainly with sprinters and middle distance pigeons, and on return from work, at 6-30am, lets out the hens. They fly for about one and a half hours during which time he takes his two dogs for a walk (Vitor on his bike, by the way) and, on return, takes the flag down and whistles in the hens. Then it is the turn of the cocks to exercise. They fly for about an hour.
“Loft chores done, Vitor goes to bed at about 9-30 to 10 am. His wife, he says, works “posh” hours from 8am-5pm!
“He gets up at 3-30pm and repeats the routine with his pigeons. “I train just before the season, and then don’t train again.”
“The lofts are closed by about 5pm, and Vitor goes to bed for another two hours before it is off to work.
“His work pattern includes working every other Saturday night, so it needs considerable dedication to keep to his routine.
Vitor is 37 years old and, through the week, feeds a lot of seeds, creating the mixture himself. He believes maize makes pigeons fat. Then they have two days on a Verselaga mix.
“I am fascinated by pigeons,” he says.
He will be a great loss to the NRCC, but I am sure that all members will wish him well in this new phase of his life.
The name of the partnership of GV and W Britton has long been a part of the NRCC, and has regularly featured prominently in the results, but more usually as the races become longer.
But this year, father and son, Graham and Michael, seem to have turned their season from back to front. Buoyed by their 1-2-3 Section E in the first race from Dunbar, they now feature in third open position in the provisional results from Perth, and are expected to take the first two places in their section.
Michael reveals details of their successful day: “We had our best ever NRCC Perth race and, at this stage, it looks as if we will be 1st & 2nd Section E, provisionally 3rd Open NRCC.
“ We have had to wait quite a bit of time since our last Section win at Perth, some 34 years in fact (1984). We are definitely going to make the most of it!
“First our thanks must go to Darren and Merv for looking after the birds so well. After all the days in the basket they really did look great when they came home. Patience is rewarded!
“Secondly we wish to say thanks to all the people we speak to for line of flight weather in the early hours of the morning, with a special mention for this race to Dave Harper who has been a great friend to the NRCC now over a number of years.
“Our first pigeon and Section E winner, provisionally 3rd Open NRCC, is Blue Cheq Cock GB16X00837 ( aka “Fruit Loop”).
“Unfortunately he never came on line and arrived over our heads out of the south. We thought when the London pigeon (which turned out not to be an NRCC bird) was leading, that “Fruit Loop” may have followed him down to say Cambridge before deciding to turn back for home…..nothing with this pigeon would now surprise us! His breeding is of our new family Brockamp X Brockamp/Deweerdt.
“Second in the clock, some 12 minutes after our first, is Blue Bar Cock GB16X00801. He is provisionally 2nd Section E and should finish hopefully in the first 50 of the Open. He is of the old family, with the sire being our first pigeon in the NRCC Berwick YB Race of 2008 and a full brother to one of our best Lerwick Diploma of Merit winners “Shetland Britannia” when paired to a hen that is of our “Miss Go Lightly” lines, again another Lerwick Diploma of Merit winner.
“Congratulations to both Terry and Vitor for two cracking birds to beat us.
Although we may send a few birds to the next Perth NRCC race, they will only be sent to get some hours on the wing so we now look forward to Lerwick in three weeks time. Fingers crossed the weather is kinder to us than we experienced at Perth and the predicted South Westerly winds aren’t too strong in strength!”
The NRCC’s second race from Perth is on Saturday June 16th, marking on Thursday June 14th).
George Wheatman (Press Officer)