The Truck Days
This DVD records some of the experiences of shearing teams from the early 1900s through to the early 60s. They travelled on the backs of bizarrely adapted trucks from Perth to the pastoral regions of WA, the Kimberley, Pilbara, Ashburton, Gascoyne, Murchison and Eastern Goldfields from sheep station to sheep station, to shear very large flocks of sheep. Some teams went north by ship, avoiding the long days of travelling on rough unsealed roads sitting on the back of the “ring-pounder” trucks. In later years, many travelled by plane to the northwest stations.
The shearing teams of the truck days moulded a unique and colourful sliver of Australia’s history. Their experiences were very different from those of shearers in other less isolated parts of Australia. Separated from their families and friends for 6 to 9 months, team camaraderie became extraordinarily strong and it survives to the present day. Assembled in Perth, a typical team comprised 8 shearers, 8 shed hands, a wool classer, an expert/ machinery mechanic, and a wool presser who packed the wool into bales for export. Most importantly, there was a cook: shearing is extremely physically demanding, so a good cook was important. There were larger teams of up to 20 shearers and generally the ratio for each shearer was a shed hand, plus the other team members.
Working in four 2 hour shifts, each shearer could shear between 150 and 200 sheep per day or between 750 and 1,000 over a 5 day working week. This meant that a team of 8 shearers would spend well over a month continuously on a station carrying over 30,000 sheep, in very basic living conditions. On occasions, when travelling through a town with a hotel, the team would have a welcome (and usually boisterous) social break.
The sheep grazed on the natural vegetation in the pastoral rangelands with sheep numbers ranging from 30,000 up to more than 100,000 on Noonkanbah and Liveringa stations in the Kimberley region.
Up to the 1960s, the wool industry had thrived in the remote pastoral regions of Western Australia. However, with the boom and bust nature of the industry and a progression of changes with the mining industry offering better pay and conditions, the introduction of equal pay for station workers, drought and wild dogs, a steady decline in sheep numbers was seen and now sheep are nonexistent in those regions.
Find out more in the book by Valerie Hobson OAM, “Across the Board” BackTrack Books 2002. It contains over 60 stories told by shearing people.
Truck Days Video
In our efforts to record the history of the shearing industry, we have initially produced a 32 minute DVD with photos and 8mm film provided by our members. This also includes interviews with six of our group members; the oldest being 92 years of age. This great video, produced by Ron Reddingius of “REDDINGIUS MEDIA”, his producer Adrian Faure and superbly narrated by Dan Paris, can be purchased on this website.
The DVD has been very well received nationally and to further promote the DVD Australia wide and beyond, we expect this website to create additional interest to a wider audience.
As it is our intention to further record the history of our industry, we are currently working on another project which we intend to complete in the foreseeable future, so please check us out regularly.
We are also very welcoming to new members joining our association. So if you’ve been in the industry, please join up. You’ll find how to do this in CONTACTS.
We further hope you enjoy the information, photographs and more within this website. We know you will also enjoy viewing the DVD once you have purchased it.
A Yarn or Two
I’m a Dinkum Aussie
Now I’m a Dinkum Aussie, a bloke who’s humped his swag,
I’ve sung in pubs, I’ve gambled, put a few bob on the nags.
I say “Good Day,” and “See You,” and “How yer goin’?” too,
“Where have you been yer drongo?” and “Have you seen me old mate Blue?”
I’m no city slicker, you can tell the way I walk,
I was born and bred in the outback, and that’s the way I talk.
I have no Oxford accent, don’t say “By jove,” or “How do you do?”
I say “Good Day’,” and “See You,” and “How yer goin’?” too.
Yes I say “Good Day,” and “See You,” and “How you goin’ mate?”
“Grab some snaggers off the barbie, and a hunk of well done steak.
Get yourself a stubbie, or a glass of Bundy rum,
It’ll help to wash away the dust, and loosen up your tongue.”
But I’m no city slicker, just because I’m here in town,
I like the outback country, I like to travel ’round.
I motored up the inland road, and across to Wittenoom,
Caught the plane to Noonkanbah, and back overland to Broome.
I’ve crossed into the temperate zone, from north of Capricorn,
And headed for the home town, in this State where I was born.
Yes I’a a dinkum Aussie, a bloke who’s humped his swag,
I’ve sung in pubs, I’ve gambled, put a few bob on the nags.
I say “Good Day” and, “See You,” and I call a red head Blue,
Stone the crows, I’m an Aussie mate, from outback Timbuktu.
Beaten by a Brush
We were sitting in the Whim Creek pub, swapping yarns around the bar,
There were beauties going to and fro, you know what shearers are.
I was sitting there and listening, but at last thoughts came my way,
And I asked them all this question, just to hear what they would say.
How far do you reckon a ‘roo can jump, from where he leaves the ground,
And I sat there and I listened, while they bandied this around.
One bloke said, a good ten feet, or maybe a little more,
And his mate said they’d jump at least fourteen, and that he said’s for sure.
I said, take a Sou’ West boomer, and stir him up a bit,
Get him going down a slope, with a ‘roo dog after it.
I do not mean a precipice, that way he’d jump a mile,
Just a nice and easy slope, that caused them all to smile.
Well one bloke from the Sou’ West said, I’ve seen some boomers in my time,
I’d say they’d do some sixteen feet, if they were in their prime,
At last they asked the question, that I knew would have to come,
What do you reckon’s the longest jump, you think a big ‘roos done.
Well I told them all this story, that had happened years before,
Of course, they didn’t believe it, but it’s the truth for sure.
I’d gone hunting with my brothers, and the dog flushed out this Brush,
They were coming straight toward us, in one great headlong rush.
We were standing there behind a tree, some fifteen feet apart,
And thought, now when he gets here, we’ll give hime a start.
We jumped out in front to balk him, thought we’d slow him down,
But he left the ground and cleared us all, in just one frightened bound.
We stood there unbelieving, stark amazement our our faces.
Then decided we would step it out, there were twenty seven paces.
A sort of silence followed, you would almost say a hush,
Then Barry said, We’ve had it mates, he’s beaten us with a Brush.
“The objects of the Association are to maintain an active Social Club and to record the History of the Shearing Industry and those that participated.”