From a Tiny Spark to an Eternal Flame

By: Danny McCarthy

Research shows that Tippler men like Jorge Lopes, John Vanhiest, Terry Pollette, Robert Wernicke, Dan and brother Harold Casey, Malcolm Barker, Derrick Gilbert, Horst Pladdies, Frank Housten, Bluey Wheatley and many other great tippler men (whose names don’t come to mind as I write this article) ignited the tiny spark that took the sport of tippler flying in Australia to an eternal flame engulfing every corner of this vast country of ours. These pathfinders, through their undying efforts, hard work and dedicated breeding programmes gave the tippler breed a strong foothold in this country. Most of these fine human beings are no longer with us, but their legends and deeds live on in the hearts and memories of the many novices, who over the years, have taken up the sport of tippler breeding and flying in Australia.

A very important aspect for all to keep in mind is that over the past couple of decades, and till more recent times, Australia has never been directly involved with competition Tippler flying, as the tippler fancier was only a pleasure flyer; there were no tippler clubs as such -hence there was no competition flying. They flew for their own pleasure and self satisfaction. Due to the vast distances between the early flyers of this land, competition flying was not an option. This is hardly surprising when one considers the geographical location of our country, and the strict import ban on pigeons into Australia over the past 50 years.

As a result, the Australian flying tippler breeders have found themselves somewhat isolated from each other and the rest of the world, which made life very difficult as far as gaining the incentives and knowledge to master the skill and experience needed to hold official competitions with our beloved tipplers.

Nevertheless, the times flown by the early and not so early flyers were pretty impressive. The Casey brothers were the first to fly their birds well over the 17-hour mark – word has it that they did this many times over. Jorge Lopes, a great flyer, who lived in Sydney in the Eighties, had also flown his birds for well over 14 hours. Jorge moved to Portugal in his later years and from the information I have, is still involved in tipplers. Dan Casey and his brother were the folk who brought the Jobe Oldfield and Charlie Garrett strains of tipplers into this country in the late Forties or early Fifties; they both resided in South Australia. The above two strains, under their breeding programme, produced fine tippler specimens which went on to be known as the famous Casey birds of South Australia and were in great demand. Over the years, many of these bloodlines faded into oblivion due to continuous inbreeding and the lack of knowledge of correct breeding principles. However, not all of the imports were destined for the Tippler graveyard of unknowns.

One outstanding strain which became well known, and still is today, came from the Manchester district of England. Every bit a champion flyer in it’s own right, the Manchester Blue, a born natural high flying tippler, flew in the pins in many different locations in this vast country of ours. Even today this wonderful little pigeon can still be found in various tippler lofts of this country. The Manchester Blue was introduced into Australia by an excellent tippler man by the name of John Van Heyst from Perth Western Australia who flew some great times with these little birds. He later passed these birds over to another good tippler man by the name of Terry Pollette also from Western Australia. Both these fine tippler men with their astute breeding programmes were able to achieve the very best out of what was a very limited number of stock birds. The infusion of this new bloodline into the tippler sport here in Australia re-ignited fresh enthusiasm into the tippler fraternity, which started to grow in leaps and bounds. Terry later went out of tipplers due to the heavy losses he incurred through the BOP problems. In later years he went on to flying homers, as they were a lot quicker and he encountered fewer losses. Robert Wernicke who also flew the Manchester Blues and the Casey strain of tipplers, was a good friend of Terry Pollette. He also achieved some great times with his birds. I knew them personally as both Terry and Robert lived in Perth Western Australia. They have since passed away, which is a huge loss to the sport here in Australia. In the early days, I was lucky enough to have birds in my loft from both these fine gentlemen, (before I dropped out of tipplers in the late Eighties due to health reasons). These were men who put themselves out to promote the sport at every chance they got; they were ever-ready to help the new-comers and assist them along the way. They were men who were very approachable and would always take the time to help the novice.

