Mark Gilbert (Windsor, UK), triple international winner - part 2

In the first part of this article on one of, if not the most successful fanciers in the UK, I outlined Mark’s background in the sport and his loft set-up. In this, the second part I intend to outline Mark’s methods and the pigeons that have made him such a successful fancier.


The medication programme employed here is minimal. Stock birds and racers are treated for canker before mating and the racers get a further three-day treatment for canker before going to their designated long distance race. Mark does favour the use of supplements to help keep the birds in top racing condition and has in the past used multivitamins and various natural products to this end. However, he believes that if the corn fed is of top quality it should contain sufficient vitamins to satisfy the birds’ needs and the Versele Laga Plus mixtures have proved to be very successful for the “Winkfield Wizard” to say the least!

The pigeons

This pragmatic approach is mirrored in Mark’s attitude to the handling characteristics of pigeons. As he said, he would rather have a winner that handled badly than a bad pigeon that handled like a dream! Having written this, I can state that some of Mark’s best pigeons were on the large side of massive, with some of the hens on the other hand being quite small and petite. This was particularly apparent in the Deweerdt family that Mark has raced with great success, both inland and overseas through to Pau and Tarbes. The cock birds in this family tended to be generally on the large side, mostly chequers, dark chequers with a few reds. They had excellent feather quality and good strong eye colouration. Mark went directly to the fountainhead to purchase these Deweerdts, and in the stock loft, he has children of all the family’s best performers in International races through to 650 miles. These include children of Emiel, Ted, Iban etc., and they all have produced the goods at Southfield.

A second family was introduced by Mark in the late 1990s with a view to competing at sprint/middle distance racing. These were the Van Elsakers and they certainly repaid Mark’s confidence in them as it was this family that produced Mark’s first International winner “Southfield Supreme”, in 2004 from Dax, plus scores of club and Federation winners. They are mainly blues and beautifully balanced pigeons with pronounced pectoral muscles and predominantly pearl eyes. “Southfield Supreme” has now become the mainstay of the stock loft as he is directly responsible for birds to win 3rd & 4th Open National against 5,000 birds as well as being grand sire to 8th & 9th Open Saintes in 2011. Mark’s first two birds in the 2011 Tarbes National at 570 miles are also grandchildren of this prepotent champion.

Southfield Supreme 1st International Dax 17,000 birds

At the time of my initial visit to Southfield in 2009, the above two families made up the bulk of the Gilbert stock with a number of additions, such as some terrific descendents of “ Invincible Spirit”, which produced excellent all-round racers when crossed with the Deweerdts.

Nevertheless, Mark is always on the lookout for something exceptional that will give his racing performances an extra boost, and with his growing interest in International racing in mind, he imported a number of late breds from the German multi-International winner Hans Peter Brockamp. These were all direct children of the Brockamp International winners. At the time of my first visit in late 2009, I wrote the following: “the Brockamps were very young but still old enough to show their class. I believe that they will be a useful addition to the Gilbert team both pure and when crossed with the ever dependable Deweerdts.” Well, I did not have a “crystal ball” with me at the time but those words have proved to be just about spot on, as the results achieved by these Brockamps at National and International level over the past three seasons have been nothing short of phenomenal. Since that initial draft of birds were introduced from the German ace, many more birds have been purchased at great expense and Mark now has six direct children of Euro Diamond plus children of “George”, the sire of Euro Diamond, as well as offspring from Mistral and most of the other Brockamp International winners. They are a lovely type of bird as they are medium-sized, shallow-keeled and they give the impression that they would be very easy to condition as they do not carry any excess weight but are, nevertheless, well-muscled. The first cross of these Brockamps with the children of Southfield Supreme has produced a “golden seam” of winning pigeons. It is this line of breeding that Mark has chosen to follow as he has concentrated his pairings around sons and daughters of Southfield Supreme with sons and daughters of the various children of Brockamp’s International winners, thus strengthening the gene pool to the nth degree.

Further introductions have been made from some of the best sprint/middle distance lofts in Europe such as Koopman, Van denabeele, and the German sprint/middle distance sensation Andreas Drapa. Mark has also gone to Syndicate lofts based in North Wales and has bought pigeons directly from their top breeders such as “Drum” and “Gerrie” etc.
 With his eyes set on winning the Barcelona race at close on 700 miles, a draft of pigeons has been brought in from the Barcelona National winning loft of Rutz & son of Germany, plus some birds from the excellent Belgian long distance fancier Etienne Meirlaen. The Rutz pigeons were extremely small dark chequers with some of the hens being no bigger than starlings, yet they compete successfully from Barcelona into Germany and reminded me very much of the old Southwells.

Direct children of all the top pigeons from the loft of Brian Denney have also found their way into the stock loft at Southfield and these include a number of children of “Tuff Nut” and “Dark Dancer”.

All of the above introductions are, as you would expect, given Mark’s ability as a fancier, exceptional specimens bred direct from the champion pigeons in each of these fancier’s lofts. No expense has been spared in acquiring these birds and I can tell you that many thousands of pounds have been spent to ensure that only the very best bred from the very best have come to Southfield. Once at Southfield, Mark wastes no time in putting them to the test – they have to perform on the road or in the stock loft or out they go, no matter how well bred they are or how much they have cost.

