Clocking out after 50 years of flying 

Outgoing secretary Dave Brough. Times photo Wayne Martin

Pakuranga and Howick Racing Pigeon Club closes

By Marilyn J Bakker

Past and present members of the Pakuranga and Howick Racing Pigeon Club recently dined and raised a glass together at the Howick Club to acknowledge the closure of the iconic local racing pigeon club which began its life in 1968.


The club was first run in Basil Woolley’s garage on the Pakuranga Highway just opposite Millen Avenue, Pakuranga. When club secretary Dave Brough moved to a new home in Carole Crescent, the club followed and all the pigeon timing gear was soon ensconced in his garage.

Later Don Hunter hosted the club at his home; then a space was found near the Auckland Railway Station until club members moved to a shed behind the old Methodist Church on the Pakuranga Highway opposite the Howick Little Theatre. As membership grew, President Peter Longville endeavoured to get permission from the Howick Borough Council to build a purpose-built clubhouse then estimated at $3500, on reserve land round the Howick Community Centre.

After three years of constant negotiation and delays due to the status of reserves, costs had escalated to the point where it was no longer viable for the club to build.

When the Howick Cricket Club moved to Lloyd Elsmore Park, the Pakuranga and Howick Racing Pigeon Club moved into the vacated space.

On March 6, 1981, Howick Mayor Morrin Cooper formally opened the new clubrooms in the Howick Domain where the club remained until its closure this year.

“Flying racing pigeons has always been a challenging and enjoyable sport. Initially, birds with a successful racing history were imported from overseas until regulations prevented this and the borders were closed.

Flyers learnt how to get the best from their birds through breeding, research, training, and by trial and error,” said outgoing secretary, Dave Brough.

Changes in technology

One of the challenges for the club has been the change from manual clocks (to record the pigeons’ flight times) to digital clocks after the year 2000 as members gradually switched across.

As a visitor the club in the 90s, I enjoyed the drama of the hushed silence before the 8pm 1YA pip was heard and all pigeon fanciers set their clocks to this time. Individual racing pigeons had previously flown from the race start to their own lofts and their owner had removed each individual ring from the bird’s leg and inserted them in the manual clocks to record their flight time.

Now this would be printed off at the clubrooms. Then two hours would spin by as complex calculations were made to account for the variations of distance between individual lofts.

Gradually names, times and calculations were written up on the blackboard until at last the winners emerged. What excitement! Somehow it seemed to me that a little bit of magic was lost with the change to digital recording.

Auckland Federation Races are set as far south to Invercargill and Christchurch to Auckland.

You may ask how can racing pigeons fly such long distances (often for the first time) and still find their way home?

In 2003, Dr Michael Walker, named as a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, found that homing pigeons have a sixth sense, magnetism, achieved when their bodies make tiny deposits of a mineral called magnetite which they can use to trace the lines of the earth’s magnetic field.

Over the years, the most sought-after pigeon trophy was for the Great Australasian Futurity Stakes, which was first established in 1954 and run by the Auckland Federation.

Local club member Dave Brough is the only New Zealand flyer ever to have won this trophy two consecutive years in a row. Now this talented flyer will move to the Manukau Club along with the few remaining active members.

“It is sad the club has closed after so many successful years. Unfortunately, it has become difficult to encourage younger members to join up. Some of our older members have had to close their lofts due to failing health. However, if anyone is interested in racing pigeons they can email me,” Dave concluded.

Past Club Presidents Digby Rieman, Don Hunter, Peter Warnes, Nick Bakker, Tony Thum, Clint Van de Mescht

Past Club Secretaries George Marshall , Dave Capener, Dave Carlile, Dave Brough (held position for almost 50 years)

Past Club Flyers Allen Lee, Archer Steve, Ashby Bill, Aucamp Lou, Bakker Nick, Berry Jim, Bettersworth Ralph, Blades Mark, Bremer Igo, Brough Dave, Bull Anthony, Bunker Dave, Campbell Neville, Capener Dave, Carlile Dave, Christianson Peter, Clarkson Bill, Coker Carl, Conneybeer John, Curtis Alf, Dawe Mark, Diachuk Jim, Dodds Harry, Driver Dave, Duke Alf, Faulkner Ross, Flay Des, Glover Peter, Goldsbro Don, Goode Tom, Gould Alan, Groenewegan Steven, Gu John, Harlow Ray, Hunter Don, Johnson Howard, Johnson Neville, Jury Viv, Keith Stan, Kelman Ian, Knight Wally, Lindsay Frank, Littlejohn Glenn, Longsville Peter, Luff Howard, Marshall George, Martin Trevor, McGilp Fergos, Miles Grant, Milton Bob, Muncaster Russell, Munden Peter, O’Neil Joe, Owens John, Parish Harry, Parker Barry, Piggot Lester, Poulsen Tony, Redwood Athol, Rieman Digby, Robertson Graham, Schaeffer Bill, Schultez Herbert, Skidmore Steven, Smith Roger, Taylor Darren, Taylor Terry, Thompson Bill, Thomson Norm, Thum Tony, Tucker Ron, Van de Mescht Clint, Wanto Sugi, Warnes Peter, Webb Cliff, Whitmore Peter, Wilson Mike, Woodiwiss Graham, Woods Nick, Woolley Basil