Raconteur was born in 1952 and banded WAC.52.930 ( the prefix WAC represents the Western Australian Combine)

Raconteur was bred and raced by the late Fred Bentley of South Perth and who raced in the Rivervale Homing Club. The Name Raconteur was thought to be coined by the purchasers Messrs Alf Gray and Frank Bunter and is named after a famous race horse of the era. Raconteur was sire and grand-sire of many fine long distance pigeons throughout Western Australia over the more than 40 years since he was raced. Raconteur is credited with winning 1st at Zanthus 740km and 1st Rawlinna 900km and one of his cards is shown here.

The following was researched and reported by the late Albert L Sampson in 1979 and is repeated here information.

"RACONTEUR" Dark Grizzle Cock 930 WAC 52 Bred by the late F. Bentley 10 Riverview St, South Perth.

The original idea was to enquire into just what the famous pigeon Raconteur did do and what was his breeding etc, and compile a short story that would interest the pigeon racing fraternity. Once started, it soon became evident that this history could not be confined to just Raconteur, who was named after the noted racehorse, only that more time and space would have to be devoted to this research into this outstanding pigeon's forebears and his progeny.

From the outset I would like to stress, most strongly, that this is not a complete record, as such a thing does not exist and this would apply whether reference is being made to performances by a particular bird, or by a particular person and the quoting of progeny bred off a particular bird or pair does not imply that that particular pigeon or pigeons was all that was bred off it. There are probably other good performances of Raconteur descendants that I am not aware of and which I would be grateful to hear about together with any other Bentley or Low information. For instance - who borrowed some of Mr Alf Low's records off Mr Brian Kent and did not return them?

A few years ago, the late Mr F Bentley's daughter, Mrs Raven of Subiaco handed me what records and trophies were in her possession. It is unfortunate that Mr Bentley did not keep better records which would have helped this story considerably. We are indebted to Mr Chris Spivey for some of the Bentley story, particularly that relating to the Red Grizzle Cock 303 MPRC 33 and Mr Alf Low's attempt to buy him back. Mr Spivey was a fellow club member with Mr Fred Bentley in the South Suburban Pigeon Racing Club (Est. 1933) and they lived near each other and were friends. Incidently, Mr Spivey is now 89. On the 14.12.79 he had an appointment at Subiaco to have his yearly driving test, which is compulsory at that age. He passed his test again. Truly a remarkable man and always a gentleman.

Raconteur was bred in 1952 and lived for 19 years. He won a single bird race (1953) then he won the 1953 Young Bird Championship in the Rivervale Homing Club (Est. 1930) from Zanthus 460 miles, velocity 1187ypm, being the only bird on the day. Mr Bentley also finished 3rd 1144ypm and 4th 1137ypm. Truly an exceptional performance. The certificate covering the Zanthus race sighted and signed by B.J. Murtha and R.W. Ellard, President and Secretary, resectively. Mr Chris Spivey advises that Mr Bentley was so impressed with the performance of Raconteur that he decided after the Zanthus race and in view of his impeccable breeding that he would not risk flying Raconteur again.

The performances of Raconteur's descendants bear witness to the soundness of that decision.

Breeding of Raconteur Dark Grizzle Cock 930 WAC 52

From Black Chequer Cock 1185 and White Grizzle Hen 235. 1185 from 435 and 458 (possibly bred 1942). 435 from Red Grizzle Cock 303 MPRC 33 and Blue Chequer Pied Hen 515 MPRC 32. Raconteur is said to be a grandson of Mr Alf Low's BBC 321 'Forrest King', who won 1st from Forrest (1200km) two years in succession and was 2nd on the third attempt. You will have noticed no breeding particulars have been given against 458 or the White Grizzle Hen 235. This is simply because of the inability to locate any specific information. It is probably through these two hens that the Forrest King 321 line and that of his brother 322 (also flown Forrest) came through. It is in this respect that I am grateful to Messrs A Gray and C Spivey also J Burge for this information.

When Fred Bentley started off in pigeons he did it the right way. In other words, he went to a top flyer named A (Alf) M Low, whose name is renowned in Western Australia and synonymous with good pigeons. Alf Low came from Ballarat in Victoria and the main base he brought with him, or obtained later were the Knoblauch and O'Brien Harrison and Grooter.

In the first purchase from Alf Low he bought four pairs, including the Red Grizzle Cock 303 MPRC 33 and the Blue Chequer Pied Hen 515 MPRC 32.

Particular attention is drawn to this pair of pigeon for the following reasons:

1.     Low was to regret having sold the Red Grizzle Cock 303 to Bentley as he was a key pigeon. Low endeavoured to purchase 303 back from Bentley and went as high as twenty pounds but Bentley refused. Twenty pounds in the 1930's was a very high figure. (Editor's note. For perspective, an advertised holiday package in 1938 was asking five pounds to travel by train from Perth to Adelaide, South Australia, and return (4,000km round trip) including a week's hotel accommodation in Adelaide, taxis to and from the hotel, and a full program of scenic tours, including Mt Lofty, Morialta Falls, Waterfall Gully, Torrens Gorge, Victor Harbour etc.)

2.     The only record in Mr Bentley's papers that can be called "comprehensive" and that is an overstatement, related to this pair, Viz: RGC 303 and BCPH 515. They were a wonderful pair of producers; producing winners year after year from 1934 onwards to 1942 or 1943, with the possible exception of 1936. Then progeny excelled from Merredin to Zanthus and Laverton. No less than fourteen (14) individual birds bred off them are shown as winning 1st, 2nd or 3rd prizes. A 1st Combine '100' in 1943 was won with one from 303 when paired to 653.

Is it any wonder that Low tried to purchase RGC 303 back. Who wouldn't?

The Forrest King BBC 321 side of the family is of particular interest and fascination. Low raced two BBC 321 and 322. They were nestmate brothers and both flew Forrest three times. 321, who became known as Forrest King, won two Forrest races in succession. On the third attempt, he was beaten by a grizzle hen (Grooter) owned by George Hay. Low bought this grizzle hen and mated her to 321. As a point of interest, Bentley also bought off Low a BGH from BBC 322 brother to Forrest King and out of a BGH. Mr Low called the 'Old Grizzle Hen', which he brought with him from Ballarat. Incidently, Mr Jack Burge had a BBC off the same pair and this cock paired to a BKCP.H. which came down off the Harrison hen known as the Yarcowie Hen, which was one of the short faced Harrisons and the pair produced Jack Burge's noted pigeon "Clean Sweep", who was a DCPC.788 bred in 1937 which won several races and produced a lot of good pigeons to win from many points including Rawlinna and Forrest. (Yarcowie Hen won 1st Fed from Yarcowie South Aust. To Melbourne if memory serves me correctly - date wise that would be in the early 1930's.

Bentley's birds were reponsible for many long distance pigeons. Bentley developed the viewpoint that the Low pigeons were the best and eventually concentrated around this breeding.

Now, back to Raconteur. Mr Alf Gray bought Rac, which abbreviation I will use from hereon, in 1958 for $25, which was a very good price then, mainly because of his (Rac's) close bloodline association to his own family, which were descendants of 321 and 322 and which are represented in his present day family. The base pigeons of Mr Gray's also came from Mr Low's as did those of Mr Frank Bunter.

An infection of the eye caused Rac to go blind in one eye. It is thought the infection could have been caused by a pine needle in the nest pricking the eye. The late Dr Guy Wallace removed the eye. The other cocks in the pen harassed Rac (after the loss of the eye) so much that Alf sold Rac to Frank Bunter and Tom Ives, because Frank had a separate pen where Rac could be housed on his own.

Rac produced well when mated to Frank Bunter's good Red Chequer Hen which won a 1st and three seconds in Club Single Bird races and 3rd Federation from Rawlinna. (The RCH breeding is of interest also. On the sires side Strawberry Mealy - Sion ex Bentley. Dam of RCH was a Blue Chequer Hen from Black Chequer Cock (Richmond Savage Barker containing some of the '74' line as well) and a Low Harrison Hen. A sister to the Mealy Sion Hen mentioned was dam of Alf Gray's Forrest winner.

Rac and the RCH produced:

1)      A RCC which was a winner from Walkaway and from Meckering in the following year. The RCC was sire of Bunter's winner of a Fremantle Gold Ring Race and a hen to fly two 550 mile races being 3rd one year and 4th the next. He was also sire of the BCC that was an excellent pool cock for Mr Bunter,

2)      A Blue Grizzle Hen Tom Ives had was 2nd in a Wannoo Invitation and she also had other placings.

