The Shearers

Excerpt from the documentary film showing a shearing team at a typical sheep station

Watch: The Shearers [14.34mb]

Title: The Shearers
Subtitle: Excerpt from the documentary film showing a shearing team at a typical sheep station
Date: 1950
Content creator: Film Division (also known as Commonwealth Film Unit) – Australian National Film Board
Keywords: sheep, shearing, wool, primary industry, manual labour, economy
Record creator: Film Australia
Reference: C809, 1478130

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Narrator: Ready for the first run each man brings his own jewellery: combs and cutters for the handpiece. The rest of the machinery belongs to the owner of the shed. They wear flannel shirts to absorb the sweat and special boots without nails because soon the board will be greasy and a slip with a razing handpiece could mean a wicked gash.

Some of the boys make their own moccasins, as they call them, out of sacking.


Narrator: Perce and Steve are both out to be ringer [fastest shearer] of the shed, the man with the best daily tally. The wool rollers can take it easy for a little longer as they wait for their first fleece. In this game more haste means less speed and damaged sheep as well. It looks effortless but after a day of bent backs and concentration on the clean long swing of that strong right arm they’re mighty glad to fall in to bed.

It’s Perce who gets the first wool away but that’s only one sheep of the many that he and Steve will shear today.

The boys in rollers can’t smoke now. If the board isn’t kept clear there’ll be roars from the shearers, so the fleeces come over the rolling tables at a rate that keeps the rollers hard at work tearing off the dirty edges.

The aristocrat of the shearing shed is the wool classer – a highly paid expert who sorts the length of staple [cluster of wool fibres], texture and strength. He’s a key man in maintaining the world reputation of fine Australian wool.

The presser has one of the toughest jobs in the shed. He gets paid according to the weight of wool he presses.

Over it comes. Now he has to squeeze the contents of the top and bottom boxes together into the bale.

And there it is. 350 pounds of the world’s best wool.