OUR FEATURED MEMBER. Bob Iddon.
Robert (Bob) Iddon was born in 1922 in Hesketh Bank, a small village, south of the River Ribble between Preston and Southport. He grew up on Shore Road, the only child of a market gardener, in a rural environment which led him to acquire many skills amongst which were ferreting for rabbits, fishing and wildfowling on the marshes close to his home. He learned how to hatch, rear, pluck and dress birds or all sorts. His earliest recollection of pigeons was wandering about as a toddler with one of his father’s aged racing pigeons as a pet in a basket. Later as a boy, he was to keep Red Long Faced Tumblers and play his part as a fast sprinting lad in ‘running birds in’ before pigeon clocks were owned by all fanciers! His father, John, a veteran of WWI, injured in Northern France, was a keen racing pigeon fancier with much cross-channel success, even as far as San Sebastian in Spain. John Iddon ensured his young son played his part in the local church community, ensured he grew up to appreciate the natural world around him and also ensured his son benefited from the opportunity of a scholarship to the local grammar school at Hutton, just south of Preston. Devoting himself to his studies by the light of an oil-lamp, often having to resist the temptation to join the local lads who found distraction elsewhere, Bob emerged from grammar school with a Higher School Certificate and a place at Chester Teacher Training College, renowned for its sporting opportunities. Bob enjoyed his role as left wing in the college and home village football teams, played cricket, competed in athletics, learned how to row on the River Dee and improved fitness via the many open-air Physical Training drills of the day – long before one went down the Gym!
WWII intervened and Bob duly signed up for naval training, heading off to HMS Glendower in North Wales from where he was transferred to Plymouth to be deployed on a South Atlantic destroyer, escorting convoy ships between Durban and Freetown in South Africa. He was then to be commissioned as First Lieutenant on a Navel vessel in the Greek Islands, dropping off members of the Special Boat Service, ‘raiders by night’ attacking German positions. Under camouflage nets by day, up limestone creeks in the Aegean and on stealth missions by night, Bob learned the discipline of military life and operations. He lived with the ever-present threat of being detected by and torpedoed by German U-boats or gunned down by spotter planes. Finishing on mine sweeping duties, Bob returned at the end of the war to his home village of Hesketh Bank, demobbed and ready for the world of work in a school in Lostock Hall, near Preston. Life resumed to normality, as much as it can after active service – Bob played football again, helped on the land when not in the classroom and found life-long friendship and love with Sally his bride to be in 1949. He continued his association with the rural life and established himself as village Headteacher of New Longton C of E Primary School and Treasurer of the local church. He developed a menagerie of birds in his highly manicured garden. He moved into breeding pheasants, canaries and British birds in his huge aviaries and in the world of poultry resumed his interest in hard and soft feather with Old English Game and Light Sussex bantams. Highly experienced in all aspects of aviculture, Bob encouraged his young son David to learn the art of hatching eggs under broodies, to learn how to feed, water and maintain the conditions of welfare which encouraged successful reproduction. Free-flying garden fantails were added to the collection to bring further interest to the garden, beyond the aviaries, sheds, flower-beds, rockeries, greenhouse and fish and duck ponds!
The association with Modenas began by chance, when one weekend on a visit to his maternal grandparents’ farm, young David spotted a white and blue coloured pigeon in the farmyard. With years of experience of birds, Bob had no problem in attracting the strange stray pigeon into the barn where it was duly caught. Grandma intervened, moralising to young David that it was inappropriate to keep somebody else’s lost bird, especially since it had an identification ring! The six year old future Modena fancier accepted that attempts should be made to trace the owner. Therein lies the beginning of a life-time association for Bob and David with Modenas and more precisely the Blue Gazzi. A local basket-maker emerged as the owner, who, inspired by the young lad’s keen interest in the bird, promptly offered him the mate and off David went, back to his father’s bird filled garden with a breeding pair of Blue Gazzi Modenas! Originally free-flying and adorning the lawn, the Modenas were eventually confined to a shed and outdoor flight, once serious breeding for exhibition began. Stock was acquired from notable local breeders, in particular Lance Ashcroft. Bob and David became regulars at Southport and District Fancy Pigeon shows, run by Ken Blundell and many Summer agricultural Shows, eventually moving on to join the round of Championship shows. For more than fifty years they have bred and shown Modenas, having different colours intermittently in both Gazzi and Schietti but remaining ever loyal to the start-up colour, the Blue Gazzi.
When David moved to Wolverhampton in 1984, Bob continued breeding from half the stock but birds were always shown under the name of ‘D J Iddon’ at Bob’s insistence, although many winners, including the first NPA Champion a 1986 Blue Gazzi cock, emerged from Bob’s nest pans.
A familiar figure around the shows, often marking up the catalogue for future reference or chatting to breeders and friends, Bob has been recognised recently by the NMC for his dedication to the breeding and development of the Modena by being honoured with Life Membership.
In retirement Bob continued with his interest in gardening and bird-keeping, well known for his colourful collection of roller canaries which he enjoyed for their song in the garden rather than breeding for show. He retained and developed a productive Modena breeding programme. In his ninetieth year in 2012, Bob has down-sized by giving up with the canaries but has retained three breeding pairs of Gazzi Modenas, which maintains his life-long link with the breeding of birds.
It is his positive attitude to life, his active interest in others, especially his interest in his expanding extended family and that daily trip down the garden to see to the birds which have kept him going these past 12 years since the passing of Sally his soul-mate from that nest they built together. Sally played her part in supporting the bird fanciers by visiting summer shows, packing the lunch boxes, repairing or making linings for baskets, above all tolerating the invasion of young or sick birds by the Rayburn stove and accepting to watch television with Light Sussex bantams drying by the open fire in the lounge. You have to be in it to win it but being in it together always helps!
Now an avid fan of year-round televised cricket on Sky, Bob celebrates his 90th birthday in August 2012. We wish him many happy returns and, God willing, we hope he can stride on to a glorious ‘century’, waving his bat and doffing his cap to his supporters on the boundary ropes, they who applaud already his life-long association with bird-keeping, amongst so much else in life. A rich and fulfilled life of which the Modena pigeon has undoubtedly played a significant part, after a chance encounter in a farmyard!
Long may this Modena story continue…….with more winners to come from NMC life-member, Bob Iddon.
From our Midlands Reporter