National Pigeon Association GB

Founding Of The National Pigeon Association & The Marking Of Pigeons.

The following is based on a set of articles by the renown pigeon breeder and writer C.A.House which appeared in “Pigeon Illustrated “ magazine during July and August 1928, with additional material added from actual correspondence in “ Poultry, Pigeons, Cage Birds and rabbits “ magazine during 1885 and compiled by R.S.Henderson.


Much has appeared from time to time during the recent years as to the origin of the Marking Conference and the introduction of our present system of marking by rings. What has been written has been written from hearsay, or from memory, and the facts have not always agreed  because of the bias existing in the minds of the writers.

Browsing among some old papers recently I came across some matter which is definite upon the subject and should henceforth prevent any misconceptions as to how and why marking was introduced.

Incidentally it also settles the vexed question of the formation of the old National Pigeon Club and the Pigeon Club.

During the show season of 1884-85 there was much comment concerning various birds which were shown in young bird classes. Many thinking that old birds were being shown and winning. At the February meeting of the Birmingham Columbarian Society Mr H.Allsop secretary brought up the idea of “marking young birds and that all the country’s societies should join together and try to stop the dishonourable practice of showing old birds in young bird classes”. A vote was then taken and carried. As a result of this, a conference was called at Birmingham to deal with the question. All Columbarian and Ornithological societies were requested to state their views on these subjects and if they would be willing to join a National Society. This conference met on Monday, March 23rd 1885, and was reported in the Fancy Press of 27th March. There was correspondence in the “Livestock journal” and talk at the February meeting of the National Peristeronic Society of the formation of a “National Pigeon Club” shortly.


On Monday last a meeting of delegates representing a large number of pigeon and Columbarian societies in England & Scotland, was held at the White Horse Hotel, Congreve St, Birmingham, to consider first, some scheme for the marking of young pigeons to prevent old birds being shown as young ones, and second, the formation of a pigeon club.

Thirteen societies were represented by the following gentlemen; Messrs.P.H.Jones ( National Peristeronic ); J.Smith (City Columbarian ); J.Dobbie  (Scottish National); H.Allsop (Birmingham); A.J.Barnes (Gloucester); H.O.Crane (Oxford); T.Hall (Walsall); W.Hammock (Essex); W.A.P.Montgomery (Manchester); J.P.Ormerod (Rochdale); Dr. Smith ( Halifax ); W.Smith (Oldham ) and T.H.Stretch (Liverpool National). Ten other societies, namely The London Columbarian, South London, Blackburn, Kingston, North of England Poultry & Pigeon Society, Nottingham, Reading, Stalybridge, Swindon and York had signified their willingness to support whatever scheme was adopted for the marking of young birds and six of these supported the proposal for a pigeon club.

On the proposal of Mr T.H.Stretch, Mr P.H.Jones was appointed chairman, and that gentleman asked Mr Allsopp to act as secretary of the meeting.

The following resolutions were adopted; Mr Allsop proposed, Mr Stretch seconded, “That a universal stamp be adopted by this meeting for the marking of young pigeons intended for exhibition.”

The chairman here raised the question as to the status of any other societies than those who had now given their adhesion to the proposal.

Dr Smith proposed, Mr H.O.Crane seconded, “That those societies represented here by delegate or letter today, be the stamping authorities, and that all societies wishing to have stamps shall apply to Mr Allsop, who, with Mr Jones and Mr Stretch will have discretionary power in the granting of the same.”

It was agreed upon that the stamps be in charge of the Birmingham Columbarian Society.

Mr A.J.Barnes moved, and Dr Smith seconded, “That the choice of design be left to Messrs Jones, Stretch and Allsop, and that they register the same.”

Dr Smith proposed, Mr John Smith seconded, “That the question of charge for stamping be left optional to each society, but that in no case must this exceed 3d per bird.”

Proposed by Mr Hall, seconded by Mr W.Smith, “That societies be requested to fix certain days or evenings for stamping birds, and not less than three members be present at the time of stamping.”

Mr H.O.Crane moved, Mr T.H.Stretch seconded, “That birds presented for marking must not have moulted more than four outer flight feathers, and that they be stamped on any two of the newly moulted feathers in each wing, at the discretion of the owners and the stamping society.”

