The United Fancy Homer Club

Catering for Breeders of British Antwerps, Exhibition, Genuine, Germany Beauty & Show Homers

header photo

A visit to the ‘Dashwood Lofts’ of Jack Ramsay of Redding near Falkirk.

Jack Ramsay, acknowledged as one the Genuine, Show and Exhibition Club’s trio of elder statesmen and as the grand old gentleman of the Scottish Fancy Pigeon world will be eighty seven years old this year. Born in the last year of the nineteenth century he has lived through three major ward seeing active service in the first world war  with the Argyll Regiment. Apart from his years with the Argylls he has been associated with pigeons and Fancy Homers, Show Homers in particular, all his life.

He was born into a pigeon family and soon developed a lasting love of the ‘doos’ from his father Dan Ramsay. Dan, who ran a successful local building and brick laying firm, had laid the foundations of the Dashwood Lofts some years before Jack was born. Jack quickly progress from loft assistant to junior partner. His first recollection of the ‘doos’ was as a young lad when he helped his father attend to a stud of sixty or so assorted Show Homers and with time he, quite naturally, accompanied this father to local shows. He can still remember with satisfaction, savouring their first major success and silver trophy for Best Young Bird at the Scottish Show Homer Club’s show at Paisley in 1912.

In 1926 Jack married, built his own home and loft on the next door plot and began showing pigeons in his own right in friendly competition with his father. Theirs was a close friendship, Jack served his time as a bricklayer and followed in his father into the family business. When in 1943, Dan died, Jack sold his homer and moved, loft, pigeons and all into the family home Dashwood. The Ramsay’s love of home must be very strong, two of Jacks three daughters and their families live within a stone throw of Dashwood.

The present day Dashwood strain of Show Homers was founded immediately after the first world war, when Dan purchased a red chequer cock for £20 from Matt Dearnley of Pinchbeck near Spalding and a dun chequer hen for £15 from the Wincote, Dalton in Furness ace G R Hartley. Since that time Jack has carefully blended the bloodlines of the Robert Cock of Southport and John Brooke of Thorne, near Doncaster into his strain. Dan and Jack Ramsay’s policy was to always try to breed from the best birds available. John Brooke and Jack became lifelong friends and often exchange birds, both Show Homers and Exhibition Homers, in the following years. In fact it is largely due to these two stalwarts that we still have Exhibition Homers today; they held the breed together through and after the second world war. Most present day studs are founded on their birds. The famous post war West Country loft of Matthews and Lewis owed much of their success to Jack’s strain of Exhibition Homers; not direct, but through the loft of south of Scotland fancier John Mackay who had his birds from Dashwood. Apparently Ernie Lewis used to pay John Mackay a visit after every breeding season and never went away with an empty basket. Jack’s own stud of Exhibition Homer have only recently been phased out through becoming too inbred; there was, as Jack put it, simply nowhere else in the country he could go for new blood. Jack had never been a strong believer in inbreeding at any time; it had always been accompanied, in his experience, with loss of size in both head and body, important features in his chosen breeds. The closest pairing he would recommend for Fancy Homers, pairings which he has used with success in the past, are grandfather to grand-daughter and grandmother to grandson. He would never go closer and for that reason had, eventually, to let his Exhibition Homers go.

Jack’s present loft was constructed in 1932 and was moved over the garden wall in 1943. It is some thirty feet long by fifteen feet deep, split into four spacious breeding compartments with a large store room at the end. Another smaller loft is sited alongside which, alas, now is only used for storing baskets. Jack’s nest boxes as you would expect, large, roomy affairs some three feet by two feet by two feet.

Jack is more than satisfied with the state of the Show Homer fancy in 1986; the breed is in ascendancy once again and he considers that the birds of today show more refinement, more quality and less coarseness than pre-war birds. Fewer pairs are being kept, but breeders are having to be more selective in the stock they keep and this is paying dividends. The old Antwerp cross was used extensively in the 1930s in a craze for head size and this had led to a general, and to Jack undesirable coarseness in the breed. It had also led to a red tinge in what had been an otherwise white eye; one of the points that had attracted Jack to Fancy Homers so many years before. He considers the white eye to be of paramount importance in all three Fancy Homer breeds. Along with white eye Jack always looked for a good short, stout beal and fine smooth heart shaped wattle; a tied wattle either an Exhibition Homer or a Show Homer is an anathema to Jack. A fine black cere, good body conformation, short feather and a good full back skull are also essential in a first class Show Homer; an Exhibition Homer’s ideal back skull is just the reverse.

Jack would never countenance any bird that was down faced or flat headed either in the show pen or breeding loft; these are two serious faults in a Show Homer. He has always had a soft spot for a dark chequer, although he has not restricted himself to that one colour. Reds, clues and silvers have always had a place in his loft. On colour breeding he does not recommend continued pairing of blue to blue or silver as this will eventually, in his experience, lead to an unwanted lightness of feather colour.

