Whitby pigeon racer Alan Richardson has hailed his national one-loft race in which he won £29,000 as “a dream come true.”
Alan (50) has been keeping pigeons for at least 40 years, having breaks now and then due to work commitments.
“The first pigeons I had were strays which I used to catch in the town with my mates,” he said.
“We kept these at the rear of my grandparents house, after this I was asked by well known local fancier Jim Warhurst if I wanted to help look after his birds.
“Jim taught me a lot about pigeon racing and we kept pigeons together up until his death in 2001.
“Nowadays I keep the pigeons at the rear of my home with the help of my wife Fiona who sees to the birds when I am at work.
“I usually start the year off with about 18 pair of old birds and I breed about 45 young birds. I race my pigeons in the Whitby Premier Invitation Club and the Yorkshire Middle Route Federation, winning my fair share in both organisations.”
Last year Alan set a record thought never to have been achieved in the club when he won 12 consecutive races in a row, including all five cross Channel races from France, something he’s very proud of.
The big race he won on September 14 was the Royal Pigeon Racing Association one-loft race which can be entered by any fancier within the British isles.
“The rules are you breed young birds in the spring then you pay an entrance fee then the young birds are shipped off to the loft in Gloucester,” he said.
“That is where the pigeons are settled to, then raced to over a five-race programme.
“The pigeons are professionally managed by a loft manager, all being treated the same. When the races start, there are 1,500 young birds in the loft.”
Over the five races, Alan’s young bird won 15th and 8th. Then the big one – first prize in the final.
On the day of the final the pigeons were racing from St Boswells on the Scottish Borders, a distance of 250 miles to the loft, They had been released at 8.15 in a north wind so Alan, of Helredale Road, estimated they would reach the lofts in about five hours.
“At about 1.30, I was in the garden waiting for my pigeons to arrive from a local club race.
“I heard a text message on my phone but didn’t think anything of it and just waited for the club pigeons.
“After the pigeons had arrived I thought I will have a look at the phone – the message was from a mate of mine in Lancashire and it read ‘just heard you’ve won the big one.’
“I thought he was having a laugh. I went and got the laptop and went on the race website. When I got on, I saw my name in first position.
“I just could not believe it. Not long after, the phone started ringing with people congratulating me then I really knew it was right.
“The first prize in the race was £25,000, I also won £3,000 in pool money and the young bird had already won £1,000 in the build-up races so all in I collected a total of £29,000.
“The week in general was really fantastic as I had already won the gold ring race, collecting £1,200. I then won first and second in the local club race and to top it off the one-loft race.
“People who race pigeons will tell you it is like an addiction – it becomes all-consuming, everything revolves around the pigeons and when things aren’t going so well, you think to yourself ‘is it worth it’ but on the other hand, when a result like this happens, it really has been worth it –a dream come true.”
With some of the winnings I first intend to take my family on holiday, I will also invest in some new stock to try and strengthen my already successful team, and obviously I will be entering this race again, I also intend to enter the South Africa One Million Dollar Race which is flown in sun city for as the name suggests a prize pot of one million dollars. This race is entered by some of the biggest names in pigeon racing worldwide.
In summing up I would like to thank my wife Fiona for all her help and support without whom I would not be able to race the pigeons to the level of success that I have gained over the years, also all the friends who have congratulated me both locally and nationally thank you all.