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MARK & DICK EVANS by KEITH MOTT














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Mark & Dick Evans of Myrtle Lofts (Whitley Bridge, UK) have an exceptional racing and breeding record

Few, if any, racing and breeding lofts from around the world can match the performances of the birds belonging to Mark and Dick Evans of Myrtle Lofts. They have an enviable record racing alone and in partnership with lofts in the UK and North America and an ability to produce outstanding pigeons for other fanciers.

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Dick and Mark Evans

A Rich Heritage

The Evans’ involvement in the pigeon sport can be traced back to 1944 when Dick entered the fancy. Early success was inevitably achieved and even in the early days of his racing career, the Evans birds were particularly successful on difficult racing days. Mark became involved in 1970 and soon found success racing a team of Karel Hermans pigeons. Mark and Dick obtained sixteen birds from Karel; with most of the top Herman bloodlines such as the Scherpe, Velthem, Bordeaux, Famme, Faury, Old Marseille and Meil coming to Myrtle Lofts. Always looking to improve, Mark and Dick introduced endless different families of birds to test but nothing could compete against the Hermans.

The Gaby Vandenabeele Connection

After many hours scouring the European pigeon journals for a fancier winning out-of-turn at the top level of competition, Mark and Dick identified the performances being achieved by Gaby Vandenabeele of Dentergem, Belgium. They decided to introduce these bloodlines back in 1995 with the intensions of putting together a family of pigeons for middle-distance classic and national racing.

Continued Success Year After Year

It is an amazing fact that from these bloodlines, Mark and Dick have either won themselves or have been responsible for supplying birds to win 92x1st in national and classic races. This of course is not counting the masses of club, federation and combine wins. Please click here to check out the impressive results of 2013.

The American Adventure

Between 2002 and 2005, Myrtle Lofts sold three small shipments of pigeons into North America and from the very beginning they showed some outstanding results for different fanciers who managed to obtain youngsters bred down from these bloodlines. Because of the impact of these achievements, Mark and Dick started receiving many more e-mails from U.S.A. fanciers requesting information on their birds. Unfortunately, due to the large demand for their birds in the U.K. plus orders from other countries, it was becoming almost impossible to keep shipping their birds to America year after year. Mark and Dick wanted to see their bloodlines achieve more outstanding results in the U.S.A.; to the same extent as they had in the U.K. However, without their birds being circulated throughout America, this would be impossible. With this in mind, in 2005 Mark & Dick offered their very good friend John Marles a partnership at his own loft in North America. Initially racing in Canada and more recently with the Gulf Coast Homing Club (Little Belgium) in Florida, the results achieved by the partnership have been nothing short of brilliant. They have won countless club and combine races and achieved a number of ace pigeon awards. Their most recent result from the GHC is:

1,2,3,4,5,6,18,19,25,26,30,31,32,34,35,36,37,38,44,49,50,51,54,55,56,60,62,63,64,72,73,90 
                  Up North Combine (88/1,254) with 32 birds in the top 100 from 88 competing lofts

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The Oldsmobile Cock, ace racer for Marles and Evans

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John Marles

An Exceptional Breeding Base

The breeding team at Myrtle Lofts is probably unequalled the world-over in terms of quality. Here is a selection of the breeding pigeons housed at Myrtle Lofts:

 

 

A Constantly Improving Breed

Whether racing or breeding, Mark and Dick Evans have proven themselves to be pigeon fanciers of the highest order. Their ability to keep producing generation upon generation of exceptional racing pigeons has rightfully earned them their place in the elite group of pigeon fanciers worldwide.

MARLES & EVANS

of Florida in the USA

by Keith Mott

 

This week we are going to have part 2 of the Mark and Dick Evans story. In our last article we looked at their fantastic lofts in Yorkshire and this time we are going to feature their racing partnership with John Marles, and their racing loft in Florida USA.

 

Between 2002 and 2005, Myrtle Lofts sold three small shipments of M & D. Evans pigeons into North America and from the very beginning they showed some outstanding results for different fanciers who managed to obtain youngsters bred down from these bloodlines. Because of the impact of these achievements, Mark & Dick started receiving many more e-mails from U.S.A fanciers requesting information on their birds. Unfortunately, due to the large demand for their birds here in the U.K. plus orders from other countries it was becoming almost impossible to keep shipping their birds to America year after year. Mark & Dick explained they would very much like for their bloodlines to achieve more outstanding results over in the U.S.A to the same extent as they have in their own country here in the U.K. However, without their birds being circulated throughout America, this would be impossible, so with this in mind in 2005 Mark & Dick offered their very good friend John Marles a partnership at his own loft in North America. John spoke to his wife in detail what this offer entailed and both his wife and himself couldn’t see any disadvantages for either parties and decided to accept this North American partnership with Mark and Dick. John admits his decision wasn’t taken lightly as there were, respected reputations at stake on both sides of the big pond.

 

 

As soon as Mark heard the good news from John he immediately put together a team of their best bloodlines and made arrangements to ship 34 pigeons to John’s loft in North America. They included direct children from all their champion breeders, many of them parents to four, five and six generations of winners. These birds will be added to John’s already successful team of M & D. Evans breeders which he has obtained from them over the last few years. Out of these birds, John will keep the first round of youngsters each year for his own race loft and then he will offer the next couple of rounds to the American fancier. This opportunity gives Myrtle Lofts the chance to fulfil another of their dreams in breeding as many champions in the U.S.A as they have already done here in the U.K.

