Film ID: NEFA 19461 Video of NEFA 19461 Time on the Wing TIME ON THE WING 1969 Visitor TabsDescription A detailed sponsored documentary by Turners Film Productions for Vaux Breweries on pigeon fancying and pigeon racing in the North East of England covering Northumberland, Tees Valley, Tyne and Wear, County Durham and North Yorkshire. Experts and participants explain breeding, selection, training, exhibition, racing and diet as the voice-over commentary gives an overview of the sport or hobby, and its importance to the largely male membership of the 'Up North Combine'. Footage of races include the Vaux-Usher International Gold Tankard Pigeon Race cross-channel from Beauvais in France, and scenes at the North of England Homing Union Show, held in Newcastle, are featured. Title: Time on the Wing (titles and credits over slow motion pigeons in flight in sky, circling.) Credit: Produced for Vaux & Associated Breweries Sunderland England Credit: By Turnerss Film Productions Newcastle upon Tyne England A pigeon flies back into a coop at Skinningrove. The owner hurries to shut the door to his loft. He then hands his pigeon’s tag to a colleague outside who inserts it into a flight recording clock. Vaux Gold Tankard award presentations take place. A winner receives his trophy, a tankard, which he displays happily at the awards dinner. Pigeons fly back to a garden loft. An owner feeds pigeons outside a loft. General views follow of a variety of loft styles. A pigeon fancier walks with his young son beside a set of lofts. The commentary states: “It’s an outside hobby but one that keeps you at home. There’s something relaxing about the atmosphere of a loft. Steelworkers and miners probably know it best. In an area where men are employed in the gloom of industry, small wonder they find solace and relief in gazing skywards.” A pigeon fancier in a flat cap sits on a stoop outside his loft and watches for the return of his birds. Portrait shots of pigeon fanciers looking skyward. A woman pigeon fancier examines the wings of a bird and lets it fly off into her loft. Overhead shot of a set of lofts clustered on the bank of the River Tyne. General view of the Tyne industrial river landscape taken from Gateshead bank with Newcastle's Redheugh Bridge in the background and distant view of Cruddas Park high rise blocks in Newcastle, pan across river front, trains crossing the railway bridges and pigeon lofts built on waste ground between the two rail bridges. General view of the cliff top and valley at Skinningrove, with pigeon lofts built on the steep valley sides. Back in Newcastle a man watches his birds return to a loft built on a bank at the side of Scotswood Road. A young Northern pigeon fancier lures his birds with a can of feed back into the loft that he built himself. Close-ups of the accessories needed to set up as a fancier: nest boxes, drinking fountains, a training basket, and a good second hand clock. Pigeon fanciers meet up in their club house. The young pigeon fancier registers with the club. Commentary: "As a northern fancier, the first step is to become a member of the National Homing Union by joining the nearest affiliated club. For instance, through Durham, Northumberland and North Yorkshire there are some 26 separate federations and 148 clubs, comprising the Up North Combine, founded back in 1905. There's much more to the sport than most people think. And much more to pigeons too.” An young woman in a mini dress feeds city pigeons, possibly on the lawns at St Mary’s Place, Newcastle. Close-ups of racing pigeons. General views inside the annual winter North of England Homing Union Show, here held in Newcastle, where visitors browse rows of caged racing and show pigeons, displaying the show breeders' art. Close-up of the pigeon food trade stall for Henry Sanderson Ltd of Portrack Lane, Stockton-on-Tees. Some men examine a training basket. Close-ups of show pigeons, with eye-catching exaggerated styles and poses. Pan along cages of racing pigeon breeds. Various shots of North of England Homing Union judges examining birds. Close-ups of pigeon heads and wings opened out for the camera. The vernacular voice-over comments on what to look for in judging a good bird. Judges continue to examine pigeons. Overhead shot of the visitors browsing in the show room of the exhibition. Pigeon loft interiors show nesting and breeding pigeons, newly hatched chicks, identity tags fitted on ankles of pigeon chicks, pigeon couples feeding their young. Young adult pigeons perch on a ledge at the loft. A pigeon racer at a