Mark Lyford: Today, I’m really pleased to be speaking with John Gladwin and John Cowlin from Formula One Lofts down here in Essex. to talk to them about their phenomenal results, their history, and everything that they’ve been doing in pigeon sport.
So welcome both. What was your inspiration? And how did you get into the pigeon sport?
John Gladwin: Okay. Literally, I was born into pigeons.
Being a third-generation fancier, my Grandad and then my Dad and my Mum actually raced together. And literally, as I say, I was born into it. I was actually born on the Saturday of the first young bird race. My Mum went into labour when the pigeons had just gone up and she said to my Dad, “time the young ones in first, then come up because you won’t miss anything.”
Actually, by the time he got up to the hospital I’d been born, so they had them around me ever since. So, I’ve never had a break from pigeons since then.
Mark Lyford: What about you, John?
John Cowlin: For me, my granddad raised pigeons, which was Teresa’s Dad. He got me involved in them, started helping him out when I was about 12.
And then obviously got to know John. And obviously, Granddad helped me start with, and then John and his Dad helped me. And yeah, so I’ve come from there. Started off with my Dad. My Dad helped me. Mentors, probably… Nah, probably you,
to start with. Left you behind there. LAUGHTER yeah, probably, yeah, my granddad helped to start with. And then, yeah, now my Dad’s helped me. He wasn’t involved in pigeons, but we do it together. And yeah, that’s, from there, that’s where it’s gone, hasn’t it?
John Gladwin: Certainly locally. Yeah. There was a couple of locally when I was young and growing up that always thought would like to be at that level at some point at the time. So, we had the likes of Johnny Nichols that literally used to live opposite or still does opposite my mom and Dad.
And he was at the top of his game in the nineties and see his pigeons dropping every week. I’ve always been further afield with people like the Janssen brothers, how they produced a family of pigeons and how they kept that family going that, still so many years later are actually in a lot of the top pigeons’ pedigrees.
And that kind of thing has always inspired me to how you build such a legacy and a family that lasts the test of time.
John Cowlin: Yeah, for me, I think John Buckfield locally, he’s always, for me, been an inspiration because he’s done it, he does it every single year. He puts out good performances.
John Gladwin: Yeah.
You could turn back the clock and own that pigeon again, as an example, what would it be? And, second part of the question, what do you see your future star being?
Mark Lyford: So with the pigeons you’ve got, it’s hard to name one, I get it.
John Gladwin: Yeah, so like the d’Artagnan obviously is responsible for so many, big wins that you think of him automatically. And the Pied Amor as well. If I had to really go for one and have it again as a young pigeon, it would definitely be Tip Top Junior.
And there’s hundreds and hundreds of winners come down from him at massive levels. So yeah, having him again as a yearling in the loft would be very nice, to say the least.
John Gladwin: So, Tip Top Junior never actually raced. He was always a stock pigeon. But he’s responsible for over 500 races. 30 times first nationals between Holland and the UK. Against up to 20,000 pigeons. But his lines just keep coming and coming, four or five generations are still winning all over and anybody that was pretty much lucky enough to have a direct child.
We got super pigeons out of them. Pretty much every child did the business. Yeah. It was all breeding winners. You don’t get many pigeons like that, do you? And it’s now we’re, great grandchildren, and they’re winning, and then, once they’re producing in the race loft, they go to breeding, and then they’re also producing winners as well. Such a potent line of pigeon to keep going down the lines.
Mark Lyford: Again, for people that don’t know, we talked about how you got into pigeons, but you are best now known, famous for the Frans Zwols, but, there was quite an interesting story how that happened, and prior to that you were doing well with pigeons, you had other pigeons as well, but can you tell people how Frans Zwols came around to be such a big part of your lives?
And they did well for us, we had winners come 2009, we were looking at trying something else. So we ended up going around Holland and Belgium, did some loft visits to different people, and one of them was Frans Zwols. And we liked what we saw. I’m a big believer in when you’re buying pigeons, you’ve got to buy pigeons from somebody you’ve got a chance to replicate what they do.
There’s no good me going to buy pigeons from somebody who has three or four people working the lofts, they’re full time doing it because I can’t do that. I’ve got to go to work and everything else. Franz was a doctor in Holland and his wife would help, but she was no pigeon fancier. She would do the odd bits.
For us, it ticked the boxes. We had a good chance to replicate what he was doing. We decided to buy a round of youngsters off him for the 2010 season, which we put to stock. We liked them so much that while we were there picking them up, we ordered a further round for stock loft in 2011.
And then from there we became good friends. It was an instant success for us. The very first youngster that I actually bred and rung out of them. We put an NFC gold ring on it and it won the NFC gold ring. That was the very first Frans Zwols pigeon we ever rung. And they went on and won from the word go.