For one who has had so many successes on the show bench, his dark chequers won the Lovell Trophy for Best Show Homer on one than one occasion in the 1970s, Jack’s greatest thrill in the fancy came not, as you or I would expect, from one such award but from a judging engagement at the old Olympia Show. Jack was judging Exhibition Homers that day and he selected from a class of eighteen, Matthews and Lewis’ now famous hen, Champion Lady Supreme which went on the win Best Bird in Show and many other awards, including NPA Certificates from nine different judges, in its career on the show bench. The thrill of handling that bird and putting it forward still lives on with Jack. At the other end of the spectrum his greatest disappointment lay in a magnificent dun hen that he had from his good friend John Brooke; this hen won many awards, always laid good fertile eggs which always chipped on time but alas never hatched. What youngsters show would have bred.

Jack’s advice to new starters is to go out and get two or three pairs of birds from a reliable fancier. Get the best you can afford and given time, experience and patience and the introduction of new blood every two or three years success will come; never breed to close. One loft that has followed his advice is that of David and Ted Bramley of Belpher. Evidence of this is fine wins at last year’s classic shows. As Stafford, the Genuine, Show and Exhibition Homer Club’s Midland Regional Show, their stud won both Show Homer certificates; one with a direct red chequer cock and the other with a dark chequer, an own bred son of the red chequer cock, which went on to take the award for Best Bird in Show. Proof that Jack’s strain and policies still pay dividends. Well done Jack, may you continue to enjoy your Show Homers at Dash wood for many , many more years.

A visit to Wynn Sadler of Shrewsbury

Wynn Sadler’s association with Show Homers goes back a long way, sixty four years to be exact, to 1921 when, as a young schoolboy, he purchased his first pair of birds out of a selling class at a show being staged in the Botanic Gardens, Southport. The birds were both dark chequer, the cock from Sydney Anderton and the hen from Jim Smith. Wynn was brought up in the Southport area, a noted hot-bed of Show Homer fanciers with fifteen to twenty breeders in close proximity to the town; competition was fierce and classes of twenty or so birds were common even at local shows. The Northern Show Homer Club was in its heyday and could attract 300 plus top class entries to it club show. In such company it is not surprising that Wynn’s first prize card read ‘Commended’ and that in a class of seven. But as he recalled he has been improving ever since; indeed before he moved from Lancashire in 1927 to take up a career in farming at Wem in Shropshire he had recorded a second place ticket on the then prestigious pigeon section of the Royal Lancashire Show.

Wynn did not take up pigeons again until 1947 when his eldest son John expressed an interest. A loft was quickly erected and pigeons, Show Homers, what else, were obtained from an old fancier, Robert Cocker of Southport, where else? When, in 1958, John left Wem to begin farming on his own stead the management of the loft was taken over by Wynn’s second son Roy. New pigeons were added from the lofts of such prominent fanciers as John Ramsay of Falkirk, Harry Field of Hull and Harry Young of Waltham Abbey. Exhibition Homers from Devon lofts of Matthew and Lewis were introduced as a second string in the early 1960s. Roy’s active interest in the birds came to end when he left home in 1966 to study at Aberdeen University; at about the same time Wynn was calling it a day on his farm at Wem and moving into semi-retirement at Riverside, Shrewsbury, an address that was too become synonymous with quality Show and Exhibition Homers throughout the length and breadth of the country in the 1970s. Wynn often chuckles to himself over the fact that he had to buy his stock from his son Roy when he moved to Shrewsbury, stock that he had founded in the past.

Wynn’s progressively worsening arthritis, he is at this time waiting to go into hospital for operations on both hip joints and may be forced to miss the 1985 show season, meant he had to reduce the number and size of both his lofts, his garden and his stock of Homers. In 1982 he and his wife, Ivy, moved across town to a smaller property off Halfren Road, Shrewsbury. Wynn soon erected his present 20ft by 8ft loft in the corner of the now neat and well maintained garden. His current plans allow for four pairs of Show Homers and four pairs of Exhibition Homers to be put down each year. In fact Wynn now practices the old adage by keeping only the best and breeding from quality rather than quantity, a tip he considers all novices should follow. There are still some of his favourite colours, yellow, and red chequers, in the loft but pride of place at this time goes to his 1977 NPA Champion dark chequer cock ‘Shrewsbury Supreme’; a bird that in its career on the show bench was only beaten into second place in a class at the Genuine, Show and Exhibition Homer Club’s annual show. The bird has been best Show Homer on numerous occasions and won both the Harry Field Trophy and the Lovell Trophy at Doncaster.

