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Article written by Brian Newson (The Sport at Heart)

published in 'The Racing Pigeon' 1999

Joe Dorning – The Supreme Fancier

I have known Joe Dorning for over thirty years and apart from a short break when
he joined the Police Force, his ability as a fancier has been there for all to see
and, yes, even in his early days he was always the one to beat.
In today's highly competitive world, Joe is still among the top echelon of fanciers
and in recent years his performances at all levels of competition have ensured
that the name of Joe Dorning will be mentioned whenever good pigeons or good
performances are discussed.
I have already done a loft report on Joe, albeit some five years ago, and
obviously one loft report cannot be followed by another shortly afterwards.
However, this does not mean that their views and opinion have not been updated
and it is this aspect that the article covers.
Before coming to that, it is only right that we again look at Joe's performances
over the past few years. He has been the highest prize winner in the Preston
Moor Park Club for the past six years; he has been the highest prize-winner in
the NW Lancashire Federation for the past four years; he has been the highest
prize-winner in the North Lancashire & Cumbria Combine for three years out of
the last four. If we add to that, his success in the NW Lancashire Wednesday
Club (where he is again the highest prize-winner), his achievements in the NW
Classic Club – and yes, even the NFC – the picture is complete. As for the actual
number of prizes won, a separate volume would be required.
With regard to his star performers, there have been many but to mention a few,
we have:
(a) THE JUDGE – 1st Combine 3923 birds, 2nd Combine 2872 birds, 3rd
Combine 3429 birds and the winner of 40 other prizes. It was an RPRA
Award Winner in 1997, 2nd in the RPRA Sprint Category, 2nd Great Britain
Olympiad Team and 8th in the World Sprint Category.
(b) THE SARTILLY COCK – 1st Combine Sartilly 1919 birds, 2nd Combine
Mangotsfield 3923 birds, 2nd Combine Weymouth 2873 birds actually
arriving with the winner. It has 25 other prizes.
(c) THE CHIEF CONSTABLE – RPRA Award Winner in 1996 and 1997; she
was the 1st hen in the Versele-Laga Sprint World Championships in 1996.
She too has a proliferation of prizes – 37 in total.
(d) FULWOOD DETECTIVE INSPECTOR – Winner of 12 x 1st at Club level
and 5 x 1st Feds. A winner of 27 prizes.
(e) FULWOOD CRACKER – A winner of 20 prizes including 7 x 1st, also 1st
section NW Classic Nantes 445 miles. He was the sire of The Judge.
(f) FULWOD CLASSIC - 1st Section, 1st Open NW Classic Club Rennes, etc.
(g) FULWOOD LEADING LADY – RPRA Award Winner. Winner of 5 x 1st
and 4 x 2nd. Records would indicate this to be the best ever breeding hen
of the loft being mother to 'The Judge', 'Fulwood Detective Inspector' and
'Fulwood Detective'. "A gold mine of a hen", says Joe.
There have been many more stars over the years but as for their breed, they
have evolved from Joe's initial stock when a number of birds came from local
fanciers, keeping those that performed and suppressing the others. Those that
remained were, by a strict selective regime, blended into today's successful
The birds themselves are a nice medium-size with a good balance and, yes, an
intelligent look about them. The majority of his present day family is dark
chequers with a small amount of pied either about their head or by carrying the
odd white flight. There is the odd red but his star performers have been in the
cheque or cheque/pied.
Joe adds that he has a deep respect for all genuine fanciers in this country and
makes the point – quite forcibly – that he would never (at this moment in time)
contemplate bringing in birds from abroad and would always give consideration
to an English loft. Not surprisingly, imports to the Dorning loft are few and far
He pairs his birds on performance preferring to line breed to the best performers
and thereby producing a close winning family. He also ensures that every bird he
uses for breeding is a prize-winner.
With regard to present-day lofts, the cost, design and choice are unbeatable but
Joe takes the view that, above all, the loft environment must be right for the birds
"the result will confirm that", he says. He adds that for the ultimate in the
complete loft of birds he need look no farther than two of Lancashire's best
fanciers: Jack Cropper of Southport and Johnny Brooker of St Annes. He
normally pairs his birds up (Racers and Stock) around the time of the Blackpool
Show breeding about thirty youngsters for racing though more are bred to meet
his obligation to charity auctions, etc. He does not race widow-hood, but races
both cocks and hens to his own system of motivation to obtain the maximum
performance from the birds.
He floats the eggs from the first round of his start performers and while it was
said earlier he only liked to breed off prize-winners, at the time of writing he has
just one un-raced bird in the loft. This is a late-bred cock from 'The Chief
Constable' when paired to 'The Judge'. This is the only cock he has from this
pairing – the other bred being four hens. One of those, however, was nest mate
to the late-bred cock and this actually topped the Combine from Weymouth this
year. 'The Chief Constable' herself went missing around the loft on the 14
February this year and Joe presumes she was victim to a sparrow-hawk (one
being sighted in the vicinity of the loft on that day). Sadly, two more also went
missing around the same time and both were bred the same way as 'The Judge'.
With regard to medication, Joe does not believe in treating every bird in the loft –
particularly with antibiotics – being firmly of the opinion that over-use can do
more harm than good. He does stress it is imperative to have the right diagnosis
and therefore the correct treatment. He adds: "If you have three or four children
and only one is sick, then only the sick one is treated." The same principle
applies to his pigeons. He continued that he thought that a lot of our present-day
pigeon ailments have been brought in from the continent via imported birds. He
is also of the opinion that young-bird-sickness has been brought about by
fanciers dosing pigeons with practically everything on the market – young-birdsickness
being the backlash. It has been proven in the past that when doctors
issued antibiotics like sweets, we had the days of the super bug. Likewise with
Paramyxo. If we had let the disease run its course, then it would now be a thing
of the past and pigeons would have been better for it. He agrees that some birds
could have been lost but then he says: "Did we also not lose good pigeons in the
