I began my bird keeping by being given a canary for my ninth birthday. A work colleague of my father bred coloured canaries. Thereafter I had a mixed collection and then I became more involved with budgerigars.
I was a member of Gateshead BS until the early seventies when the meetings and show were held in the Co-op buildings on Whitehall Road before the show moved to the old Newcastle Town Hall. I also had a few Glosters at the time and I exhibited my first Gloster at the City of Newcastle CBS in 1966/67.
Looking back it is difficult to pinpoint any one person who has been my strongest influence in the hobby, I can site my parents for giving me the opportunity to grow my passion in the cage bird fancy; my aunt Belle Ross and Norman Ritson for mentoring me in my teenage years in the budgerigar fancy.
Then progressing into the seventies and becoming more involved with Glosters, my friend George Storey for coming back into the hobby, for his friendship and dedication to the pursuit of developing our Wallace & Storey Gloster stud that went on to win numerous awards. During this time I joined, and am still a member of High Spen & District CBS, the only show promoting society left on Tyneside. I held the position of secretary during the eighties, until my good friend Malcolm Scott took over the reins. So for over forty years these guys have been constant companions in my journey in the fancy.
However it is to the NEGC gang who have inspired, provided friendship, and who continue to give support for which I am most indebted. No names required. All in all it is a rich group of Gloster fanciers who have contributed in my journey in the fancy; it is their influence that has made it all very special.
The first and foremost club that I am involved with is the North of England Gloster Club (NEGC) which I have been a member of for over forty years. The club was founded 1n 1975 and I became involved a few years later. We run an annual show which now incorporates an old variety canary section. I have held every position within the club and at present I am chair and general secretary.
Next comes The International Gloster Breeders Association (IGBA), the leading Gloster club and again I have been a member for over forty years. I am a supporter of the IGBA and its role within the Gloster fancy. I held the position of President in 2004, an honour which I cherish, and I have judged the IGBA show twice.
The IGBA has been the most significant of all the Gloster clubs. Its founders in 1966 had the belief that the club would reach the world and promote the Gloster canary far and wide. The status of the show cannot be over stated as its kudos is held in great esteem throughout the Gloster world. Without the IGBA the Gloster fancy would be poorer.
It must be said that The National Council of Aviculture provides a link between clubs and members, and legislators, and through this link we have a system that ensures we engage with other countries and our government.
My most significant achievements in the hobby can be summarised as:
Twenty Five Best Gloster awards inc. Six Scottish Nationals and Six NEGC
The major wins were a) Two National Best Glosters awards in 1988 and 1993, b) Three best opposite head awards 1985, 1986 and 2000 at the NEC Birmingham, c) Three IGBA Best Gloster awards in 1992, 1993 and 1998, d) Two best opposite head awards in 1989 and 2002.
Judging has always been a great thrill; being asked to judge other fanciers birds is a great honour, and not to be taken lightly. Judging in Northern Ireland has always brought its own rewards, but being asked to officiate overseas is the highest accolade. My first overseas engagement was in Belgium in the mid eighties, but the two stand out engagements were the National Gloster Club of USA, held in Hartford Connecticut in 2012, and the Malta GBS shows in 1999 and 2016. The Malta show of 2016, which Dave Hobart and I judged, had 840 exhibits of the highest quality, two outstanding judging experiences.
Keeping our clubs going is an achievement in its self when we have few younger members to take over the mantle. I would love to hand the NEGC over to younger and committed fanciers.
I have been asked What changes to the hobby would best guarantee its future? To which I have responded No idea. I have thought and thought this question over many times and I cannot come up with a solution to the problem. Life and times have changed so much since the immediate post war decades when most of our bird keepers and cage bird fanciers became involved in the fancy.