 

John first met Mark and Dick in 2002 when he came to England to purchase some of their M & D. Evans bloodlines. He had read about the phenomenal success of Mark & Dick and what these birds had achieved in Classic and National competition, but wanted to see their operation first hand and to choose youngsters from specific pairings. The three of them struck an immediate chord and a solid friendship has emerged. What started as a friendship soon turned into a partnership and six years on neither party regret their involvement in joining forces and working together. As soon as John was involved with the M & D. Evans bloodlines, he decided for the first two years to place some youngsters in selected lofts in the Toronto area. This exercise would help John sort out quicker which breeders were producing the best lines. The chosen fanciers were asked to fly them as they would the rest of their young bird teams. At the end of both young bird seasons, it was more than obvious that the M & D Evans birds had made their mark on the winning pages. Every loft that John chose to race for him reported successful winning lines.

 

 

One fancier called Joe Ferriera has been a successful flier in the Up North Combine (140 active young bird fliers) for many years and as such is always looking for ways to improve his stock and take his racing level up a notch.  Joe is a very small team flier by today’s standards racing approximately twenty-two old birds and maybe thirty-five young birds. In 2004, he had thirty-seven young birds of which only five were bred from M & D. Evans stock. Four of the five were bred from a pair which carried the lines of Ebony, Benetton, Victor Reid, Jester, Carrie, Rolls Royce and Love Bird, all well-known names at Myrtle Lofts. The young bird season consisted of eight races ranging from 180 kilometres to 530 kilometres (approx. 110 – 325 miles). The Evans birds beat his in seven out of the eight races. With these birds, Joe won five club races out of the eight. One bird, banded CU 2004 YR 1833, won two club races and finished four times in the top of the combine, earning her “Ace Young Bird” in the club and “Ace Young Bird” in the Combine. An example of her positions includes 2nd Combine, 450km (911 birds), 4th Combine 520km (798 birds), 16th Combine, 370km (1333 birds). After such an exceptional year Joe insisted that John should take her back and put her in stock for one year to see if she could breed as well as she flew. The following season from her first six offspring, Joe Ferriera raced three and John Marles raced the other three. Five of these youngsters scored throughout the season. One of Joe’s achieved 1st “Ace Bird of the Year” in his club and John had both 1st and 2nd “Ace Birds of the Year” in his club. By the end of the 2004 season, Joe Ferriera was hooked on the M & D. Evans bloodlines.

 

John said after only three years from accepting the partnership with Mark & Dick the results of the M & D. Evans birds continue to pour in daily. An example in one combine 300 mile race the Evans birds had a field day winning 1st, 8th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 23rd, 27th, 55th, 61st, 63rd, 64th, 73rd, 76th, 78th, 81st, 84th, 86th and 100th Combine, from 77 Lofts sending 1,063 Birds. This represents almost 20%, 1 in every 5 birds was an Evans bird and yet this was achieved by 2% of the lofts in the Combine. Another Combine race the Evans birds won 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Combine with 84 Lofts sending 1,260 birds and what makes this result even better was that 1st and 2nd Combine winners are actual nest mates racing for two different fanciers to two different lofts. Another fancier called Mike Valente that John chose to help him select the best breeders won the first three races of the season winning 3 x 1st Combine wins in a row with the Evans birds with many more loft mates in the result. Another Combine race show the Evans bloodlines in top form 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 19th, 21st, 25th, 33rd, 45th, 53rd, 58th, 61st, 94th, 97th Combine when 82 members sent 1,210 birds, with 34% of the Combine result were of Evans origin..... It didn’t matter what part of America or Canada these birds were racing the results seem to show a mirror image just like they have for different fanciers in the U.K. John said to Mark over the telephone that these are the best pigeons that have been imported to the USA for many years and he was extremely confident that this is the next wave of pigeons to refresh and enhance the quality of the existing gene pool. As the Janssens, Van Loons and Husyken Van Riel did in the past, and he his 100% sure the Evans bloodlines are going to perform in America as their ancestors are doing in other parts of the world.

 

 

John often read in the American Racing Pigeon Digest, stories about the great competition in America’s “Little Belgium” area of Florida, an area boasting over 200 lofts in a six mile radius! The Unit Ten Highlands area has around a hundred lofts in a half mile radius and is the original “Little Belgium.” John visited the area and loved it. Soon he yearned to race there. Canada had no competition like this; the number of lofts in the Toronto area was steadily dwindling. John visited the Florida area several more times, visiting lofts, watching races, going to the grand GHC club house. He dreamed of racing there so John then talked over his plans with Mark and Dick. They were almost as excited as he was! Their foray into Florida racing as “Marles & Evans” soon began…. John studied years of big GHC club results to find the perfect spot to race from. He found it on the short end in Brooksville, on top of a hill overlooking the race-course, a wonderful location to compete from. John had to wait two years for the land on that hilltop to come on the market, but the wait was well worth it. In Canada he had 65 miles over-fly in the Combine, which was a big disadvantage; now he was up front and centre; ten miles short. John also studied several successful Florida loft designs, then after consulting Mark & Dick they had a nice, functional loft built. John then brought down his Evans breeders from Canada, and bred a few youngsters for their first year racing in Florida. Now the big question was: Could their M & D. Evans pigeons from cold, damp, rainy England handle Florida’s heat and humidity?  Local fliers doubted they could and come out with comments like “Just wait till he flies here. Those Canadian/English pigeons will never win in Florida!” These comments were quite understandable due to the fact this area has more All Americans, more Hall of Fame winners, more North American Champions, more National Champions competing, than anywhere else in all of the USA! Can this new breed of British pigeon succeed where all before them have failed?