Staying good friends with Frans in 2015 he rang us, and we had a chat and he said that he was getting out of the pigeon sport. He needed to, he’d retired from work, and he wanted to do some other bits. He said would we be interested in buying? every pigeon in his loft. He could have a big auction and make a lot more money than what we ended up paying, but he really wanted somebody to carry the legacy, which at that point was 40 years that he built one family of pigeons up.
And he didn’t want 50 different people own them. He wanted to make sure that somebody took them on and carried on working. So after a lot of back and forth and trying to rake up enough money, we decided that yeah, we would do the deal. And we bought everything in the November, 2015.
So, every pigeon in his loft at that time, every race bird, every stock bird. Everything. And then, it’s kind of history from there, they’ve gone on and done very well for us. Definitely took us to the next level of racing.
John Gladwin: Yeah. I guess we were reasonable average flyers before that and then that’s, got us to whether it’s winning nationals, winning the gold De Duif, them kind of things, Our pigeons winning one loft races, it took us to completely to a different level of results.
John Gladwin: Yeah, it’s like anything else. You look at Lewis Hamilton and whatever. I’m obviously a big Formula 1 fan. But you look at Lewis Hamilton, when he’s got the best car, he’s winning with ease.
Now, the last couple of seasons, his car’s not the best. He’s struggling to make the podium; his talent and skill hasn’t dived that much. It’s just, the right equipment, you’re not going to, be at the very top level of anything.
Mark Lyford: Explain the circumstances of that. You say that as quite a blasé answer, but that’s a massive… Again, to people that don’t know you, that’s huge.
John Gladwin: Yeah, previously. In over a hundred years of the NFC, the best anybody had ever done was take the first four.
Mark Lyford: So that’s like your best moment over a week?
John Cowlin: definitely.
Mark Lyford: Amazing. What about you, John?
John Gladwin: So, for me would have to be timing Tip Top Tora out of Argen.
When she won the national 56th international against 22,000 pigeons on the hottest day ever recorded in France. And she flew 531 miles, must have crossed the channel very late at night. And then got up and done the last 40-50 miles in the morning, to be clocked quite early in the morning.
It was… For me it was a hell of achievement of a pigeon. I don’t even think anybody who was in the race actually expected to get pigeons early that morning. We were talking to people, everybody thought it’d be well after lunch, before anything would get through to the UK.
John Gladwin: Yeah, just after six in the morning. She must have been very close on the night to. She definitely couldn’t have stayed in France and crossed and got up to me.. So yeah, seeing her drop was a bit of an experience to say the least
Mark Lyford: An experience you’ll never forget.
Mark Lyford: What excites you in a sport? Looking forward? You’ve achieved between you pretty much. Is there anything else you want to do?
John Gladwin: First, the International would be nice. I guess that’s one big goal. Also, to win the national in the NFC and another goal for the future.
But yeah, just keep being consistent. Keep enjoying the racing as well. It’s the minute you don’t enjoy it, then it’s not the sport for you. We like to do well, but we also like the camaraderie of the club that we’re in socialising,
Mark Lyford: You’re in a hot bed down here. We were talking earlier before we started filming, you’re competing against top, top people around here. Again, for people that don’t know, you are competing against some big names.
John Gladwin: Yeah, exactly. Some really top fanciers, that, fly everything, from sprinting to middle distance to long distance, people here, I think one year alone in our club there was seven national wins in our club in one season between us.It’s very competitive, even just to win at club level, let alone, anything beyond that,
Mark Lyford: At club level, it’s a hot bed of names that everybody in the UK knows.
We’re very lucky in that the club is a very good club. We socialise together regularly. During the season, out the season, go to the national presentations and get together, or the shows, so the camaraderie is there.
Mark Lyford: Which in a lot of places is not as much as it perhaps used to be, because the clubs are just not as big. But down here, you’ve got still big club sizes, decent member sizes. You see some of the presentation nights on social media, they’re amazing nights.
John Gladwin: Yeah, and I think also if it is a difficult club, everybody appreciates whoever wins it. They know that they’ve worked hard, and they’ve got a good pigeon to win it.
It’s not dominated. Our club highest prize winner will often have somewhere between four to six firsts a season. So, everybody’s in the mix, you don’t get any of that resentment or jealousy or things like that, that you get maybe in some other clubs where someone wins 19 firsts a year.
Mark Lyford: I saw a video, I’ve mentioned this before on video that somebody posted from a Mexican pigeon race. And people were jumping up and down, shouting in a lovely way, because they, one of their guys had won. And it was lovely to see.
