The illustrations are of a two-page letter, beautifully written, but are in a somewhat charred and dilapidated state. The letter sets out the betting procedure and the logistics for a ‘pigeon fly match’ on 27th January 1873 between Thomas Garrott and Walter Brown of Northampton from Olney Railway Station to, presumably, their home addresses in Northampton.
Ron Bennett from Hardingstone has kindly donated the letter to the Olney and District Historical Society. Ron is a member of the Northampton Town and District (Pigeon) Flying Club.
The two Northampton public houses mentioned in the letter no longer exist. It is believed that the Spotted Dog was situated near the bottom of Grafton Street and the Old House at Home in Wellingborough Road not far from Abington Park. It is interesting to note that the Northampton-Olney-Bedford railway line was only opened in 1872.
A ‘best attempt’ transcript of the letter follows:
A pigeon fly Match between Walter Brown and Thomas Garrott for two pounds a side. Ten shillings a side now down on December 30/72 in the Hands of Mike Perrin ‘Spotted Dog’ Crane Street. The next deposit of Ten shillings a side to be staked in the Hands of George Brown at ‘The Old House at Home’ and the next deposit of Ten shillings a side to be staked in the Hands of Michael Perrin ‘Spotted Dog’. And the final deposit of Ten shillings a side to be staked in the Hands of George Brown at ‘The Old House at Home’ on January 20 1873. George Brown to be the final stake holder. Walter Brown bird to fly to 32 New Town Road and Thomas Garrott bird to fly to 25 Crane St. The birds are to fly from Olney Station on 27 day of January 1873. The first bird to be threw up at eleven o’clock on the 27 Jan 1873 in the Morning. Walter Brown bird to be the first bird threw up at Eleven o’clock on the said day, and Thomas Garrott bird to be threw up at Twelve o’clock on the said day and Thomas Garrott bird to have one minute taken off the time coming in. Walter Brown bird to be given one minute. The quickest home wins. The money to be staked between the Hours of 8 to 10 pm and the birds to be timed from threwing up to reaching the referee. Either party not agreeing to these rules to forfeit the Money staked. The bird to be marked by the opposite party. The referee to be approved on the last staking night.