 

John joined America’s biggest club, the 210 loft strong GHC (Gulf Coast Homing Pigeon Club), which encompasses the whole area, ten miles from short to long and only a half mile wide! John also joined the smaller, 35 lofts, short-end FSI (Florida Suncoast Invitational) club, both flying in the Greater Tampa Bay Concourse. In their first season Marles & Evans began racing the M & D. Evans bloodlines in the FSI Club with a small team of just 23 birds. His performances surprised everyone because it usually takes fliers several seasons to acclimate themselves and their pigeons to the Florida climate and competition. But they scored in their first ever race: 1st FSI YB Average Speed; 1st, 5th, 7th, 12th, 19th, 21st and 24th YB Champion Pigeon FSI; and 1st Champion Loft FSI! Even more surprising, in the big Greater Tampa Bay Concourse, with the big GHC Club also competing in the Concourse, the Marles & Evans team scored 1st YB Average Speed GTBC; 2nd Champion YB Loft GTBC; and 2nd & 3rd Champion Young Bird GTBC!! Wow! Ten young birds, six hens and four cocks, actually did most of Marles & Evans’ winning. John Marles racing under the name of Marles & Evans opened a lot of eyes!

Other results included 1st FSI Club 1st, 35th, 36th, 38th, 41st, 43rd, 51st and 74th Greater Tampa Bay Concourse (1,358 birds), 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 10th FSI (527 birds); 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th Greater Tampa Bay Concourse (1,331 birds); 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th Florida Federation (1,473 birds). Everybody was really talking now!

 

 

Mark says “It’s essential to look for the strongest competition possible if you’re aiming to establishing a world class gene pool from which you can work. You’re only kidding yourself if you’re looking for easier competition to own a red card. You will only become world class by racing against world class pigeons. There are many new records to be broken and with the right bloodlines they become easy”.

 

Marles & Evans aren’t the only fanciers winning with the M & D. Evans pigeons in “Little Belgium” as there are many more realising these are super pigeons for this kind of competition in the USA. Laurie McConnell of Spring Hill, Florida is a fine example to show what can be achieved with these bloodlines. Laurie has been around our sport for well over half a century, and he's won a lot of awards, including having several "qualified contenders" for the AU Hall of Fame, but winning a rare double in the coveted 2009 North American Ace Pigeon Awards is the highlight of his long pigeon racing career. His pigeon "Little Champ" (100% M & D. Evans bloodlines) AU07GHC4434 not only won 1st North American Middle Distance Ace Pigeon (Old Bird), but achieved a rare "double" by also winning 1st Overall North American Ace Pigeon (OB) Division 2 Average 1001 - 2000 birds!  “Ace Pigeons” are both rare and unique in the racing pigeon world. They are akin to thoroughbred horse racing’s “Breeders Cup” winners. They must put up several outstanding performances in one season. Although 1st place winners often receive more publicity, “Ace Pigeons” are coveted by knowledgeable fliers. The North American Ace Pigeon & Ace Loft Championships, sponsored annually by the American Racing Pigeon Digest, acknowledges these champions and the fanciers that race them. This championship is open to all AU (American Racing Pigeon Union), CU (Canadian RP Union), and IF (International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers) members, as well as independents, in North America, which numbers somewhere around 15,000 lofts, making it the most competitive championship in all North America.

 

Laurie’s Double North American Ace Pigeon “Little Champ” is bred out of M & D. Evans bloodlines purchased from Myrtle Lofts partnership loft (Marles & Evans) when they were still based back in Canada. “Little Champ’s” sire is a grandson from Myrtle Lofts Westkapelle, Band of Gold, Rolls Royce & Queen of Diamonds. “Little Champ’s” dam is a daughter of “Sylvan Laura” 1st Champion YB in Club and 1st Champion YB in the Up North Combine 2004, You will remember earlier in the article she was flown by Joe Ferreira in North America. “Sylvan Laura” also has all the great M & D. Evans bloodlines in her background too, Logan, Pure Gold, Benetton, Jester & Carrie etc. It’s not hard to realise with these bloodlines why “Little Champ” is a double American Ace Pigeon Award winner. Mark, Dick and John are all very proud to have moved into new competition and achieve such outstanding results right from the out start and more so when they were constantly told it was impossible to move in to “Little Belgium” and become an overnight success. I do know that these three fanciers didn’t leave a stone unturned and took into consideration every bit of good advice given. Mark and John spend hours on the telephone talking plus trips to and from America to mull over any new ideas which may improve performances. John quoted earlier that when he joined Mark & Dick as a partnership that there were reputations at stake on both sides of the big pond but with the results already achieved the partners of Marles & Evans have no worries at all. They have proved they are world Class fanciers with world class pigeons.

 

John Marles has had pigeons for fifty-five years and he started when his grandfather gave him two street pigeons when he was five years old. He started racing in the junior club at age eleven and raced pigeons in Canada for about forty-five years and in Florida in the United States of America under the name of Marles & Evans for the last three years. His loft in Canada is one where he could modify part of the structure to suit the conditions of the day. John has a loft within a loft and has placed large aviaries directly in front of the loft which are enclosed with a plastic material for the cold and rainy parts of the year. When the weather changes for the better then the plastic material is taken down. The loft is made of wood and can be closed down if needed to maintain the heat or the many windows can be opened fully to take advantage of a nice day. Inside, John has twelve small exhaust fans which span the forty-eight foot loft and this is most important in Canada when racing on the dark system and especially for those days when the weather is hot and humid. In Florida, due to the hot and humid conditions which exist for at least seven months of the year the loft must have excellent air exchange. When the humidity reaches or surpasses the air temperature it is critical to get the sticky hot air out. In Florida John has four large roof vents for the seventy foot loft that work on both humidity and temperature. On those days when the air is thick with moisture, he turns on all the fans to create some air movement. In Florida it is also important to capitalize on the sun by positioning your loft so that the sun’s rays can penetrate right to the back of the loft to dry out the floor and therefore prevent mould and dampness. It is also important to be able to close down any windows as the weather in young birds and the beginning of old bird racing can get very cold, down to 18 deg F, -10 C, relatively speaking.