John Gladwin: Yeah. You get that more down here because people know you’ve worked damn hard for it. When anyone wins a national here and the result comes out and they walk into the club, everybody stands and claps them and whatever, and we normally have a very late night in the bar that when anyone wins a national.
Mark Lyford: Going back to the Franz Zwols, what I like about them, and I’ll be honest with you, I’ve known about you guys for a long time, I’ve known about the Franz Zwols, it was actually my son Zandie who’s been banging on to John Gladwin about these pigeons and me for quite a while now.
What I like about them is from handling all the top pigeons today, they’re steady as anything, they’re super intelligent, they’re switched on, but what I really like about them is that they genuinely can do anything up to 550 miles. You’ll have them scoring as young birds at 70 miles, even going into older birds, but it’s the versatility of them. There’s not many pigeons around I know you’ve said that the history of the Frans Zwols, Janssens and all, they, for me, back 30 years ago, were a versatile pigeon. So it probably tells you a lot, but that’s the versatility of these pigeons. You can fly them before, way before the channel, they’ll hit the channel. You were saying earlier that the longest you’ve had… Them scoring out to 530 miles,
Mark Lyford: Which is amazing, isn’t it? That versatility of them. You don’t that get that much in families. And that’s the other thing, it is a family, we were speaking earlier before, and you were saying that Frans didn’t do what most people in Belgium and Holland do and go and get great pigeons from here, there, and everywhere. He kept the family relatively pure. Explain a little bit about that, if you would.
John Gladwin: So Frans started racing by himself and in the pigeon game in 1975, and he’d done a lot of homework beforehand and identified basically four sources that he wanted to buy pigeons from. And he basically brought from them four. Four lofts. And he molded them and crossed them in to make his own family. All the way up until 2015 when he packed up, he added very little into them original pigeons. He would buy pigeons that were very closely already related on the same lines that he had, and he might add them in, so if he, fancied he had a new superstar, then it was on the same sort of lines.
He would buy another child off that, or brother or sister, and add him. He would always buy two pigeons every year as well. He was also president of the NPO etc, so he had his finger on the pulse with what was good in Holland and Belgium. And he would sometimes go and buy a pair from Top Racer or Brothers and Sisters to a Top Racer.
He would add them in, they would get two breeding seasons, two young bird seasons and a yearling season. If they didn’t make the grade, he removed everything in that. from that bloodline at all. So even if it was still in the race loft, if he didn’t make the grade, it went. So he didn’t ever contaminate or dilute the dream pool with anything that he thought was inferior.
So only the better ones or something that he thought improved by racing would stay. The other thing he did do was a bit of cross joint breeding with people. So if somebody had a real good champion, he would then maybe put that with one of his. They would split the young’uns, but again the young’uns had to prove themselves in the race basket.
And if they’d done well in the race basket, then they might eventually make the stock loft, but but again, they had to perform before they could do that, and I think that,
Mark Lyford: that’s another unique thing about these pigeons is they are not many pigeons you can actually generally call a family.
John Gladwin: No, exactly. And you’re 48 years or something. These families now being blended together. And we’ve carried on in exactly the same way. So we’ve the odd one that’s come from joint breeding, so it’s half Frans Zwols, and maybe in cross that we’ve put in, that’s worked well to up the bloodlines again.
But very few pigeons have actually been crossed into them in the last eight years since we’ve had them, it’s we keep trying to evolve the family, it’s worked for so long. Each year they seem to actually get better and better from each generation. Why change something that’s winning?
John Gladwin: Yeah, and the longevity of them, the vitality of them, as you handled some today, that are, 17 years old and actually if you’d had a blindfold on, you’d think they’re maybe four or five years old.
We’ve got older pigeons still filling and stuff, it’s in the loft, so it’s always a good sign, again, of the the vitality of a bloodline is, if it carries on, to old age, then that’s got to be a good thing.
Mark Lyford: Every pigeon I personally handled today is stunning. Got results, lovely. The standout pigeon for me, my favourite is D32.
Mark Lyford: the standout pigeon that I just loved… And you were telling about the the history of that and the offspring and all of its offspring as well. I that the pigeon you’d say is your future breeding superstar? Is there any others that people should look out for?
John Gladwin: I think D32 is definitely going to have a big say in the future. He actually raced for me, direct off D’Artagnan, when D’Artagnan was paired to Dream Girl 200. Interesting thing with that, we bred four of them in 2016, all the same way bred.
And out of them, one was sold at an auction. I never, don’t know who bought it and never heard any more about it. One we put up to our Fed fundraiser that was brought by a couple of our local fanciers. That’s bred both of them national winners. D32’s bred first open NFC, two first combines, second combine, and the other sister, which the pigeon I call special lady, she’s bred a first national and a second national.
