Lanarkshire Racing Pigeon Federation

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Established 1904  

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  


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 in

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 boards. 

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 these.

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

Hi Tom,


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