 

In the 1970s John Marles raced both natural, double widowhood and we’ll call it pure widowhood, and raced cocks only. He was driven crazy, but the results were fabulous! Then with a young family he raced just double widowhood and in 2009 in Florida racing under the name of Marles & Evans, and he raced their fifteen yearlings on double widowhood. The partners told me, in 2011, they would like to also race a few pairs on natural as John feels they can be very valuable for the long end.  In the nearly forty years that John’s raced double widowhood he has tried to implement any good sounding ideas and he has tried breeding one, two and no young birds from them prior to racing but preference is for them to raise young ones and wean the young bird as soon as possible. On shipping night, John has tried many different methods and settled on showing the hen for a few minutes. Each fancier seems to find the method that suits his/her own time schedule. The length of the race determines the time he will leave the pair together and when the distance of the race is short then so will the time be that he leaves them together. If it has been a real tough race then he might leave them together over night and John tries to race the majority of the birds to at least the 500 mile stage.

 

Regarding feeding to race in Florida: This is very different now Mark & Dick are concentrating in racing in Florida. Mark & John have had to change their thoughts on the weight of a pigeon going to race, as it is critical that you do not start too early to add the fats otherwise on Friday evening at shipping they may have put on too much. Due to the weather being hot they do not expend any energy maintaining their body temperature and therefore it is most important that you do not add WEIGHT before they are shipped. Although they must be shipped with enough energy to get the job done so you need to re-examine just when, what and how much do you need to add before a race. Then depending on the distance of the race they would add the fats that they felt were appropriate. First of all, they would check out the weather for the weekend and try to determine approximately how long the race would be taking into consideration the wind, temperature on course and cloud coverage. Then they would feed according to the hours on the wing. An example would be for a 300 mile race of six to eight hours on the wing he would add some fats to the carbohydrates on Thursday evening. The fats would include rape seed, hemp seed, sunflower hearts and peanuts, all purchased from a health food store.

 

 

Over the years the number of young birds John Marles kept has also changed and in the 1960’s and 1970’s John kept no more than twenty five young birds. In the last ten years racing in Canada John generally kept between forty and forty eight young birds. John had two lofts which ran a total of forty eight feet and therefore one bird per foot. In the late 1980’s John raced on the dark system and as soon as the old bird races were over they would be retired to aviaries and his young birds would be spread over the 48 x 10 feet of loft. John used the dark system giving them about 8 hours of light each day and the 50 CFM bathroom fans would be on twenty-four hours. He would then separate them and race them on the sliding door method. In Canada, John raced the young birds out to 400 and 450 miles and some young birds would bounce back the next year and score again and yet others would need at least a year off. John said he would prefer only sending them to the 300 mile stage as this will give you an indication as to their worth as an old bird. Now that John is racing in Florida he uses the light system because the dark system would definitely compromise their respiratory systems. The lights are on for about twenty hours a day and they moult somewhat like they do on the dark system. Then in the beginning of June John cuts the ninth and tenth flight about an inch from the top and then eleven days later these two flights are pulled and the young birds are shut down for six weeks to allow the new flights to grow in. This is done so that the young birds will have a full wing when the money races are flown in November and December. In Florida Mark, Dick & John have decided the furthest they will race young birds is around 300 miles.

 

John houses about ten pair of stock birds in Florida and a few new pair each year that Mark sends in to audition for the part. The birds are put together around 25th November. They are fed a high protein mix with about ten percent pellets two weeks prior to mating and John tries to keep the amount of food down, but the quality up. At this time of the year the food is normally coated with brewer’s yeast, human baby formula or powdered colostrums to name a few of the additives.  Now, more than ever results dictate John’s search for new additions. This is in fact how John found Mark and Dick Evans after reading an article in a British magazine highlighting their fantastic results and this prompted him to contact them and eventually fly over to England to see for himself. John said that he definitely made a connection with both Mark & Dick and after three years of John racing the M. & D. Evans’ birds very successfully in Canada they offered him a partnership. John immediately accepted the partnership and he’s never looked back. One of the best stock birds that John has ever owned was bred from Myrtle Lofts super breeder “Westkapelle” when mated to “Band of Gold”. This GB 04 T 25443 bird bred either their best or second best young bird in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. These young birds were Ace birds in Club, Federation and Concourses and won many awards. In 2010 a son of 25443 was Ace young bird and Digest Award winner and he bred the best young bird for another fancier. Another prolific breeder is GB 2005 T 19010 from Champion “Shadow” when mated to his granddaughter “Blue Ace”, the car winner and 15 thousand pounds in Europa One Loft race.  Many lofts throughout North America have raced very well with offspring from this cock when paired to different mates.