countryside loft frees his young pigeons, and they take short flights around the loft area. A fancier feeds his birds. Fanciers examine seeds, beans and peas in suppliers’ sacks. Pigeons are fed by a loft owner. General view of pigeons in flight. A fancier and pigeon racer in a beret feeds his pigeons. The design and build of lofts is discussed on the commentary, with exterior and interior shots of rented lofts available near the Copper Beech Inn, Darlington, County Durham, owned by Vaux Breweries. Two men self-build a loft in their spare time. Interior shots follow of deluxe version of a loft with sliding doors for easy access to individual compartments. General view over Skinningrove and sea from the hills. Shots of two pigeon fanciers at their loft and a male loft owner relaxing inside with a book and a pipe. Birds fly out of a hillside loft at Skinningrove, looking towards the iron and steel works in the background. A pigeon fancier stands outside his loft dressed in a boiler suit, shaking a tray of feed whilst training his young birds to return home after short-distance flights. Some of the local fanciers carry their birds in baskets down to a van for training on a short-haul race. The first release of the bird is known as a "toss". At another location, a fancier loads up his pick-up truck with baskets of birds, drives off into the countryside to release them on a training flight, checking his watch. The man's partner remains back at the loft to check for the birds' return. The commentary states: "many a wife or mother has become as keen on the sport as her husband or son." The woman watches for more of the pigeons to return. Aerial views along the North East coast and across the landscape, including a view of Whitby Abbey. Pigeons settle back outside a loft. Aerial shots of the North East coast, countryside, the cliffs at Whitby. Pigeons fly back to a loft. Close-ups of pigeons nesting in a loft are intercut with pigeon portrait shots and extreme close-ups of a prize blue cock's eyes, whilst the commentary discusses the genetics of pigeons. Pigeon fanciers gather to register their young pigeons for a race some time in July. Entries are marked with a rubber ring on the pigeon's legs and race sheets are registered. Individual club entries are sealed in an envelope. Close-ups follow of the different clubs' tags on willow wicker baskets, including Boosbeck and Loftus. The baskets are sealed. The pigeons drink water before their departure. The birds are loaded into a truck, 20 birds in each basket. The truck pulls out onto the road and a convoy of trucks from different locations heads off down the motorway. Back at the clubhouse, members set and synchronize their clocks against a Federation master timer. In good mid-summer weather, the racing trucks are lined up and the pigeons are simultaneously released in thousands at the start of the race. Shots of the mass of pigeons in flight follow. A pigeon fancier and his friend look out for their birds to return. The pigeons reach the loft, and the rubber ring is placed in a thimble and fed into the clock to record the time of arrival. Another bird returns to his owner along the coast. Close-up of the removal of the rubber ring and its enclosure in the thimble capsule. Back in the club house, competitors' clocks are examined to ascertain the birds' flight times. Race ledgers are checked. Pigeon fanciers sit in a pub over a few pints and discuss the theories and myths of pigeon racing. Scenes in the pub are intercut with interviews with two wives of pigeon racers on their opinions of their husbands' sport. They are as enthusiastic as their husbands.There's a shot of one of the women cleaning the loft floor. At the depot headquarters for the race pigeon fanciers congregate with their baskets of pigeons for the Vaux-Usher International Gold Tankard Pigeon Race cross-channel from Beauvais in France. Hundreds of men bring their birds to the marking centres. Portrait shots of pigeon fanciers follow. Pigeons are rubber tagged. Children roam around looking at the pigeons in baskets. The baskets and sacks of grain are loaded onto the transportation trucks bound for France. Up North Combine officials and convoy organisers discuss arrangements for the trip and transport of some 19,000 birds, difficult logistical planning. The convoy of trucks heads down the motorway bound for the south coast and the Channel ferry crossing, day and night shots. At Beauvais, the Up North Combine truck has arrived. Early in the morning on the day of the start of the race, men have breakfast inside a mobile unit (caravan?). They then water the pigeons. The flaps of the trucks are opened. portrait shot of a man looking around to check the weather. All the trucks are parked with flaps down ready for the "toss", the release of all the birds. At a weather station, reports are relayed to the race organisers over the telephone and charts are poured over. The time is 6:15 on a June morning. The flocks of pigeons are released. The chief convoyer signals and the birds are released. Many shots of the pigeons in flight follow. Aerial shots over the Channel Sea and along the North East coast. At the home end, pigeon fanciers watch the skies tensely for sight of their birds. The commentator states that "Time is on the wing." A man clocks off from his shift at the Skinningrove steelworks in North Yorkshire. He heads off towards the village and his loft. A woman is scrubbing down the floor of a loft. The church clock of St. Mary's Church, Gateshead, high over the Tyne Bridge reads ten to two in the afternoon. Aerial views of the English coast and countryside follow, intercut with shots of the pigeons in flight. General view of Skinningrove (?) at 4:30pm and aerial views of the landscape. Various shots of loft owners at different locations checking the skies for their birds, including an Ouseburn loft. A pigeon walks into a loft. There are close-ups as the rubber ring is removed, secured in the capped thimble, and placed in the clock. Other pigeons arrive at their home lofts and are de-tagged and clocked. The ninth Vaux / Usher race is over and at the clubhouse, competitors check each others clocks and the overall winner is found. Secretary of the Up North Combine and other officials arrive at the winner's loft in Felling, County Durham, to meet the owner on his home ground and carry out checks on the bird, examining its wings and releasing the bird briefly. The winner is then congratulated. At the annual Up North Combine dinner the winner is presented with his prize and clapped by the audience. A pigeon fancier's wife explains that she would like to win the Vaux Gold Tankard, as she poses next to a mantelpiece full of trophies, and an Up North Combine racing certificate. At the annual dinner for the Sportsmen of the North of England, Mr Douglas Nicholson, Chairman of Vaux Breweries, is clapped and presents the Vaux Gold Tankard to the winning pigeon racer. A montage of birds in flight dawn (intercut with brief shots of the clocking machine), daytime and dusk ends the film. [Credits over birds on the wing.] Credit: Photography: Gordon Richards, Mike Harvey, David Cox Credits: Direction: Bryan Copplestone ARPS AIIP Script: John Grant Production: Peter Brown, David Middleton, Terry Hoey, Ian Barkley In charge of production: Brian Nicol Credits: Acknowledgements: Officials & members of: The Up-North Combine The West Durham Amalgamation Yorkshire Middle Route Scottish Continental Club E.P Robinson Ltd Newcastle Weather Centre Context Birds of a feather coop together Everything you always wanted to know about North East homing pigeons (but were afraid to ask). This strangely compelling film follows the lofty ambitions of pigeon fanciers and racers affiliated to the Up North Combine. A culture with a mythical status in the North East, pigeon crees cluster like brightly painted Wild West shacks from Skinningrove to the Scotswood Road. A cross-channel race is a tense blue-sky sport of watch and wait for dedicated owners and the “toss” of thousands of pigeons is an awesome sight (unless you have a Hitchcockian fear of birds). This film was commissioned by Vaux Breweries, based in Sunderland from 1837 to 1999, who sponsored the International Open Vaux-Usher Gold Tankard race from Beauvais, France, in the 1960s and 70s. The Up North Combine was founded in 1905 to handle the logistics of long distance races for an increasing number of clubs and federations in the North East. The volume of pigeon traffic on the railways from mining districts in Northumberland was heavy enough in 1905 to begin running pigeon specials during the racing season. Pigeons became known as ‘the poor man’s racehorse’ as the popularity of raising birds grew in working class culture during the last third of the 19th century, particularly in mining districts. For more on the nature of the racing pigeon breed, see the context for Clegg's People: Pigeons one of a series of themed documentaries made by Yorkshire Television and featuring Michael Clegg visiting places and interviewing people. The series ran from the 1980s into the 1990s.