Meet Stewart McCurry. Actually, many of you will already have done so, as he is a very social person. Lots of other pigeon fanciers, who take more than a passing interest in racing results, will be familiar with the name.
For many years now he has figured prominently in club and federation results. Now, however, he is reaching a new audience as a big player on the national scene.
Twice, in successive years, he has won races with the seemingly ever-expanding, innovative Midlands National Flying Club.
In 2014 he won the young bird national from Portland against an entry of 4,290 birds, and he was also 3rd, 4th and 11th.
In 2015 he won the Vire classic from an entry of 6,344.
So Stewart has introduced himself to national racing in style.
A successful businessman who heads an employment agency launched by his late parents, and a property business, both based in the Fenland town of Wisbech, Stuart is 49 years old. Two of his three children are already involved in the business, but he has not managed to persuade any of them to share his hobby.
It is in Wisbech where he does his federation and club racing to impressive lofts which now house two national winners, and to where he would love to time another to complete a unique hat-trick.
Despite moving up the ladder, Stewart is committed to continuing his support for club and federation which he feels are still the basis of the sport.
It is, however, ambition and a desire for improvement that has led him to put new drive into his Midland National racing after a long build-up that started as a schoolboy. Love of the sport never deserted him, despite a break to deal with the distractions of the teenage years, and he is always looking for ways to improve.
With the help of a friend, he built the lofts himself but was always looking to improve them, making alterations every year after seeking advice from knowledgeable fanciers, including the highly respected Bert Braspenning.
Now he thinks that he has got them about right, and results would suggest that it is best not to tamper any more.
Having originally raced from the north, he is now competing from the south, with the target being consistent success in the Midlands National FC.
In the past he has usually flown a team of 24 hens and 24 cocks, all on traditional widowhood and racing home to their partners, but in 2016 he is planning to search for even more success by reducing his team to 24 hens.
He says that they have beaten the cock birds hands down in recent seasons, and he believes that he can keep them in form for 13 weeks while flying out to no further than 400 miles.
Stuart also thinks it will make training easier as he can break them into smaller groups and vary the distance.
The winning has come down from three distinct lines – Louella’s ace Tele Savalas, Frank Bristow’s Ceulemans and a hen from Holbeach fancier, John Lensen. This was, in fact, a replacement for a young bird which “went off” after he had bought it at a breeder-buyer sale. And it has proved to be a fancier’s dream.
Having kept these lines separate, he is finding that it is equally productive to cross them.
Stuart does not plan to go out to the distance at the moment, as he believes that you need different pigeons and different feeding methods to achieve success in these races.
He works hard at his pigeon racing, getting up early for training and dealing with pigeon matters before attending to the demands of business. He says that he is a hard taskmaster with the birds, particularly with the youngsters where a lot of the sorting out is done.
He thinks that, if you don’t work hard, you will be left behind, because you can be sure that your rivals at the top level will also be putting themselves about.
Stuart loves to talk about pigeon racing with knowledgeable fanciers, and that is one reason why he has joined the Midlands Social Circle where he is fascinated to listen to discussions between the men who really know how to succeed in the sport.