Quite a pigeon. In its younger days Supreme had all the attributes Wynn likes to see in a Show Homer, a fine wattle, stout short well-set beak, a good white eye and short cobby body. Wynn professed to be a ‘wattle fanatic’, a feature of the breed that improved from those early days in Southport, when from memory he recalled that the birds were much coarser in wattle. The general overall quality of the birds shown today has also, in this opinion. Improved over the intervening years, although there are not as many quality birds about as there were ten to fifteen years ago. That is not to say however, that present day competition is not as strong it is.

Whilst accepting that no bird is perfect, he considers that today’s birds do represent a good reflection of the Club’s standard, which once it had been settled in the 1920s has stood the test of time. When judging to that standard, a duty he has often been called on to perform as a much respected past president of the Genuine, Show and Exhibition Homer Club. Wynn looks first for a good head, it does after all carry sixty of the breed’s one hundred points; he looks for a head with length of face and sweep, well filled between the wattle and the eye. The sweep must be from the tip of the beak over the head encompassing that all important wattle; it must not, begin at the wattle, nor must the wattle be sprung or coarse. Good condition too is high on his list of priorities.

 If the loft’s Show Homers have performed well over the years, its second string of Exhibition Homers have not let the side down. Here blue bars, mealies and silvers are the main colours. Many prizes have been won at the show, including top awards at the Club Show, but perhaps the outstanding performance was when the Esquillant Trophy at the now defunct Dairy Show for the best bird in the Homer, Dragoon, Carrier and Antwerp section was taken back to Shrewsbury.

 The present loft, which Wynn built himself, is divided into four compartments, the smallest of which is used as a store-cum-entrance. The other three compartments, each 5ft 6ins wide by 8ft deep are used in the summer months to house breeding Show Homers, breeding Exhibition Homers and young birds of both breeds respectively. In winter the sections are used for Show Homer cocks, Exhibition Homer cocks and the third section for the quitter hens. So the birds are reduced through the winter months, Wynn’s stock is always in demand by old and new fanciers alike, the cocks are combined and only two sections are used. Many of today’s Reading lofts in both breeds were put on the right lines with good birds from Wynn’s lofts at reasonable prices. The birds are fed on a basic racing pigeon mixture which includes Indian corn and is supplemented by the addition of poultry pellets.

 I hope that the above notes and photographs will give readers an insight into Wynn Sadler, the fancier and his pigeons. Not all Wynn’s comments have been included, some have been kept back for inclusion at the appropriate time ion Fancy Homer Notes. It only remains for me to thanks Wynn and his wife Ivy for a most enjoyable afternoon and evening spent in their company, Many Thanks


Twenty Five years with the Genuine Homer By Ernest Pearson

My experience of breeding Genuine Homers during the last twenty five years has been a great pleasure. Of course like most other breeds there are many snags which crop up from time to time.

Some fanciers seem to think the Genuine Homer is easy to produce. This is not so. One does not get tip top birds in every nest and much thought must go into pedigree before one can hope to produce the right quality and keep this up.

Perhaps the Genuine Homer does not require quite the perhaps same attention as some of our short faced varieties, in so much as it does not require feeders.

Once they have settled down, usually everything will go smoothly but again this depends on such things as proper housing. By this I do not mean that an expensive building is required, just something say, six feet square, six feet high, with an open flight to it, probably about the same size. This is very useful for exercising the birds. A house of the size will accommodate two to three pairs. The hut should be kept clean and free from draughts. A single nest box for each pair is what I have always used. These are spaced out, so that they are not too near to each other. I find the birds appreciate this more than if they were all together, like neighbours.

Presuming you stock are all healthy, eggs should begin to appear in the nest pans usually about ten days and after a period of four or five days they can be tested for fertility. I have never been troubled with infertility and the only times I have, I have put it down to the very cold east winds which we often get in February and March. The eggs become chilled if they are left for even a short time. If I used artificial heating I should not expect this to happen.

However, I never coddle my stock. If they cannot survive normal conditions then I do not see much chance for them in later life and it is much better for them to end their days in the early stages than continue to keep on indefinitely with different ailments which often occur.

A point which I would like to mention is to get to know your stock. Each time you go into the loft, talk to the birds and you will find they will get used to you and will not fly all over the place. Of course, some birds take longer to settle than others but a few kind words and a little gentle persuasion generally does the trick. I always think that if the birds are comfortable there is more chance of them carrying out their maternal duties without mishaps.

I can recommend the Genuine Homer. It is a bird which needs no trimming expect that the wattles must be kept down with a piece of smoot sand paper, also the beak. I do not like to see Genuines with the top mandibles overhanging, it spoils the general outline.

Our standard says we must have a white eye. I quite agree with this but at the present time it is one of the points which most Genuine Homer breeders are trying to improve. One must have other good points too e.g. correct rise of face, good strong beak and a well balanced body.


Contact Us