A pigeon fancier’s flight of fancy has raised an incredible £134,000 for Hope House Children’s Hospices.

Retired joiner Dave Hughes, who is 81 next month, is hoping to hit the £150,000 as he holds his final fundraising event before he retires and heads home to roost.

Mr Hughes, of Rhos, who began keeping racing pigeons as a teenager, has organised a pigeon auction every year for the past two decades with all proceeds going to Hope House Children’s Hospices.

But Mr Hughes says he feels he’s getting too old now and is going to take a well deserved rest although he hopes another Wrexham pigeon fancier will take up the mantle and continue the feathered fundraising tradition he’s created.

He said: “I had the idea years ago and we did hold an auction for a couple of other charities. But my brother, Gwilym, and I decided we’d do an auction for Hope House with the aim of raising £500. But on the night we raised £11,500 so kept on with the job.

The Leader:

“This year’s auction will take place at Hafod Colliery Social Club in Rhos on Saturday, March 16 and we then have a charity night to present the cheque to Hope House on Friday, March 22 at the same venue.

“It would be nice to break the £150,000 barrier but if we finish with an overall total of more than £140,000 I’ll be very, very happy.

“It isn’t just me, there are lot of people involved and pigeon fanciers from across the UK donate young birds for the auction. It takes a fair bit of work and there are too many people to thank personally for their help over the years.

“But my four daughters Amanda, Tracey, Nicola and Alison have told me in no uncertain terms that’s it’s time I called it a day. So this will be my last auction, it’s been a lot of fun and I’m really pleased at the support we have had from pigeon fanciers the world over.

“We even had a young bird donated from Her Majesty the Queen’s personal flock for the first or second auction. That’s how popular it has become. We have the same two auctioneers, John Rimmer and Brian Maguire, who volunteer and come over from Liverpool every year to actually do the auction.”

The Leader:

Mr Hughes, who lost his wife Sheila six years ago, says looking after his flock of around 50 racing pigeons is a lot of hard work but he has an ‘apprentice’ who is learning the ropes.

He said: “I worked in partnership with my brother, Gwilym, until he passed away a few years back. The only time I haven’t kept pigeons was when I had to go and do my National Service.

“Gwilym and I won three national titles and we have won hundreds of prizes and other titles over the years. We fly birds from France, Belgium and across the UK. Races from France can be 600 miles but the Wrexham Federation only fly to a maximum of 516.

“We do lose birds, more than we used to. There are more birds of prey around now that will take them and people do shoot them too. I joined Rhosllanerchrugog Social Flying Club in 1953 and I’m still an active member.”

He added: “I’d like to think the money we have raised over the years has made a huge difference to a lot of children and families.

The Leader:

“And I’d like to be able to thank everyone personally but there are just too many to name. I also like to recognise every pigeon fancier and breeder that has donated young birds over the years.

“We put an appeal in British Homing World magazine and the response we get is amazing. And local people around Rhos help by collecting birds; it’s a team effort really.

“Maybe someone will pick up the mantle and carry the auctions on, I hope so. I’ve loved every minute of it and although I’m sad this will be my last year, I know we couldn’t have done much more to help what is a fantastic cause.”

Hope House Children’s Hospice area fundraiser Catrin Dowdeswell says the support of Dave Hughes and his pigeon racing friends over the years has been amazing and the amount of money raised remarkable.

She said: “It really is incredible and we can’t thank Dave enough. It’s a family affair as his daughters prepare and serve up pie and peas to people attending the auction.

“We are so grateful and to have raised £134,000 is just incredible, whatever Dave and his friends raise this year will just be a bonus. We certainly appreciate everything he, and his team of dedicated helpers, have done.”

The Leader:

She added: “Sadly, every week, three local families face their biggest fear and their child dies. Hope House Children’s Hospices cannot stop children dying but we can stop families suffering on their own.

“When they are facing the most devastating loss of their lives we must be there. We need to reach every child, mum, dad, sister and brother and to do this we need to raise more money so we can offer even more services.

“We need to raise in excess of £6.3m a year to support all the children and families we help from across North and Mid Wales, Shropshire and parts of Cheshire.

“That’s why it’s so important we have as much help as possible from communities and businesses across the region.”

To find out more about Hope House Children’s Hospices please visit www.hopehouse.org.uk

The Leader: