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Irish National Racing: Masons 1210 Strain And their Legacy...
Author: Liam O ComainTitle: Irish National Racing: Masons 1210 Strain And their Legacy
Date: 2005-03-22 20:57:24Uploaded by: webmaster
In Ireland, County Antrim is one of the friendliest places that one can experience and when the Almighty was handing out beauty (the comprehension of that which is pleasing) he gave a significant portion to the land of the Clan O'Neill.

In fact the 'Red Hand' which symbolises Ireland's nine county province of Ulster derives from a legend arising from the clan. However at present I am dealing with history for it is from that county that the recent old bird national winner from Messac, France, was raced. The owner is Jimmy Greer from Portglenone within the shadows of the Slemish Mountain. There Jimmy has achieved what every Irish south road pigeon fancier hopes and plans for. May we all experience someday that joy by clocking in a pigeon equivalent to 'Rachael' from the land of the wine groves.

However this article is not about Jimmy Greer's achievements in pigeon racing (that will be written) but there is a relevancy as the reader in due course will see. All I ask is for he or she to abide with me. The resultant journey will relate to pigeon fanciers of two Celtic nations namely Ireland and Scotland. Yes, I have forgiven the latter country for taking the ancient name of Ireland which was Scotia and why not for recent research findings confirmed that the Scots and the Irish are from the same gene pool. Perhaps a joy and a shock for many!

We shall begin our journey at the end of the first decade of the last century around about 1910 in the land of the thistle. There observing the exploits of a pigeon fancier by the name of Alexander Mason of Dungeonhill, Easterhouse, Glasgow. At that time Alex Mason was successfully flying from Guernsey (450 miles), Granville (500 miles), Rennes (550 miles), and Marennes (708 miles). In fact he was the winner of the old bird average in the West of Scotland Flying Club for 1909 and 1910, and runner up in 1911. His family of pigeons derived from the crossing of birds from J.B. Clarke of Bothwell and a few other fanciers but the strain which evolved did not become known as the Mason strain instead it is known as the '1210 strain'. The name derives from a black cheq cock's ring number bred in 1900 by J.B.Clarke which flew from Donaghadee as a youngster but kept for stock by Mason after its first race. It came from Clarke's 2nd Scottish national winner and was the breeder of many outstanding winners at the distance with different hens. Also the children and the grandchildren of '1210' bred winners for Mason and others from Rennes, etc,.

However let us now cross over the Irish sea to the City of Derry in the early years of the nineteen fifties and imagine beautiful country roads between the counties of Derry and Donegal. There strolling along are four figures intent on their journey - the latter being four young fanciers namely Paddy, Robert and Thomas Cassidy from the Brandywell area of Derry City and Noel McGrotty from the Derry rural hinterland of Ardmore. Fired by youthful imaginations the four travellers were seeking the mecca of pigeon racing in the nineteen thirties within their region. And as the four eventually reached a farmhouse nestling in the mountains there they encountered which one of them called, " a giant of a man in a black suit carrying a walking stick". Their destination was Castruse, Bogay, and the figure they met was called William Mason.

Now William Mason settled in the north west of Ireland in the early years of the twentieth century after leaving his native Scotland. Prior to his state of exile Mason had along with his brother raced pigeons and who was his brother- the one and only founder of the '1210' strain, Alexander Mason. Upon his arrival in Ireland William Mason established a loft based upon the best of the '1210' strain and began achieving outstanding results on the difficult north west route. Racing as a member of the Londonderry Club after 1927 the loft won a few old bird averages outright and by the year 1935 his name was on the new average cup. But perhaps Mason's greatest achievement was the recording of 3rd Irish National in 1935 from Laval in France a distance of 557 miles by a beautiful black pied yearling hen known as '3682'. The latter was of the best of bloodlines for its grandam under 'smash' conditions flew from Le Sables in 1930, a distance of 636 miles. Again in 1931 the grandam scored 16th in the Irish National from the same race point. Some flying in those days, when one considers the reality surrounding the racing of pigeons then. But as I pondered these facts my thought turned to my recent suggestion in an article on Irish national racing that the sport in Ireland should be looking at the possibility of a 650/750 national race for here is recorded a gallant pigeon flying 636 miles in an Irish national 73 years ago.

To continue I wonder did Alexander Mason ever envisage that an Irish writer would be referring in 2004 to the exploits of the '1210' strain which he founded. Or that his strain would be beating the best into Ireland in the nineteen thirties or indeed into County Antrim in 2004. Yes we have come full circle for the national winner of Jimmy Greer contains the bloodlines of '1210'.

For via Alex Geddis of Scotland who alas is no longer with us, the 2004 Irish National winner contains Masonís as well as Aarden and Jansenn bloodlines on the sire's side whereas the dam was a Norbet Sierens. Yes, in pigeon racing blood will tell and here it has reached through the decades...

To return to the four Derry lads in the nineteen fifties at the end of their pilgrimage they saw what appeared to be a pigeon sanctuary for on the walls of the 'Barn Lofts' hung pigeon memorabilia including panniers and other items from the nineteen twenties and thirties. However more important what they heard in that sanctuary from the gentle giant of a Scots man inspired those wandering youths for they also have experienced success from France. As for myself whenever I drive past where pigeons once raced to at Castruse I imagine the joy of William Mason as he saw the black pied yearling hen landing from France to win 3rd national in the 1930ís. That dear readers is part of the magic of our sport and may the Mason brothers and indeed '1210' and '3682' rest in peace as we come to the end of our journey.

Liam O Comain

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