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This pigeon clock from the collection was made by Boddy and Ridewood a company based in Scarborough who have supplied pigeon equipment since 1933.

Pigeons have been used since ancient times as carriers of messages and emblems of peace. The pigeon was noted as a special species of bird as they would always return to their home. At the beginning of the eighteenth century these carrier pigeons were used for sport and competition. Pigeon racing has been recorded as early as 1806. During the First World War pigeons played a vital role with over 100,000 being used to send messages.

Originally, wing marks were stamped onto a pigeon’s wing to differentiate it from others. After a race when the pigeon arrived home to its owners (fanciers) they would take the bird to the club, the first there was announced the winner. This proved to be unfair as some fanciers lived further away from the club so the competition was imbalanced. Later, fanciers used telegraphs as they could go to local post offices. Again, this proved unfair to some competitors.

People initiated the use of pocket watches but this was unreliable between fanciers. The first timing apparatus was built by Emery Van den Bossche from Oudenaarde in Belgium, his first pigeon clock was built around 1885. A rubber ring with a unique identification number was attached to the bird’s leg before the race. The number was recorded and the clock started. When the bird returned, the fancier would remove the ring and slot it into the clock, the time it was slotted into the clock would be recorded. This time stamp would be taken to the club, meaning a fair system was in place for all competitors. Pigeon clocks were not accepted in England until around 1900 but by 1910 they were used across all of Europe. Fanciers even bought their own clocks.

A modern development in pigeon racing which started in the 1990’s was the electronic timing method. Meaning the pigeon fancier does not have to be there when the pigeon arrives home. The bird’s arrival is recorded automatically, the band around the bird’s leg is fitted with a chip and is scanned as the bird arrives into the pigeon loft. This method means time is not lost in removing the band and placing it into the clock.

This clock was used by a pigeon fancier in Brotton.