Brian Milkins lives in the well known South Bristol area of Hartcliffe, tucked neatly below the Dundry Hills with a north facing view across the city taking in such landmarks as the Downs and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. But don’t let me give you the impression that Brian has a pigeon palace, he fly’s to a small back garden loft with little direct sun light yet he is still the man to beat in Bristol. Pigeon Racing has been a massive part of Brian’s life for some 50 years now and since the loss of his dear wife Dianne a few years ago Brian has gained many friends and companions through our great sport. Brian stressed to me that even though pigeon racing is a highly competitive sport he was over whelmed by the joy everyone has poured upon him since his National victory, he said it was as though he had done it for Bristol and that the whole city were behind him.
As i said Brian has always been around pigeons, his father Ted was a super fancier on the north years ago and enjoyed a top record in the large WOENRC with victories right up to Lerwick. Brian thought it fitting to name his 2011 National winner after his late father knowing the old man would have approved. As a teenager Brian joined the forces and became a Coldstream Guard and it was there that he met Peter Thwaites, little did Brian know what good fortune that friendship would bring him in later years.
Champion “Ted” 1st Open NFC Cholet 8725b
In 1962 Brian decided to try and fly a few pigeons himself and his first club was the Venture in Knowle which then boasted some 60 members, his first pigeons came from John Lovell and Stanley Bishop who raced the Lovell pigeons. He also at that time had one single pigeon from his father, in fact the only one he ever had and it was direct from Ted’s Lerwick winner, this game pigeon went on to win the Port Soy Race. Early results came on the North Road and included 4th Open in the Pyle North Road race from Perth and 2nd Open Combine Berwick.
Brian then moved on and it was the Busscheart family that caught his eye so Brian and his best friend Mike Oakley travelled to see Ray Parker (Goldmine Pair fame), John Palmer and Tom Larkins where they purchased some fine stock. All of these fanciers have remained good friends to this day.
In 1988 Brian joined the Towers SRFC to fly south and hopefully compete in the then growing National and Classic scene. The Towers which is probably the strongest competitive club in the South West of England is based at the infamous “Hartcliffe Inn” which is run by well known pigeon racers Nicky and Nigel Templer. Brian has struck up a real friendship with Nicky and Nigel and he can often be found sat in the lounge each morning discussing pigeons with 5 or 6 other fanciers. Nigel has also been a great help to Brian training his ybs, picking up corn for him and other bits and pieces. As I have already stated Brian has always been very successful, yet always remained a very popular member despite having the odd temper tantrum, he has been known by many nicknames such as “Ronny Barker”, “Wallies Dad” yet my favourite is “Brian break their hearts Milkins”, he earnt this name as nobody I know times them like Brians over the water.
The sire and dam of champion "Ted"
In 2000 Brian decided that he needed much better pigeons and went with Nigel Templer to Belgium to visit some top lofts, Brian invested heavily in Van De Mewre, Yskout, Verstrate, Van Brabants, Pauwels, Van Dycks etc but in reality these expensive pigeons brought him little success and Brian was starting to regret the passing of his old family so in 2007 Brian made the decision to take a step back in time and go back to the Busschearts. The Van Dyck pigeons you could say were an exception as they remain in the loft today and are responsible for the 2nd section 9th Open winner from Cholet.
Brian approached his good friends Person & Dransfield and with their help he restocked his loft with Busschearts. Brian’s success soon returned especially from Tours last year in the WOESRC where he won 1st and 3rd Amalgamation with a brother and sister from the Person and Dransfiled lines, in fact the cock is a super pigeon, one of the nicest I’ve ever handled. Two other hens from this same pair have also scored very well over the water last year. He has become a good friend with Frank and if he tries a cross with his Busschearts its not long before Brian tries the same so when Frank said he had some real good pigeons through the Engels line of Geoff Kirklands I knew Brian would not be far behind. In 2008 I was travelling to Geoff’s and when Brian heard about it he asked me to collect a cock for him which I did and low and behold the cock bred Ted the 2011 National Winner from Cholet.