Proposed by Mr Ormerod, seconded by Dr Smith, “That the secretary of each stamping society keep a register and description of the birds stamped.”

This having completed the necessary plan, Mr Dobbie proposed, and Mr Montgomery seconded, “That the best thanks be given to Messrs Jones, Stretch and Allsop for their efforts to bring about a solution to this vexed question.”

This was carried heartily and the three gentlemen named suitably responded.

Mr H.O.Crane then moved, and Mr T.Hall seconded, “That thanks be given to the press, and especially to Mr Edward Brown and the Live Stock Journal for their valuable assistance.” Mr Brown acknowledged the compliment.


The chairman explained that the next business was the question of a pigeon club. He explained that the lines upon which it was suggested it should work, were pretty much the same as the Poultry Club, which he acknowledged had been of service in the poultry fancy. He hoped, however, this would be more successful than that body. The object was to advance the interest in the Fancy, to act as a deterrent to wrongdoers, and to be a court of appeal. All other bodies should be connected with it if possible, and thus there would be a strong body connected with all parts of the country.

Mr Allsop reported that a number of names of those willing to join such a club had been sent in to him.

Dr Smith moved, Mr W.Smith seconded, “That a pigeon club be formed.” This was carried unanimously.

After some further discussion as to terms, Mr Dobbie proposed, and Mr T.H.Stretch seconded, “That the subscription of affiliated societies be one guinea per annum. That members of such affiliated societies subscribe to the club 2/6 per annum, and non-members of affiliated societies 5/- per annum.” This was carried.

The delegates present were formed into a preliminary committee for the drafting of rules, etc, and Dr Smith, of Halifax, accepted the position of secretary, pro tem. The meeting then separated.

A general meeting of the National Pigeon club was called for the 27th April in Birmingham with the hope of adopting rules. Mr W.Smith having already received the names of 100 fanciers willing to be members.

The first general meeting of the National Pigeon Club was duly held on Monday 27th April in Birmingham with Mr Jones voted in as chairman. 152 names had been received of prospective members. The draft rules were amended and adopted. A committee was to be elected by voting papers after formal enrolement of members. Other officers were voted on at the meeting with Mr Jones elected as the first President and Vice Presidents of Mr R.Clay (England), Mr J.Dobbie (Scotland), Mr J.Waters (Ireland) and Mr J.F.Harvey (Wales). Dr W.Smith was elected Honorary Secretary/Treasurer.


At the time when the marking of pigeons was being discussed there existed a great deal of ill-feeling in the pigeon fancy. That stormy petrel – Rev W.F.Lumley – was engaged in an active vendetta against Mr Stephen Salter, Mr P.H.Jones, Mr H.Allsop and a few others, and he was making some astounding allegations against the master of Pondwell regarding some English owls which he ( Mr Salter ) exhibited at Yeovil show in the January of that year. In those days Yeovil was our best show outside the classics.

Even in those days it was more a matter of persons than principles with Mr Lumley, and his antagonism to what was, in those days, known as “the stock keeper party” was intense. Doubtless he considered he was fighting for principles, but many thought it was personal prejudice.

This party it was, as I have shown, who made the first move to bring about a method which would ensure the showing of young pigeons in their proper classes by means of marking, or stamping, on the wing. In the report which I have given nothing appears as to rings, as only the resolutions which were carried were reported, but it was at that meeting that Marking Rings were first suggested for the pigeon Fancy of Great Britain and Ireland.


The subject was introduced by Mr P.H.Jones, at the request of Mr Stephen Salter, who was not present. Mr Jones advocated marking rings, but the Birmingham Conference turned them down, because the sample rings submitted were not suitable for the feather-legged breeds, such as Trumpeters, Fairy Swallows, Pouters, and others. Mr Jones distributed at the meeting a number of Belgian Homing Pigeon rings. There was also mention in the Fancy press during April that the Belgium system of marking squeakers with a metal ring on the leg at about 10 days old had worked well with Homers and that there was no reason why it should not with most fancy breeds.

