Public is flocking to find stolen pigeons after £2k reward, says owner
A pigeon fancier who had 50 of his top birds worth thousands of pounds stolen has spoken of being overwhelmed with the response from the public to his plea to try and recover them.
Just one pigeon so far has made it back home.
Co Antrim man Harry McCloy has yet to give his promised £2,000 reward to whoever could provide him with information towards the recovery of his prized racing flock, which were worth £8,000.
Last night he told the Belfast Telegraph that one of his pigeons flew into his back garden yesterday morning as he entered a few of his remaining birds in a race to France this weekend.
However, a question mark still remains on whether Mr McCloy has the heart to rebuild his racing stock for next year's racing season.
"I wouldn't have thought people would have been concerned about a few old homing pigeons, but I can't believe all the calls I've received," said the Cullybackey man.
"I must have got calls from over 30 people from Ahoghill, Ballygowan and as far as south Armagh who have spotted pigeons in their gardens."
Mr McCloy and his family are still coming to terms with the theft of the birds, which had been a fixture in their lives for years. He is improving security at the loft as the theft happened when the family were away at their Portrush holiday home 10 days ago.
"We hadn't been away for the last four weeks for a night, so it would make you think that perhaps the thieves were keeping an eye on the place," said the father-of-three.
"I still can't believe that it happened. It's only been the last few nights that my 13-year-old daughter hasn't been waking up at night worried at hearing sounds."
Mr McCloy was so affected by the theft of his birds that he thought he couldn't face racing any of his remaining pigeons this summer.
However, after receiving phone calls from fanciers all over the UK offering him pigeons and help, he has had a change of heart.
"It does give me a bit of a lift that people I've never met before are ringing me and asking how they can help," he said.
"I wasn't going to race the rest of the season, but I have sent a few birds out for a race to France and as there are only a few races left in the season, I might do a few more."
Mr McCloy, a member of Cullybackey Homing Pigeon Club, has not replaced any of the all-Ireland champion racing pigeons that were stolen.
He says that it would take him another three or four years to rebuild his racing team to what it had been.
He said: "I've kept and raced pigeons since I was a lad; it's a sport to me, just something I've always done."
He added: "You spend a lot of time and money on them to be successful.
"It will take me years to get the team back again."
Mr McCloy is being supported by homing pigeon clubs throughout Northern Ireland, which are going out to check on birds that various callers have left details about over the course of the last week.
What to look for
The prized racing champion pigeons belonging to Harry McCloy are known as Black Pied pigeons or Red Checkered pigeons.
Most of his were black with a little white on them.
All have a distinctive red electronic tag on their right legs (facing inwards).
Known as an Electric Timing System, the ETS monitors the time it takes for the racing pigeon to complete the race and will have Mr McCloy's contact number on it.