There is even more of a story to the dam, as I mentioned at the start Brian was a very proud Coldstream Guard, all I can say is he must have been fitter in them days than he is now! In the guards he served with Peter Thwaites who is a great friend of Vic Thompson of Barnsley!! Through Peter, Brian was offered a daughter of the famous RPRA winning Staf Van Reet cock Victor, this hen along with the cock from Geoff Kirkland bred “Ted”.
“Ted “ himself is a 2009 medium sized cock which has been very consistent so far; he raced 6 yb races with the WOESRC on the East to West route. As a yearling when Brian placed him on widowhood he had really wet droppings which were put down to Stress as they went away when he was repaired and as a consequence was very lightly raced. This year he has been spot on every week winning 14th Open BBC Carantan 2608b, 22nd Section 326th Open NFC Fougeres 8828b and 1st Section G 1st Open NFC Cholet 8725b. “Ted” has now been retired but his nestmate will race on and Brian believed he is just as good. As many will know Cholet was a very hard race, North East all the way with 100% cloud cover so “Ted” showed his metal in the toughest of tests.
Brian fly’s his pigeons on roundabout and have over the years flown his hens with equal success as his cocks but for some reason this year his hens haven’t hit top form, Brian will go back to boxing them again in the day for next season. He learnt the original round about system from Ray Parker and believes it gives him the possibility with limited space to fly cocks and hens which in turn allows him to compete from all the channel races. Each weekend a few cocks and hens remain in the loft to show to the front runners and Brian doesn’t believe a bird needs to see the same mate each week. He normally keeps around 18 pairs in all which are complimented by a small team of 10 breeding pairs. On the channel races Brian will show the partners for 10 or 20 minutes before basketting and anything from 2 hours to all night when they return depending on the distance they have flown.
The old birds are fed on a mix of Wal Zoontjen/Gerry Plus/Diet 1000 at the start of the week and then Versa Laga Subliem is added in preparation for the weekend’s race.
Brian normally breeds between 50-60 ybs and he races these with the WOESRC and likes to give them the full program and ideally pull a few out along the way to go over the water, this year his young birds have not been darkened at all but as he trains them 3 times a week with Nigel Templer they should hold their moult. The ybs are fed on Breed and Wean from Wilsbridge prior to racing and then they are fed Diet 1000/Gerry Plus/Barley with Homoform added during the racing season with Versa Laga Junior O used on Thursday and Friday.
In terms of medicine Brian always vaccinates against Paramyxo and during the winter he will treat everything in the shed against Paratyphoid/salmonella probably with Fural or Parastop. Brian also believes in worming every 3 months and said you need to do this to keep the birds on song. He also said like most fanciers he has a cupboard full of potions in case he needs them but he rarely does. However Brian does add Orega Stem to the water weekly for the birds well being.
I asked Brian if he had any real advice for the less fortunate and he smiled and said the only real thing I can say is buy honest pigeons from an honest fancier, look at the father of the National winner, he came from Geoff Kirkland, good pigeons and a good man and then there’s Frank Pearson who again fits that same bill.
In doing this write up on Brian it seems that every other word is “friend” and possibly for good reason. In South Bristol which is a pretty close community Pigeon Racing goes back along way and there are some deep elegancies. Brian is now one of the elder statesman holding it all together and keeping to tradition, Friday is pigeon night down at the Hartcliffe Inn and it’s not unusual to find 30-40 pigeons fanciers enjoying a pint and one of Nicky’s toasties and one face that is never missed is our beloved Brian!! But be warned do not ever come between Brian and his toasty and chips.
It’s fair to say that Brian is a very proud yet modest man and for all of his success I believe this is his first proper write up he has had (if you can call anything written by me proper). Winning the Cholet National was a just reward for a man, who is always there to help; he has been very loyal to his friends over the years which probably explains why he has so many. I know Brian would have loved to have Diane and his old friend Mike Oakley sat in the Garden on that special day in June but I’m sure regardless they like everyone else in Bristol would be immensely proud of you Brian and your topper “Ted”.