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Re-enactment of Tom Robert’s painting - ‘Shearing the Rams’
At the beginning of June 2010 history was repeated at Tuppal Station in the Riverina NSW, Australia.
Each day the machines in the 72 stand shearing shed were silenced and blade shearers from Australia and New Zealand re-enacted the painting – Shearing the Rams – by Tom Roberts (1890), shearing 5000 rams.
Kiwi station owner, wool classer and blade shearer, Wendy Patterson of Dunstan Peaks Station, Omarama travelled over to Australia to take part. She was the only female blade shearer on the boards.
“I was just blown away with the amount of visitors. The Aussies are fascinated by the blades, as they only use them for stud rams, and couldn’t believe the speed of NZ blade shearers,” reported Wendy.
“Their gear was dire and our boys spent a lot of time helping them with it. During the day the runs were half hour sessions. It wasn’t a race and we had to make sure the woolroom was handling it ok. There were 14 blade shearers and 58 machines going it was very impressive. It was like show shearing in front of heaps of people but no judges and no hurry, so was very enjoyable. People would be clapping their hands as you finished a sheep!!”
The wool industry played a huge part in Australia’s past. Shearers would walk or ride a bicycle for miles to the next shed in the hope of securing work. Apparently they could cover up to 5000km in a year.
The owner would select his team when they arrived at the station and ‘bush’ those that he rejected. The shearers either camped by a creek or claimed a bund in the shearers quarters. Despite the poor living conditions shearers were regarded as well paid. A good shearer could earn £3- £4 a week in the mid 1880’s – the equivalent of what a shepherd earned in a couple of months.
It was a hundred years ago, in 1910, that all 72 stands of this iconic shearing shed were last in action on the then 170 000acre station.