LEGENDARY shearer Ian Worley chose to spend his 80th birthday like few others would – shearing 100 sheep.
Mr Worley first picked up the comb in 1956 in his late teens.
It’s a career that’s taken him right across the New England, North West and Southern Queensland – and after a 20-year sojourn in Sydney as a copper – one that he’ll do for the rest of his life.
After open heart surgery, a hip replacement and thumbing his nose to his doctor’s prognosis that he’d never shear again, Mr Worley can’t keep away.
He chose to celebrate his 80th birthday shearing 100 sheep with his son Bob and grandson Joe at “Wingara”, near Nundle last Tuesday.
“The reason for today’s effort is to demonstrate to young people who might aspire to a shearing career that it is not too difficult,” he said during afternoon smoko on Tuesday.
Mr Worley learned to shear in 1956 in his late teens, earning about $10 per pen of 100 sheep.
A natural with the comb, he went on to shear his first 100 sheep in July that year.
There’s a tip he’s carried around ever since that first sheep went under the clippers.
“I was told (by the cockie), I want the wool and the sheep wants the skin,” he said.
“You’ve got to treat it like any other job.”
Mr Worley went on to have continuous employment as a shearer with contractors Grazcos, before moving to Sydney with his wife and children.
He worked as a detective in the Criminal Investigation Branch of the NSW Police Force in Sydney for the next 18 years.
“I had a bit of time off from shearing,” he laughed.
“But I eventually resigned because I always wanted to come back to the country.
“I was getting too long in the tooth to start anything else, so I bought a (sheep and cattle) place at Nundle.”
That was 1981, and he was running cattle and fat lambs, but it didn’t take long before local graziers heard the legendary shearer was back in town. He’s since been a regular in countless sheds across the region, but now only shears his own sheep.
“There’s a shortage of shearers now and it’s getting worse as sheep number are on the increase,” he said.
“The shearing rate is about $300 per 100 sheep and competent shearers can earn up to $2000 per week. It’s good money.”
Mr Worley once had open heart surgery in June and then shore 1500 sheep that September. He also got a new hip in 2012.
“I was told you’d never shear again,” he said.
“But I can’t stand doing nothing.”
Mr Worley has been known to shear 224 sheep in one day at Texas and his biggest shed was a 16-stand set-up at Merriwa.
He said the introduction of wide combs and back support slings were the biggest changes he’d seen in the industry, but it was the lifelong friends he’s made that he appreciated most.
Mr Worley has five children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
So what’s he got planned for his 90th birthday?
“I’ll find something,” he chuckled.
This story first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader