This history is a condensed version of articles published in the Gamecock
magazine written by Mr. Gus Frithiof and a cocker from South Africa.
The Birchens were known in England as the British Shawls for their
beautiful flow of hackle over their shoulders, and as the Tribe in Ireland.
In breeding they were Herrisford or O'Callaghan fowl, which were supposed to
have been the Hugo Meynell strain, which were the old Gornall Greys. The
Gornall Greys were some of the foundation stock used in making the great
Gilman Grey. The famous Herman Duryea strain according to a letter he wrote
in 1914 was bred out of a Yellow Birchen hen and a Herrisford Brown Red
cock, and some Birchen bloodlines entered the great John Weightman Tassells
through the Nunis Yellow Birchen, and they entered the great Eslin strain
through Blucher Hansbrough and Capt. Peter Claiborns. The Birchen were some
of the contribution to the Eslins unusual salmon color called Yellow Jacket
or Redquill in 1842. The salmon color is different to any other color known
then, and became an English standard color called "Redquill Ginger." When
the Eslins in their international main of 1857 at Greys Ferry, beat Jarvise
Elise originally from England and his famous "Blackhackles" (Dr. John
Bellyse strain), the newspapers throughout the world carried a report of
that main, but none could describe the color of the world famous Redquill.
In 1935 Al Jones beat pure Clarets and Claret Crosses (Madigan & Kelso) in 3
mains for large sums of money with Birchen Crosses. Some pure Herrisford
Birchen were stolen from a Mr. Poenschke, O'Conor's lifelong friend by a
certain cocker and heeled by the excellent cocker Frank Heiland in a main,
and it was said by Frank Heiland if conditioned properly they could have
beaten their opponent with naked heels against spurs. The Herrisford
Birchens won the Orlando tournament for Mr. Hogg.
A Yellow Birchen should have a brown breast and be streaked in saddle and
hackle due to the white underfeathers showing through. Those that come black breasted are
referred to as Duckwing Birchen.
The O,Conor family of Herrisford Birchens:
In 1905 when Andrew P. O'Conor was in England fighting a series of mains for
Lord Clonmell, he decided to travel to Ireland and locate Michael Kearney's
son, Harry Kearney's brother, who was a coachman for a priest. Kearney's
son directed O'Conor to Matthew Herrisford's place, but doubted if any birds
were left because old Matthew Herrisford had died some 10 years before.
Matthew Herrisford was the last of the Herrisford family, he and his
ancestors were gamekeepers for O'Callaghan and O'Kelly families on a 800
acre farm near Dublin. But on finding the place, the fowls were haphazardly
bred on different cottages, that is Duckwing on one cottage and Brown Red on
another cottage, by aristocratic ladies solely for the table, and they
refused to part with the fowl. Lord Clonmell made a donation equivalent to
a 1,000 dollars to their charity (Orphan Asylum) and the kind rich old
ladies parted with the fowl. It took O'Conor several years of careful
selection to have a main good enough to be fought with them, and they became
one of his favorite strains and that is saying alot, considering the quality
of fowl he bred in his Black and Tans, Pickets, New Hope, Gilman Grey,
Mansell Pyle, Duryea's and Paymaster's.
Mr. Gus Frithiof:
He obtained the Black Hackle, Eslin fowl, Herrisford Brown Red, Herrisford
Yellow Birchen and other Kearney and Duryea fowl from Mr. O'Conor and states
that he won 14 out of 17 mains against the best cockers of the time in Texas
and Louisiana. Mr. Frithiof valued his Birchens for their excellent cutting
ability and used some Birchen blood in most of his battle crosses.