PIGEON man Eric Laidler is on a roll – and it has landed him a world title.
Eric, who grew up in Cullercoats in North Tyneside, is the North East’s very own world champion after being declared the winner of the World Fly Cup Competition, which involves training “tumbling” or “rolling” pigeons.
Eric, 60, beat off competition from other pigeon rolling rivals in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Europe and the Balkans.
The sport began with the selective breeding of pigeons which “tumbled” in mid air, performing a backward somersault.
Over the years the birds have been bred to fly at around 500ft and then roll, during which they execute a series of high-speed head-over-tail falling somersaults.
The flocks of 20 roller pigeons are called kits and the aim is to have a number of the birds rolling at the same time.
“When they roll it is a backward somersault which is so fast you can’t see the individual somersaults,” said Eric. “It is like watching a ball spinning in the air,” said Eric, who started his hobby by keeping racing pigeons as a boy.
“You have to have at least five pigeons rolling at the same time in a synchronised fashion. They have to work together.”
When the judge ran the rule over Eric’s birds, 16 rolled at the same time.
“That is always a thrill to see,” said Eric, who worked as a shipyard plumber on Tyneside before becoming a fisherman.
“It’s great to have won and be the world champion roller flyer. I didn’t expect it as anything can happen during the judging.”
Each country or region has its own qualifying contests to produce the final competitors. Eric was judged at his loft in the small Danish fishing town of Hvidesande. He settled in Denmark after spending three months in the town while the engine of the fishing boat was being repaired, during which he met a local girl and went on to work as a fitter, building wind turbines.
But Eric visits Cullercoats on a regular basis to see his father Jackie, and brothers and sister.
The convention is for the world champion to become next year’s judge, and that will see Eric travelling, all expenses paid, across the world for two and a half months.
“I will be going to just about every state in America and Canada, and then on to Denmark, Holland, England and Ireland, Serbia, Croatia, South Africa and Australia,” said Eric.
“It will be great to meet all the competitors.”