Sunday, 7 March 2010

Shear Outback - Hay, NSW

By Darren Stones

Every so often a sense of anticipation washes over me about a far away tourist attraction. Planning a trip which encompasses a visit to a sheep shearing shed – one which requires a fee to be paid – may not be at the top of everyone’s list of things to do. The intrigue surrounding Shear Outback was enough for me to drive from Melbourne to Hay to check out what it was all about.

Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock IMG_5930_Hay
Shear Outback


Located in the New South Wales outback town of Hay, on the Long Paddock touring route, Shear Outback is an attraction that is Australian to the core. With a Shearers Hall of Fame, a windmill the size of a baby wind turbine, and an ornate indoor display of sheep shears, how much more dinky-di could it be?

Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock  IMG_5907_Hay
Rebuilt Southern Cross windmill with 7.7 metre wheel on a 13.9m tower


As an Aussie bloke in his forties, I’m embarrassed to say I’d never witnessed a sheep being shorn, so Shear Outback provided me the chance to witness Glen, a professional shearer and about-to-retire Aussie rules footballer, using some fancy motorised clippers. Unfortunately, there was no clicking of the shears in the shed with its dappled light, just the humming noise of the clippers and a slight struggle from a couple of sheep.

Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock, sheep shearer IMG_5837_Hay
Glen the shearer


I was given a brief lesson from Glen about a day in the life of a shearer. From the equipment they use, to the way they dress, it was all news to me. In many respects, the life of a shearer has changed from the old days where they now travel locally to give a flock of sheep their free haircut.

Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock  IMG_5853_Hay
Shearing action


Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock IMG_5878_Hay
Sashes


Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock  IMG_5869_Hay
Wool rack


The Shearers Hall of Fame features mounted boards containing profiles and achievements celebrating various shearers who have given back to the trade. Henry Salter MBE, Kevin Sarre and John Hutchinson OAM may not be household names, but their achievements are noteworthy.

Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock  IMG_5773_Hay
Shearers Hall of Fame


Henry Salter (1907-1997) was inducted into the hall of fame in 2002. He learnt to shear sheep at age 16 at Kerang in Victoria. At 18, he landed his first job as a shearer and sheared only 41 sheep on his first day. On his third day, his tally had reduced to 30 due to being that sore he could hardly move.

Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock  IMG_5910_Hay
Henry Salter MBE


Kevin Sarre (1933-1995) a five-time Australian shearing champion sheared 200 sheep in a day with his left hand, just to prove he could do it. His tally-hi shearing technique reduced shearing time by up to 30 seconds per sheep. On 26 October, 1965, he set an Australian record by machine-shearing 346 full-grown merino sheep in 7 hours and 48 minutes at Batesworth Station near Penshurst.

Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock  IMG_5912_Hay
Kevin Sarre


John Hutchinson, born 1943, is a third generation shearer and was taught to shear by his father. A six-time Australian shearing champion, John found satisfaction in training and teaching, and was awarded the OAM for doing so. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 2002.

Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock  IMG_5775_Hay
John Hutchinson OAM


For kids, and kids at heart, there’s a beaut opportunity in store. You can pretend to be shearing a sheep and have your photo taken by a relative or friend; however grabbing the sheep around the throat and smiling for the camera is a look which had me in stitches.

Shear Outback, Hay, New South Wales, Australia, The Long Paddock  IMG_5918_Hay
Bronwyn pretending to shear


I came away from Shear Outback with a greater knowledge, respect and understanding of farming families and their lives in the bush. An experience I highly recommend.
Further information:
Shear Outback: http://shearoutback.com.au/