Nantes Centenary Smash?"
Moving onto clocks and the timing-in system. Joe would like to see the whole
matter of clocks looked at and some form of report issued. He firmly believes
that puncture clocks should be done away with altogether – they have served the
sport for nearly one hundred years and really do belong to a bygone era. In
present-day competition, where races are won or lost by a second, there is no
place for the Toulet. He thinks that the electronic system is a step in the right
direction and adds that the sport in this country needs to come up-to-date for the
21st century. "In the beginning", he says, "there was one clock placed at a
strategic point and to where fanciers ran their time in. This was followed by the
puncturing clock, then the printers, followed by the quartz printers. The electronic
system is now approved in most pigeon-racing countries and fanciers in the
country will have to move with the times. It is a more accurate system." He also
feels that the more fanciers who invest in the electronic system, the greater the
price reduction. As for the cost, Joe does not think that today's clocks are
expensive and to substantiate this point he says that some years ago the
average wage was £30 a week, whereas a Toulet clock was £40. Today's
average wage is around the £300-£350 a week and a new T3 can be obtained for
something like £320. Indeed, he says that if the average fancier saved just £10 a
week during the close season, then by the April he would have sufficient money
to buy a new clock.
Joe has a most modern approach to the sport and like many of the continental
fanciers he has his own office/trophy room containing a suitable computer to
accommodate all his records. He is keen on the continental system of coefficient
and competes regularly in the Verse-Lage Championships. He still
harbours an ambition to win the Nantes National on a good racing day with vels
around 1200ypm – he has been close once. And whenever he competes, he
must be in with a good chance. After all, there have been quite a number of
National Winners over the years to the North West of England. Joe is a great
'watcher', saying that the birds themselves will tell the fancier when they are fit –
their condition is there for all to see. The point is, can the majority of fanciers see
Finally, like all seriously-minded fanciers, Joe is concerned over the continual
decline in membership and to combat this he again makes some old and some
new suggestions regarding the promotion of the sport.
In the first place he would increase the RPRA subscription by £1 with the whole
amount raised being used to promote the sport. He suggests buying advertising
space on national busses and which cover the length and breadth of the country;
the message: "Are you bored with retirement? Do you want a fulfilling and
exciting hobby? Then try racing pigeons – time flies!!" He continues that if every
club, or clubs, in a town held just one young-bird auction, the money raised could
be used to buy books and videos for placing in school and local libraries. Ask
your own children if the school library has any books at all on racing pigeons.
The success of such films as "Geordie Racer" and "Marathaon in the Sky" have
proved that the interest is there.
Why not volunteer to give talks to local schools, explain the pleasure of racing
pigeons to the children. Take a few birds; one or two show pens; a clock and
thimbles; rubber rings and a ringer. For greater interest, take a map of the
racepoints showing the route the birds would most likely take. Joe is convinced
that maths would be a lot more interesting if it involved the working out of a
result. Likewise with geography and the story behind New Zealand maples,
French maize and racepoints such as Rennes, Nantes and Pau would stimulate
greater interest. Of course, this idea could be extended to give talks to pensioner
groups and other similar bodies.
The vets surgery is another avenue to explore and pictures of champion pigeons
on the wall allied to a selection of magazines in the waiting room would spread
the gospel. Stickers to promote the sports contribution to charities would help
and, of course, the charities themselves could give a helping hand. At the time of
giving this information, Joe had been present when money was handed over to
local charities. Unfortunately, there was no representation from the media and
consequently the good work carried out by the sport in helping others went
unnoticed. "We should be telling the country at large of just what we are doing
and when we want support for the control of raptors, it may be just that easier in
coming. The media is crying out all the time for good news and we are missing a
golden opportunity to promote our sport."
He concludes on this matter that on the occasion of your next visit to the doctor,
dentist, etc, why not place a pigeon magazine in the waiting room? You never
Coming to the end and while this is not a conventional loft report it does give
some idea of Joe's thinking. Writing in "The RP" during the OB Season it was
impossible to keep Joe Dorning's name out of the paper and be it Club or Fed,
Joe's name was invariably at the top. As I have said so often, winners are
winners and deserve the accolades. If a fancier wins week after week then those
accolades are all the more deserved.
The amount of success Joe has achieved over the year has resulted in his
making many contacts throughout the country and even beyond – visitors from
the various continents being quite common. Only recently, the past Australian
Cricket Captain Bill Lawry (a fancier of some standing back home) called and,
like so many before him, was impressed with the quality of Joe's birds. Bill was
actually in the UK commenting for Sky TV on the recent World Cup matches. Of
course, during his playing day a Test Visit to England always allowed Bill to visit
prominent lofts and I do know that on the occasion of one Test Match at Old
Trafford he took the opportunity to visit Bill Hammond at Lymm.
What does the future hold for Joe Dorning of Preston in NW Lancashire? If he is
to beat his own racing achievements then we are in for some more unbelievable
performances. Rest assured, he will be trying! I have no doubt he will do his
best to keep on promoting the sport for in his position as a Detective with
Lancashire Constabulary (hence the associated names of his pigeons) he comes
into contact with all sections of the community. Certainly if some of them raced
pigeons as they should be raced there would be little time for crime.
Brian Newson (1999)

Joseph Van Dorning Pigeons

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For further details and prices of young and old birds please ring Joe on 01772 861478.