I suppose that it must have been in late 1957 that I first felt the need of a bird as a pet, before that my brother and I had only cats as pets although our great wish was to own a dog, but that's a story in itself. How I came to buy a budgerigar is another story which I won't bore you with at this time.
Suffice it to say that a young cobalt cock was the choice which was made Having no television and very few distractions we set about taming, training, and teaching him to talk. This was a very enjoyable activity for us and Pal blossomed on the amount of attention he was receiving.
The idea to breed budgies had entered my thoughts, and those of a friend from the same street, but the facilities and space were not available as the small back yard was taken up with an conservatory converted into a kitchen to make room for an extra bedroom, a small rockery garden, and a 5' x 5' workshed for our invalid uncle, so my thoughts had to be put on hold . Circumstances had changed in early 1958 in that my uncle no longer lived with us, and my friend, accompanied by myself, had by then bought a pair of birds.
I decided that the time had also come for me to make a move so my brother came with me to a local fancier in answer to an advert in the local paper and I purchased a light green cock for 12/6d (62.5 p a tea chest from the local Home and Colonial store , a piece of wire netting , and dowelling as a perch. We had made a start, for thus the partnership was formed my brother being, as a schoolboy, a non-financing part of the enterprise.
When our father came home from work and we showed him our purchases his first reaction after dismay, was to tell us that it wasn't fair to the bird to be kept in these conditions and his second was to offer to make us a suitable cage (which he did at his earliest opportunity) and told us we could keep the bird in the work shed which was by then not used very often . An opaline light green hen was acquired for 10 shillings (50 p) in an old nest box which we used . Now it was up to the birds . All we had to do was watch and wait. My friend up the street had no problems. He had a pair of blues in a 4' long x 1' high x 9" wide cage which he kept in the bedroom shared with his brothers and bred a round of 3 or 4 chicks . So if he found it so easy, we felt that for us it was going to be a "doddle"!.
No such luck . Having read and being advised that these birds are gregarious in nature , we bought a double breeding cage and another pair of birds. We managed to get them to produce clear eggs. Does this ring any bells with you? Being a little stubborn , though disappointed we pressed on and bought other birds. Eventually, we managed to rear 5 chicks from the original pair which dropped their feathers on leaving the box .
After a while most of the flights had started to grow back and we took them to a pet shop and although the pet shop owner told us they were "French-moulters" he bought them for Five shillings (25p) for the cock and Two shillings and sixpence for the hens (87.5p) for the 5 which we spent on seed.
While buying birds from a local pet breeder, one of them asked us if we had joined the Sunderland Budgerigar Society and when we said that we hadn't heard of it, gave us details of where and when they met .
We thus joined Sunderland Budgerigar Society in October 1958 soon making acquaintances and friends. As it happened Jack Robertson, who fairly quickly became our very good friend which was the start of us doing things with the help and experience of other fanciers who told us to join the Budgerigar Society which we did in time to receive our rings for 1959.
I do not intend to discuss any role we played in the administration of the fancy in this short piece, although it has formed a large part of our lives.
Rather, a few words introducing our gradual growth as Budgerigar Breeders and Exhibitors of course had no knowledge of what makes a good exhibition bird but we heard the other members of Sunderland BS talking about shows and wanted to expand our interest along those lines.
Time plays tricks on one's memory but I believe that the first show to make an impression on us was in 1960 when we showed our 4or 6 birds at a small show of about 200 birds in Easington Lane ( a 'pit village' 10 miles south of Sunderland ). The only transport available to us was the district bus service which meant carrying the cages in two triple boxes on to the bus to town and transfer to another bus to get us to the destination.
Most of the shows were small as most fanciers did not have their own transport and were reliant on the railway to take birds from their home station to be delivered to the show hall and after the show pick them up again for the return journey .The shows in those days were held over two days on a Friday and Saturday which were also restricting for fanciers who were working (but somehow, they seemed to manage -- commitment?).
The reason that this show holds good memories is that it was the first time we exhibited and did not come last in every class! The bug had taken hold and it was the next logical step to ask one of the more senior fancier which birds would be worth keeping to breed birds able to compete well.
The most experienced member of the club at that time was T. N (Norman) Quenet, who duly inspected our stock and advised us to keep only 1 of our 50 or 60 birds: to this day I believe he should have told us to part with that one also. (Having been born with the century, Norman died in 1987 and is still missed, for his sense of fun and wisdom --DH)
In June of 1960, our father died, and by December of 1962, we had moved to Angrove Gardens, Norman having told us that a house in his street was for sale. Another well known local fancier, George Gray was, coincidentally moving from Durham to Paignton, where he had purchased a small hotel, and therefore had to sell his birds and equipment. By the time we heard about it, we had missed the birds (as we still do in such circumstances) but the shed remained and we agreed to buy it for £30.
Most people will know that the winter of 1962/63 was one of the harshest of the 20th century. We were fortunate that we had managed to get the birdroom carried into the back garden shortly after it was delivered, and there it lay on the back lawn when the snow came. It actually lay under snow for over two months, during which time we had to excavate the ground ready to erect it (there was a large mound of all manner of spoil, including what became a rockery when re-sited, down that side of the garden when we moved in).
This we achieved by March and within a short time, our best ever breeding season to that date was under way. We bred 75 chicks in the next three months or so, and two of those youngsters gave us our first section wins . Another great landmark !
By the Summer of 1963, we had the outside flights, including one completely new, in position and had given the aviary a new coat of paint, in complete contrast to its original green colour. At the same time, we were busy getting the garden into shape, so it was later still in the year before we had a hard path laid from the house to the aviary
Our history in the fancy continues on the "Our Aviary" page