This conference at Birmingham upset the Rev.W.F.Lumley very much. He aspired to be leader in things Columbarian, and he could see that if the ideas which were in the minds of those who met at Birmingham were to fructify he would be left among the also rans. This was not to be thought of. It could not be tolerated. Something had to be done. That something being an effort to upset the plan put forth by “the stock keeper party.”


At this time the Rev. W.F.Lumley was very friendly with Mr Alex Comyns, the Editor of “Poultry, Pigeons, Cage Birds and Rabbits,” and was one of the chief members of the outside staff of the pigeon side of the journal. Mr Coombe-Williams, another great Turbit breeder of that time, being also associated with the paper. Mr Lumley secured the support of Mr Comyns, Mr Coombe-Williams, Mr O.E.Cresswell, the famous fancier and naturalist of Morney Cross, Mr W.Alford, who was a solicitor at Crewkerne, and a leading breeder and exhibitor of Fantails, and Mr W.H.Mathias, who was the head of one of the business departments in the General Post Office at St.Martins-le-Grand, and who at that time lived at Thames Ditton, close by Mr H.P.Scatliff. Mr Mathias was one of Mr Lumley’s novices, he having bought largely from that gentleman. Mr Harrison-Weir, the world known naturalist, artist and author, was also one of Mr Lumley’s friends, the two being brought into close contact on the journal “ Poultry,” as it was generally known, although its title was as I have given above.

Mr Lumley imbued his friends with the idea that as nothing good could come from “the stock keeper party” it was essential that those who desired the welfare and purity of the pigeon Fancy should combine together and form a pigeon club which should govern the Fancy and put a stop to the malpractices which he alleged were in existence.


It was decided to form such a club, and a meeting for that purpose was held in the editorial office of “Poultry” which was situated in Lonsdale Chambers, 27 Chancery Lane, London. The meeting was held on Friday June 27th 1885, Mr Harrison Weir being in the chair. Mr Alex Comyns, who was at that time secretary of the Poultry Club, was elected secretary. Items for discussion were a formal formation of the “Pigeon Club”, provisional committee and officers, and draft rules. Full voting on these would be taken by new members, of which so far 53 names had been received. After postal voting had taken place by members of the “Pigeon Club” the following officers were elected, President - Harrison Weir, Vice President – Mr O.E.Cresswell, Treasurers – Messrs F.R.E.Branston and S.Brunton, Hon. Secretary – Mr A.Comyns. The committee consisted of 15 fanciers including Rev. W.F.Lumley. The AGM was called for Tuesday 6th October. At the AGM postal voting of officers and committee was ratified and it was agreed that pigeon shows could be held under Pigeon Club rules.  Thus within three months we had two pigeon clubs – the National Pigeon Club and the Pigeon Club.

Whilst the work of organising the second pigeon club was going on Mr Lumley was actively pursuing his vendetta against Mr Stephen Salter, and the feeling between the two parties became intense.

Messrs, Lumley and Salter were at that time both members of the National Peristeronic Society, and the matter of Mr Lumley’s charges against Mr Salter came before that body, and the upshot was that the NPS took the side of Mr Salter, and Mr Lumley had to leave the Society, and with him went some of his friends.

Those who were involved in the National Peristeronic Society upset of last year will, therefore, see that the break in which they were engaged was not the first in which leading men in the Fancy have been concerned.


After the conference at Birmingham in March Mr Allsop set to work to get out the stamps as he had been authorised, and early in June he finished his work. He announced the sending out of the stamps in a letter to the Fancy press, in which he said “The whole of the twenty two stamps have been delivered, although late for this season. I respectfully ask all secretaries to rigidly adhere to the rules adopted at the Marking Conference, a copy of which I have sent along with each stamp. It was also agreed upon that the stamps should be collected at the end of the season, and redistributed to each of the societies next spring under different numbers; therefore, I have asked each secretary to return their stamp to Mr P.H.Jones as soon as possible after their marking night in September.”