Breeding policy

Mark’s breeding policy is to outcross for racing and inbreed to strengthen the family bloodlines for the stock loft. This breeding plan is based on the fact that only birds from proven National or International performers have been introduced over the past years, irrespective of their family or loft of origin. The only thing that counts at Southfield lofts is PERFORMANCE.

To illustrate this point, I give you the case of one of Mark’s best Deweerdt stock cocks, bought from the Deweerdt family as a six-year-old. In two season’s breeding at Southfield he sired the Red Cock “Southfield Pau” 1st BICC Pau; “Southfield Nightflight”1st NFC Pau/ Saintes and “Southfield Darkie” 1st BBC Messac, and, as Mark said, he was one of the most non-descript weedy little things you could imagine. He was however, apart from being a super stud cock, a full brother to the Deweerdt’s “Raldo” winner of 4th International Perpignan. He was mated to an Eric Cannon hen, a daughter of “Culmer Bess” to breed Southfield Pau and Southfield Nightflight. When mated to a daughter of “Emiel”, a winner of 1st International for the Deweerdts, he sired Southfield Darkie. Incidentally, the old red cock Southfield Pau is still with Mark at eleven years old and still handles like a two-year-old. Although Mark is not easily given to sentimentality, he ensures that his old stagers are given a perch for life when their racing or breeding duties are over.

The major winners from the 2011 National and International winning season have now been placed in the stock loft to hopefully breed the next generation of National and International winners. During my visit I handled the blue pied hen that won 1st section 2nd Open NFC Tarbes in 2011. She was a fairly long cast hen bred from a double grandson of Invincible Spirit when mated to a daughter of Southfield Supreme the Dax International winner.

2nd Open NFC Tarbes

The winner of the Yearling International from Bordeaux was a lovely blue hen bred from a son of Brockamp’s Minstral when paired to a direct daughter of Brockamp’s Euro Diamond. Second International Yearlings was a dark chequer hen bred from a son of Geoff Cooper’s Champion George when mated to a niece of Champion Best. The winner of 3rd International Old birds had previously finished at 8th Open National Saintes in 2010 and is bred from a son of Drum and Gerrie when paired to a direct daughter of Southfield Supreme.

The NFC Saintes winner also came to hand and he proved to be a small to medium sized light chequer cock and is bred in the purple as his father is a son of Syndicate Loft’s “Drum” and “Gerrie”. Drum is a full brother to Reza and Dutch Master, whilst Gerrie is a daughter of Kleine Dirk of Koopman. The dam of the Saintes National winner is a direct daughter of Marcel Sangers’ “Laser Gun”. In marked contrast to the National winner, the second in the clock taking 2nd Open National was a much bigger pigeon with a magnificent bold head even though he too was only a yearling. This cock, that actually arrived with the National winner, is also bred from a son of Dutch Master when mated to a direct Gaby Vandenabeele hen bred from “Golden Gaby” and Band of Gold”. Third bird in the clock from the Saintes National winning 4th Open National was yet another Vandenabeele, bred from a son of “Golden Gaby” with a daughter of Vandenabeele’s “Lover Boy”. In this NFC Saintes race, Mark clocked thirteen birds to finish in the first twenty six of the Open National result and that is some flying at a distance of 400 miles.

Results in 2011:

International Races

1st,2nd,9th & 30th Open Yearlings International Bordeaux 
11,444 birds.
1st, 2nd &3rd Hens International Bordeaux 3,200 birds.
3rd Open International Old Birds Bordeaux 10,400 birds.
2nd,4th & 5th Open International overall 22,029 birds.

National Races

Messac: 15th Open 5,766 birds.
Nantes: 1st &4th section 15th & 21st Open 8,745 birds.
Tarbes: 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th & 11th section; 2nd, 
14th, 20th, 38th, 44th, 56th & 57th Open 3,290 birds.
Saintes: 1st , 2nd, 4th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 
18th, 21st, 24th & 26th Open 4,128 birds.
Fougeres YB’s : 3rd &4th Open 4,776 birds.
Fougeres Old Hens: 1st section 4th Open 984 birds.

In the six races organised by the National Flying Club in 2011 the Gilbert loft finished in pole position i.e. 1st section on four occasions and this in the largest section in the organisation with birdages of between 800 – 2,000 birds. This is yet another record achieved by Mark Gilbert and his pigeons.

To the above can be added numerous club and Federation wins plus wins in local Open races to make up an incredible season’s racing from 60 to 570 miles.

In finishing this article I should also mention that Mark’s generosity in donating pigeons to many causes is well known and many organisations throughout the U.K. have benefited financially from Mark’s gifts. He is also a committee member of both the BICC and NFC, giving his time freely in an effort to put something back into the sport in which he has gained so much success. I am sure his pragmatism and business sense will be of great service to both of these organisations.

There you have it then, Mark Gilbert an internationally renowned fancier and all round good guy. Keep up the good work Mark.

Mark and Karen Gilbert with NFC trophies won in 2011