Here’s a photo of three legends of Ballymena & District with a total of 20 x 1st Open wins between them while racing with the NIPA and INFC.
Johnston Eagleson & Sons are former NIPA and Northern Ireland fancier’s of the year and have topped the NIPA Open eight times including 1st Open Arklow OB 1987, 1st Open Arklow OB 1999, 1st Open Bude 3 Bird Championship 1988, 1st Open Bude 1998, 1st Open Penzance 1993, 1st Open Penzance OB Classic 1993, 1st Open Nipa Guernsey OB National 1987 and 1st Open Nipa Lamballe OB National 2001. Racing with the INFC they also won 1st Open Penzance YB National with “Precious Memories” in 1997. The loft’s also won 2 x 1st Opens in 1989 while racing in the mid week Northern Ireland Channel Fed at a time when the races were held on a Wednesday and liberation of the birds was late afternoon.
Bertie Blair has won a total of 7x 1st NIPA Opens including 1st Open Talbenny YB National with “Faith” in 2019, 1st Open OB Carnsore Point 2002, 1st Open Tramore YB 1994, 1st Open Tramore YB 1998 and 3 x 1st Open Mullingar Area Libs.
Martin Graham has won 3x 1st Open INFC National’s, 1st Open Sennen Cove Yearling National in 2018 with “Denman”, 1st Open Penzance Yearling National in 2023 with “Dens Lass” and 1st Open Penzance YB National in 2023 with “Sammy’s Girl”. Racing with the NIPA Martin won 1st Open Skibbereen OB Inland National in 2004 with “Sunnyhill Lass” and Martin is also the breeder of a 1st Open Galway Classic One Loft Race winner in 2015 plus £50,000 Euros.
The three lofts also came close on a number of occasions to adding more major wins with Johnston placed 2nd Open INFC Sennen Cove Yearling National in 1989 with “Linda Ann” winning £2562 and two years later 2nd Open INFC Penzance YB National with “Valda” winning £1500 & Car. Bertie was 2nd Open NIPA Haverford YB National in 1974 with “Doreen’s Choice” and 2nd Open INFC Penzance YB National in 2011 and Martin won 2nd Open NIPA OB National from Lamballe in 2003 with “Champion Siobhan”.
It will be interesting to see if the trio can add anymore 1st Opens to their tallies in the years to come.
Taken From Article Written By Mervyn Eagleson, Ballymena