Pic: BTG080310JackFagan Caption: Jack Fagan, a chip off the old block, at Pahiatua Shears in 2010.
Pic: BTG220221SHEARS3 Caption: Balfour was the venue the Pahiatua Shears for many years, seen in its heydays.
By Steve Carle
Pahiatua Shears will be having its 50th shearing competition on the last Sunday of this month on February 28.
Gordon (Flash) Duxfield is the chairman/convener.
Founding committee member Philip Morrison has not missed a competition in the last 49 years.
"In the first year the Pahiatua Shears was held outdoors, we were out on the hill above the Pahiatua Golf Club where the Pahiatua Horse Sports used to be," said Philip.
"We brought up the Carterton three-stand shearing board complete with pens. Dave Wolland was one of the instigators along with Bill Wright. I can remember shearing at that one at the age of 21 and being in the winning team.
"We used Arthur Waugh's sheep, bringing them in. At the end of 1972 we built our own shearing board next to MSD Speirs' yard ready for the 1973 competition. But it rained. Instead of using our own board we shifted the operation to Balfour, south of Pahiatua.
"We stayed there, we never got to use our shearing board. We started using the sheep from Balfour, it made it really easy as there was no trucking involved.
"Peter Hewitt could put about 900 sheep under cover at the woolshed and had some others under trees. We never really got caught out by rain again.
"From Balfour we went to the Bush Stadium for a few years. For the last five years we have been out at Fouhy's Woolshed at Tane in the Mangaone Valley east of Pahiatua.
"Bill Wright was the first chairman with only four changes in 50 years - Philip Morrison, Marie Clark and now Gordon Duxfield.
"We joined the national shearing circuit in 1974 which involved Alexandra, Waimate, Christchurch, Raglan and then Pahiatua. The top 12 shearers at Pahiatua qualified for a semifinal and finals at the Golden Shears the following week.
"Held on the last Sunday of February, we used to get quite a gathering of shearers - on two occasions we had 260 shearers in one day [1980 and 1988 when the World championships were in Masterton]. That's an awful lot of shearers to go through in one day. We were known as the biggest one-day shearing competition in New Zealand.
"A local competition started in 1974 called the Golden Circle. It involved competitions in the Lower North Island: Levin, Taihape, Feilding, Marton, Dannevirke, Waverley and Pahiatua. This ran until 1995. The final of these grades was held at Pahiatua, including the years we had those 260 shearers.
"With Balfour only having five stands, bigger venues would have six stands. We had a six stand set-up at the Pahiatua Stadium after Balfour, we hired the Rangitikei stand and transported it over and set it up on many hundreds of beer kegs stacked two-high. DB loaned us the kegs, quite a lot of manpower was used to put them up. The pens were held together by clamps underneath.
"I can remember at Taranaki they were set up on 44-gallon drums and the board collapsed.
"Seating for Balfour was brought in from the old Drill Hall in Pahiatua and later from Tararua college. They used to have around 200 people come along to watch.
"We are expecting around 120 shearers this year, last year we weren't affected by Covid-19 and we introduced novice shearing for the first time," he said.
■ Dave Wolland was also a founding committee member, staying on for 25-30 years. He remembers the idea for a Pahiatua Shears coming from Max Fitzgerald 50 years ago at Taylors Rd.
"The first event was won by Golden Shears champion the late Eddy Reidy, the late Dan Holland was second and I was third," said Dave. "The second year there was a circle of Marton, Dannevirke and Pahiatua. I had a clean sweep for winning the circle and was awarded a double-ended grinder which I still have.
"The Pahiatua Shears would start at 8am and go right through till 6pm. We saw some good shearers go through, such as the legendary Snow Quinn, of Earnscleugh. We attracted overseas competitors due to the proximity to the Golden Shears at Masterton."
Dave then went shearing overseas in America, so missed a few years of Pahiatua Shears. He did blindfold shearing in Pahiatua Town Square. After that he would go to shows - while they were compiling the points manually, Dave would get up to fill in time by shearing three or four sheep blindfolded.
"I've enjoyed the competition - we had a lot of people come through the competition to Pahiatua. My last trip to England was when I was 57 years old. I was still shearing 400 sheep every day - I was pretty fit.
"My back is fine these days, if you learn shearing properly there's no problem. The first year I did have a sore back. When I stopped and thought about it, I was reaching for my sheep. I wasn't getting over the top of them, therefore not stretching my back. That's where a lot of shearers go wrong.
"In later years in Western Australia, one day my back just went out. I used a sling after that - at the end of the day I felt like a 2-year-old, that's how much it helps.
■ "I had first been to the Pahiatua Shears in 1975 I think," said media officer for Shearingsports New Zealand, Doug Laing. "It's one of the most important competitions in the country, being the last show for shearers before the Golden Shears, attracting many of the country's top shearers.
"Roger Cox [three times Golden Shears champion and winner of the first world championship in 1977] regarded it as part of a critical pathway to the Golden Shears - in 1977 achieving a goal of winning the Otago Shears in Balclutha, the Southern Shears in Gore, the Pahiatua Shears and the Golden Shears, on successive weekends.
"For many years it's been the last qualifying leg in the National Shearing Circuit, and is these days a compulsory event, after which the top 12 across the series qualify for the semifinals and final in Masterton, from which the winner becomes a member of the New Zealand transtasman team for the following season.
"It's relied on some national sponsorship (usually linked to the National Circuit [Caltex, DB, PGG Wrightson variously over the years], but also a large range of locals," he said.