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Keelie Wright - A Champion Racing Pigeon Fancier

For the uninitiated the world of the pigeon fancier conjures up an image of an old man in a flat cap, with the sport of racing the birds perhaps considered a pursuit for those of a certain vintage.

But now there is no doubt that the sport is in decline and many fear the skills involved will not be passed to the next generation, ultimately lost altogether in the passage of time. A year-round commitment, mucking out a pigeon loft is certainly not every child's idea of fun but some young people have caught the bug from their family. They are now taking up the challenge of pigeon racing, releasing their specially-trained homing pigeons, which fly off into the distance and later return home for glory.

Keelie Wright is now a well-known name in pigeon racing circles, having won her first young fancier of the year award at the age of 15.

The now 18-year-old was aged four when she started going to a club in Magheralin in County Down with her father and her grandfather. "I became a member when I was around nine or 10, I've been racing since then and I haven't done too badly," she says. Keelie has certainly not been put off by the dirty jobs: "From the start my dad said: 'Get in the lofts and clean them out' but it never put me off."

Now her niece, who is two years old, has started taking an interest in the birds, which could mean a fourth generation from the family becomes involved. As the youngest in the club and its only female, during the Covid-19 pandemic Keelie helped her dad and her grandfather to run it in order to protect the older, vulnerable members.

"Everybody in the club is so helpful even now, offering to raise birds and there is just a real sense of community," she says.

At first many people were confused about her choice of hobby but later they understood it. "I am known as the pigeon girl but everyone is really supportive, which I think is cool and teachers are always asking questions about it."

Keelie now shows her finest pigeons, having being mentored by Kevin Henderson at her club. She got her father back into showing pigeons too and says it takes a lot of time to ensure they are in the best condition.

"My father joked that now that I am 18 he can face me in competitions," says Keelie. "I am going to university next year but I think I am going to have to come back because I think he will work against my pigeons."

'It's in our blood'

The Larkin brothers from Aghagllon in County Antrim got their first pigeons in 2019.

Fifteen-year-old Harry, Tom, aged 11, and Joseph, who is five, race under the name HTJ Larkin.

Congratulations to Keelie Wright, a young Racing Pigeon Champion on her success, we wish her all the best in the future with racing and the sport.

Read the full article on BBC

Keelie Wright Racing Pigeon Champion
Keelie Wright

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