The Black Jets will always be remembered in Lanarkshire federation for their brilliant
results since their introduction by R Telfer & Son from Motherwell.
Douglas kindly agreed to undertake a question & answer session for Lanarkshire news.
The birdage in the Lanarkshire federation at this time was up to 10,000 birds!
Winning 12 x1st Open Lanarkshire federation and countless other positions. Full
report with photos here
QUESTION & ANSWERS- R TELFER & SON
1. Can you give us some background about your time in the Sport?
I started flying pigeons with my father, Bob Telfer, in 1959 and we joined Dalzell
Flying Club Motherwell. He was already flying with his brother Harry as Telfer Brothers, Larkhall and
this partnership continued from the 1930’s into the early 70’s. The main aim of
the Larkhall Loft was undoubtedly long distance racing and especially participation
in the Scottish National Flying Club. From memory, some of the strains were Burrell of Douglas Water,
Jock Reid Stenhousemuir and Willie Wilson, Larkhall who were all contemporaries of
my father and his brother. Undoubtedly their best pigeon was a Red Chequer Hen (known
as Scotland’s Cinderella) with five national certificates including an 8thOpen Nantes
at 8 years of age. I believe the blood lines were Blackwood of Renfrew.
My father was involved in all aspects of the sport, being on the SHU council and
a member of the SNFC committee. For years he verified all the top winning pigeons
the West Section and I trotted along. It was riveting !
2 When do you pair up and what is your health programme before pairing?
Normally we paired up the weekend closest to the 14 February both stock pigeons and
racers. Initially, like everyone else, before the racing season we treated for coccidiosis, dewormed
the birds and added a short course for canker. However, I met Tom Pennycott from
the Agricultural College at Auchincruive in Ayrshire and started sending dropping
samples to his laboratory. After his analysis on a number of occasions had recommended
no treatment, we stopped this regime.
3. How do you manage them after they leave the nest? Basket train, deep litter,
part with hens?
The young birds were weaned between 24 and 26 days placed in a separate section with
food placed in front of them at all times and extra care taken to ensure they were drinking
properly. At this stage they were given a lot of attention and handled regularly
to ensure they became tame.
Over the years we tried many hygiene systems which did include deep litter. Our
deep litter was not the normal approach since it was completely changed every two
to three weeks. Shavings were not a success due to the dust and we reverted to either
barley, wheat or oat straw. Most of the time I ferried in the straw from the east
of the country since the wet weather on the west side meant that a lot of the barley
straw was bailed damp. Undoubtedly the best straw was oat or wheat with the disadvantage
of the wheat straw being that it broke up very quickly. On initially laying down
the so called deep litter, it was thoroughly soaked in Duramitex and with the loft being
cleaned daily, any debris was removed from underneath the straw. Our deep litter
system was actually more work than the normal bare floorboards with daily scraping.
However, both birds and humans were very happy with the setup. Latterly in
the late 80’s/early 90’s our deep litter system was abandoned and we reverted to bare
4. What’s next for the youngsters? Feeding, training, race system?
The young birds were just left to mature with no darkness system employed and only
flown out in the evening prior to training. Feeding was mainly one of Haiths standard
mixtures. However, for a good number of years, I ordered a special mixture from
Haiths placing an order for a ton at a time. From memory, this was 25% beans, 25
% peas, 25% maize, 12 ½ % wheat and 12 ½ % sunflower seeds (large black and yellow
variety). We were surrounded by houses and from a very young age, we trained the
birds to land directly on the loft. When they were trained to do this as young birds,
this continued throughout their racing career. No training was carried out until
approximately 2 weeks before the first race and in the racing season it was a maximum
of 2 training flights per week between 20 and 30 miles. Basically the young birds’ only
motivation was their home environment with my mother who looked after them most of
the time and my father training them. The only other incentive was Haiths Redband which
we would hand feed them on numerous occasions.
5. What challenges in the form of illness do you come up against and how do you overcome
The Black Jets were an exceptionally healthy family and the only additives were honey in
the water a couple of days a week, plus linseed as a vitamin B12 supplement. In
the winter, once a week, they would get Chevita multivitamins in the water.
6. How do you motivate your pigeons and what raced better, cock or hen?
As already explained, young birds were really motivated by the environment and the
contact the birds had with myself and my mother. The old birds were always flown
to the nest. There was very little difference in the actual performances between
the cocks and the hens but, the cocks had more certificates because the hens laid eggs.
