I arrived home from school at about 4 pm one afternoon to find that my pigeons had been stolen, and one of the new chicks had been killed and was dead on the floor of the cage.
I was 10 at the time. It was 1952 and we were living at 44 Canning Street, North Melbourne.
I loved my pigeons. I had five excellent pairs and they all were good breeders. My grandfather Bill Coyle had been a pigeon man for years; he used to race some of his birds, and he had started me off with a blue medina hen and a lovely blue checker cock.
Barry Rankin, Eca (short for Eric) Daniells and Chooka Burr and myself all had good pigeons. We would spend hours inspecting each other’s birds and watching them fly. We knew each other’s flocks and could tell them from a single glance up into the sky.
Well, this day was a black day for me. I had spent a couple of years putting this small group of five pairs together, and now they were gone. I was devastated. Mum had been down the street doing some shopping when it happened, so she could not help. I was in tears.
Dad got home about 5:30 in the evening. When I told him what had happened, he thought for a moment and said, ‘Come on son, we’ll get them back.’
How on earth could he do this? I thought to myself. Dad told mum not to keep our tea because we could be late, and so at about six o’clock we headed off in whatever car (it would have been old) dad had at the time. I should remember the model, but I just can’t.
We went up to Brougham Street, and dad went in and spoke to somebody. I remember that this was a boarding house. A huge place that still stands on the corner. After another couple of calls — by now it was dark — we drove down O’Shaughnessy Street and pulled up near a lane.
Dad said, ‘You wait here son, I’ll be back in a few minutes.’ He disappeared up a back lane and about ten minutes later, he came out with a couple of cardboard boxes. When he got in the car he showed me what was in the boxes. It was my birds… the whole ten of them.
He told me that the bloke in the house he went into had paid ten bob for them. ‘Ten bob!’ I said, ‘They’re worth quids.’
By now it was about nine o’clock. I had my birds back and we went home for dinner.
What a hero my dad was to me that night! But that was my dad. What was important to me was very important to him! My dad had a big investment in the outcome of that venture. It was not an investment of dollars and sense, but of the happiness of a boy who would one day grow up to be a father too.
To this day I do not know how he knew what to do to find my birds, and it is too late to ask now — he died twenty-four years ago.
Ordinary blokes can be great dads and heroes to their children.
[Photo by Duy Hoang