The Platinum Blonde Pigeon
Fernley, not his real name, yet everyone calls and knows him as Fernley. Master of Hydrogen peroxide
Cycling along the River Clyde cycling out of Glasgow. Though the derelict industrial landscape that shaped this town and underpins its current identity one noticed shed like towers. These structures too tall to be garden sheds, too makeshift to be electrical transistor stations are purpose build spaces of some sorts. What are these huts? Who is using them? For what purpose?
It turns out these are pigeon lofts holding highly regarded collections of “hens” and “cocks” Pigeon. Breeding these birds was immensely popular amongst male industrial workers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Fernley Is dying his pigeons’ feathers from a Payne grey to a bright blond. “Just as your misses get her hair done for the night out, I make this hen looking great” he accounts. Using Hydrogen peroxide, he achieves the most desirable “platinum blonde” around.
Decolourizes, the pigment in the feathers, is loaded with danger as the birds can suffer the loss of feathers, swollen skin or lose sight if the bleach enters their eyes. If any of these occurs precious jewel in the collection of a fancier or it dies, Fernley is in danger accusations can escalate to fights, killing his birds, fistfights and even stabbings he tells me. “Once a consumer try to set fire to his pigeon loft at night,” he tells me. “The quest for superior beauty at the end of it, however, makes the worth risk”.
The desire for the authentic blond, bridges from the bird to the human species, Nordic gentlemen favouring of the blond type is well documented through the ages. Famously natural blond and beautiful Rosalie Duthé, born in France in the mid-eighteenth century and raised in a convent, She allegedly once turned the head of the affluent English financier 3rd Earl of Egremont, to such desire that he kidnapped her and brought her back to England, only to end up in bankruptcy and madness. Although this blond tale is probably a myth, blondes do not seem to have lost any of their popularity since. Research suggests that blondes feature more often on magazine covers than any other type. Asserting the notion, that we humans are attracted to the exotic. Most minorities (only 2% of humankind are natural blond) are both reviled and revered by society.
Rock Pigeons, the ancient relatives of racing pigeons, nonetheless, come only in shades of grey. Not blond, the desire of the “pigeon fancying” keepers must be achieved by using aggressive chemicals. The delicate timing and dosage make Fernley’s dying feather skills invaluable in the peruse of the perfect Platinum Blonde. Praised and well thought after he is a master in turning grey feathers into a beautiful and desirable fledgeling, His flock can be recognised from far away flying in the sky. “A young hen is jealously guarded by her cock”.
Pigeon breeding was immensely popular amongst male industrial workers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Pigeon breeding and racing offered not only the thrills and excitement but also the more sedate and intellectual rewards of spawning and rearing the birds. The pigeon loft was and is a masculine enclave and a retreat from the pressures of domestic life for some, although for others it was an opportunity to share time with their family. For some working-class men, pigeons are a vent to open displays of emotion, contrasted uncomfortably with the more suppressed relations that workers presented to their spouses and children.
Successful pigeon racers indeed won both self-esteem and the respect of their peers. Successful “pigeon fancying” is spoken of in revered tones years after their death. Pigeon thus a route to a more positive self-identification that is too often denied in unbecoming work that followed the downfall of male defining manual professions in the retired heavy industry.
Please contact me if you have added information and thoughts on these initial thoughts for this project.
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