• Loddon Herald

Ray still clips fleece

RAY Tonkin is something of a shearing legend in the Loddon and at age 92, showed he can still handle sheep and comb.

When students at the Wedderburn shearing school were heading into the final hours of instruction this month, Ray joined in and skilfully separated fleece from skin.

It’s something he first did as a 15-year-old at the first of 25 years working the shearing stands across Victoria and New South Wales before classing for merino studs.

“It (*shearing) is a fully fledged industry these days,” Ray said.

“The young people at the school were a good batch and the instructors these days, they are real teachers.

“This helps maintain the industry. It’s certainly here to stay even if grain growing has become more popular than running sheep.”

When Ray started “we’d be lucky to earn what today would be about 50 cents a sheep ... they were big tough wethers in those days and hard to handle”.

“Now the skin is so much smoother and that helps with the shearing,” he said.

“There’s certainly been some big improvements in the equipment available to today’s shearers compared with what we had all those years ago.”

Ray’s feat on the shearing stand this month received acclaim for the next generation who marvelled at skills he starting learning more than 70 years ago.

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