 

John’s enjoyed both long and short distance racing. However, when he looks back over the years he well remembers those long distance races when he was one of the only lofts to clock a day bird from very challenging distances. When he was sixteen he raced in the men’s club when they had well over 200 lofts in the Toronto area. There were only 5 day birds from a Gruelling 500 mile race and he had one. In the 1970s at the 600 mile race John had the only day bird into Toronto flying some 60 to 80 miles further than the short end lofts. Since 2002, John has raced the M. & D. Evans bloodlines that have proven that they can race at any distance and at any speeds. They also have proven that whether they race in Belgium, England, Canada, South Africa, United States, etc. the results are the same. They really seem to excel over bodies of water as their results from islands in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Trinidad indicate. As far as pet theories John believes like most that you only get out of the sport what you put in. John also agrees with those who feel that this sport is a 365 day commitment if you are to succeed at the highest level.  Each year John tries to motivate the birds by keeping them very tame and  in this way he feels he gets just a little more from the birds than he would normally.

 

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MARK & DICK EVANS

OF MYRTLE LOFTS IN WHITLEY BRIDGE

by KEITH MOTT

After many successful years in pigeon racing Mark and Dick Evans told me their most thrilling experiences in the sport is having the telephone, texts, and e-mails going week after week with winning reports from different fanciers all over the world achieving top performances by racing their bloodlines. They both decided to introduce the Gaby Vandenabeele bloodlines back in 1995 with the intensions of putting together a family of pigeons for middle-distance Classic & National racing. Their main ambition was to try and put a 1st Open National winner to their own list of achievements. Back then in the nineties when purchasing these birds little did they realise what outstanding bloodlines they had invested into and how famous they were about to make the name M & D. Evans become world-wide. These bloodlines have amazed even Mark and Dick achieving far more than they could ever imagine. Fifteen years later and the father and son partnership are proud to pronounce they have to date 71 x 1st Open winners reported in Classic & Nationals which include 46 x 1st OPEN NATIONAL WINNERS that contain their M & D. Evans bloodlines. They have also had winners reported in America, Canada, Hawaii, South Africa, Taiwan, Kuwait, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Hungary and all parts of the UK. For Mark and Dick these outstanding results for other fanciers are far more rewarding than any 1st Classic or 1st National winner in their own lofts.

 

Mark & Dick have worked extremely hard to build a family of pigeons that will win from 70 miles to 550 miles and with the ability to perform better in head winds. They both enjoy all races that they have entered over the years but National & Classic racing at middle-distance is their favourite competition. The father and son partnership like any races that are one day events. One of the best cocks they bred for National racing was ‘Rolls Royce’ who only raced as a young bird and a yearling due to injury. He was entered in three National races winning 2nd Section (1,652 birds), 2nd Open National Picauville (4,154 birds), beaten by a loft mate when ‘Myrtle Lofts’ recorded 1st, 2nd and 3rd Open National, then he won 32nd Section (2,900 birds), 33rd Open National (5,617 birds) and 9th Section (2,896 birds), 50th Open National La Ferte Bernard (7,017 birds). What made ‘Rolls Royce’ so special to Mark & Dick is because he achieved all these three top National results racing into head winds giving over 120 miles to the front loft locations. After ‘Rolls Royce’s’ injury he became one of the best breeders at ‘Myrtle Lofts’ breeding many top races and breeders He is sire, grandsire & great grandsire to endless winner’s right through to 1st Open National level. His bloodlines for example: ‘Joe Jones’, ‘Pure Gold’, ‘Team Leader’, ‘Joe Joe’, ‘Bouncer’, ‘Cosmic Girl’, ‘Major Player’, ‘Rolls Fideel’ etc. Another super racer and breeding pigeon for Myrtle Lofts is ‘Solitaire’ winning as a yearling ‘Ace Bird of the Year’ in the W.B.C.C. open to members in all four counties of Yorkshire. As a two year old he won 1st Open Northern Classic, 1st Open MNFC National and was 26th All England in the Alliance Millennium National, with the first 25 birds in the All England flying between 191 and 261 miles, ‘Solitaire’ was flying 387 miles into a head wind, with 1,435 birds competing on a 5 bird limit. ‘Solitaire’ was then retired to stock where he proved to be an outstanding breeding cock breeding generation after generation of winners right through to the highest level. The winning reports back to ‘Myrtle Lofts’ are fantastic! D & J. Hawkins from Doncaster won 1st and 2nd Open M.N.F.C. National G.R. Picauville with two grandchildren (nest mates) from ‘Solitaire’, also a direct daughter from ‘Solitaire’ bred 1st Section, 1st Open Northern Classic also for D & J. Hawkins. Another direct daughter bred 1st Section, 1st Open M.N.F.C. National for Clive Yates from Tamworth. Another example of the quality of ‘Solitaire’ was shown in 2005 when five different pigeons were placed in the top twenty Open National, they won 2nd, 4th, 8th, 18th and 20th Open National when (7,131 birds). All five were grandchildren from the wonderful ‘Solitaire’. ‘Rolls Royce’ and ‘Solitaire’ are only a small example of the top races and breeders housed at ‘Myrtle Lofts’.