So out of the three, out of the four we bred that year that way, three of them are bred national winners and multiple top performance pigeons. And you don’t know what the It might well have done. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s so yeah. So D32 is definitely I think the upcoming star for us. Pied Amor.
And he’s still relatively young from a breeding point of view and he’s bred. Second Open National Flying Club in ’22. And then this year he bred first section in the National completely against the wind.
And yeah, that pigeon was 20 minutes in front of the next fancier in our section in the National. It’s a different day. You never know, but that would have had a good chance in the National as well, I’m sure. It would have been very high.
Mark Lyford: What would you say your biggest passion in the sport is? Because these pigeons are diverse, is there anything, what race point or what mileage gets you, what type of racing gets you the most excited?
John Gladwin: It’s probably moved from my perspective over time, so you know, there was a period where we really were sprinting and done well at that, then we really focused on the middle distance nationals which is probably still where.
I Think the middle distance, the 300 mile kind of nationals. Is where the real peak is, it’s where the biggest birdage is. It’s everybody’s having to go. The sprint boys will, push their pigeons to there. The distance pigeons are starting to think about kicking in. I think they’re the most, always big prestigious races.
But… I think once you go over the 500 miles as well, then that’s a, is a, is an extra buzz as we were saying earlier, suddenly it’s not just about winning at them. Sometimes just getting one home in a good time is also seen as an achievement. How about you, John?
John Cowlin: Yeah, for me, I love the Young bird nationals old hens Nationals.
I enjoy them. I think the long term goal will be the 500 plus. My race is Tarbes, being one of them. That I would like to ever go at and compete. Tarbes is on the hit list?
John Gladwin: Yeah. There’s some for both of us.
Mark Lyford: If you were starting again, what would you do different, if anything? If you were starting again now and you look back, is there anything you think we would’ve saved time doing that instead, or?
John Gladwin: I think. If I’m starting afresh with no knowledge whatsoever And I say this to people novices and stuff when they come Sometimes asked to buy pigeons and things like that is that actually spend a year or two Just learning the ropes, enjoy the pigeons. Y don’t invest big money to start with learn, make the mistakes that we all make.
And then you can work towards having, the right tools for the job. Cause it’s no good having the right tools for the job, but no knowledge how to use them. So it’s getting that right balance, but I think. The one thing I proved to myself over the years is you do need them right tools as well.
It’s when you really want to compete at that top level, if you’ve not got the pigeons for it, you’re not going to do it. You can put all the effort, all the time, all the money into it. But it’s like anything. If you’re not got the best around you, you can’t hope to compete against the best. Pigeon racings moved on I think.
Yes, numbers have dropped in the UK, but I think actually the standards, what you need to do to win has increased. So, I think, probably, people’s knowledge is there. Anybody can, learn quite quickly and easily off the internet nowadays how to do things, even beyond that, where maybe it took you 20 years to learn that in the past, by trial and error.
Now it’s there, it’s instant. People can, get to a good level quite quickly. So it’s you gotta be at the top of your game, and you can only do that with the quality tools around you.
John Cowlin: I don’t think I’d change too much. Like you said, getting the good pigeons quicker, probably. But, again, that’s just learning, isn’t it? You’ve got to make the mistakes to improve. Yes, I don’t think I’d ever, probably if I started again, I’d go and get the best pigeons I could get, straight away. Whereas, When you start, you have a few pigeons here, a few pigeons there for people to help you. Whereas now you know, knowing you need the right tools for the job.
That is all I’d change.
Mark Lyford: Okay. Are there any books that you recommend people should read, that you’ve read in the past, that you still think are relevant? Onwards from that last question.
John Gladwin: I think Dave Allen’s book, even though it’s old I can’t remember what it’s actually called now.
I think, there’s still a lot of very good tips in there to get you the basics and in reality, things have moved a little bit, but actually if you get the basics right, then you can tweak and everything from there. But, it’s a difficult one because I don’t believe there’s a book or there’s a system or a video or anything you can watch and follow it to the rules.
And still get the same success unless you’re racing in the same location and in the same loft as that person. Every loft operates slightly differently. You’ll have some lofts that come into form earlier in the year, some that are a bit later generally, depending on what heat or, stuff they’re getting.
And even every season, I know people that write meticulous notes, and then they have a great season and they say I’m going to do the same again. And they follow that pattern, but don’t do so well at all the following year because, maybe that year’s, it’s all headwinds or it’s a lot colder or, so actually what you’ve done last year is not applicable.
