Spotlight on the award winning loft of Owen Markey, Ballyholland

Darren Thomspon
Darren Thomspon

The following is a loft report, in his own words, on this year’s NIPA Rosscarbery Old Bird Inland National Winner, Mr Owen Markey, Ballyholland HPS.

Question 1: The beginning - your history in the sport, when you began? What made you begin? Who’s birds did you started with? etc.

A: I have been around pigeons for as long as I can remember helping my father and older brother first starting together as a bit of a hobby. After a while my brother lost interest in the birds and I was next in line.

I raced for many years with my father as S Markey & Son and at the age of 12 I got my first loft made of exterior doors nailed together with a lick of paint. I was proud as punch and many enjoyable days I can remember racing against my father on a Saturday.

At that particular time my father had a very successful team of Billy Parke’s Busschaert pigeons and he enjoyed a lot of success having seven top 10 National prizewinners in the mid 90s. My dad had great interest and more enjoyment in the middle to long distance races and my passion was for the sprint events. I don’t think there was a day gone by that harsh words were not spoken on feeding and methods but by evening all was forgotten about.

I took a spell away from the pigeons in my teens and returned around 2003. My father had sold a lot of the pigeons in years previous, so after much debate, it was decided a new family was to be introduced. Over many seasons I had admired the Camphuis pigeons and their remarkable performances, winning many top events in the mainland. Two top lofts were selected, namely Curtis, Wall, Lunt & Green and Ponderosa Stud. A phone call was made and I was fortunate to purchase the foundation of the present day winning lofts. My father still had a few of the top sons and daughters of the main pairs of the Busscheart family and the birds were in 2004 a beautiful batch of young birds were reared and put on the darkness system.

Sadly my father passed away that year and the reins where left to me. That year they won every young bird race in the club as if someone was watching over them... and so began a new era and a new family of pigeons.

Question 2: Current flying organisations

A: I currently fly in Ballyholland HPS - North South Federation and the NIPA.

Question 3: The loft - structure, length, how many?

A: The lofts are all timber construction with PVC cladding to the exterior. The widowhood loft measures 36ft x 8ft with a 24ft x 8ft loft to the rear for the roundabout hens. This comprises of two 14ft cock sections with 20 boxes in each section with 8ft trapping and feeding section in the middle. The hens at the rear have two 8ft sections with 8ft feeding and trapping section in the middle. All the birds are trapped through the roof into the communal 16ft x 8ft area and split to their section.

Approximately 40 cocks and 40 hens start the season. The young bird loft measures 44ft x 8ft and comprises of two 16ft sections with a corn store and hampering section in the middle. The young birds are raced on the darkness system and automatic roller blinds are installed to make life easier. Approximately 80-100 young birds are raced.

The stock loft measures 20ft x 8ft with 20ft x 8ft aviary to the front - 24 large breeding boxes are installed.

Question 4: Racing methods etc, old and young, feeding, systems etc.

A: The old birds race on the roundabout system and approx 40 cocks and hens are kept. They are raced every week cocks and hens weather permitting and only the injured or recovering stay at home as a welcoming party....I don’t like to leave the winner at home. They are trained up at the start of the season and given 20 mile training exercises Tues, Wed and Thurs evening. The young birds are raced on the darkness system and race naturally to the loft. They are never split as time would not permit. They are given one hour exercise in the morning and trained approx 20 mile Tues, Wed and Thurs evening.

Feeding can vary from year to year with different brands but a dominant use of Frazer Animal Feeds and Versalaga Plus mixtures are used. Fat mixtures come from different brands and are mixed together to create my own mixture depending on weather and distance.

Question 5: Treatments - what used, when used?

A: At the end of November all the birds will be treated for Canker, Cocci, Worms and Paratyphoid. The stock birds will then be paired over the Christmas and New Year period and not treated again until they are split from breeding. The young will be given a multi treatment tab and a drop on the neck when weaned. The old birds will be paired around the New Year and rear two ybs before being split around the last week of March. They are not repaired and go straight on the widowhood system. At that stage they will receive 5 x days Canker Cocci treatment and 5-7 x days Respiratory treatment and 1-2 days Worming treatment. Once again Probiotics and Vitamins are used weekly with the corn moistened and dried with protein products at the start of the week and carbohydrate mixtures added to the corn Wednesday and Thursday.

The young birds start by being vaccinated for the usual vaccinations. They are given a five day treatment for Canker, Cocci and Worms and 5-7 day course treatment for Respiratory approximately three weeks before training. Products used would be Schroeder Tollisan. They also receive a lot of natural products in the way of Vitamins and Probiotics with the old favourites - Gemthepax and Oasis.

