National Peristeronic Society,
175 Years of Pigeon Excellence
National Peristeronic Society, 175 Years of Pigeon Excellence
2022 is the 175th anniversary of the National Peristeronic Society. In these times it is all change and modern life seems to sweep away the past to be long forgotten but there is one pigeon club keeping the true tradition of pigeon keeping , breeding and showing almost exactly as it was when the club formed and has a direct link to the far off days in 1847 when the club, then known as the Philo Peristeron Society was formed. Philo means ‘lover of’ and although the members still loved their rare pigeons it changed its name to the National Peristeronic Society when it amalgamated with the National Columbarian Society in 1868 as both shared mostly the same members and also the same show venue at the Freemasons Tavern, Great Queen Street, London.
What is it that makes the National Peristeronic Society have such a strong link to the past ? The club was formed by gentlemen of higher standing in London life than the ordinary working class pigeon fanciers we associate pigeons with both then and today. The club had strict guidelines for joining, the prospective member must not make a living as a pigeon dealer, had to be proposed and seconded and if two 2 members disagreed then the prospective member was not accepted, this is still practised. Today prospective members must have been members of The National Pigeon Association for 10 years continuously and of good character in that time. Meetings were held in London venues, starting in October through to March on alternate Tuesdays commencing sharp at 7pm. These meetings usually included a meal before the birds were admired by those attending. The Club held a grand public exhibition on the anniversary of the club forming, as close to the 4th January as possible, at the Freemasons Hall, Great Queen Street , London between the hours of 1pm and 4 pm, entry by ticket only. In the month of July a show was held for young pigeons to be admired. The pigeons would have changed hands for large sums of money by those keen to have the best.
The Peristeronic Society used to have very ornate, large, mahogany finished show pens which could house up to 6 birds but today only have 2 remaining intact after a famous fire at the Crystal Palace destroyed almost all plus rare copies of pigeon literature. Wisely insurance had been taken out on the pens and new ones were made but then during the blitz in the second world war these were also lost in a bombing raid. There were some pens after this but the very large size and storage difficulties meant that they were sold off to members for around £5 each however the Peristeronic Society, to this day, still have classes for 3 pairs in one large cage, all be it they are in wire metal cages. They also hold pair and 2 pair classes at the British Pigeon Show Society show in Barnsley, the Reading Gold Cup Show and the East of England Show at Newark, all under the patronage of the Peristeronic Society and what a eye catching display they make as they usually have the most varieties of the pigeon breeds entered. These breeds are almost unchanged since 1847 so a Victorian pigeon man would recognise his beloved breed, such as the English Short Faced Tumblers , Dragoons and Pouters to name but a few. Ornate silver trophies, with famous fanciers from the old days names engraved on them are still awarded by most of the pigeon clubs today. It is quite a feeling to hold a trophy which the famous fanciers also held over 100 years ago.
Tradition and loyalty to the Crown are also very important to the club, speeches at the annual dinner, now held in December during the British Show Pigeon Society weekend currently in South Yorkshire area, still keep this tradition given by the President and Secretary. The tradition of Passing of the Port decanter is kept, always passed in a clock wise direction around the table. The decanter must not touch the table on the way around for fear of terrible bad luck to the person responsible. Once glasses are charged and everybody is standing the President declares ‘’God Save the Queen ‘’ of course this year it will be “God Save the King”. Invited guests are welcomed to the dinner as part of the speeches and one of the guests is chosen to reply on behalf of the invited guests to the members.
The Peristeronic clubs original members were top fanciers of the time and this is still the case with the membership of today and often these members will have the best prepared exhibits at the shows around the country. Current membership stands at approximately 68, the members are much more representative of the general population of our times.
Without doubt the most famous member of the Peristeronic Society is Charles Darwin who visited pigeon meetings and shows in his eagerness to learn as much about the many pigeon breeds as possible ,especially the differences between each breed on show. We know he visited one such meeting of the society on Tuesday 8th January 1856 and probably others before and after. He was elected a member of the society on 14th October 1856, I do not know who proposed and seconded him to the society but would guess it was two of the following :- Tegetmeir ; Bult; President at the time Esquilant; W W Haynes; Jones or Harrison Weir. Charles Darwin would have paid his subscription to the Treasurer Mr W W Hayne, consisting of £1 to join and 1 Guinea (£1 pound one shilling) per year membership, making it quite expensive for the ordinary working class pigeon fanciers to even consider. However for Charles Darwin it must have been money well spent to gain the tremendous wealth of knowledge the members possessed and Darwin would have learnt much about the individuality of the pigeon breeds.
The National Peristeronic Society celebrated its 150 year anniversary at the Earl of Doncaster Hotel on the 6th December 1997. One of the guests of honour was Randal Keynes, as many of you will already know, Randal is the great, great grandson of Charles Darwin. I know Randal very well and like Darwin he is very enthusiastic about fancy pigeons and their importance in Darwin’s theories. Randal gave a fantastic, vivid speech on the importance to Charles Darwin of pigeons for his work on Origin of Species published in 1859, the great help the Peristeronic Society gave him with his thirst for as much knowledge as he could gain from the top fanciers and experts in their breeds of the day.
The Peristeronic Society 175th Anniversary Dinner will be held at Wortley Hall, Near Sheffield on Saturday 3rd December 2022. I will be there soaking up the unique atmosphere of this truly unique Victorian Pigeon Club.
John Ross Member of National Peristeronic Society
Web Site and content by John Ross