Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Monday, 17 January 2011

Allotments, And Homing Pigeons

These allotments are now long gone, they were at the bottom of Fawley Avenue, I don't know how many of them were there ...I suppose around 10 - 15 in this part. 


Chicken Coop

Some of my earliest memory's are from the times I spent down here. I recall feeding the chickens.. and being a bit scared of the Cockerel. I heard tales of the fox that would sneak in at night and kill the hens. I know that more than one was caught and disposed of.  Dad showed some of the Hens at local 'Fur and Feather' shows which were once held in Hyde over the Ambulance Station. My sister would show rabbits.  Of course growing up we were never short of eggs, chicken and rabbit, all of which made it to our table. Dad never ate chicken, mum told me years after he never would having reared them from eggs.


Veg Patch

We always had fresh veg...  mum would ask dad to bring home what she needed and when dad had finished flying the pigeons.. which he did every day.... he would come home with the goods.


My dad checking his roses

I only recently found out that the allotment was my granddads, before it was my dads, one of my cousins was bought up by my grandparents. She recalls going to the allotment for fresh veg before she went to school. She told me that when dad came back from the London Blitz, he was a nervous wreck and it was to this allotment he turned and converlesced.


When the war was on my dad was a fireman, he was at Coventry and Manchester when they were blitzed, and my cousin recalls seeing him off when he was sent to London. Fire fighters from all over were sent to help out when the London blitz was on. We were never told of his time as a fireman, dad never talked about it at all... we now know that while in London a schools air-raid shelters were hit... Dad was one of the men sent in to clear up. My cousins recalls him coming home ill, what ever happened at that time changed him from being 'out going' to a very quiet man... he spoke to my granddad about what went on.. but no one else. 


Show Chrysanthemums

Cut Flowers And Tomatoes

Dad spent most of his spare time on the allotment, he would set off to work at Redferns Rubber Works... nip down there to let the pigeons out at dinner time. He'd then call back there after work, picked up any veg mum wanted,  or any flowers if they were wanted. He'd then come home for his tea.... before going back down to lock up the chickens and pigeons. I would sometimes go down with him at this time. I remember the chaps down there all smoked, all laughed and they always seemed to be helping each other with jobs, and of course sharing their veg with each other. 


Jack Warburton And Dad

I'm sure that these allotments were much more than a place to grow veg and keep the odd animals and birds. It seemed a way of life, a place of refuge for the men, a place of relaxation, apart for the weekends when it became a very different place indeed. Most of the chaps belonged to either Hyde Homing Society, or Gee Cross Homing Society, which meant Fridays was a busy time, the best and fittest pigeons would have been fed a bit less,  birds would be packed in baskets and taken to the Society headquarters, ring numbers would be wrote down, subs, and race fees paid. The Racing Pigeons would then be sent off either by train, or lorry to be released at a certain time. Each bird being given a rubber ring which when it flew back home would quickly be taken off it, put in a thimble sized container which fitted into a special clock. These clocks would have all been checked and set by each Homing Society taking place in the race.  Races were won and lost at how quick you could land your bird, and get the ring inside the clock. Many a race was lost by the appearance of a cat or hawk in the area... the pigeon might have made good time... but would refuse to land if all was not right. Kids were normally not allowed down there on Racing Day.


Pigeon Cote

Pigeon Racing had many followers at that time... and I know it meant the world to some. My dad was Secretary and Treasurer of both local clubs and some time of other. His knowledge and skill with the birds was always sought after. He would work out the speed the birds reached by time and distance... keep records of each birds achievements and it was only the best birds that were bred from. Females would have their eggs removed to be hatched and reared by a 'proved' mother. Dad would then keep only what he thought would be the best for racing and sell on the others. His 'seconds' were much sought after. 
When Fawley Farm Allotments were Compulsory Purchased  for housing it was the end of an era for many... some did not manage to find other allotments... or restriction were in place for what you could and could not keep. Dad was one of the lucky ones... he joined up with two of his friends Stefan Zeman, and George Higgingbottom... the veg and flowers were lost... but these 3 formed a partnership which bred and raced many winners.  


Prize Winning Pigeon

Dad's new allotment was not far away at all... it was right under the shadow of St Georges Church on Church Brow.... It was pigeon only now... gone the chickens and veg... it was all systems go on the new pigeon lofts. Dad lived for his pigeons, spent a large part of his life around them, it is fitting that  this was the last picture took of him... He died not long after this picture was taken in 1970 aged 58.


Church Brow


Dave Williams said...

Could this be what your Dad saw in the London Blitz Tom?

Tom said...

Thanks for the link Dave.. this sounds so much like the story my cousin related to me, she mentioned that Dad was in the East End... and Dad never talked of it. Mum didn't even know what went on there... he only spoke to my Granddad about it. Maybe he was told not to mention it.. My cousin knew something bad had happened by how it affected Dad... and how he was when he came home. As a matter of interest he used to fire-watch in the building that used to be on the corner of Apethorn Lane .... where Smith, Knight and Fay are now. The air-raid siren was in that building as well. It is now on top of a telegraph pole on Rosemary road near to the junction of Stockport Road and Dowson Road... Gerald from Hyde Daily Blog as a picture of it here. http://hydedailyphoto.blogspot.com/2010/08/war-time-relic-on-rosemary-drive.html

Hydonian said...

Such a lovely thread, Tom .
Full of memories!:)

Manchester Lass, Now and Then said...

Thank you for sharing this story Tom. Very moving in parts and great photos to help tell the story.

Tom said...

I am glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully others might read this and do a write up on their folks...

Optymystic said...

Any relation to the Harry Warburton born in Hyde in 1879, who was the younger brother of my father's (great) Aunt Sophia?

Tom said...

Hi Opty..
Sorry I can't confirm the relationship with you... Jack died in the 1970-80s the same as my father... he has a son who most be in his mid-late 60s and I believe his wife Ivy is still alive and kicking and live on Cheetham Fold Road in Hyde.
Jack was a very tall chap, 6'2-3'' if I recall... his son his the same a tall chap.
He would have been a similar age to my dad, and was born 1912.