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Memories of Millwall Poultry Club by George Donovan

A few years ago, I wrote a post about the Millwall Poultry Club which was based on an article that was published by the Picture Post in 1939.
It was a fascinating article about the club that used to meet at the L.C.C. Mens’s Evening Institute, in Glengall Grove. Leading lights of the club were President, Mr W. Powell-Owen, Charlie Sieloff, Dave Hedley, Mr Dave Love, Mr W White and Mr S Hayward.

Team of Pullets and trophies. left to right Mr Budd, Borough councillor, Mr W White steeplejack, Mr S Hayward railway shunter,
Mr Dave Love Jnr plater, Mr C Sieloff labourer,Mr Dave Hedley lorry driver.

It was a pleasant surprise to be recently contacted by George Donovan who remembers some of the people involved and was interested in raising poultry himself. George very kindly wrote down some of his memories for us to enjoy

Mr George Hedley washing with soap

My wife and I once lived in Stebondale Street Millwall when we married [Christ Church] in 1948, then on to here in Essex via Prestons Road in Poplar and Dagenham. When we lived in the prefab in Stebondale Street, the rent book was held by my Mother-in Law, and it was with her permission that I built the Chicken run from the floor-boards of the bombed out pub a few doors down. I remember lifting the cork lino up in the upstairs club room, and they were as new as when first laid. My wife’s brother, George Mahoney who lived across the road in Parsonage Street, encouraged my interest in poultry keeping, for it was his father-in-law Charlie Sieloff who lived with them that was the principle. One of the pictures I saw on the web was Charlie in his backyard. He was keen on Bantam’s and a breed known as Wyandotte’s.

In 1948, My wife’s mother, a widow, agreed that we could live with her in her council rented Pre-Fab until we were able to get accommodation of our own, and we were happy to do this. Having an interest in poultry it wasn’t too long before I was able to build a chicken run in the back garden and housed it with 4 ‘point of lay’ birds. Within weeks the birds began to earn their keep and fresh eggs were often on the menu. All was going well for many months until it became noticeable clear that egg production was beginning to become a little erratic and there didn’t appear to be any obvious reason for this. Being a member of the local Poultry club I approached the ‘instructor’ who after some deliberation concluded that the birds were being troubled at night by ‘Red Mite’. The cure was that I should go to the local chemist and purchase some ‘Tincture of Nicotine’ and just before the birds went to roost paint their perch with the liquid so that when the birds perched the heat of their bodies would vaporise the solution which in turn would impregnate their feathers killing off the mite. Armed with this remedy I went to the chemists (Timothy Whites who had a shop in Crisp Street) only to be told that I needed a ‘Certificate to Purchase’ to be obtained from the local Police Station as Nicotine was a registered poison. That didn’t seem to be any problem, so along to the local ‘nick’ I went and presented myself to this ruddy faced walrus moustached desk sergeant, who having got hold of the poison book, began the formalities of asking the necessary whys and therefore’s.

The instructor Mr W Powell – Owen

All seemed to be going well until we got to the address part.
“And where do you live sir?
And is this your own property—No, Its council owned and rented.
And are you the tenant sir—No, I live with my Mother-in Law”.
I can see that man’s face now as he put down the pen and stood back off his stool, “Your living with your Mother-in Law and you want to buy poison——!!!!!!!!.

Some years ago I met up with this gentleman who had a small museum over in Kent. He used to write for the Poultry World magazine and was a lecturer on poultry at some college. He’s a renowned Poultry judge too. His name is Fred Hams. He knew Charlie Sieloff and Powell-Owen.

Many thanks to George for his memories and some insight into a now lost world of poultry keeping, although if you want to see some rare breeds of poultry, you can find them at Mudchute Farm and Park.


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