Frank Housten and Bluey Wheatley were two well known tippler men in Perth Western Australia. Frank lived in the suburb of Yokine and was a retired Detective who flew his birds many a long hour in the early Fifties. Word has it that he imported his birds from Belgium. (This claim cannot be verified as no records were kept in those days). As far as my research goes, Bluey Wheatley lived in the suburb of Bayswater around the same time as Frank Housten, and was a very fine tippler man as well. His stock of tipplers were well known, and in great demand in Western Australia. Malcolm Barker another great tippler man who lives in Western Australia, has had a great influence on the sport of tippler flying and breeding. He has given a lot of himself to the sport of tipplers in this country. Malcolm was a good friend of John Van Heyst and visited John’s loft often to watch his birds fly. There isn’t a tippler fancier in Western Australia who has not had Malcolm’s birds in his loft at some time. Malcolm has been a great ambassador for the sport here in Perth. Since the passing away of the Casey brothers, Terry Pollette, Robert Wernicke and many other good tippler flyers, the baton was passed on, so to say, to the very much younger, but up and coming tippler men such as Aidan McIlhatton (QLD), Colin Jones (QLD), Mick Hoskins(NSW) and Chris Francis(NSW), along with veterans such as Horst Pladdies (QLD) and Derrick Gilbert(NSW). These guys took up the baton and ran with it, in the true sense and spirit of the sport. Colin Jones, Mick Hoskins and Chris Francis “put their money where their mouth is” and imported some great birds from the UK in the early 90’s. These birds came from the lofts of some of the biggest names in the sport. Breeders such as Ken Potts, Dave Bertenshaw, Tex Brooks, Harry Shannon and Colin Bristowe, to name a few. I don’t think there is a tippler loft in this country that does not have some of these bloodlines. I would be surprised if there were! (Pictures of these birds can be seen on the AFTU website)

Well, a new found vitality in the sport of tipplers emerged in Australia through the kind favour of Michael Beat, a fantastic human being, a perfect gentleman and a great tippler man. Michael Beat is the American record holder, who gave us the use of his Tippler Talk forum. I for one shall be ever grateful to Mike for giving each and every one of us tippler lovers a window to the world of tipplers. Through this medium, tippler men from all over the world can converse with one another on any, and all, matters pertaining to tipplers in particular and pigeons in general, and in doing so learn a tremendous amount about the sport we love, which is great and a “win win” situation for all concerned. It is through this forum that I met a tippler man by the name of Davey Warrener who, today, happens to be one of my very best and dearest friends. Since the time I have known Davey he has always been ever ready to help in every way possible; he has been an inspiration to me and others here in Australia. He is a great teacher, a very good listener and will always go that extra few yards to help anyone in the sport who approaches him for help. I was lucky enough to have been gifted 5 fantastic tipplers by Davey a few years ago; they were the Gordon Hughes, Jack Heaton and Bobby Dunseith strain of birds. Davey has since gifted me another 4 tipplers, 2 x Hughes Hens, and 2 x Dunseith birds, and I have also been lucky enough to have been gifted 2 x Shannon hens by Harry Shannon. All 6 birds are at present in quarantine in the UK, and I hope to have them here some time in Sep 2007.

Davey Warrener has been a great friend to all the tippler boys here in Australia and around the world, and his friendship, help and advice have been greatly sought after. Needless to say, he is held in very high esteem in Australia, among the boys from the AFTU and other clubs as well. Again, I must point out that without Mike Beat’s Tippler Talk forum we would have never met and it would have been a great loss to the sport here in Australia. I must also make mention here that it is also through this same forum that I, along with most other aussie tippler men, have made some great friends with tippler men from around the world. Names that come to mind are David Fuller, Wayne Frampton, Nino Bugeja, Luka Kapac, Oskar Zovich, Stan Ogozalek, Kemo, Harpeet Bal, Modie, Frank Otta, Mustapha, Akhlaq, Dave Black, Eamon Ryan, Ian Estlob, Manny Fenton, Tony Veater, Phil & Geoff Dove, Steve Nixon, Mick Tift, OMB, Danny Boy, Mel Dolan and many many more. These are all great guys who are also willing to take time out of their daily lives to help their fellow tippler man. What a lovely window this forum has turned out to be for the advancement of the sport of tipplers. Thank you once again Michael Beat, please take a bow. Well, things in the tippler world here in Australia kept moving forward – although at a slow but steady pace, due to the many distractions with which most of us are familiar – namely, family and work commitments, the vast distances that lie between the tipplers flyers of this country, and the increase of the BOP problem which seems to be a bane of contention all over the world these days.