 

One of the all time best breeders at ‘Myrtle Lofts’ is Belg 95 3211313, Champion ‘Shadow’, bred by Gaby Vandenabeele. He is sire of winners with 13 different hens and sire of over six generations of National & Classic winners. He is himself responsible for 1st Open NFC Messac, 1st Open NFC Angers, 1st Open London & SE Classic Bergerac, 1st Open BBC National Carlisle, 1st Open Welsh S/E National Oudenaarde, 1st Open MNFC Yearling Alencon, 1st Open Welsh National Bergerac, 1st Open MNFC Carentan, 1st Open MNFC G/R National, 1st National AU race Stockton California USA, 1st Open MCC Lessay, 1st Open CSCFC Lessay, 1st Open London & South East Classic Guernsey, 1st Open CSCFC Messac, 1st Open BBC Fougeres, 1st Open NFC Nantes, 1st Open BBC Bordeaux, 1st Open BICC Falaise, 1st Open MNFC National Treble Chance and 1st Open London & South East Classic Club Tours. That’s 19 x 1st Open winners in Classic and National races. Even the latest top performance of 1st UK 3rd Open Sun City Million Dollar Race winning $75,000 (approx. £48,000.) was also a granddaughter from Champion ‘Shadow’.

 

Before retiring from racing at Myrtle Lofts, Mark & Dick raced 32 cocks on full widowhood and between six to ten hens raced on the natural system paired together as lesbians. The 32 widowhood cocks were paired up around December and they would be expected to breed at least one round of youngsters so that the cocks were very strongly bonded to their nest boxes and their partners. These cocks would remain paired together until four weeks before the first race when the hens, eggs or any second round youngsters would all be removed from the loft together. In this four week period before the first race the cocks would be trained on every opportunity from a starter training flight around 12 miles right up to about 50 miles and on the weekend of every week prior to the first race the widowhood cocks would have a dummy race returning back to their hens. This means by the time these cocks had their first proper race of the season it was like their fourth race to them which reassured that all the yearlings understood the widowhood system. Once the cocks were on full widowhood they would be exercised twice a day except on race days. Also once the racing had begun the widowhood cocks would be trained Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at distances between 35 miles and 50 miles depending on the wind so they would achieve about 45 minutes on the wing. On the Tuesday and Wednesday training flights the birds would return to an empty loft but on the Thursday training flight the cocks would return to their hens which proved to be a better advantage to the older system of showing the hens on a Friday night before basketing for the races. By showing the hens on the Thursday training flight rather than the Friday night, would guarantee that the cocks would travel to the race less worked up and stressed prior to the next day’s race. These widowhood cocks would race every race right through the season and would not be repaired.

 

Mark & Dick do not believe in breaking down. The cocks were fed the best quality corns possible and as much as they could eat. Feed hard work hard was Myrtle Lofts policy. By feeding top quality corns every day of the week ensured that the cocks had a full tank of fuel at all times. The widowhood cocks are fed on Super Diet & Sneaky Mix 50% x 50% seed mix in the morning and then Super Widowhood 75% & Junior UK 25% at night all hopper fed. Also two to three weeks before their first race Mark & Dick added Blitzform in the water Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday for the night feed (Fresh clean water in the mornings)

 

The six to ten old hens were selected because of their outstanding results as young birds. For several years Mark & Dick use to say because of only racing widowhood, how sad it was to stop young performances hens and not carry on racing them on as yearlings. These selected hens were put in with the young bird team and flown on the darkness for the second year running. These hens would pair together as lesbians and Mark & Dick would prepare them for the Classic races mid-way through the season. Due to the fact Mark owned his own transport company these hens would be doubled and singled up at all distances right through to the south coast at 200 miles. These hens may only have two club races before the Classic but regarding training they would know the countryside from one end to the other. Mark & Dick won with these hens 1st and 2nd Open Northern Classic Fougeres 368 miles with a five bird entry, 1st, 2nd, 19th, 20th and 27th Open Northern Classic Picauville with a nine bird entry, also winning 3rd, 5th, 8th, 16th and 108th Open N.M.F.C. Picauville with a five bird entry. The hens were prepared so they were always feeding an eight to ten day old youngsters for these races. This wasn’t hard to achieve because Mark & Dick could get the hens sitting and because they were infertile they gave the two hens a youngster from the breeding lofts. Once the youngster reached ten days old Mark or Dick would swap the youngster for one two days younger so the young bird would never get bigger than ten days old. This ensured the two hens were only feeding one young bird between them and it would never become hard work due to the age.

 

Because Mark & Dick no longer race in the U.K. the present day lofts are only used for the Myrtle Lofts breeding programme and house all the top breeders responsible for the outstanding success story behind the M & D. Evans bloodlines. If the partners were to decide to restart pigeon racing here in the U.K. this loft could be easily adapted to race both old birds on widowhood and young birds on darkness. The lofts are built from brick with a Spanish slate roof. They have been built higher than most normal lofts to keep the inside more ventilated which makes a fresher environment for both Mark & Dick and the pigeons. Outside the lofts there are two large open top aviaries which are both 20ft long x 12ft wide are 12ft high. In the roof of the aviaries there are built in showers which are used throughout the warm summer seasons. On the bottom of the aviary floor there are hard wood floor grills with a built in drainage system under the grills which is ideal for washing out or for removing rain water after poor weather conditions. Inside the loft is a small working area with built in sink with hot & cold water and toilet which then leads into a corridor that leads the full length of five breeding sections which all have ventilated windows and doors to give maximum ventilation throughout the warmer summers. Each breeding section is fitted with electric cleaning nest boxes. These nest boxes and floor sections are cleaned at least once and sometimes cleaned out twice a day. Mark & Dick do not like deep litter and believe the birds would be much healthier in a cleaner environment.  The full length of the inside roof is open doweling which can be closed up completely if need be in cold winter conditions. The most important factors: The lofts must be clean, dry and well ventilated. Mark & Dick believe the biggest mistake most fanciers make is that they over crowd by housing to many pigeons for the size of their loft space. Overcrowding courses stress in the pigeons which then leads to serious health problems.

