“GLASGOW’S doo men are idiosyncratic pigeon-fanciers who have evolved a strange sport of their own, worlds apart from the formalities of pigeon racing”.

Thus did we introduce, in September 1984, a report on the city’s doo men by Ian Sutherland (with splendid photographs by Edward Jones of, above, Alex Collins at Craigend and, right, Alex Sinclair, at Hutchesontown).

“Flying the doos operates almost entirely outside the law, with (apart from one area), virtually no form of organisation or rule-book,” Sutherland began. “It relies instead on an extensive folklore. In Glasgow and Greenock it has survived economic crisis and industrial change, endured urban demolition and population relocation, unaltered in most of its basic appearances and practices.

“And yet, it remains a world apart – so far unexplored by sociologists, political activists, journalists or even the public agencies concerned with urban change and development”.

Sutherland’s article, which was due to appear in the October edition of New Socialist magazine, detailed some of the “unwritten rules” that had evolved to govern “this strange sport”, and described the degree of emotional involvement in it as “very considerable”. Men would spend every waking hour “at the doos”; the practice also gave vent to a wide range of skills and satisfaction ... There’s a sense of being part of an underground fraternity”.

The sport is still hugely popular today, of course. Ged O’Brien’s book Played in Glasgow says the process of rearing the birds, maintaining the lofts, of watching and waiting – “is a long game, a game of patience. But it is also one that offers the doo man that precious commodity: a quiet, intimate and lofty haven from the follies of mankind on the ground below”.

Read more: Herald Diary