Family Interview – Shearing at Dunmore

Dunmore Tally Board 1917
Dunmore Tally Board 1917

For a few short years as a child I was able to observe and absorb the romance, the noise of the machines and the hustle and bustle of the shed hands in a big shed. And, if I believed Grandpa Baulch, everyone at some stage shore at Dunmore.

So it was, some 20 years after my grandfather died, I went to Port Fairy to have an afternoon’s chat with Bill Meade. Bill had started picking up wool in the sheds in 1923. As it still did when I was a child, shearing started in the Riverina in July and the teams worked their way south until Christmas. Then the work was processing the potato and onion harvest until it was time to head north again the following July.

My interview with Bill nearly came fell apart right at the beginning. Bill said that he hadn’t worked in the Dunmore shed. That’s confirmed by the records I have for Bill Meade isn’t listed.  Rather, Bill said, he worked in the Alanvale shed for Art Baulch. This can’t have happened until at least the 1925 shearing season as both Art at Alanvale and Stan Baulch at Rose Park and, to a lesser extent, Frank Baulch all used the Dunmore shed before then. This meant around 20,000 sheep a year were shorn at Dunmore.

Nevertheless, it was a most interesting afternoon with many insights into the shearing conditions at the time. Also Bill was able to mention many who had worked in the Dunmore Shed.

He also talked about the gun shearers – of Arthur Turner from Ararat and George Young of Orford as two men who could shear 200 sheep a day without much trouble. And of course Bill Edwards. Someone had said that it was impossible to shear that 200 sheep a day. Bill Edwards is reported to have said “Oh I don’t know whether it would be impossible or not but you can see them shorn tomorrow”.

It is certainly true that Bill Edwards shore more than 200 sheep in the Dunmore shed for I have been able to identify the following as his top tallies in the shed:

  • 211 shearing from Pen 8 on 14 Nov 1919
  • 185 shearing from Pen 7 on 20 Nov 1923
  • 183 shearing from Pen 9 on 16 Nov 1922
  • 182 shearing from Pen 2 on 4 Nov 1924
  • 182 shearing from Pen 2 on 3 Nov 1924

However, I haven’t, as yet, been able to identify who was shearing from Pen 9 in 1917. Perhaps Bill Edwards as he was shearing at Dunmore that year. Perhaps not. These are the top tallies for that pen that year:

  • 200 on 21 Nov 1917
  • 198 on 5 Dec 1917
  • 192 on 20 Nov 1917
  • 187 on 19 Nov 1917
  • 184 on 4 Dec 1917

Bill Meade was a life time member of the Australian Workers Union (AWU). Which reminds me of the shearer’s strike on 25 Nov 1887 when my great grandfather Samuel Baulch was at Glengleeson. But that’s a story for another day.

And of course the sheep were held in the Woolly Paddock before going into the shed and counted out on their way to the Shorn Paddock afterwards.

Ships and Drays

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How’s school going? This was a question I was often asked as a child. I generally mumbled “alright” in reply. But I remember one time particularly – when Grandpa Learmonth asked me about school. I had a great deal of respect for him and he deserved a considered reply. So I asked him how was it that the Hamilton students could catch the morning train whereas the Warrnambool students had to catch the evening Warrnambool train – long after school had finished and every other student had left for home.

Yes he said. His ships had to tack all the way home to Portland against the sou-westerlies. Those same sou-westerlies blew him back but it could be days after the beginning of term before the Wimmera boys finally arrived back at school. There always seemed to be some problem with the drays that delayed them.

While this story mentions neither paddocks or land selections it does define loosely the fences or boundaries (Portland – Hamilton – Warrnambool) within which my Baulch and Learmonth ancestors held land and where many of my paddock stories originate.