Even what you’ve done last week is often not applicable. As the seasons change, in the,
Mark Lyford: I’ve said my personal opinion with most sports. Related to livestock or horses, but with pigeons, it’s genetics, is the key. And management, you’ve got to know what you’re doing.
But then there’s also that third element of conditions. Whether that be, liberation conditions, winds, birds of prey. There’s that element that is out of your control. So like you just said. One year it can be working great and then the exact same thing. So does that, some would say it’s luck or conditions.
John Gladwin: Yeah, what you’ve got to do in the pigeon game is you have 20 odd races a season, but they’re not all going to be in your favour. The trick is being ready when it is your day, when you’ve got a chance, isn’t it? It’s having them pigeons just there for that day at the top of their form. So you make your own luck to a degree.
John Cowlin: I think then you’ve got your chance, haven’t you?. If they’re already up there, and I think with lofts and lights and everything, if you’re keeping them pigeons at a high level, even if it’s ain’t against you, your level only comes down so far, doesn’t it?
Mark Lyford: And with regards to the regime that you keep your racing pigeons on, is there any tips you can give away how you feed and treat them? You said earlier, you use the chaos system.
John Gladwin: I use that just for ease and quickness, really. Especially on a Friday, I just literally don’t have the time to be, getting hens, shutting them in boxes in the cocks.
Or even for a national on a Thursday morning, because I’ve got to get them basketed and ready before I go to work. They’re separated, different sections, the hens and the cocks, and I just open the sliding doors. Just before I basket, they all run together, pick their mates, and more often than not, obviously, they go back to their previous mate, if you’ve lost a hen or a cock, they soon pair up again to something else.
And exactly the same on the Saturday, they drop into the loft. They go wherever they want within the whole loft, and they can pick a mate, pair up, take a box, whatever they want to do, wherever they want to do it. For me that works. And I think it gives a bit of motivation as well, because if a cock’s late, his hen might’ve gone off with somebody else or, another cock’s eyeing up his box already.
So yeah, sometimes that will also help. Actually for the following week’s motivation, but I think the best tip is, and as said we was discussing this earlier, is you’ve got to be very adaptable in pigeons, I think these days is that there isn’t a feed an ounce a day or an ounce and a quarter a day.
Because every day is different. Start the season when it’s often very cold. Pigeons need a little bit more just to maintain theirself. If you’re pushing early training to get that early fitness into them, they definitely need a bit more food. As I said to you earlier, I always think of it as petrol.
If I’m just popping to the shop, I don’t need a full tank of petrol. If I’m driving, 500 miles, I need a full tank of petrol before I leave. And it’s the same with the pigeons. What you’ve put in is their fuel. You’ve got to think what’s happened before, how much did you take out in the previous journey, and how much are you likely to take out on the journey that’s coming, i. e. the next race.
Mark Lyford: Anything from you, John, on that?
John Cowlin: No, obviously, feeding wise, I think if you’re going to train hard, you obviously feed hard, but I’m a more traditional widowed. So, I’d have food in front of them pretty much all the time. So, they fly well around home and still get their fitness.
Even though they’re not working on the road, they’re still flying and you’re getting your time My thing is always , get plenty of food.
Mark Lyford: To a degree in the UK and Ireland, and most of Europe the sport is declining the conventional back garden racing is on the decline. Have you got any thoughts on what’s wrong, why that is and what can be done or should be done to change it?
John Gladwin: Ooh, this is an interesting question.
Mark Lyford: The reason I ask is I don’t ask it to everybody, but you’ve been in it. It’s beeningrained at the highest level for a long time for you both. And you’ve seen the changes. And different people have got different opinions, at the moment, the membership numbers for the RPRA specifically in the UK, probably most places, certainly in Europe, definitely in the US, things are declining.
One area, which we’ll discuss later, is one loft races, which is increasing. But… Is there anything you think could be changed to help turn that round? Should we be doing anything different in your opinion?
Most people will tell you the hobbies too expensive. Now, certain bits are expensive, but other bits aren’t. I don’t believe, if you actually look at what it costs to send a pigeon to a race, it’s minimal compared to what it was, even 20 years ago. Let alone you go back. My Dad been in the sport for 80 years, and he’ll tell you that when he was in the 50s and 60s, he used to have to save up for two or three weeks to send three or four pigeons to a 500 mile race. And he actually worked it out a couple of years ago that to send to a 500 mile race, we should be paying nearly 30 pound a pigeon to be on par with what he was paying in the 50s.
And Even in club racing in the 90s, on the, when I was racing North road, he was paying 45 pence Inland racing, now, 30 odd years later, we’re paying 65 pence, what you can buy 30 years ago for 45p today is non comparable. Certainly not petrol. No, exactly, or beer.
