Meg Murray of Burnham on Crouch.
The winner of the British International Championship Club young bird race from Guernsey in the Channel Isles is a Lady Fancier by the name of Meg Murray, who is much respected, locally and nationally for her formidable racing performances.
Originally from Edinburgh, Meg and her late husband John began their married life and raced pigeons together in the Bonnyrigg Homing Society with the Midlothian Federation. When I asked if she liked the pigeons at that time she replied that she had little choice, because Johns work took him away from home for long periods and she would be left to care for the birds in his absence.
John was a builder by trade and had to work away often, but after a while they decided to move to Reading to be nearer Johns work. They flew pigeons there for a few years, only to move once again to the Tyne & Wear area for the same reason and flew pigeons in the North East for a further 16 years.
Once retired in 2001, John and Meg came to Burnham on Crouch to visit their son who had settled in the area. They liked what they saw and decided to make one final move and bought a property nearby. Being a builder, John would choose his prospective house purchases by the garden alone, ensuring it was suitable for a pigeon loft first, as he could make any alterations required to the house himself. Once they had moved into their new home, a loft was erected, facing south, in the large garden and they began to race their pigeons once again.
But sadly John passed away in 2005 and Meg continued to race their pigeons alone, spending most of her time within the spotlessly clean loft with her birds. Maybe this is the secret to her success. She obviously has a great affection for her birds which have rewarded her with many seasons of success in Club, Federation and National level.
Meg said the encouragement given to her by local friends and fanciers, ensured she would carry on with the loft alone. As her husband’s illness prevented him from having a great deal of involvement with the birds, it was support greatly appreciated. Indeed it has continued through the years with friends helping to train her birds – Lee came to collect some whilst I was there.
The pigeons used to be raced on the widowhood system but Meg did not like keeping the hens locked away all week. So although it proved successful, Meg prefers to race both partners. She says the pigeons are happier being trained and raced together.
Through the racing season they are separated and exercised on the roundabout system. After their exercise the pigeons enter the loft through open doors, into the corridor within, and are then moved along to their separate sections and are only allowed to see their partners after the race. Interestingly, all the pigeons are sent to the races each week.
The 30 old birds are paired in January after the Blackpool show and allowed to rear youngbirds for racing. They are repaired again later in the season to help to delay the wing moult of the hens in preparation for the any age races. In fact, they were sent to this race with eggs hatching and will be in a very favourable condition for the next race from Falaise in two weeks time.
They are fed a measured amount of Gerry Plus, in a communal trough although it will be mixed with Best All Round if a stronger mix is required in preparation for the races. Also a food pot containing Breed and Wean mixture is placed in each nest box during the breeding period along with a nest bowl wrapped in newspaper to help to keep them clean and warm.
The 30 youngbirds bred each year are raced on the darkness system which Meg places then on as late as possible in March until the middle of June, and at the end of July, lights come on at 4am, on a set timer, until the end of the racing season. This increases the day length by extending the morning hours, and the pigeons go to roost in the evening when the natural daylight fades. Also, Meg was advised to use Cat Litter as a floor dressing in the young bird section to help to keep them healthy and she has been very happy with it.
The National wining youngsters sire is a two year old racer bred from ‘Sooty’ and ‘Mealy’ – two stalwarts of the stock loft whose offspring have topped the results sheet many times. ‘Sooty’ was a superb 2003 Wildermeesch which originated from the loft of Woofe, Son and Daughter, and ‘Mealy’, a 2004 Janssen Jan Loots hen, was bought at auction. Sadly Sooty died earlier this year but his hen, paired to a nice young cock is still managing to produce great youngsters.
The dam is bred from another pair of super stock birds which came from the loft of Lee Bastone, who is a friend and fellow club member. Lee has won lots of races including the BICC but limits the number of birds he keeps; so when he had decided to try something new, Meg was given this fantastic pair of birds.
The couple, which is a direct Willy Thas cock via the late Frank Tasker, paired to a Staf Van Reet hen down through a pigeon called Radar, have bred winners for Lee, including a Combine winner from Exeter, and a grandson gained 9 firsts at club level and 3 Thames wins. One young bird, given to a futurity sale, won the North Road Amal from Berwick and a daughter won the West Durham Amal from 9,300 birds. A truly superb pair of birds that have given Meg winners at club and Thames level over recent years.
Upon entering the loft, Meg stepped into the corridor and touched a plaque attached to the wall. It read “John Ashcroft Murray”. Meg explained it was once attached to a wooden cross used to mark her late husbands grave prior to the headstone being installed. She touches it every time she enters the loft in memory of her late husband and racing partner.