To be invited to judge the championship at the National Show must be the ambition of every judge. There are fanciers who do not like to judge, preferring to show, even turning down the chance to judge their own breed club show. These men are few, however, and it would appear from the success of the Poultry Club’s Judges Panel programme that many fanciers do have the ambition to become a panel A judge and one day have the privilege and honour of being invited to select the Show Champion at the National.
I had been one of four judges who had selected the top bird at Crystal Palace at the Centenary event in 1977 along with Bert Henderson, Rex Woods, and the late Bill Bell. That day was a thrill but having the sole responsibility is something quite different. I can honestly say that I had been looking forward to the day for the whole year. Going through the doors on the Saturday morning I was keenly aware that I was going to make one person in the entire show very happy and I was thankful that there were the judging tests to attend to first. These kept me busy until lunch, then I started on my first task of the day, selecting the best trio.
I had kept away from the Championship Row not wishing to see anything until I was called. It is a great thrill to walk to the pens and begin the first look at what awaits. I was very conscious of the crowd watching me. I had with me my old Victorian judging stick, a veteran of many shows and a much prized possession, I even had £100 offered for it afterwards but I am not sure if the gentleman was serious.
And so to the birds. As usual there were a few birds that were outclassed but I found a really good selection of various breeds. I began a process of rejection along the line and narrowed them down to just four top class birds, a white Silkie hen, a white Leghorn pullet, a white Cochin cockerel large fowl, and a light Sussex cockerel. Any of the four would have made a worthy champion. Then the real work began, no bird is perfect and if you look hard enough you will find something not quite right.
The light Sussex bantam cockerel was presented in immaculate condition and pen trained to perfection. Of the four it had more areas to find fault with but I could find little wrong with it and it became the Champion.
Judging is a very personal thing and we are all supposed to have our favourites. I admit to having mine but for those to win they have to be extra special. I feel sure that any judge in the room that day would have had the four birds I chose to consider.
The judging of the this National Championship was not the most difficult I have done. To judge 150 plus birds of many different breeds as an all-round judge is much more demanding especially when the show secretary wishes to open the show early. However, as a job this is the top one with the most prestige and is a great honour. I found it a humbling experience.
There are those who say that it must be easy because all the birds are breed champions and therefore you cannot make a mistake but how wrong they are. The task requires experience, confidence, and knowledge, that you will have gained long before you are asked and this will stand you in good stead. Lady luck only belongs to the winning owner whose bird becomes champion out of an entry of around 6000.
Adapted from ‘Judging the Championship - a Personal View’, by Derek Alsop, in the Poultry Club Yearbook.
Please note: PCGB Council has taken note of member requests and from 1st October 2010 for a 12 month trial, at a Championship Show, judges other than the Championship judge will be able to show in sections they are not judging.