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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

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