Frank Bunter exchanged a daughter of Rac for a White Grizzle Hen bred from a brother to Rac with Mr A Pearce. (The late A Pearce bought a brother to Rac from the late Mr Fred Bentley when it was a fledgling for five pounds and had to go back for it when it was old enough to fend for itself.) This niece of Rac was mated to Rac to produce approximately six birds. From this mating came a Blue Grizzle Cock which produced Bunter's Blue Grizzle Hen which won 1st Carnarvon Combine. (The Carnarvon Hen in turn produced Bunter's 2nd Federation Young Bird Derby). The same mating, viz Rac to niece produced 4th placing in a Fremantle Gold Ring Race and a Black Chequer Cock bred a Carnarvon winner for the well known fancier Mr C L (Lance) Williams when he was flying with the Rivervale Homing Club and the same BCC also bred for Frank Bunter a 2nd prize in other shorter races.

Mr Dougall Gillespie used a son of Rac from Tom Ives. This was a Black Chequer Cock which was paired to a Blue Bar Hen bred by Alf Gray. This BBH also contained the Raconteur blood line and that of Mr Gray's Forrest winner which contained some of the same Sion (Bentley) blood line as appeared in Bunter's RCH that was mated to Rac. A BCH off this pair was 2nd Federation from Forrest for D Gillespie. This particular race was a tough one - there was only two birds in race time. It was won by Mr Bert Friend, Fremantle Pigeon Racing Club, with Mr Gillespie taking 2nd. A great performance. The following year, Mr Gillepsie flew in the Dampier Invitation (1300km) Race organised by the North Coast members. Dougall timed in a half-brother to the 2nd Forrest, both birds from the son of Rac, to win the Dampier race by 1 hour 25 minutes. Birds were liberated at 7.0am Friday, winner was timed just before 7.0am Sunday morning.

A Blue Grizzle Cock, grandson of Rac, given to G Treffone by Mr Tom Ives won a Mullewa and a Souther Cross race and as a two year old, won a Meekatharra race and all pools. This cock passed to Mr Alf Harrison (Southern Suburbs Club) and it is understood he bred off him with considerable success.

Mr Leo Sanders (FPRC) was presented with a son of Rac by Mr A Gray. This son, Black Chequer Cock 11121 bred Leo's Blue Bar Hen that won 1st Onslow Invitation (1200km) and she in turn bred a Vlue Bar Hen that was 3rd Dampier Invitation.

Mr Vern Hookham (FPRC) started his loft on the Harrison-Grooters that he purchased off Bentley and/or Chris Spivey. This family is still dominant in the Hookham lofts today.

Last year Mr Bunter produced, through line breeding, a pigeon almost identical to Raconteur. It will be tried at stock. Let us hope that it will be an outstanding success. If we are to preserve some of these old strains, it is vital to line breed through the various lines in an endeavour to preserve the best characteristics to ensure the continuity and dominance of the strain.

Bentley's Caris Cup Winner, Blue Bar Hen 244ssc 37. For the benefit of those interested, the following information is listed in Mr Bentley's records:

Blue Bar Hen SSC 244 37

2nd Souther Cross, 3rd Kalgoorlie, 1st Caris Cup Kalgoorlie, flew Forrest 1938. Dam of Reid's 3rd Combine Derby 1942, Tates 2nd Ladies Bracelet 1941 and MPRC 133 Norseman 1st Subiaco Invitation 1943.

I wish to acknowledge with thanks the assistance and information given by Messrs A Gray, C Spivey, J G Burge, F W Bunter, Tom Ives, D Gillespie and Leo Sanders. It was through their co-operation this bit of history has been made possible.

A L Sampson (deceased)
Past President and Life Member
The Pigeon Racing Federation of Western Australia (Inc)

Who purchased Fred Bentley's pigeons in 1958?

Is there anyone that you know on the lists and can any of these birds be traced? Note the stationery, Fred engaged in his usual recording style, with names written on a Peters Ice Cream (WA) Limited Memorandum to Shareholders - notice of share issue.