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Mucking out the loft, the serious business of setting the racing clocks, the anxious wait for the pigeons return home, and finally, a beer.

Documentary 1985 24 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


One West Yorkshire club of pigeon fanciers, based at the Lofthouse Athletic Club (now The Royale Restaurant), gets the Clegg treatment, with his usual easy manner, as part of his 1980s series with Yorkshire TV. Club President, Jack Sheldon, talks about his passion for racing pigeons, and then joins his fellow fanciers with their pigeons at the club. Here he sets the clocks, and the birds are driven 130 miles away to fly back home, before back at the club to announce the winner.

Michael Clegg was a naturalist, former columnist at the Yorkshire Evening Post, and a regular on BBC Radio 4's Natural History Programme. Born near Barnsley, Clegg was an early campaigner for wildlife sites. Racing pigeons – also known as homing pigeons and carrier pigeons – are derived from the rock pigeon, selectively bred to find its way home over long distances, up to 1,100 miles, which the average feral pigeon is unable to do. No-one knows for sure how they manage this: theories range from using the sun, magnetism, smell, sound and visual landmarks. Although pigeon racing is associated with northern men in flat caps, it is a worldwide sport, with 500,000 fanciers in Taiwan, as against 43,000 in Britain.