The Countryman's Weekly

Ferreting & Lurchers

Ferreting & Lurchers
October 16
08:08 2019

Flat caps, Whippets, pigeons and ferrets!

By Dave Sleight.

WHEN I toured the British Isles as a travelling showman I worked showgrounds from as far north as Orkney to the southern island of Guernsey meeting hundreds of people with some form of interest in the countryside.

My accent is a sure giveaway to where I am based and I was often asked: “Do you live near Emmerdale or Aidensfield?” Of course these are fictional villages in the north of Yorkshire. I explained I hailed from the south of the county and a fellow showman added: “That’s the land of flat caps, Whippets, racing pigeons and ferrets!” I laughed and replied: “I hope that’s not meant in derogatory terms.” However, seeing as much of my act included Whippets, racing pigeons and ferrets I could hardly deny the claim.

In truth, my part of Yorkshire was once made up of pit villages and surrounding allotments which were littered with brightly-painted pigeon lofts where colliers, and men from related industries, would sit and wait patiently for the return of their homing pigeons on race day. As the first race bird appeared on the horizon a chorus of rattling corn tins and calls of encouragement would ring out.

Traditional racing pigeons which were transported 100 miles or so before being released to race home were indeed commonplace, but lesser-known breeds which originated in and around the Yorkshire coalfields were little heard of throughout the rest of the country.




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