 

The M. & D. Evans bloodlines are made up from about 80% Gaby Vandenabeele crossed into bloodlines from Karel Herman, Robert Willequet, Flor Vervoort, Noel & David Lippens, and Louis Deleux. Mark & Dick like to keep their family Vandenabeele based but are interested to cross in any bloodlines that achieve top National results on hard working days. In the breeding lofts Mark & Dick have 50 pair of proven breeders and then they have a breeding section called their experiment section that houses approx 20 direct children from their main breeders plus one or two new added introductions. In the experiment section each bird is paired to at least three different mates and where all youngsters from these pairing are judged on performance and intelligence. It is then and only then the decision is made to either add the pigeon into our main breeding loft or cull the bird with disappointment. Mark and Dick believe this is the best way of working to ensure they never weaken their main breeding lofts. The stock birds are paired up around the 28th December and are fed all year round on Versele-Laga Best All Round mixed with Super Diet & Sneaky Mix. The stock are also given a lot of greens, lettuce, Kale, water cress etc.

 

Mark and his father pay no attention to eye-sign. They have never believed in this theory from day one and to be honest they believe more in Father Christmas than they do in the eye-sign. Mark’s opinion is that an eye is only good if you can see accurately through it. It doesn't matter about the colour that comes from the genetics side of breeding. Most of the experts don't fly well at all, and if they're so good at selecting through eye-sign alone, they would have a loft full of top racers and breeders. Top winning success in racing and breeding is down to good judgment when first purchasing new stock then after a length of time, ensuring that you, by the selection of the basket finish up with only the very cream of your new family. Mark say’s the only eyes you should study are the eyes of the person you are purchasing your future stock from and if any doubt or signs of dishonesty show then leave them alone. Mark and Dick would advise any new starter to spend lots of time working alongside a successful fancier who lives in their own area. Volunteer to do all jobs for free in return for good advice in management, breeding, feeding, training etc. No different to a jockey working his apprenticeship as a stable boy before becoming a top jockey or top trainer in the race horse game. Only take advice from a successful winning fancier who can show winning race results to back his opinions.

 

The partners are both big believer in inbreeding, line breeding but also realising you must out breed before becoming too inbred. Any new stock which is introduced to Myrtle Lofts will only be purchased from a proven racing loft with winning success not only for themselves but like Mark and Dick they must have a successful record for producing winners for other fanciers. All new pigeons purchased must carry a full pedigree with top winners or breeders no more than two generations away. Many fanciers do say the pedigree is of no importance, they could not be any further from the truth. Honest pedigrees can give you valuable information about the background of a family of birds. The pedigree teaches you how to keep a successful winning line going over a period of several generations by using combination of broad based line-breeding, but please remember inbreeding and line-breeding should only be practiced with world-class pigeons. Then at the right time careful out-crossing is always an integral part in the long range view of any successful inbreeding loft. Never start in-breeding with anything but the very best stock. Do not expect to take mediocre birds and improve their quality by using this system. In-breeding quickly shows up all the good qualities, by allowing the best association of genes, but it also shows up the faults. At ‘Myrtle Lofts’, Mark & Dick work and study extremely hard to in-breed, line breed and cross breed all the hard day working pigeons together; they have been known to cull the parents to winning pigeons which can only achieve top awards on fast days. They both strongly believe that with the right management any family of pigeon will win on high velocities with the wind up their behinds, but when you want to win on slow hard working days with the wind on their nose and giving 100 miles to the front lofts in national races you need a family with the ability not only to win, but achieve results which most fanciers only dream about and think it is totally impossible to achieve. But this does not mean to say that they think one should overdo line breeding or in breeding. Mark & Dick will dare to breed closely and cross breed afterwards. But they do advocate bringing in some new blood every year, but it has to be the Crème de la Crème. Mark states you must never let it reach the state that you’ve bred as far as you can go. On top of that you have to bear in mind that every new feather is not guaranteed success. Mark & Dick do believe all their pigeons, races and breeders must have a good healthy stress free moult. They both believe that all birds should be parted at this period of time. They feed top quality corns all year round and will never look for a cheaper option in the winter period. The two partners believe very strongly that special care and management in the winter time plays a large part in their success throughout the racing and breeding season. Success is achieved by working and caring 24/7 and the full 12 months of the year.

 

Before retiring from racing in the UK the Evans partners use to race approx. 50 to 55 young birds per season. Except for the last season when they raced, when their young bird team was 73 strong due to trying out several new bloodlines. The young birds here in the UK were raced on the darkness system. This year 2011 they will be racing about 68 young birds on the lightness system at their racing lofts in Florida U.S.A. The darkness youngsters here in the UK were darkened at 5 o’clock at night and then taken of the dark at 9 o’clock the next morning. All young birds went straight on the darkness at 28 day’s old straight from the nest. The young bird team would be added to the loft from early February right through to the middle of April. The darkness system was completely removed on the longest day of the year 21st June. An important fact regarding the darkness system is! If you remove the darkness before this date your young birds will drop into a second moult before the final races of the season, which to be honest is the major requirement for the system in the first place. Also if you leave your youngsters on the darkness system after the 21st June you will struggle to get your young birds through the wing for yearling racing the following year. The main secret to been successful with the darkness system is that when you close the loft down at night is to ensure the air ventilation to the loft is adequate for the required amount of youngsters housed.

