PRIMARY pupils are celebrating after a pigeon named after their East Lancashire school won a national competition.

Pigeon fancier Alan Lewis, who is a member of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, entered one of his pigeons on behalf of Rishton Methodist Primary School.

The five-month-old bird, called ‘Rishton Methodist’, was released from Nantwich in Cheshire, and flew 72 miles to Cheltenham racing against 891 other birds.

It was the first school pigeon home and finished fourth, just 28 seconds behind the winner.

The win helped raise £200 for the school.

Alan Lewis, 76, from Great Harwood, said: “I’m really pleased with the result and that it was able to raise a bit of money for the school.”

Headteacher Paul Whaling said: “It’s fantastic. I would like to say a big thank you to Alan for registering the bird in our name.

“The children really enjoyed him bringing the birds into the school.”

Joyce Green, chair of the Burnley Premier Homing Society, said: “This is a great idea to get young people involved in the sport. Every pigeon club recognises that we need to get young people involved, the age profile of members is going up.

“I actually wrote to the Queen a few years ago and asked for one of her pigeons so I could go into schools.

“We are keen to go into schools and get people involved in the sport. I would like to have a race where the children see them start, we then explain the history of pigeons, the part they played in the war and the fact the Queen has many at Sandringham, and then once that is done they see the pigeons return and then see the results.”

If you want to get involved in pigeon racing, visit the Burnley Premier Homing Society website.

Flying squad

  • Pigeons played an important role during both World Wars in carrying messages across enemy lines, and one named Commando, won the Victoria Cross for making three trips to occupied France.
  • In the days before telephones, pigeons were used to fly results back from Ewood Park to the Lancashire Telegraph office.
  • More than 200 pigeons are kept by the Queen at the Sandringham estate. The Royal Family was given racing pigeons in 1886 by King Leopold II from Belgium.
  • Competing pigeons are specially trained and conditioned for races that vary in distance for approximately to 100km to 1000km.
  • Pigeon racing was an unofficial sport in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, but it never made it permanently on to the schedule.