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Monday, 5 December  2005  Welsh Shearers

A team of Welsh sheep shearers are staying in outback South Australia to practice shearing Australian sheep. They're learning a lot, and the locals are enjoying the visitors too.

PATRICK EMMETT: When you come from a country famed for its green valleys and snow covered mountains, the Flinders Ranges were always going to be a bit of a shock for the Welsh national shearing team.

FEMALE: It is very, very barren here, I have never seen anything like it.

MALE: It is just an eye opener that anything can survive here.

ELFED JACKSON (WELSH SHEARING TEAM): We expected going from the airport to the farm would take us a couple of hours but it took us about five and a half hours and we were pretty shocked in that, and after we arrived it is all dry around us and brown, but back home it is nice and green.

PATRICK EMMETT: Just north of Wilpena Pound, Willow Springs Station runs around 4,000 merino sheep, something else most of the Welsh team has never seen before.

The Welsh mountain sheep and crossbreeds they normally shear are very different. They carry around 2 kilos of wool compared to a merino, which can carry up to 6 kilos.

MALE: The one boy had shorn merinos before but the other one had never seen merinos, so he had quite a shock.

MALE: I am shearing now on the neck, we are not used to the wrinkles.

PATRICK EMMETT: When the world championships start in Toowoomba next week, merinos are what everyone has to shear. So this week has seen some intensive practice and the sessions have attracted interest from near and far.

Local shearing contractor Pete Smith is the man who arranged for the Welsh team's outback training session.

With blade shears still used in Australia to prepare prized sheep for sale, he saw it as an opportunity to pick up a few tips on technique.

PETE SMITH: These fellows are world class, so it gives our blokes an opportunity to pick up from the best.

PATRICK EMMETT: Some of the teams will also be competing to be best wool handler. Bron Tango is a farmer's daughter who became a hairdresser. At the last world championships in Scotland she missed the title by just a quarter of a point.

BRON TANGO (WELSH SHEARING TEAM): We get marked on how cleanly we keep our area how well we throw our fleeces onto the table and how quick we compete as well.

MALE: A bit of good Welsh cooking there, showing the girls how to cook.

PATRICK EMMETT: By the end of the week the Welsh team was starting to find its feet and a lot of friends around the shearing shed.

MALE: Still struggling.

MALE: Yes, is it getting easier though or what?

MALE: It is getting a bit better, the farmer hasn't been in and sacked us yet.

MALE: That has got to be a good thing then, you can't be doing very bad.

PATRICK EMMETT: But with Australia the joint favourites with New Zealand to win the Golden Shears next week, those new friendships might have to be put on hold.

RAY DAVIES: Yes we would like to knock them off, yes, especially on their own ground.

MALE: Will you be doing any Welsh singing while you are here?

NICKY BEYNON (WELSH SHEARING TEAM): I would say Saturday night would be quite likely to be quite a bit of Welsh singing actually. We should be able to show the Australians how to do something properly, anyway.

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English Bites - Welsh Shearers
story notes

Seen is the past participle of the irregular verb see. Follow the link to find out more and to listen to examples.
more information: see

merino sheep
Merino sheep or merinos are a type of sheep common in Australia. They are known for their excellent wool. Notice that the plural of sheep is not sheeps but sheep.

They are from Wales in the United Kingdom.

A crossbreed is an animal or plant that is a mixture of breeds or types.
The opposite of a crossbreed is a purebred, an animal or plant from one breed or type. Purebred sheep like merinos usually have better and thicker wool than crossbreeds.

To shear means to cut wool or hair off something.

Here shorn is the past participle of the irregular verb shear. Follow the link to find out more and to listen to examples.
more information: shear

intensive practice
Practice is the time spent doing something over and over again, so you get better at it.
Intensive means involving a lot of effort in during a short period of time.

shearing contractor
A contractor is a person who is hired to do a certain job, for a certain price. They have a contract, or agreement, to perform the service.

Pete Smith is a shearing contractor. He provides shearers to local farms to work during the shearing season.

training session
time spent practising

Saw is the past tense of the irregular verb see. Follow the link to find out more and to listen to examples.
more information: see

pick up

Example: Children pick up languages more easily than adults.
For examples you can listen to and more meanings of the phrasal verb pick up, follow the link.
more information: pick up

Became is the past tense of the irregular verb become. Follow the link to find out more and to listen to examples.
more information: become

find its feet
To find your feet means to become familiar with something, or get used to it.

Example: It took a while to find my feet at work, but now I'm as good as anyone.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

put out of work

put on hold
Something that is put on hold is delayed until a later time.

Example: Her studies were put on hold while she has a baby.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

knock them off
defeat them

Example: We should knock them off this time.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

Learn how to use the word shear.

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