I am ... a Sheep Shearer
Earlier in the week, Mr Georgeson, Sixth Form Co-ordinator took a morning chapel, the theme of which this term is I am... After demonstrating his skills shearing a sheep, which had been loaned to him by a local farm, he then told the assembled students and staff about this other side to him, which most knew little or nothing about:
My summer job is shearing sheep. While here at Gordonstoun I spend about five weeks working for a sheep shearing contractor from Tomintoul, we shear sheep from Kingussie all the way to the Moray coast, including Plewlands Farm (the school’s neighbouring farm), to whom many thanks for lending some sheep for today’s demonstration. During the Summer holidays I travel home to Caithness where I work for my dad’s contracting company. We shear sheep from John O’Groats all the way down to Tain; over the course of a season we shear up to 60,000 sheep with shearers joining our team from New Zealand, Australia and the USA.
Shearing sheep is one of my passions, although it is tough work, with long days of up to 16 hours shearing and travelling many miles to different farms; that is one of the reasons I enjoy it. It is like a sport - in fact, the Australian Institute of Sport did a study that found in the average 8 hour day, a shearer can burn as much calories as running a marathon; when you work 7 days a week for 12 weeks, that is a lot of marathon’s! It is also very technical, and you are always trying to improve on the last sheep you did. When shearing with colleagues who are from the other side of the world it gets very competitive; I can shear about 250 sheep a day, and it is amazing that after that amount of sheep you can be one ahead or one behind the person shearing next to you - always trying to get one over on them.
However it is the travel I enjoy the most, visiting very remote locations and constant changing scenery makes each day exciting. That, along with meeting new people and shearing alongside a team of good friends, the social side of the job is good fun. Farmers are really appreciative of you coming to shear their sheep and they really look after you well.
Although it is my passion, it is done mainly for the welfare of the sheep. Ensuring that they are healthy - taking the wool off means that they are able to cool down in the summer and stops them suffering from illness, skin diseases, and being bothered by flies and maggots. Farmers do not make much money from the wool and they really shear their sheep to ensure their flock is healthy. It is really fulfilling being part of this process.
We are also very lucky that the British Wool Board is running a one day shearing course for the staff and students of Gordonstoun. This takes place in our final week of term and is a great opportunity for members of our school community to learn a useful set of skills, and allows them to travel and work in spectacular locations around the world, in an industry that is really appreciative of young shearers coming through.