In 2004, two pigeon fanciers, Paul Windler of Lismore NSW and Jon Winchester of Frankston Victoria reignited an old, but good concept of an excellent tippler flyer by the name of Andrew Angeloni from the State of Victoria. He had tried, for a long time, to unite the tipplers flyers of Australia for the betterment and advancement of the sport, but due to the vast distances between the flyers and the lack of mediums such as the internet that we have today, it was logistically impossible for him to achieve his goal and his concept did not come to fruition. After discussions between a few interested parties instigated by Paul and Jon, the Australian Flying Tippler Union (AFTU) was initiated. The objective of the AFTU was to form a union among the tippler fanciers, which would incorporate fanciers from all over Australia, and in turn, help in the building of the sport of tippler flying in this country and bring it to a new level, including building bonds of friendship and camaraderie amongst the tippler flyers of Australia. Their efforts lead to the AFTU being registered in the State of Victoria by Jon Winchester. As this club/union did not have any Office Bearers or Constitution, a meeting was arranged in Ballina NSW at the home of Chris Francis. Those present at this inaugural meeting were Chris Francis, Mick Hoskins, John Cox, Aidan McIlhatton, Paul Windler and myself. Jon Winchester could not attend due to work commitments. At this meeting the AFTU became a living entity thus heralding the start of a new chapter in Australian Tippler history. The following Office Bearers were nominated and subsequently elected unopposed: Chris Francis- President: Paul Windler – Secretary: Aidan McIlhatton- Ring Officer and myself as PR Officer. The AFTU was born. I later resigned from the position of PR Officer because the laws of the State of Victoria require that the PR Officer of any club registered in that State has to be resident there. As I live in Western Australia, John Cox who lives in Victoria took over this position. Following in the footsteps of Tippler Talk and witnessing it’s great success, Fred Barany, one of our most valuable and PC savvy members, created the AFTU web site and the famous Aussie Tippler chat line that we have today. It has turned out to be one of the most valuable tools of communication, which has brought the tippler men of this country and those from around the world closer together. Additionally, it has given each of us the opportunity to broaden our horizons, acquire and exchange knowledge between people with the same passion in the sport and has enabled new friendships and lasting bonds to develop. Thank you Fred, the AFTU salutes you.

Then, in December 2005, the sport of tippler breeding and flying in this country got another huge shot in the arm with the arrival of Harry Shannon, the world record holder. Harry and his lovely wife Anne were on an around Australia holiday, and I was lucky enough to meet them and spend some time with the great man and his wife. Harry visited my home and loft and it was an honour to have him look at my birds: he willingly gave me a lot of good advice on loft management, feeding, breeding and training of the birds. It is a visit I will never forget. His visit sparked a new surge of excitement in the sport. Harry then moved on to Queensland, where he visited the home and loft of Aidan and got the opportunity to meet most of the AFTU members. From what I heard, the boys had had their batteries recharged and were raring to go: this new lease of life and excitement of flying tipplers was infectious and spread right through the AFTU. The boys were sad to see Harry leave as they had had such a great time listening to, and asking Harry every question imaginable. Well, Harry left Queensland and moved on to Sydney where he met up with his old mate, Mick Hoskins. Mick was over the moon to met Anne and Harry and from all accounts they all had a real good time. Harry spent a few days at Mick’s place glancing over his loft and birds and from what I hear from Mick, he gained a wealth of knowledge on breeding etc. from Harry. At present, Mick too, has three Shannon birds in quarantine in the UK that were gifted to him by Harry. Before heading home to Ireland, Harry’s parting words were “you folk in Australia have the birds to achieve the times, there is no doubt about that; all you need to do is use proper, proven, sound breeding methods along with sound training and proper Feeding, and the birds will respond in no time at all.” In short, pay attention to detail when it comes to loft management and everything else will take care of itself. If my memory serves me right, in March 2006 Jon Winchester decided to start a new tippler club in Melbourne Victoria, called the NTAA; Jon is the President of this club. This gave the tippler fanciers of Victoria another avenue to enjoy the sport of tippler flying. So, we can safely say, the future of the sport in Australia is safe and sound and in good hands with all the new interest shown by the many new comers to the sport.

We have the strains and the knowledge – all we need now is the window of opportunity i.e. a few falcon-free days and we should be able to register some good times. I would like to end this article by pointing out that the sport of Tippler Flying is a sport and just a sport – something that we must all strive to enjoy and, try as much as possible, to help others to do the same. Remember my friends, friendship is the name of the game, helping one another along the way should be our main goal. We should always aspire to inspire otherwise our beloved sport of tipplers will expire.