So young Mark had a head start on many of his peers. Mark though, at a very early age caught the national bug. This was due to the fact that a bird prepared by him won 173rd Open Pau in young Mark’s maiden national race attempt when he was a mere 16 years of age. Since that day it has been the buzz of the national and classic races which have floated his boat. From this time the condition has worsened and now he needs the adrenalin rush of the international races where the results of his Southfield Lofts have been nothing short of amazing, starting with his fabulous international victory in 2004 from Dax with Southfield Supreme against 17,416 birds.
Since 2003 the National results have been nothing short of phenomenal. It would be ridiculous to believe that these performances have been achieved by mere chance. No way, because even ace fanciers will achieve very little without the very best bloodlines. He visited Geoff and Catherine Cooper quite a few years ago now and the Coopers, who have also won an international race themselves recently supplied pigeons but more significantly perhaps with both encouragement and sound advice. It was through the Coopers that Mark got his introduction to the De Weerdt family of long distance pigeons. In fact Mark’s 2003 1st Pau/Saintes National winner Night Flight is a De Weerdt x a daughter of the late Eric Cannon’s Culmer Besse, a bird which was 3 x in the 1st Open 100 open positions from Pau with the N.F.C. Whilst Supreme, the international Dax winner of 2004 was bred from a pair of Van Elsacker-Jepson pigeons The mother was in fact bred by Geoff and Catherine Cooper.
Over the last few years the best long distance lines in Mark’s opinion have been obtained regardless of cost both domestically and from Western Europe. In England top performers like Brian Denney and the East Anglian maestro Jim Biss, who was for years the principle international flag bearer in the UK and added to the aforementioned Cooper and Cannon birds. Recently the Welsh Syndicate loft was targeted to get offspring from Gerrie and Drum. These pigeons have won from the off at Southfield, Mark tells me.
Ever on the lookout for the finest lines, pigeons from the German multi international winning lofts of Brockamp were purchased with direct children off George, the super breeder the Brockamps sourced from George Carteus of Ronse and his fabulous sons Euro Diamond and Minstal . So it is a clear sign of serious intent, when pigeons of this calibre are sought out and purchased. Further additions including pigeons from the likes of supers like Koopman, Vandenabeele and Andreas Drapa add further evidence as to the determination of Southfield Lofts to continue to feed the ambition of its owner to again conquer the international races whenever a window of opportunity raises its head.
I must stress and assure readers that the pigeons entered by British fanciers in the international races do so at a great disadvantage even when the wind direction is favourable to our island. This is simply because it is a brave and intelligent bird that will break from the safety of the huge international convoy to cross the channel of water into England.
The results achieved by Mark Gilbert’s pigeons have been bordering on the unbelievable and stand comparison with any loft around the whole world. I would like to just select a few of the very best of these results to both highlight and provide hard evidence to back up my opinion.
2011 1st, 2nd, 9th International Yearlings Bordeaux 11,444 birds
1st , 2nd , 3rd International Hens Bordeaux 3,200 birds
3rd International Old Birds Bordeaux 10,400 plus birds
2nd , 4th and 5th Overall placings against over 22,000 pigeons.
In the National races the results are just as impressive.
15th Open Messac 5,766 birds
1st , 4th section 15th ,and 21st Open Nantes 8,745 birds
1st section 2nd Open Tarbes 3,290 birds (with a further 6 birds in the 1st 57 Open places)
1st , 2nd, 4th , 9th Open Saintes 4,128 birds (In total no less than 13 birds in the top 26 open positions).
This domination must surely be a record In the National Flying Club. Breathtaking flying.
3rd , 4th Open Fougeres 4,776 birds
4th Open Old Hens 984 birds
2012 National results
1st , 2nd , 5th , 7th , 8th , 9th , 10th , 13th Section Fougeres 1153 birds
35th , 38th Open Fougeres 4,342 birds
1st , 7th , 8th , 13th , 21st , 27th Open Saintes 3,614 birds
2nd , 4th , 7th, 8th , 9th section Tarbes 582 birds
7th , 10th , 21st , 30th , 37th Open Tarbes 2,808 bird
4th , 7th , 8th , 9th , 10th , 12th , 13th , 14th Open Fougeres 4,342 birds
Believe me there are many more superb results including 2 x 1st with the B.I.C.C. from Barcelona and Marseille (where only 1 bird was in fact entered)
In 2011 no less than 6 National Flying Club Average trophies were won by Mark Gilbert including the most prestigious and highly sought after Langston Gold Cup for the best average all races. This is the second year in succession that Southfield Lofts won this trophy. The 2012 Averages have not yet been revealed but I wouldn’t bet that the fabulous Gold Cup and the other awards will be moving from Mark’s bursting trophy cabinet just yet!