Question 6: Breeding

Approximately 24 breeding pairs will be paired around Christmas week and three rounds of young birds will be reared. First and second round young birds are put on the darkness system with the third left to mature in aviaries for future stock purposes.

Question 7: The stock birds, strains, families etc .

A: The current day loft can refer back to approximately six pigeons that will be present in 80% of the stock loft, namely Rockview Wonderboy - Blue Prince - Miss Perfect - Testarossa Hen - De Veiliger - Miss Bond - A lot of the present day top producing pigeons are sons and daughters of these few pigeons.

The main line is Camphuis with Rockview Wonderboy being a G/Son of the famous Wonderboy 05 of Bert Camphuis. Blue Prince was bred by Henk Gerrtison and De Veilger bred by Jan Lucas - both top breeders for Curtis, Wall, Lunt & Green, breeding Fed Winners and RPRA Sprint Awards before moving to my lofts. Every 2/3 years 1 or 2 pigeons are bought in and crossed to sons and daughters of the top pairs. They are given two years to produce winners and if not they are removed and new pigeons will be chosen. The latest cross to work well is a single Hardy Kruger pigeon bred from a son of Black Pearl when crossed to a daughter of Wonderboy x Miss Perfect. This particular pair have bred, to date, 4 x 1st Sections and two 1st NIPA Open Winners. Their children crossed back into my own family this season have done excellent having taken numerous top 20 NIPA positions. The Busschaert line still comes through. One remaining cock of my father’s Parkes Busschaert family and is G/Sire to the National winner this year and G/G/Sire to NIPA Section Y/B Of The Year 2017.

Question 8: Outstanding race birds/stock birds etc

A: “Rockview Wonderboy” would have to be the best stock pigeon I have owned to date. He was without doubt the main pigeon behind the results and year after year his children kept producing for me. It would be hard to go through one of my pedigrees without finding his name. A true gem of a pigeon that will never be forgotten in the loft, “Class act”, this year filling my ambition of winning a National. Her father is Black Caviar a great channel racer winning 5th Section 1st Talbenny, 7th Section 2nd Talbenny, 5th Section 18th Open Bude, 5th Section 95th Open St Malo. & 75th Open INFC Friendship National, all in the same season 2012. Flown France twice 430 mile in eight days and her mother “Class Lass” winning 1st Open NIPA Pilmore Beach 23,000 birds. “Class Act” had the winning gene but little did I know she would win the national in such style. Two young birds were bred from her in the race loft at the start of the season and won 1st Club 6th Section 6th Open NIPA Gowran Park 22,000 birds & 1st Club 6th Section 19th Open NIPA Talbenny Y/B National 3,000 birds, plus NIPA Section Young Bird Of The Year.

Question 9: Anything I missed?

A: The advertising and promoting of pigeons in the UK and Ireland on the world scene. We have, without doubt, some of the world’s top fanciers here in the UK and Ireland but we have a habit of glorifying others. I myself also can get caught up in the hype and advertising of the new flavour of the month bloodlines and yes we do like to try and stay ahead of our competitors by introducing a new unheard of name that makes peoples ears pop up. But are the top pigeons already at our doorstep? Is the home grown performance pigeons not good enough? Maybe we should be doing more for promoting our fanciers and their performances. Things are certainly moving forward as regards recognition for our country but we still have a long way to go.

Question 10: To finish- any one special, special mention, your views on the sport?

A: Dedication, passion, motivation are the three things you need in pigeons racing. If you have the passion and motivation to work at something you love only good things can happen and the results follow suit. My advice to any new start in the sport would be visit some top fanciers in your area and acquire a few youngsters from their best breeding pairs preferably around the October and November time when late bred youngsters are available. Do as much research as you can educating yourself and keep your eyes and ears open. Always listen to advice from fellow fanciers and take from it what you will. There is nothing in this world that can frustrate you more than pigeon racing, but when you get that first win it will all be worth it. Last and most importantly “enjoy your pigeons”.


The Darren Thompson & Son partnership of Laurelvale HPS started racing to their present address in 2015. Their family of pigeons is mainly off top National and Derby lofts from the Continent and choice local lofts.

Regrettably Darren has decided to call it a day due to work commitments and planning approval issues with the lofts. Wesley Sawyers has been instructed to sell his entire team of stock birds and racers in two sales in Glenavy on 28th October and Banbridge on 31st October.

Further details regarding this outstanding loft of winners can be obtained from the auctioneer on 07831 560399 Wesley Sawyers.