The societies to whom stamps were issued in England were the National Peristeronic Society, the City Columbarian Society ( our oldest pigeon society, and which only lapsed a few years since ), the Birmingham Columbarian Society, the Manchester Columbarian Society, the Gloucester Ornithological Society, the Oxford Ornithological Society, the Halifax Columbarian Society, the Essex Columbarian Society, the Liverpool National Columbarian Society, the Walsall Poultry & Pigeon Society, the Nottingham Fanciers Association, the Kingston Columbarian Society, the North of England ( Newcastle ) Poultry, Pigeon & Rabbit Association, the Reading Ornithological Society, the Stalybridge Columbarian Society, the York National Columbarian Society, the Oldham Columbarian Society, the Rochdale Columbarian Society, the London Columbarian Society, the Isle of Wight Homing Society, and in Scotland, the Scottish National Columbarian Society, and its branches at Edinburg ( headquarters ), Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Perth, Aberdeen, and Inverness.

Thus young British pigeons were first marked in 1885, and that by means of the flights being marked by a rubber stamp issued as a result of the Birmingham Conference, which was really the birth of what later became known as the Pigeon Marking Conference, and which until the formation of the National Pigeon Association had control of the rings issued to the pigeon Fancy of the United Kingdom.


A glance through the list of the societies previously mentioned reveals the fact that the pigeon fancy has changed considerably. Where today are the City C.S., the Gloucester O.S., the Halifax C.S., the Kingston C.S., the Reading O.S., the Stalybridge C.S., the York National C.S., the Oldham C.S., the Rochdale C.S., and the London C.S.? They are gone, as, I believe are the branches of the Scottish National C.S. which still has its headquarters in Edinburg.

It had been announced that the Pigeon Marking societies would hold a meeting at Birmingham show on November 30th, and that the National Pigeon Club would meet at the Crystal Palace a fortnight earlier. The Marking Conference to deal with the marking question only, and the National Pigeon Club to do its general business, amongst which on the agenda was a motion by Mr P.H.Jones, that the subject of marking young pigeons by rings should be considered.



This brought Mr Lumley into the arena again, and he placed on the agenda of the meeting of the Pigeon Club, to be held during the Palace show on 17th November, a similar resolution about marking young pigeons with metal rings, amongst other subjects such as refund of entries and disqualifications..

This meeting of the Pigeon Club was held in the office of Mr Alex Comyns, the secretary, at 27 Chancery Lane on 17th, when the Rev W.F.Lumley, proposed, and Mr H.W.Mathias seconded the following resolution “That should the present Marking Society abrogate its functions the Pigeon Club undertake the marking of pigeons by the Belgian method of marking rings.”

This was carried unanimously. This resolution shows the spirit in which it was conceived. Neither the National Pigeon Club, nor the societies which had adopted the stamps had announced that they were losing interest. On the contrary, both had the matter on the agendas of their meetings. Therefore, one can only characterise the action of the Pigeon Club as a piece of cheek and impudence, behind which, probably was an idea of upsetting the arrangements of the other bodies. Whatever was that motive it was scotched. The pigeon Fancy did not follow Mr Lumley and his friends over this matter. It preferred to stand by those who had first shown interest in the matter, who had already instituted a system of marking and had considered the question of rings.


The notice of the Pigeon Club appeared in the Fancy press on Nov 6th 1885, and on the following Friday, Nov 13th, Mr P.H.Jones had a letter in the papers, which said; “Seeing an announcement that the Pigeon Club, at its next meeting, proposes to discuss the subject of marking young pigeons by means of rings, I wish to be allowed to say that this matter is set down for the consideration at the meeting of the National Pigeon Club, to be held during the Crystal Palace show, and, further, that the idea is not a new one, as at the Conference of delegates held at Birmingham in March last, I, at the request of Mr S.Salter, suggested the use of rings in preference to marking the feathers.

I also distributed amongst the gentlemen present a dozen or more of the rings, which are manufactured in Belgium, and have been largely used during the present year by the members of the Isle of White Ornithological Society. I also have in my possession a young bird bearing one of these rings which will be submitted for examination at the Palace meeting, and may also be seen by visitors during the show.

I may say that at the Birmingham meeting I advocated the use of rings, but the delegates present thought they were hardly suitable for heavily leg feathered varieties, and accordingly adopted the stamping method of marking. I shall be glad if some uniform and satisfactory system of marking young birds can be decided on, from whatever body of fanciers it may emanate."

