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4-319 (Text)

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author,male,Gould, Nat,38 addressee
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Clark, 1975
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4-319-plain.txt — 7 KB

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The run extends for a distance of forty-five miles from end to end, and has a frontage of a hundred miles to the Darling River. The farthest distance out back is twenty-nine miles.
The homestead, known as Winbar, is on the river bank, twenty-three miles from the upper boundary, and consequently about the centre of the frontage.
The shearing-shed is seventeen miles further down the river, at the out-station called Campadore, within five miles of the lower boundary. At this out-station there is a collection of buildings consisting of overseer's cottage, stores, and various huts, also wool-shed and wool-scouring plant. A brief account of a wool-shed may not prove uninteresting to your readers.
The wool-shed is a building 130 ft. long, built of a Colonial pine framework on piles two and a-half feet from the ground, and is closed in with galvanized corrugated iron. The floor is of gum boards (two inches) placed one inch apart.  At the southern end of the shed a space, 40 ft. by 45 ft., is set apart as a sweating-pen. This is where the sheep are kept from exposure to the weather and prior to being put into the shearing-pens. At the northern end of the shed a space, 15 ft. by 45 ft., is set apart for the wool-tables and Wool-bins, at the former of which five wool sorters stand and divide the fleeces into various classes of wool, viz.:. - 1st and 2nd combing; 1st, 2nd and 3rd clothing, pieces, locks, and bellies. Of course, all these qualities of wool are not found in every fleece some sheet growing combing-wool and others clothing-wool. The low sorts, such as bellies, pieces, and locks, are found in every fleece.
Between the sweating-pen and wool-sorters quarters are the shearers. Their portion of the shed is termed the "board," and consists of a space 70 ft. long and 8 ft. wide, on the eastern and western sides of the building. Fifteen shearers stand on either side of the board, and between them the catching-pens are fixed: These consist of small enclosures about 9 ft. square, into which The sheep are put from the sweating-pen. Each pen has a door opening on to the board, and two shearers are supplied with sheep from each pen. There is a passage (called a race) in the centre of the building, the catching-pens being on either side, and a gate opens from each pen into the race; the race is always kept filled with sheep from the sweating-pen, and as the catching-pens become empty they are filled from this source.
Machines are used to shear the sheep, and it is an interesting sight to see a shed in full work. Most sheds now have machinery, and the old system of hand-shearing has almost died out. Mr. E. Arnold, the manager, informed me that it was nothing more nor less than a stupid prejudice prevented machines from being in use on all stations. 
The shearers have a hut built of pine slabs with iron roof to themselves, and the shed hands (rouseabouts) have a similar building. The wool scourers also live separately. In all, there are about a hundred men employed at the shed during the' shearing, and amongst them are some queer characters. One man was named "Silent Billy," and it was a nickname well merited, as he did not speak on an average more than twice a day. The shearer's mode of dress is both simple and inexpensive, merely a pair of moleskin pants and a merino singlet or flannel. He seldom wears socks or an overshirt. In many instances, the shearer works barefooted, or he has on shoes made out of a piece of bagging or wool-pack with string for laces. On Sunday, the luxury of a pair of boots; and, perhaps, socks, is indulged in, and if the shearer is extravagant he may put on a clean shirt and pair of moles. A coat is sometimes noticed, and, perhaps, a necktie on rare occasions.
The daily routine is seldom varied. Work commences at 6 a.m. and lasts until 8 a.m., when an hour is allowed for breakfast.  From 9 to 10.20, and then twenty minutes for a smoke, after which shearing goes on until noon. At 1 p.m. they resume until 2.20, when there is another twenty minutes for a smoke. They then shear until 4 p.m., and then have twenty minutes for tea; this over, they go on until 5.30. Then if the weather is warm enough some go for a swim in the river. At 6 p.m. supper is served. Then yarning commences, and at the tale-spinning process shearers are good hands. Perhaps the monotony is broken by someone informing the company the Unionists are unusually active, and some have been seen in the vicinity of the premises. Immediately the doors and windows are looked to and the barricades got ready in case of the worst happening. One or two revolvers are inspected. The excitement spreads, and by the time the report has reached the far end of the hut it has been added to, and the last man informed is told that a large body of armed Unionists are outside thirsting for his blood. Lights are out at 9.30 p.m., when the bulk of the men turn in.
Sunday is devoted to rabbit hunting, bird-nesting, and fishing, with an occasional game at cricket; the shearers, however, are very poor cricketers.
A public-house is situated within one mile of the shed. It is kept by an elderly widow, who has buried three husbands, a fact which indicates the quality of the grog kept on the premises. The home-made grog business is a common practice amongst bush publicans, owing to there being no proper police supervision. Some queer things occur at these bush shanties, and in many of them it is not safe for anyone with money to go into an hotel, for if the publican cannot rob the man himself he puts someone on to do it for him.
The following is a fact: One man who had earned nearly £1,000 within a few months at rabbiting went to an hotel and called for three drinks - one for himself another for a hanger-on of the publican, and a third for the publican. He then produced a cheque for £970, and told the publican to "take it out of that." Of course there was no change on the premises, and the cheque had to be sent to the bank and the change obtained by first mail. Whether this was done I cannot say, but I know the rabbiter stayed eighteen days at the hotel and went away penniless, having transferred his right, title, and interest to the publican. About £100 would have bought all the grog in the house. This is only one of many instances in which men are robbed by unprincipled ruffians, who ought never to have been allowed to keep an hotel.
Life on a station at shearing time is not all pleasure, especially in these days when most stations work short handed. The low price of wool makes it necessary to keep expenses down. The musterers who keep the shed going with sheep are the hardest worked men on the station. They are kept busy clay after day from early morning until sunset, and sometimes even later.  Sundays and week days are all alike, nothing but sheep work. It is surprising the amount of work station horses will do when fed upon grass alone.
Occasionally some big tallies are made during shearing. One man's record for one week was 1,191, and his total for eleven weeks was 7,292. For this he got £72 18s. 5d. Against this was his tucker bill, £8 12s. 10d., his comb and cutters cost him £1 10s. 6d., so that he netted £62 15s. 1d. His highest daily total was 212.
Shearers that can shear from 100 to 120 sheep per day are considered the best men to employ. The big tally men set a bad example to the others, and cause "running," which means bad shearing. The 200 a-day men are not, as a rule, first class shearers. No man can shear that number within eight hours properly.