Joseph Van Dorning Racing Pigeons
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Joe Dorning, Preston, England

1st National Flying Club, Cholet, 6798 birds.


Flying just eight minutes less than nine hours, Joe Dorning clocked one of his three entries to realise his ambition in pigeon sport by winning a National. Joe, a retired police officer, is a straight-talking guy and pulls no punches; here is what he had to say when I visited him.


“I have never been one for following fashions with pigeons. I believe here in the UK we have some of the best pigeons in the world, there is no need to go shopping all over Europe, they are here in our own country. Our birds do not have to cope with just flying the distance but also cope with the English Channel and every body knows that a lot of pigeons will just not face it so consequently I believe we are left with the best.  What is it with people – some believe that by having the latest advertised family or the latest product pushed by a company it will take them to the top, a quick fix or something. Well I’m sorry to disappoint anyone reading this but there isn’t one! I have had pigeons for fifty years, of course I have tried things – we all have – but believe me or believe me not if you have the right pigeons then you will find you need very little else apart from good management.


My loft does not have a tiled roof; there is no mechanical ventilator or artificial heating. The loft is 32-feet long and 9-feet deep; a corridor runs along the front with the roof above this doubling as my landing board for the birds. Inside there are five sections, two for the youngsters, two for the old-bird racers and one for my breeders, that’s the lot, no separate breeding loft, just an aviary on one end of the loft where the youngsters are. I don’t need an aviary for my breeders as they all fly out, I have no prisoners whatsoever, when I have bought a pigeon it’s always been a youngster and I have raced it, this way if they are not up to scratch I haven’t wasted a round of youngsters.


Coronation Queen

She was paired to my “Millennium Cock” in the breeding section. Normally I fly a sort of round-about system – I say ‘sort of’ as the sexes are separated. This year, due to my sale, things were a bit hit and miss at the start. Some pigeons had been sold and I was looking to take part in fewer races and enjoy my retirement. I had taken four youngsters from her and then put her back into the hens’ section. In fact I only moved her last two youngsters three weeks before the race and she had had eight races down to the coast prior to her being entered in the National. When I let the birds out for exercise or even when I went into the section where she was she would try to get out, all the time she was trying to get back to the section where she had had her youngsters. Before the National I let her back into the breeding section with him and then basketed her.


I sent three to Cholet and got all three. It was an exciting and confusing afternoon as I also had birds in a Combine race from Lessay which were released at 10am and arriving approx. 30 minutes before the National birds. I was ringing other members and they were ringing me (Andrew Hastings, Frank Cuthbertson, Trevor and Tony Ennis from Whitehaven in Cumbria, Jim Sephton from Kendal, Jim Kenyon from Longridge and Tony Moss to name but a few).  I was checking on the websites for the wind forecasts and the progress and speed of the various Section winners as the birds were racing up the country, trying to work out the expected time to get a good one. To have a bird up with the leaders I calculated I needed one home by 4.30pm. The excitement was building up, I don’t know what it is but National racing is just so different, the Internet has added a whole new dimension to it.


Then she appeared! Brian threw the dropper, which, although it has a broken wing, flew onto the top of the loft instead of going straight through the open door. This upset her; she missed the door and went onto the veranda area of the loft. She was a little nervous as she could obviously sense the excitement in my voice and would not trap through the open door or the stall trap.  In desperation I dropped the stall trap into the stock section where she was trying to get in. A big mistake as three or four stock cocks then came out, and to say that panic set in would be an understatement. It was like Fred Carno’s circus until I clocked in at 16.22.


I was straight to the computer to check the National website, it said there were no birds recorded at the time of my bird’s arrival in Section L, which I did not believe. Approximately 15 minutes later I managed to access Section L, which was recording a page of arrivals in our Section. I worked out my velocity. Frank Cuthbertson then rang me, asking if I had clocked in. I told him that I was just about to verify my time and he said, “You will not be far away with that time”.


A good while passed and still my verification was not showing – it should have as I had worked out my velocity. It was then my heart started to beat a little faster. I tried to refresh the website to see if that would make a difference but still my name, bird time and velocity were not appearing. The pages had frozen! It was then I got a telephone call from the Secretary Sid Barkel asking me to confirm my seconds reading on the clocking-in time. I informed him that it was a dead reading of 16.22.00. He then congratulated me and informed me that at that time I was in 1st Open position. To say that I was ecstatic would be an understatement – this was my ambition come true.