So when you’re looking at things that way, but the flip side of that was… In the 90s, we used to be racing for £200 a week. Club level, which was a lot of money, I remember my Dad having a reasonable year just in club racing. He’s not winning any Breeder Buyers or Gold Rings.
And he paid for a family holiday for two weeks out of the winnings, nowadays, you’re lucky if you get a piece of card. And things like that keep the family happy, don’t they. It’s not just what the person wins. We’re never going to attract swarms of young kids.
That’s never going to happen in the sport. If we’re going to try and attract new people, you need to attract people that, in my mind, are 50 plus, that may well have even had pigeons when they were 12, 13, for a year or two. Good chance that their parents or grandparents might have done, so they half remember the, the sport.
Or even if not, you bring them in fresh. Or, actually, they’ve probably not got young kids. They’ve probably got a bit more disposable income than most. You’ve got more chance of bringing them in. And then if you bring them in, then guess what? Their grandkids might actually get involved and, you might bring in some younger blood that way in the future.
But, for me, if you look around the world where pigeon racing’s increasing, it has one thing in common. They’re racing for money, good money. Where it’s decreasing all around the world, there’s nothing really to race for value. So it’s, and whether we like it or not, we now live in a society where younger people especially want one of two things.
Fame and fortune. And, generally pigeon racing is not going to give you either of them in the wider picture. Unless we can address that kind of thing. I’m not sure how you attract people.
I’ve argued about this at length and I don’t think there’s enough money in the sport, and I think the more money the sport gets into it, however that may be, will only help it. Look at horse racing.
John Gladwin: Yeah. And as you said, what’s the one thing that’s increasing? It’s one loft racing. Now people love or loathe them, but people get involved because they can win a nice sum of money, for a relatively small outlay.
Mark Lyford: We’ll go on to that in a minute. John, is there anything else?
John Cowlin: I think, we’ve spoke about it, I think pigeon racing should be in a league. And I think going forward you should have your Premier League and you race for the money. It costs you a lot more to be involved in it. But if you don’t want that, you can still have your cheap racing, because you’ll be a lower league.
But at least you know each year, you’ve got to try and stay where you are. I think you should be relegated and dropped down to a lower league. Back up, and if someone new comes into the sport, they start at the bottom and work their way up. So, they’re racing against people at their same level, rather than coming in and racing against people at top level straight away.
Mark Lyford: From a new starters point of view, it’s pretty soul destroying to go into a club and get smashed by people who have been doing it for 30 years. And tthat’s no incentive to anybody. Speaking from Zandies point of view, he’s 19 years old, His first goal would be to get from league 4 to 3, ultimately he wants to get to the Premier League.
But that’s something to work through. And as well, it’s, it works the other way around, you say you’ve got to keep working to stay in that league. I don’t know why it’s not done, but I’ve talked about leagues myself, and you’re right, John, leagues should be implemented. If somebody new coming into your club now, you’ve got a tall order to compete in the first few years, if you’ve got the right pigeons, if you’ve got everything in place to be able to do it. It’s just that experience to be able to do it.
John Gladwin: Exactly, and in fact, I actually advise people sometimes to, when they do come in new, go and join a slightly different club within our fed, learn the ropes, and then come in a couple of years time.
John Gladwin: Yeah. In a way you go into a lesser competitive club to start.
That’s exactly what a league is really. But also it does then potentially foster the idea of actually being a bit more money, people paying more to send a bird. Because it will, you’re only competing against people of your own level.
It’s setting up a new Sunday league football team and then having to go and play Man United. Oh and by the way, you’ve all got to pay a thousand pounds. You might do it once just to do it, but you’re not going to keep paying 1,000 knowing that you’re going to get beat.
I you’re actually flying against people of your level, then it will go round, and everybody then will be happy to pay a bit more because. It creates a fair competition.
Mark Lyford: So we touched on it briefly and that’s one off races.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. I think it’s the future of the sport. Yes, national specialist races are still going to continue. But I think in the bigger picture, not talking about any one particular flyer as such from an individual’s point of view, but the bigger picture of the sport, conventional flying is going down in numbers and one operation is going up.
And like you said earlier, that is It’s not just the money, there’s other reasons for it, but money is a big factor there. The other reasons would be, we were in the Algarve, I know you normally go down there, you can take your family there, it’s a holiday, it’s an enjoyable few days, so there’s other reasons other than just the money.
What are your thoughts generally on one off racing? Obviously you’ve achieved. Apart from maybe an international tarm’s win, or whatever you may want to be focusing on there long term, within the UK, within national racing, you’ve achieved, you can’t really look to achieve much more than perhaps an international win.
