Friend’s tribute to famous Sunderland pigeon man

Jacky and Maurice Surtees with a copy of "The Homing Instinct" film about their lives as pigeon men. Pictured in 2008.
Jacky and Maurice Surtees with a copy of "The Homing Instinct" film about their lives as pigeon men. Pictured in 2008.
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“I AM going to be lost without him - we were always together.”

Pigeon fancier Maurice Surtees today paid tribute to his best pal and fellow cree campaigner Jacky Surtees, who has lost his battle with lung cancer.

Dad-of-seven Jacky, 84, was known to everyone in the community of Ryhope and hundreds turned out to pay their respects at his funeral service in St Paul’s Church.

A life-long pigeon racer, Jacky was one of a small group of people who fought to save their crees, including the one belonging to his best pal, Maurice, which gained fame as the world’s only pigeon allotment with listed status.

Jacky’s life with pigeons also saw him starring in two films produced around the working class sport, Like Father, a drama, and Homing Instinct, a documentary with pal Maurice.

Maurice, who was also distantly related to retired miner Jacky, said: “I knew Jacky for over 60 years and I am absolutely devastated.

“We used to be with each other down the allotments every day. I am going to be lost without him.

“Everyone thought we were brothers because we were always together.

“Jacky was a lovely lad and everybody thought the world of him.

“He was a true gent, he never swore and he didn’t drink either.”

Jacky’s eldest son, Robert, said his dad became ill with lung cancer about 20 years ago and doctors only gave him six months to live.

The 58-year-old said: “It was a bit of a miracle really, because the lung started to mend itself and dad got better.”

However, about 18 months ago the cancer returned and sadly this time Jacky lost his fight against the disease.

Robert said: “Dad absolutely loved Ryhope and the people. Every time he came home out of hospital he would say he was back in God’s own land.”

After a stint in St Benedict’s Hospice, Jacky was allowed home and died within three hours surrounded by his family in the place he loved.

Robert said: “My dad was a gentleman. I have not only lost my dad, but also a good friend, he will be sadly missed.”

But he said the family, which include’s Jacky’s widow, Marge, 73, their seven children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, are taking great comfort in the hundreds of messages of sympathy they have had.

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