British pigeon off course

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 March, 1997, 12:00am

A homing pigeon has turned up in Shanghai five years after it set off in a local race in Britain.

Pigeon fancier George Gamble had forgotten about the bird, which failed to return to its loft in the northeast of England from a race, until a fax message arrived saying it was alive and well, but 10,000 kilometres away in Shanghai.

But the bird had not strayed off course and flown all the way to China. It flew no further than a North Sea oil rig.

There, someone picked it up and eventually it was passed on to a Chinese sailor who took it home and presented it to pigeon fancier Shen Xu, whose curiosity was aroused.

From information on its leg ring, Ms Shen was able to fax the North of England Homing Union to inquire about the pigeon and this was how Mr Gamble, 50, discovered the bird's fate.

At his loft in Billingham, Teesside, he said: 'I'd forgotten about it and thought it was lost. I've heard of pigeons ending up in Holland and the Czech Republic, but never that far.' His racing partner, Paul Longstaff, said: 'When we got the fax from Shanghai, we thought it was a wind-up.

'Pigeon racing is a big sport all over the world and particularly in China and Thailand.' The pair will not be asking for the bird to be returned but were pleased it was safe and sound.