What are your thoughts on one off races, generally?
John Gladwin: I think they’re good, I think they need to be well run and regulated. Unfortunately, you see some horror stories at times. But I think even they need to maybe move in a slightly different direction. It’s fine in one way, what we have.
How can we use that to attract other people into, maybe even people that are not pigeon fanciers. There’s lots of good ways, I think, to be able to do that, one off races are probably the key.
Mark Lyford: We were talking about this earlier. We were talking about syndicates. The ability to be able to get people in, that are not in anything to get involved in a syndicate for their money.
You can go and own part of the racehorse for as little as £50 now. And also what came up, which you mentioned was one off races don’t have to be thousands of pigeons, big prize money. You said you could get a young bird team flying in normal club fed racing and people can get involved in that as a mini one off race.
John Gladwin: Yeah, exactly. So they don’t have to be necessarily the big things. Yeah, you’ve got to cater for different people, haven’t you? Actually if you go back to the RPRA with the schools kind of thing, actually if you said, a class of 30 kids or whatever, or a year group that may have 70 kids in over that year, if everyone put a pound in, they could follow it on the Benzing Live and everything else in their club.
In their class, in their school. Make it a bit of a school project. And actually the winning kid could, win £75 or whatever you want to do. Or you split it, it doesn’t need to be big money, but it’s just a bit of interest. And it could be followed. And you never know.
Then they go home and talk to their parents and stuff. Get one extra fancier out of it. It’s things like that with all help and help spread the knowledge. Because the general public are totally ignorant about pigeons and pigeon racing generally, but most of them are actually interested.
You go out, open your car, get your basket out, nine times out of 10, someone will come over and talk to you about it and they are actually interested but. they just don’t know the mechanics of it, or, the history behind it and stuff. You could use that then to actually maybe, open doors and, get new people.
Mark Lyford: I think if people outside of the sport got to witness a final of a one loft race, most people, at least half of them, would be thinking, this is something I never knew existed and it’s great.
John what are your thoughts on one off races?
John Cowlin: I think, for me, I’d like them to have a bit more training. Because I don’t, think they’re really prepared for it. And whether they’ve even done the training without marking them and everything else, just prepare them a bit better for that final.
So I think if you’d run that race the following week, I think you’d get a totally different result. Because they’d be prepared for it. But that’s my own personal opinion.When they get there, I never feel that the right pigeons probably come through.
John Gladwin: Yeah.. In your own loft, you wouldn’t go the 300 mile race and they’ve been in the basket 12 times or whatever, would you?
You would never dream of it, it’s they’ve probably had 12 races before they get the 300 miles, that, no, the road training you would have done, so I think people will need to train more as if they were their own.
John Gladwin: And especially when you’re letting them go from five miles or wherever, where they’re likely to then get their head down and they’ve gone over, before they’ve realized that, they’re like kids on that, suddenly chuck them in a pack and they’re excitable and they’re all running together.
And it’s exactly the same with the pigeons. They’re only young. They were learning. That’s why you’re only at two or five miles with them.
Mark Lyford: I said, I’d like to see the these Zwols pigeons, your pigeons, smashing one loft races. I think they’re the type of pigeon to do it, the versatile, as we’ve discussed. You’ve had some results in one loft racing
John Gladwin: Yeah, bloodlines and that have done well. We’ve had the bloodlines that won the British Masters a couple of years ago, 30,000 pounds, I believe the first prize was on that. We’ve won hotspots in Ireland.
We’ve done well in Portugal at different times, but we’ve never actually really. competed that much ourself in there, there’s, when you look through a lot of the results UK, one loft races our pigeons are often in there and, doing well. We’ve had ace birds reported back from yeah, bred off a pair of Zwols and things like that.
Mark Lyford: We’re experiencing these close up looking at the results, looking at the versatility of them. I’m passionate about one loft races. I think he’s going to change the sport. We’ve discussed bringing new people in. It’s only going to get bigger and better. Yes, it does need some control elements, but after seeing these pigeons, I think they could smash one off races, I really do, because they’re that versatile. Again, in the UK, different locations require different types of pigeons.
But your pigeons have done it, and then you start going overseas, in hot climates, maybe they’re not quite as tested as that, but, they’re versatile enough that where they can do it, they’re hard pigeons. And I just want to see these Frans Zwols competing at more one off races because I think they could really light things up.
We are towards the end so of the interview, what does the future hold? Apart from you going for internationals. That’s your one big goal. I know due to personal circumstances, you’re reducing numbers. Make it more manageable. but what do you see the future holds? Is there anything other than carrying on doing what you’re doing and keep winning what you’re doing?
