Highbridge and District Pigeon Racing Club

This club was founded in 1939 by six or seven local pigeon fanciers, who until then had raced their birds with other local clubs, namely “The Huntspill Homing Society” and two clubs from Burnham, at the “Crown” and the “Commercial”.

On the suggestion of a well-known local (bobby) P.C. King the “Globe Inn Pigeon Club” was formed, and in later years was joined by members from Burnham and Huntspill to make one club, which is still going today.  Over the years we have seen a lot of changes, in 1966 we moved from the “Globe” to the “George Hotel” and then in 1980 The “Highbridge Social Club” became our headquarters, where we are today.

The strength of the club is now only eight racing lofts but in its heyday the 1940’s and 1950’s, nearly every back garden on the Clyce and in Grange Avenue had a pigeon loft, as well as many others.  In those days the birds were taken to race points by rail, when thousands would be released at a given time. To keep the club ticking over during the 1950’s whist drives were held in the Old Railway Club hut, this was at the bottom of Walrow Bridge near where “Kwik Save” is at present.

Other clubs in the country would send to Highbridge, these were liberated in John Bland’s yard opposite the “Top House” Pub, (quite a spectacle!)  The birds were later taken by road transport, they go to the South Coast for some races and then on across the Channel to the South of France for races of up to 500 miles.  Homing pigeons have varying degrees of ability, as some would not find their way home from Highbridge town clock.

Mr. Wilfred Thomas Haggett (Keith’s father), when interviewed by a local newspaper in 1991, told how, as a lad he took up pigeon racing and won a number of prizes.  In those early days (1940’s) Highbridge had a bustling Market Square and as a boy he remembers how a pub there had a long veranda where the post ponies that pulled the mail carts used to be hitched “just like the cowboy films”.

When racing, pigeon fanciers would remove the rings from the legs of the pigeons and “run” them to the judges table outside the “Cooper’s Arms”.  Later when they had a recording clock at Burnham they were allowed only three minutes to get the rings there.  So Keith his son used to set off on his bike, to get it there in time and a certain Police Officer would hold up the traffic to let him through.  This practice obviously ceased when the club could afford to purchase its own clock.

Between the two wars pigeon racing was the sport of the workingman and birds could be purchased for one shilling and sixpence (71/2p) or two shillings (10p).  Today it is rather different; in 1991 a pigeon was sold for £77,000 and its eggs for £2,500.   Mr. Haggett worked for the Somerset and Dorset at Highbridge, in W.W.II. serving in the infantry and looking after a pigeon loft used by the Commandos.  He went with them on small cross Channel patrols, later serving with the Desert Rats in Egypt.  His son Keith carried on the family tradition, his grandson Brian, was also an enthusiastic pigeon racer.

Regrettably, in October 2003, after 64 years the Club decided that due to lack of support (only 4 members attended the meeting) it should be dissolved.

(Information supplied by Tony Dredge and Keith Haggett)

Footnote

(During the 1939-45 war, some of the better birds were donated to the National Pigeon Service and performed many great feats; the men that these courageous birds were given a special corn allowance, which was collected from Mr Bert Cann on the Cornhill. (Where Tyler Way is now located)

Article from the Highbridge, Weston, Bridgwater and Somerset Advertiser dated December 22 nd 1945.

It was reported from the local Homing Pigeon Society, owners were now scrounging food for their birds. Corn rations are now only continuing to owners who gave birds for Special Government Service in the war. Rations will affect long distant racing, it is hoped normal feeds will be resumed soon.

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4 responses to “Highbridge and District Pigeon Racing Club

  1. I am very sorry to learn that the Highbridge Pigeon Racing Club is no more.
    I have vague childhood memories of being with other boys, possibly on Saturday afternoons sitting on the grass bank behind The Clyce and waiting for Mr.(George?) Walkley’s racing pigeons to return to their loft. I never had any money in those day (1940s) but I think there used to be a sweepsteak on which bird would be the first to return and enter the loft. I can remember checking in Cook’s Barber Shop window (which was on Church Street) many times on my way to or from school to see who had won each weeks race.
    If I remember correct I think it was Dennis Bird in those days who compiled the results, when I read them I always thought he must be very clever to work out all those calculations and I am fairly sure that he would have been in his early teens in those days. However, I think he went to Dr Morgan’s School!.
    Of course all those afternoons were always sunny!

    Kind regards to Keith Haggett and Tony Dredge

  2. My mate Roger Plece was a member and so was his Dad. I remember Roger trying to sell raffle tickets at Sexeys School in the early 1960s…he wasn’t very successful!

  3. Apologies…I have a sticky ‘e’ on my keyboard! That should read, of course, ‘Pleece’ not ‘Plece’. Roger lived with his family on the New Estate. I lived round the corner in North Avenue.

  4. does anyone know if a Mr Mears was in the Highbridge Pigeon Club. im going back quite a long time as he was my partners grandad, but he didnt get to know him as he was only 5 mths old when his grandad passed away. he was supposed to have been a brilliant pigeon racer & won quite a nice trophy/cup. any help would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks.

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