It was then my heart went into overdrive. Sid informed me that he was going to update the result right away. It was back to the computer waiting for the updated result and telephoning numerous fanciers who had rung me up asking what the wind speed and direction was, and what time should they expect their birds from other liberations. Whilst waiting for the update to appear, I ran back into the loft to throw some corn into the troughs and I noticed three or four other birds had arrived from the club racing which I had paid no attention to as I had already clocked a number of birds. The stock cocks had gone back in and, not checking, I had just closed the traps. Back to the computer and, after what seemed forever, there it was the telephone result with Joe Dorning at the top. I just sat there shouting for Brian to come and have a look.


The club Secretary arrived shortly after 6pm to take me to the club and then to the National clock station at Chorley. I showed him the bird. Then it was back to the computer to run off a few copies of the provisional telephone result. In all the excitement and without checking, I shut the loft up and was off to the club and the National clock station. I was that high, if that’s the right word that I never checked to see if my other two entries had returned. It was only the next morning on entering the loft that I discovered that both my other two birds must have arrived sometime between 5 and 6 o’clock the night before and were in the loft before I set off. I was so pleased to see them as they had both performed well previously that I was on a high again, so much so that when my wife saw me she said, “DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU HAVE GOT YOUR SHIRT ON INSIDE OUT?” That’s what a good drink celebrating does for you. But who cares, I have just achieved a life’s ambition – my ambition now is to do it again before I die.


‘Whilst out celebrating the question came up of what to name my winner. Andrew Hastings, our club Secretary, started by saying that I had got to think of a name that I, along with other fanciers, would remember. He said I remember the 2nd June because it is my daughter’s birthday, it is also his sister’s anniversary. Actually everyone should remember 2nd June as a date in history as it was also the day Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was crowned and everybody remembers that, so the name I have chosen is Coronation Queen. I will always remember 2nd June 2007.”


Her previous positions are: 1st Club, 2nd Fed Mangotsfield 77/1549 birds; 2nd Club Kempsey 164 birds (came together with winner); 3rd Club Ludlow 234 birds; 3rd Club, 11th Fed Cheltenham 76/1545 birds; 3rd Club Portland 155 birds & 5th Club Wollaston 157 birds. Her sire is ‘The Judge’, a winner of over 40 prizes; 2nd in the RP £10,000 Championship Sprint Category; 3rd RPRA Sprint Award and a Meritorious Award winner. He is from Fulwood Cracker, 7×1st×Fulwood Leading Lady, 5×1st and a Meritorious Award. The dam of the National winner won 1st Combine, 29th Open RPRA Millennium Race Vire 351 miles 12,222 birds. She is from Fulwood Detective, winner of 37 prizes and Bird of The Year North West Lancs Fed × Fulwood Classic, 1st Section, and 1st Open North West Classic Club Rennes 396 miles.


Good Management

“When I say to people that I don’t use products, of course if I had a problem I would, what I don’t want to do is to give people the idea that pigeons need all these things in tubs, they don’t. Rather than be telling you what and when, let’s look at some basic things.” Pointing to his drinkers in the sink, “how many people just rinse them under the tap, is that what you do with your cups? No every day I wash my drinkers in hot water, another thing I have seen countless times is feed bags with their tops ripped open. Go and buy a good plastic dustbin with a good seal, keep it fresh. My grit is always fresh too, change it on a regular basis. I haven’t treated for canker for years, in fact, look here at these two tubs one has been opened and one not, the expiry date on them both is 2002 a product I picked up in Cape town South Africa that is how much I use.


The problem today is that most fanciers are all too quick to reach for the bottle. This year I was on a panel and the question came up about wet droppings around the nest bowl. When it was my turn to answer I told the audience: take a piece of garlic about the size of a bean and give it to the parents and the youngsters. Two days later I had a phone call; it was from a guy who had been in the audience. He said that he had kept pigeons since the early 60s and never heard about it before, he tried what I had said, and within 36 hours the droppings were perfect and as hard as marbles. Don’t get me wrong, if I had a problem I would treat them, but not all of them. If you have 5 or 6 children and one is sick your wife only takes the one that is sick to see the doctor not all off them. Do you take headache tablets if you haven’t got an headache? So isolate the sick ones – if it’s a good one treat it, if it isn’t then the only cure is to put it down. The good ones are those that have prizes!


In every corner of my loft I have drilled holes, not for ventilation, but at the end of the season and before I couple the birds I power wash the entire loft with disinfectant and a pressure washer. If you think your floor’s clean, try it – you will be surprised.


If you read all the articles already written by top flyers all of them do different things and feed differently in the main. I do not believe that there is just one magic system. You have to enjoy your pigeons and pay attention to detail. Training pigeons will not make them fit if they are not fit enough to train in the first place?

Joe is always willing to assist any new or old flyers with advice. He can be contacted through his web site were further tips and information can be gleaned.

Joseph Van Dorning Pigeons

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