Sometimes with the correct environment, pigeons find their own motivation. A case
in point was Cara Zeppelin who had two First Open, one Second Open Lanarkshire Federation.
He loved sitting eggs and when the hen would take over these duties, he would go
straight into the nest box of the pair next to him and throw out the cock or the
hen and sit on the eggs. Initially I tried to stop him doing that and the result
was, I upset both Cara Zeppelin and the pair whose nest box he commandeered. In
the end I gave up and the couple adjacent to CaraZeppelin came to an accommodation.
Whenever Cara Zeppelin zoomed in on their nest box, they would come off the eggs,
he would take over and they would remain in their nest box. Strange but true.
7. Loft design, size, ventilation, loft management (daily routine)?
As can be appreciated over the years, quite a number of lofts have been installed,
but the basic design was always the same. The sections were always 6ft wide, 6 ½ ft high
with approximately the same depth. All had verandas which acted as a landing board
leading to the traps. Nest boxes were from floor to ceiling and ventilation was
via the veranda and also adjustable louvres in the front of the loft below the veranda
with a two inch gap at the top rear of the loft to allow air to exit.
When the Black Jets first started racing in 1975, they flew into one small 6ft section,
with astonishing results. However, over the years, the lofts evolved and latterly
it was 34 ½ ft long with 5 sections and a centre section which housed hot and cold
running water, all the cleaning tools, sink and telephone.
8. Provide information of your birds breeding lines?
Over the years I started three separate families of pigeons:
a) The Black Jets obtained directly from Belgium form Joseph Nauwelaerts located
in a small village near Lier. He restarted after the 2nd World War and developed
his very own family of pigeons. They were excellent, up to 360 miles and were by
far the best pigeons we ever raced.
b) The Blue Mink Family. Started in 1988 with the sole aim of developing a family
of pigeons to fly 500 miles. We purchased mainly Scottish pigeons.
c) The last family I started was called Weapons 96 and it was based on first prize
winners purchased from all over the United Kingdom.
9. What’s your prep in relation to feeding and supplements for racing?
The birds were never fed depurative or equivalent . Predominantly we stuck to Haiths and
latterly Versele Laga with 25% beans added. The only supplements were Redband, sometimes
Honey in the water and for long races a few peanuts.
For advice on supplements the man to contact is John Bosworth. When he was kind
enough to act as our guest on our Dalzell quiz night , he brought a manual with him
10. What type of racing do you like, sprint, middle or long distance racing?
We participated in every type of racing from the shortest race right through to Nantes,
all with the same enthusiasm.
From my point of view, sprint and middle distance racing was more enjoyable since
it gave a more accurate picture of the quality of pigeon. Long distance racing involves two
or three years of planned preparation and on many occasions long before their quality
can be assessed the hazards in the shape of predators have eliminated a fair proportion
of the racing team.
11. How do you pick your pool pigeon?
Assuming the team is healthy and in peak racing condition, then the Pool bird should
pick itself either by eye or handling. In 1983, the club racing season was finished
and we had decided that, in two week’s time we would not participate in the Young
Bird National from Redditch. I was a way on business quite a lot and was flying
in and out of Belgium and my mother was looking after the young birds on her own.
The weekend before the Young Bird National, I returned home and on the Sunday, I
let the young birds out for a fly. They shot off heavens high and disappeared for
an hour and after returning, bolted into the loft. There was one outstanding specimen,
a Dark Chequer cock with two little white ticks on its head. Later on I asked my
mother that, if we were to go to the Young Bird National, what pigeon would she pick? Unbelievably
she picked the same cock. We sent it and the rest is history. I was in Belgium
and my mother timed Cara Bursar to be 1stRegion E (800 birds) 43rd Open Scottish
National Flying Club Redditch (4083 birds) and an all pooler. Incidentally we just
pipped Janet Lang, Carluke.
12. Racing system, widowhood roundabout or natural?
The racing system has always been natural.
13. How does the sport look now compared to when you raced in 1980’s?
There have always been racing losses in our sport (especially with young birds) but
casualties in road training were a very minimum right up until the mid 1990’s. From
then on the casualties have been progressively worse. The short answer then is that
in the 1980’s it was much more enjoyable.
