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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Saturday, 19 January, 2002, 19:07 GMT
Royal pigeons in show auction
Up to 30,000 fanciers have flocked to Blackpool
The Queen has boosted a charity pigeon auction by donating two of her own birds.

A pigeon fancier herself, she asked her royal loft manager to take the birds to the auction in Blackpool, Lancashire.

The sale at the weekend took place as part of the annual British Homing World Show.

Now in its 30th year, the pigeon world's equivalent of "Crufts" attracts up to 30,000 people from around the world.

Fanciers can buy anything at the show from a scraper to a mahogany pigeon loft, which costs 18,000

Peter Bryant, Royal Pigeon Racing Association
Organised by the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA), more than 100,000 has been donated to charity from the organisation's fundraising in the last year.

Peter Bryant, the RPRAs general manager, told BBC News Online the majority of the cash will be spent on research into the disease Pigeon Fancier's Lung.

"Around 60,000 has been given to researchers at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow," he said.

"The disease is a bit like asbestosis - when pigeons are kept in good condition, they give off a "bloom", which is a fine dust.

"If fanciers go into their loft without a mask on, they will take it into their lungs.

"Without us raising money there would, unfortunately, be no research done. It's not really something you can get NHS treatment for."

The Queen, a lifelong pigeon fancier
The Queen is patron of the RPRA
The RPRA has also become the largest and longest-serving donor to the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, for which 375,000 has been raised during the last 30 years.

The royal pigeon loft manager was also a judge in the "Supreme Champion" class, one of 33 of the event.

Cumbria "fancier" Alan Spedding's pigeon "Carol's Choice" was selected as the winner in the class. He named his bird after his wife.

Around 3,000 pigeons were put on display at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, along with more than 180 trade stands.

Mr Bryant continued: "Fanciers can buy anything from a scraper for cleaning out their pigeon's homes, to a mahogany loft, about 10 metres in length, which costs 18,000."

Pigeon fancying attracts a variety of people, including include professors and solicitors, as well as Duncan Ferguson of Everton FC and soccer manager Gerry Francis.

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See also:

25 Jul 01 | UK
Pigeon's flap of luxury
20 Apr 01 | Europe
Police swoop on pigeon fanciers
19 Jan 01 | UK
In defence of pigeons
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