Australian Folk Songs
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Shearing and Shearers
To the Editor of the D. D. Gazette (16 December 1874)
Be so good as to allow me space for a few words on the subject of Shearing and Shearers' Unions. I have taken my place for the past nine years in two sheds one after another, and have never had reason to grumble At my pay. I have always asked the price per score before going to work, and have looked upon the bargain as the same as a contract for fencing or clearing. The work only lasts for a time, and I know what I have to do and put up with before I can get my work passed and the money I have earned paid to me.
I have been fed better lately than when I commenced work on the Downs, but have never slept in the shearers' hut. I generally rig up a hammock in the verandah, or some other place, as I don't rare to play cards or sing after supper. I hate concertinas and the fellows that play them. I am pretty well up to my work and don't have complaints, but it would be hard upon good hands were the "slummers" paid for their work the same as the old shearers, who take pains with their work.
I have earned £28 in one shed after paying for extra rations, and expect to make over £30 out of the one I am now in. This will be very well for about four months and a half work, and my extras don't come to much. I know the time when I couldn't earn as much in two years at home, and find myself. I don't say much for the sleeping part of the hut, but the cooking and the food is generally very good.
I go shearing to make money, and don't expect first rate accomodation for the few weeks I stop at the station. I don't expect squatters to build model lodging houses, to be used only for eight or ten weeks in shearing times, but if I do my work well, I expect to have my work passed without grumbling and my money paid to me when I have finished.
I know the rules of the sheds and keep them, and I don't get into trouble. I am satisfied with my pay, because I know what I am going to get before I begin work, and I don't see what good Unions will be if careless shearers get the same pay as I do. Considering the price of clothes, and shoes and tobacco, I think I am better paid than I was six or seven years agone. And I am sure that trouble will come to the working man out of the Union. The squatters you may be sure will sooner take longer over the work, with fewer hands, and lose a good bit, than miss the chance of making a dead set against a strike. I don't see any reason for asking them to do it when the work time is so short. It would be different if we worked on month after month, and year after year, the same as shoemakers and bricklayers, but the work with us is short and the pay is very good.
From the Darling Downs Gazette and General Advertiser Wednesday 16 December 1874 p. 3.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory