SHEARING time at Billy Vaughn's was a calculated affair, with a tally of 1000 sheep a day to be maintained by the team of five shearers.
Gun shearer Roy Jerrim was one of the five, with Daryl Beattie, Johnny Davies, Georgie Russell and Donny Miller constituting the remainder.
A young ringer turned shearer from Richmond, Roy Jerrim learnt his speedy technique from Jimmy Treveton Snr, whose motto was not to waste a blow.
"Jimmy used to get down near me and he'd say, just watch that top tooth; just keep it out of the wool; watch it like that; don't move your head and watch that top tooth," Roy said.
Every run from then on, Roy steadily improved, increasing his count from 40 sheep in a run of two hours to tidily penning 92 sheep in one run.
As his count increased, the number of blows he used decreased.
Initially, Roy shore a sheep in 50 blows this eventually decreased to 29 blows a sheep with the two-and-a-quarter inch combs of the time.
Roy's growing expertise was noticed by Daryl Beattie, who worked alongside Roy on the team of five shearers at Billy Vaughn's.
Daryl believed Roy was taking the amphetamine Benzedrine to increase his shearing speed and approached Roy to see if he had any spare.
Roy began his con over lunch: "Yeah, I'm on it. How do you think I shear so well?"
He continued to wind Daryl up as he knew the third run of the day (straight after lunch) was normally a shearer's fastest run.
On the way back to the shed, Roy offered Daryl a big green sleeping tablet masqueraded as Benzedrine.
"So, anyhow, the bell went and away went Daryl. Gee, I've never seen him shear so fast," Roy said.
On the hour, Daryl told Roy he was starting to feel tired and wasn't sure the tablet was working, so Roy gave Daryl another sleeping tablet.
"By the end of the run, he went and sat in the wool bale and we are all going flat out, well ahead of Daryl, and it was the funniest trick I ever played on anyone," he said.
"Next thing, Vaughny came along and Daryl is still in the wool bale. He said, Jerrim, did you bomb him?
"I said, now, would I do a thing like that? And, he said, I think you did, you so-and-so."
However, the gimmick backfired, with the four remaining upright shearers having to shear extra sheep to keep to Vaughn's 1000-a-day tally.
Such deception was common in the shearing sheds of the 1950s and 1960s, according to Roy, who said it was nothing to pull down on a dead snake instead of a rope or get your combs tangled in wool.
"You'd have your comb and your cutter and screw the comb on and then the cutter on. Well, they'd put two combs on instead and you'd go into the wool and it wouldn't cut.
"It was full of tricks, but that was a good team."
The jovial nature of the shearing sheds died in 1956 when shearers' wages were cut significantly.
Roy was just beginning to gain speed in his shearing, but refused to work for the lowered wages (scabbing).
Four or so of the top growers in Richmond visited Roy to try and convince him to end his strike so other shearers would follow suit.
One of them told Roy that his refusal would cost him a shearing job anywhere in Richmond when the strike ended.
"I said, I never went without a job before. I've got six kids and they won't go hungry, but I won't be going shearing.
"I stuck it out for nine months and went everywhere looking for work.
"One thing about it the butcher, the baker, the grocer everybody stood by me.
"If I never had the money to send to Cecily (Roy's wife whom he married in 1952), they would look after her.
"And, at the end of it I said, I'll pay you. It was good."
Roy and four local shearers travelled south to NSW where the wages were higher and the sheep were the "toughest damn sheep I've ever seen".
The men "stuck it out" until the strike ended and they returned to Richmond.
"The growers were sick of shearing their own sheep. They had to go back home, feed the dogs and everything, and they said they were pleased when the strike ended."
As the grower had predicted, Roy was outcast as a renegade upon his return and could not get a job, although one grower took the risk and put Roy on a six-stander shed.
"It went straight bloke, scab, straight bloke, scab, straight bloke, scab you had to work with them."
Bitterness eventually got the better of Roy, who would shear all the sheep in his pen except for the big, rough ones, which he would pelt over into a scab's pen.
However, Roy's bitterness did not prevent his status as a gun shearer and over 32 days, he shore a total of 6400 sheep: 4000 sheep in three weeks and one day at the Cambridge (averaging 250 sheep a day with a top tally of 307), and 2400 sheep at Harrogate over 10 days.
Roy spoke with pride but also modesty of his achievements.
"I don't pick up my bank account and see how heavy it is I pick my kids up.
"That used to get me when someone would skite and their kids were hungry."
Hunger of a different kind devastated the North in 1968 with a drought that forced Roy to end his Queensland shearing career, pack up his family into a caravan and travel across NSW to wherever he could find work shearing.
"We were pushing sheep down the last shed. They'd take them out, cut their throats, throw them in a heap, put diesel on them and burn every single one of them."
Roy's southern shearing career saw the family home move from one shed to another Roy shore, his wife Cecily cooked and their children were sent to the closest school in range.
For 20 years, Canberra was a stable base for the Jerrim family and Roy's career as a competition shearer began.
"Daryl Beattie (the sleeping tablet shearer) and I went down to Sydney and got a job demonstrating.
"We would have been the roughest demonstrators you've seen we didn't know anything about style."
Bimby Martin from the Australian Wool Corporation (AWC) soon taught Roy the style needed for success in competition shearing, which required participants shear four sheep in fewer than 12 minutes.
Roy always made time and reached the final heat for an Australian title in Goulburn.
Competitors were provided a mob of sheep and asked to choose the top eight to shear it was the luck of the draw during this title that cost Roy his Australian jumper.
"I said if I draw pen eight I don't like it. (Competitor Ray Anderson) said if I draw pen seven, I don't like it.
"What did we draw pens seven and eight."
Roy later became an AWC senior shearing instructor for NSW and Queensland, judged the Diamond Shears in Longreach for eight consecutive years, and ran his own shearing schools in NSW.
In 1992 Roy retired from the AWC, although he continued to stay active with shearing.
Just a few years ago, the 83-year-old shore 40 lambs for a friend 10 sheep a day for four days.
"You've got to have a killer instinct to be a gun you've got to be mad. You never say die. Not let anyone beat you."
And, as a man who has shorn hundreds of thousands of sheep over his life, during the flu, carbuncles and hernias, Roy Jerrim is undoubtedly a gun shearer through and through.
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