Frederick York Wolseley
Up until 1888, all shearing in Australia, was conducted using the hand shears that have been used for centuries throughout the world. Frederick York Wolseley is credited as having been the first to invent and manufacture a mechanical device to remove the wool from sheep on a major scale. At a shearing shed called Dunlop, which was situated at Louth, New South Wales, the first mechanical shearing took place. After much resistance from the old “blade men” forty shearers undertook the task of shearing 180000 sheep.
The conditions were primitive and because mechanical sheep shearing had never been conducted before the tallies weren’t all that greater than with the blades. Gradually, as the men adjusted to the shearing machines, tallies increased to the point where men were shearing 100/day consistently.
The renowned Jim Davidson shore a tally of 176 with the first Wolseley handpieces that were made and that tally is astounding when you think how primitive the equipment actually was.
Mechanical Development in Australia
Before Frederick York Wolseley developed his mechanical sheep shearing method others tried and were actually granted patents for devices for sheep shearing machines but sadly they never saw the light of day.
In 1868 Joseph Higham was granted a patent and Robert Savage was also granted a patent in 1877 jointly with Frederick York Wolseley. These patents are now extremely valuable amongst sheep shearing collectors and some collectors prize them very highly indeed.
Anything associated with Fred Wolseley is sought after by collectors all over Australia, and in other countries, be it machines, sheep shearing equipment or antique advertising material, Frederick York Wolseley is a name that is very well known amongst sheep shearing collectors.
Famous Australian Sheep Shearer Jackie Howe 1861-1920
The most well known sheep shearer in Australian history is Jackie Howe. In 1892 he created a sheep shearing record that has been folklore in Australia ever since. In the time of seven hours and forty minutes he shore 321 sheep with a set of hand blades and he would have shorn more except that he ran out of sheep to shear. Given that a standard working day is eight hours he surely would have done another dozen at least. Jackie Howe was capable of shearing big tallies with both the hand shearing method and by means of the mechanical sheep shearing. He won prizes for his sheep shearing and he famously wore his sheep shearing medals on his waist coat. Many stories of Jackie Howe the famous sheep shearer abound.
In May of 2008, the famous sheep shearing medals won by Jackie Howe for his shearing deeds, were auctioned in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and after the buyers premium was added the total price was $360,000.00.