AT the end of my talk in Tudhoe, County Durham, on Monday night, a man approached. “Do you know what Tda is famous for?” he asked.

Well, obviously there was Christmas Eve 1944 when it became the most northerly place in Britain to be struck by a doodlebug: 390 houses, two churches and one cricket field damaged; 11 people injured, none killed; a couple of smouldering hams liberated from the burnt-out Co-op.

Or, it was the scene of one of the worst disasters in the Durham coalfield, when – in 1882 – 37 men and 69 horses perished in an underground explosion in Tda Colliery.

Or, possibly, local pronunciation gives it the shortest two syllable name in the English language.

“No,” he said. “Tda’s the home of the most famous racing pigeon in the world. “The Prince of Rome was bred here, trained here, and it returned here, sometime around the First World War. Look it up, you’ll see.”

The Prince of Rome would have been on the wing when pigeon racing was a fresh fad.

Man has lived cheek by beak with pigeons for thousands of years, initially keeping them as a source of meat.

Then, 3,000 years ago, the Persians discovered their homing skills and they became the first airmail carriers.

It is said the result of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 was first delivered from Belgium to London by a pigeon owned by Nathan Rothschild.

His agents put the Stock Market in a tailspin, selling shares as if the French had won.

Other traders copied. Prices crashed. Before something slower than a pigeon could arrive with news that Napoleon had, in fact, been defeated, Rothschild’s agents bought at rock bottom and made a killing.

PIGEON racing began in Belgium in 1818, spread through the Netherlands and arrived in Britain in the 1870s where the first regulated race took place in 1881. The new sport’s popularity was sealed in 1886 when King Leopold II of Belgium gave the British Royal family some breeding stock – wor Liz is still queen of the fanciers.

One of the most famous races was held in July 1913. Thousands of birds from all over Europe were crated up and taken to in Italy.

They were released into a terrible thunderstorm which blew them to the four quarters of the earth.

Only 62 of the 1,200 Belgian entries made it home; only one of the hundreds of British birds made it over the Channel.

Said The Racing Pigeon magazine: “This bird has proved itself capable of great endurances and of suffering much fatigue, and to be in possession of wonderful staying power to make its way back from Rome.”

Offers came in for the remarkable bird from as far away as America, but Charlie Hudson – a council lamplighter by trade – turned them all down.

The King of Rome was his pride and joy, and, from chick to champ, it had lived in his loft in the backyard of his terraced house in Derby.

When it died, he had it stuffed and mounted and in 1946 he presented it to Derby museum where it now languishes unseen in storage, although it does have a folk song written in its honour and is about to have a children’s book published about it.

For Tudhoe’s Prince of Rome, I’ve been searching all over the place; of Tudhoe’s Prince of Rome, I can find not a trace. Can anyone help me home in on it?