 

The training the youngsters would be started approx. ten weeks before the first race at about 3 miles from home and then each day the training would be increased to 5 miles, 7 miles, 9 miles and then 12 miles. The youngsters would not be taken any further than 12 miles until they were racing straight home doing a mile a minute on a regular basis. Only after Mark and Dick were happy with the 12 miles return would the training be increased again each day until they reached the distance of 50 miles. The youngsters would never be trained off line regardless of how far they would drive from the major road ways. Once the racing began the youngsters would be trained Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at about 35 to 50 miles depending on the wind. Dick told me, ‘Regarding feeding the youngsters were fed on (all Versele-Laga corns) Best All Round mixed with a small amount of Super Diet & Sneaky Mix until you get them eating well on their own. Then once the young birds were flying around the loft they were fed on Super Diet & Sneaky Mix 50% x 50% in the morning, small amount to keep them under your control and at night Super Widowhood 75% & Junior UK 25%  giving them as much as they can eat. Also starting two to three weeks before their first race the young birds were given Blitzform in the water Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday for the night feed, fresh clean water in the mornings and this continued throughout the young bird season. All young birds were raced paired up and all young birds were expected to fly across the channel (300 miles) in the young bird National or Classic races’.

 

Dick Evans’ pigeon racing started taking place in the village of Whitley Bridge in 1944 when he left school and in those days the lofts were named Double Diamond Lofts. The birds he started off with were mainly J. Cope’s of Congleton and McCabe’s Putmen of Northern Ireland. Dick started off on the winning trail from the word go, winning the first race he ever competed in with a dark blue chequer yearling Putmen cock that needless to say got him hooked. Success carried on when he got down to Didcot and he had the only bird on the day, an outstanding achievement in those days to say the least. The next first prize for him was at the channel race from Rennes when only two birds made it through on the day. Dick clocked at 5.40pm the next fancier at 7.45pm. Dick’s first job after leaving school was travelling the country with show jumpers and rode quite a lot of ponies at County Shows. He also became very interested in greyhound racing, a sport he had much success in over the years. Competition with animals and pigeons appeared to be like a magnet to Dick and all this carried on up to approx. 1960 when he sold all the birds, baskets, clocks etc. That was the end of pigeon racing as far as he was concerned. His son, Mark’s interested in pigeon racing started from the very young age of six years old when he use to visit a neighbour called Robby Barker. Robby was an elderly gentleman who used to let Mark spend hours helping him clean out his pigeons. It was shortly after then that Mark tried to persuade his father to build him his own pigeon loft at home. Dick tried to talk him out of it telling him it was the worst sport possible for disappointments, but he wasn’t to be deterred, his mind was made up. It was at this time Dick built for Mark an 8ft x 6ft racing loft and a 14ft aviary with nest boxes in one end. This loft was then named after the family home ‘Myrtle House’.

 

After starting in the sport in 1970 Mark was offered free pigeons from several different fanciers in his local area but he remembers his father very clearly saying that it would be much better to purchase from just one successful racing loft. He stated that there is only one way to success. Purchase the best bloodlines possible and then get yourself out of bed in a morning and spend hours of dedication getting them right for the job. Mark’s first year racing was in 1972 winning 9 x 1st prizes racing young birds only. These nine first prizes that Mark won in 1972 became Myrtle Lofts worst season’s performances in almost 40 years. The young Mark had no other interests and has been just obsessed with pigeons all his life. All through his school life his only interest was to get home to look after his feathered friends. Mark was once put in front of the headmaster at high school and was given a lecture about needing to find an interest in some other field rather than pigeons. This so called advice from his headmaster just went in one ear and out of the other.

 

After Mark persuaded his father to build him his first pigeon loft in 1970 it was fanciers like Jack Taylor from Askern in South Yorkshire, who was better known in those days as ‘Jack the Cat’. Jack domineered the local area at the time with his top performances winning 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th week after week and it became so often that fanciers not knowing the local result use to just ask “who’s won 5th then this week”. Other top performances at this period of time were achieved from the lofts of Jack Hugall, Ward Brothers, Alwen Paddy, all very good fanciers at this period of time. Interesting fact was that all these fanciers raced the same strain of pigeons, Karel Hermans from Belgium. When Mark started in 1970 there were many strains of pigeons about but after close scrutiny Dick soon realised that most of the winning lofts were flying Hermans so after giving the mater a fair amount of thought Dick decided he would start his son Mark in the sport with Karel Hermans. They were extremely fortunate to have friends who lived in the Midlands who for many years had spent holidays in Belgium with Karel Hermans and had obtained many of his stock birds so obviously when they were offered some of the direct imports they jumped at the chance without hesitation. Mark & Dick obtained sixteen in all with most of the top Herman bloodlines such as the ‘Scherpe’, ‘The Velthem’, the ‘Two Blacks’, ‘Bordeaux’, ‘The Famme’, ‘Aglangouleine’, ‘The Faury’, ‘Old Marseille’, ‘Westerloo’, ‘The Houban’, ‘Meil’, ‘The Pol La Princess’, ‘The Cahors’ and ‘The Vetters’. Anyone knowing the Hermans will realise they had purchased the very best. Mark & Dick Evan introduced endless different families over the years but nothing could compete against the Hermans. And the rest is pigeon racing history!

 

I hope my readers have enjoyed this very special article this week! Next week we are having a Mark and Dick Evans part 2, which will feature their racing partnership with John Marles and their loft in Florida USA. Mark Evans recently said to me, ‘the appointment that we made in 1992 to visit the loft of Gaby Vandenabeele was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made in pigeon racing’ and I agree with that! I can be contacted with any pigeon banter on telephone number: 01372 463480. See yer!

 

KEITH MOTT