When one teaches, two can learn!
About 4 years ago, a young man from Gozo, Malta contacted me on Facebook. Jonathan Vella was his name and although only 14 years old at the time, his thirst for knowledge really made a positive impression upon me.
He would ask me pigeon related questions via the Facebook messaging service and I would give my most considered answers, careful not to miss out anything important, only for it to be followed by another question and so on, for the next three years. But do not misunderstand me, Jonathan was a very capable fancier and along with his father John, had already made a super impression on the pigeon racing scene in Malta.
Once, after him timing in from a race, I received a “facetime” call via the internet, and when the picture came up on the computer screen, there was young Jonathan with his laptop in the pigeon loft. From there he could show me all his pigeons and the lofts they lived in. The pigeon bug had clearly bitten him.
One day in the spring of 2013, I was engaged in typing out yet another long and exhaustive answer to Jonathan’s questions, when I realised he would be finishing school for the summer in the near future. So I asked, if he wanted to come to my lofts for a week’s holiday and spend some time around the pigeons here, which in turn would save me a lot of typing. I have children about the same age so with his parents permission, I would also take him to visit some top lofts here in the UK to satisfy his thirst for learning the Racing Pigeon systems etc.
And so it came to be, after a discussion with his parents, that I collected Jonathan from Birmingham airport on a July morning last year. He quickly settled in with my children and soon wanted to see the pigeons. I was happy to show him the lofts and as we began basketing my young birds for their training, I told him of the visits to famous UK fanciers I had arranged.
Early the next morning he was up at 5am and ready to help me around the lofts. Old bird racing had finished and I was yet to have a young bird race so we spent the day training the young birds for short distances, over and over again, until they were heading home with out looking back. I can remember Jonathan’s fathers calling a few times in the day and was surprised how many times we took the pigeons training, but I explained it was only needed for one day and thereafter one per day from 20 miles was all that was required up to the first race.
My friend Jim Jenner, the American pigeon filmmaker from Montana, was due to call in for a visit whilst on his way to a meeting with the Midlands National Flying Club. The club committee had commissioned Jim to make a film called Young Wings to encourage the uptake of the sport in the younger generation, so it apt that Jonathan was here at the time.
Jonathan had told me he possessed all of Jim’s films back home and watched them several times over so I was pleased he was able to meet Jim and chat about his love for the pigeon sport. That brought to an end his first full day in England and so the next day we were due to go off visiting Champion UK Pigeon Racers, reports of which will follow in part 2.
Jonathan has raced his pigeons, in partnership with his father, since the age of eleven under the name of John Vella & Son, with the loft situated on the rooftop of the family home. In that time they have won Six Nationals, been Champions of their 30-member club winning the Best Fancier Long Distance award twice, 2009 season and in the 2012 season.
The six National wins were, 1st National Belvedere, 155 Km four times, flying against some 8000 pigeons. Then in 2013 they won 1st National St Eufemia 365km, against the North West wind, winning by a clear 4 minutes. An finally, during the 2014 season they made history by timing the only bird on the day ever from Rome, a distance of 608 km. This race has never had a bird on the day before!