14. What made the Black Jets so special a pigeon?
The Black Jets had physical anomalies which may or may not have contributed to their
racing ability. Monsieur had eleven flights in each wing, Madam had a beautiful very
strong violet eye whereas Monsieur had quite a flat orange eye. The late George
Rankin, who always paid a lot of attention to detail, was always looking for the
Black Jets with eleven flights. They were also very slow moulters , so although
the darkness system was not in vogue at that time, it didn’t really matter. We could
fly right through to the Young Bird National without this family going into the body
moult. They were just magic pigeons. Joseph Nauwelaerts only spoke Flemish but
his son-in-law (an airline pilot) spoke fluent English and through him, it was suggested
to me that only pigeons were retained which won as young birds or yearlings.
15. How can we improve the sport?
In two ways:
a) Find some way to encourage young people to participate in pigeon racing. No sport
has a future without the prospect of succeeding generations.
b) Embrace the current technology which is now available and start tracking racing
pigeons in real time to their home loft. This may sound pie in the sky but, if applied
to longer races and introduced to the general public, they could track their nominated
bird racing from say the coast or the channel towards its home loft. This is an
enticing prospect and would also highlight the dangers of predators.
16. What role do you undertake at present?
At present I am President of Dalzell Flying Club. A special mention at this point
to Owen McFadden who held the same post for 19 years without a break.
17. What makes a good pigeon club with the longevity of your Dalzell club?
Over the 60 odd years, I have been in Dalzell Flying Club, It has always been conservatively
run with particular attention to the constitution and rules. When an issue arises, every
attempt is made to stick to the facts regardless of the personalities involved, with
decisions based on the relevant rules. We take a vote on almost all issues and where
desirable, even a ballot vote. The Management Committee meets once a month and every
member is kept informed of any development. Everyone contributes where they can and
I would like to think that everyone has the best interests of the club at heart.
18. If you had to start back up in the sport, where would you go for pigeons?
A question I have been asked many times.
a) If it was long distance pigeons, it would be better to acquire birds from the
most difficult routes and in my opinion, these are into the central belt and west
of Scotland or Northern Ireland. If your desire is sprint and middle distance racing,
then it would be better to contact those fanciers who specialise solely on sprint
and middle distance racing. This is still very much the preserve of Belgium and still having
a monthly subscription for La Colombophilie BelgeI have noticed that a significant
number of pedigrees of winning pigeons still contain the name Gaby Van Den Abeele.
19. Who do you admire in the sport?
First of all I admire my own family plus my partner June. It was a great team effort.
In addition all those who assisted us in cleaning the pigeons daily.
On a general basis, I admire all those fanciers who agreed to appear on our Quiz
Panel at our Dalzell Prize Presentation – everyone an example of dedication. Specifically
two special people I have known for a long while. First of all John King of our
own club and secondly Jim Hannah of Blantyre .
Lastly, I have always had quiet admiration for the late Pol Bostyn of Moorslede (whom
I visited on a number of occasions). He and his grandson were always very welcoming
and hospitable and, despite having fled the Germans on two separate occasions, restarted
in the sport after the 2nd World War and became renowned throughout the pigeon world
including twice winning the International Pau Race with Benoni and Faible, both of
which I handled. Interestingly he was a contemporary of the famous Alois Stichelbaut and
the Cattrysse Brothers.
Special thanks to Douglas for his contribution and a trip down memory lane that I
am sure will delight fanciers throughout the country.
Question from Brian Donnelly from Dundee
I enjoy your articles on the racing scene in the Lanarkshire federation.
I have just read your article on Douglas Telfer's outstanding Black Jets that had
everyone in Scotland sit up and take notice.
Do you know if the pigeon, I think it was named Cara Double [double section winner
in SNFC channel races ] was from these same Black Jet line ?? If I remember correctly,
Cara Double was raced by Brownlie Brothers, Carnwrath.
Keep these interesting articles coming!
Reply from Douglas,
Thereby hangs another story. Back into the archives !
I started three families of pigeons as follows :
1. The Black Jets
2. The Blue Mink Family
3. Weapons '96
The gentleman from Dundee is correct. The bird he remembers was bred and raced by
Brownlie Bros, Carnwath. I purchased the hen, named it "Double First" and added
it to the Blue Mink Stud. I also purchased the Blue w/f hen which was 2nd Section
to "Double first " in 1987 (SNFC) and named it "Resilient". They have no link to
the Black Jets.
I still have all the records and have attached the first page of the Blue Mink Stud
list, plus photos and performances of the above hens .
Cheers . Douglas Telfer.
Tom Corrie jnr
Lanarkshire Press Officer