Bluey's not ready to hang up the handpiece just yet | Video

Gary 'Bluey' Stapleton has been shearing in same shed for half a century

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BEND THE BACK: Gary "Bluey" Stapleton hard at work in the shearing shed at "Wonga", Tarana - as he has been for decades.

BEND THE BACK: Gary "Bluey" Stapleton hard at work in the shearing shed at "Wonga", Tarana - as he has been for decades.

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"He's one of the toughest old blokes that I have come across."

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GARY "Bluey" Stapleton knows he's been shearing in the same shed at Tarana in the NSW Central West for 50 years, but can't say for sure how many more he'll rack up before he calls it a day.

"How long is a bit of string?" he smiled while he enjoyed smoko in the shed at "Wonga" this week while a passing shower drummed on the roof.

"While my back still keeps going, I'll do a few [sheep]. I'm nearly 70, so there's not a lot of years left in me."

SHEAR SATISFACTION: Gary "Bluey" Stapleton (second from left), who has racked up 50 years shearing in the same shed at Tarana, with Noel Grant, Rowan Charlton and Guy Fletcher.

SHEAR SATISFACTION: Gary "Bluey" Stapleton (second from left), who has racked up 50 years shearing in the same shed at Tarana, with Noel Grant, Rowan Charlton and Guy Fletcher.

Mr Stapleton - who lives at Isabella, near Black Springs - says "starvation" got him into shearing, but he also admits that he enjoys his work and the camaraderie in the shed.

"When I was young, there were no other jobs for a young fellow," he said. "I had no education and there was nothing else I could do, so I took up shearing.

"The only thing is that I have not had enough brains to get out of it."

And is the shearer's life a good life? Mr Stapleton says it depends on how far you have to travel.

"There are not as many sheep around as there used to be. When I started, 70 kays was the furthest I travelled.

"A lot of properties are sold, Sydney people buy them, they get cut up into smaller blocks and people don't want to run sheep because they are too much work.

"If you get a few cattle, you just have to check on them every now and then."

"Wonga" owner Richard Webb said it was a guitar, rather than a handpiece, that brought Mr Stapleton to the property.

The "Wonga" shed was built in the late 1950s and a polocrosse ball was held on the property three or four years later, Mr Webb said.

"Gary came down here playing guitar with Pat Foran's orchestra," he said.

"He [Mr Stapleton] was sitting out the back and said one day he would like to shear in this shed.

"I had met him once before. I said I'll give you a ring when we're starting. He came the following year and has been here ever since."

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Mr Webb said Mr Stapleton had helped a lot of young shearers coming through over the years.

"He's a really good fellow: easy to get on with; a good shearer."

That was an assessment backed up by Rowan Charlton, who shared the "Wonga" shed with Mr Stapleton.

"I have been shearing for 25 years on and off and he has been a great bloke to work with," Mr Charlton said.

"He's one of the toughest old blokes that I have come across, I reckon, and is a gentleman all the way through."

Mr Stapleton said he was seeing young shearers coming into the industry again in recent years, but he wouldn't be drawn on what he thought was bringing them back.

"I don't know," he said. "If I was that intelligent, I wouldn't have to shear for a living."

Western Advocate

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