Photo: Sandy in his impressive birdroom
Scots fancies, Lizards, north Dutch: those breeds are keeping Sandy Innes occupied now, but his career in the fancy has embraced much more. Words and photos: Donald Skinner-Reid
SANDY Innes of Grangemouth will be well known to many birdkeepers in the UK. Secretary of the Scottish Lizard Canary Association (SLCA), president of the Scots Fancy Canary Specialist Club (SFCSC) and Grangemouth Horticultural Society, as well as a husband (of 48 years), father and grandfather: Sandy is a prominent figure wherever he goes and is more than ably supported by wife, Mary. “I’m lucky she’d have me!” he says.
I’ve known Sandy for some years now through the SFCSC and always enjoy a visit to his beautifully kept birdroom. “I built it as a retirement present to myself,” Sandy explains. Hailing from Bridge of Don in Aberdeenshire, Sandy moved to Grangemouth – which is a 30 minutes’ drive west of Edinburgh – for work.
“I started keeping bantams at the age of 13,” he says. “I’ve kept pet-type budgies, Java sparrows and Bengalese, lots of foreign finches, fancy pigeons and even British birds. I had house sparrows: cinnamons and dusky whites. Sparrows are a wonderful aviary bird. They relate to one another and play together. You can watch them for hours. But they are hopeless in a show cage.”
Sandy got into Lizards through a fellow fancier, Bill Wallace. “He gave me some, which I put in the aviary, and they bred,” he adds. “They were bigger birds than you see nowadays. I had Norwich for muling, too, so I was well known for the wide variety of birds I kept.”
At the SLCA club show at New Lanark 13 years ago, Sandy’s reputation for keeping a wide selection of birds led Allan Rundell to give Sandy two pairs of Scots fancies. This was part of Allan’s lifelong mission to get the Scots back on the canary map.
“I wasn’t that keen on them to start with,” he explains, “but they grew on me. I didn’t take to their slimness and position, since I wasn’t used to posture canaries. I thought they were weird.”
However, that was 13 years ago and alongside his winning stud of Lizards, there is now a healthy group of equally award-winning Scots fancies and some north Dutch frills. The north Dutch are a relatively recent arrival, being the result of a swap. “They are quite aggressive birds,” says Sandy and I would agree with him from my one season with them.
“My white Scots fancies come from stock imported from the Netherlands some years back and they are yellow-feathered whites,” he adds. That icy, clear white is stunning, especially set beside some very good yellows.
Sandy’s stock cages are all dark, natural wood. “I think that a bird won’t breed as well in a white cage as in a darker one,” he explains. “Birds nest in dark places and so my thinking is that the dark colour makes a more comfortable environment for them.”
The birdroom is double glazed, though the windows are open all year round. Sandy doesn’t believe in extra lighting: “This is my dimmer,” he says, turning on a tiny bedside lamp. Due to a recent shortage of his favourite seed mix, Sandy is feeding the birds plain canary and they were all looking brilliant on it. He hangs training cages from the stock cages to encourage the birds into show cages and will, in a few weeks, house some of the Scots show team in cages hanging from the birdroom ceiling. “The motion of the cages hanging gets the birds into position,” he comments.
Sandy’s birdroom is at the bottom of his beautiful garden. As a horticulturalist the garden is exactly what you’d expect from him. Family man, bird man and gardener – Sandy is an all-round success.
Donald Skinner-Reid is the treasurer of the Scots Fancy Canary Specialist Club.
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