John Gladwin: Yeah, I think it’s like everything else, why it’s not broken, don’t fix it, to a degree. Unfortunately we’ve got to cut down a little bit, as you said. We’re going to close a couple of our stock lofts. Because we’re just getting a bit too much there. I haven’t quite got the same help I had from Teresa. She’s not been very well, so we’ve got to cut down a bit. But yeah, sometimes less is more as well, sometimes having less gives you time to focus on what you have got. They’re not sure that would be a bad thing in the long run. Yeah, we will see, but while it’s working, we’ll keep going.
If we have a two or three lean years and it’s not going very well, then we’ll look to fix it.
Mark Lyford: The family you’ve got, there’s no bad pigeons there. So, it’s not like you’re reducing to get rid of stuff you don’t want. It’s purely personal time and help, so that’s, if anything, is going to make it easier for you. It’s going to make you be able to concentrate on keep, keeping that momentum going with all beer.
John Gladwin: Exactly. We, first and foremost, we’ve always been about the racing. The breeding side and the Formula One is very much a secondary. We had a choice, really, of either cutting down the race birds or cut down the stock birds.
It was a no brainer. We’re cutting down the stock birds. We do our first love, which is definitely the racing side. 100%..
Mark Lyford: You were saying earlier as well that kind of Formula One lofts just happened.
John Gladwin: Yeah. Wasn’t really a plan, none of this was really a plan. Far from it.
Mark Lyford: Just explain how it, you never said I’m going to do this. It just, how did it just, obviously we talked about getting the Zwols in. How did it happen?
And we couldn’t afford to keep buying good pigeons constantly. So, we said, okay, we’ll both put a bit of money in. We’ll start Formula One lofts. We’ve never ever raced together, ever at all. So we just own the stock birds, we’ve always raced completely separately at different locations. So we thought we’d buy the stock birds together.
Mark Lyford: Is that by design?
John Gladwin: Yeah, we wouldn’t be able to race together. We have different views and different goals, so I think we’d end up clashing with that side. So it was always race completely separate, but own the stock birds together. So we done that and, that, that is where Formula One was born.
We brought some pigeons in to start with, as I said earlier, from Gabby Vandeebey, these from M&D. Evans and some Ron Williamson pigeons. And the idea was that we sold a few youngsters, out of them, that helped us to put some money back in the pot. And when other pigeons come up that we wanted to buy, we would use that money to, to reinvest.
We didn’t even use it for racing fees, birdage, or feeding them. It was literally every penny we took has always gone back in the pot, so when anything else comes up. We could afford to buy it. And it just grew from there. The success with the pigeons we sold. Demanded more and more, attention to it and that, more and more people were interested, more and more people want to do loft visits, wanting to buy pigeons and it snowballed.
We’ve never been really big at advertising or pushing the pigeons at all, really. In fact, I’m probably the other way. Sometimes people leave me messages. I’ve tried to ring you five times to buy a pigeon and I’ve not got through to you.
Mark Lyford: Formula One’s not your main business in any way.It’s a hobbie that you sell pigeons to sustain building and keeping going. You’ve both got a lot of stuff going on and this is an addition.
John Gladwin: Yeah, exactly. I have a full time job and everything else as well, which is quite demanding and sends me all around the world at different times.
John’s started up his own business and, the responsibilities that come with that as well. So it’s Pigeon Racing has to fit in around that. And as we said, the racing is our main goal. So, then the Formula One is, the next add on, if you like, from there, so it’s fourth or fifth in the pecking order of what has to come first.
Mark Lyford: And that’s what I like about it. It’s that the racing is the key, and the results speak for themselves, Tyou for this, guys. I’m sure they will have enjoyed it. The takeaway from today, after seeing the pigeons, is it is such a unique family. It is a proper family. No such thing as a pure pigeon, but these are about as consistently one strain as you can get, really.
John Gladwin: As I said to you earlier, once you’ve handled three or four, you’ve pretty much handled them all.
Mark Lyford: Certainly, they’ve got similar heads and that, yeah, there’s some different sizes. But yeah, they are very samey in a very good way. So yeah, so your website is formula1lofts.com So people can go there and find out more about you. They can see your results and everything on the internet and on Facebook. So, go to formula1lofts.com to have a look more about the history and the pigeons and everything.
And I wish you all the luck for the next phase, which sounds like it’ll be internationals.
John Gladwin: We can hope.
Mark Lyford: And I’ve got a personal want to see you, one of your pigeons doing very well in one loft races, because I think they light up an interest from a whole different bunch of people. And I think they genuinely can do it.
So thank you again.
John Gladwin: Thank you for your time and coming down.