The meeting of the National Pigeon Club, held at the Palace show, expressed itself in favour of the marking being carried out by rings, but it was to the meeting of the marking societies to finally decide.


The meeting of the Marking societies was held at the White House Hotel, Birmingham, on Monday, November 30th 1885. The following gentlemen representing their respective societies were present; Messrs, Eastwood (Halifax ), Shipley ( Stalybridge ), Hopwood ( Rochdale ), Montgomery ( Manchester ), Maynard ( Ryde ), A.J.Barnes ( Gloucester ), Barrow ( Scottish National ), Allsop ( Birmingham ).

Mr Allsop proposed, and Mr Barnes seconded, that Mr Eastwood take the chair, and in opening the meeting Mr Eastwood said he was pleased to see so many good fanciers present willing to take part in the work already started. Although the marking had not proved the success anticipated at the late March meeting, he felt sure a deal of good had been done, and he sincerely hoped all would work for the good cause they had met for. He then asked Mr Allsop to read the correspondence. The latter gentleman read letters from Messrs, P.H.Jones and T.H.Stretch regretting their inability to attend through professional engagements.



Mr Barnes proposed and Mr Shipley seconded, and it was carried unanimously “That Messrs, Jones, Stretch, and Allsop be the Marking committee for the ensuing year.”

The question as to how the birds were to be marked was then freely discussed, and eventually Mr Barnes proposed, “That rings be adopted by the Marking societies, and that breeders of feather-legged birds have the option of either using the rings or having their birds stamped on the same conditions as adopted at the last meeting.”

Mr Montgomery seconded the same, and said he hoped that next season some breeders of feather-legged birds would give the rings a trial. He felt sure they would be no detriment whatever, as his uncle, the late Mr James Montgomery, one year alone bred over 400 Pouters, and they were all marked with a ring put round their leg, and they never found any breakage of the feathers.

It was strongly supported by Mr Maynard, and on being put to the vote was carried unanimously; in addition to which, Mr Allsop stated that out of fourteen letters received eight voted for rings.


Mr Eastwood then proposed, and Mr Maynard seconded, “That the Marking committee have three sizes of rings made, marked with year and numbers, and that they be ready to be issued to the Marking societies on January 11th, 1886, at 9/- per gross, or 1/- per dozen for smaller quantities, a different pattern to be used each year. The rings were to be issued by the Marking Conference or by the marking societies.

This date was thought to be full early by some, but Mr Eastwood explained that the flying fanciers were anxious for the ring, so that all their young birds will be guaranteed for their races. On the proposition being put to the vote it was carried unanimously.

Mr Allsop proposed, and Mr Hopwood seconded, and it was carried, “That another meeting of the Marking Conference should be held during the next Birmingham show week.”

Mr Montgomery proposed, and Mr Barnes seconded, a hearty vote of thanks to Mr Eastwood for the able manner in which he had fulfilled the duties of chairman. In response the chairman thanked all present for their support, and said he should leave no stone unturned to make a success of the work in hand, and congratulated the meeting on the unanimity of the members present.

Mr Shipley proposed, and Mr Maynard seconded, a vote of thanks to Mr Allsop for the part he had taken in the work, and in response Mr Allsop said he intended to make a success of this undertaking, and promised to get the rings made by the date named. He also would undertake to send them to the different Marking societies, and likewise forward them to any fancier on receipt of a postal order for the quantity he might require, and stating variety of birds required for.


From the facts which I have given during the past three weeks it will clearly be seen that the Rev. W.F.Lumley did not introduce the Pigeon Marking Ring to this country. He often claimed that he did, and many of his followers have likewise made the assertion.

In the article which I wrote on Mr Salter last January I said that the honour of introducing the Marking rings belonged to Mr Stephen Salter. The letter from Mr P.H.Jones, which I have quoted above, confirms this fact. Therefore, never be let it again be said that we owe the blessing of the marking ring to any other than the veteran Isle of White fancier, who even now, as he nears the full century, is just as fond of pigeons as he was in the days when he was the leading breeder of the South of England, especially of his much loved English Owls.