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Sheep Shearing (1866)

At the Clermont Police Court, on Wednesday, September 26, before the Police Magistrate and H. E. King, Esq., William Taylor, Edward Gardner, Charles Taylor, James Simpson, William Jackson, George Moore, Louis King, Patrick Hegarty, John Bradly, Thomas Madrigan, Henry Simson, and John Bell were charged withll unlawfully refusing to obey tihe orders of their employer, Mr. S. B. Davis.

Sydney Beanan Davis deposed: The prisoners be- fore the court were shearers; witness had a written agreement with them (handed in); on Friday afternoon on arriving at the station from the wash-pool, he was informed that the shearers had refused to shear the rams unless allowed double for them; ordered the sheep to be penned as usual for Saturday morning, wihen witness went over and found no man on the floor--all were at the hut ; went to the hut and asked them the reason they were not shearing ; reply was, "We must have something extra for the rams;" told them, "You will get nothing more than your agreement--Mr. Aumuller has never paid extra for rams yet ;" they further added that they were under-paid for their sheep--that Mr. Gordon was paying 4s. per score; one of them, John Bell, stated the tea was so bad they could not drink it ; this tea was some that had come up two days previously ; tasted it, and finding it not good, promised to get better for them ; witness trhen asked them if they would shear, and then went to the shed to see if they would come to work ; remained there about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes, and no man came ; about nine o'clock they came in a body to witness at the house, and asked if we could not come to some arrangement ; replied, "No other than your agreement ; you have 4000 April lambs to shear, and plenty of bare-bellied ewes, which are quite equivalent for the rams ;" they then left to get their horses ; sent to Clermont to get warrants for them ; only two horses were got, and that was the reason the men were on Peak Vale that night when the police arrived.

By the Bench : I have never allowed extra for shearing rams unless inserted in the agreement ; the men well understood that they were not to receive extra for shearing rams.

Examined by Edward Gardner : You agreed to shear all my sheep ; you did not speak to me about the tea the first week ; nor to Mr. Blakiston, that I am aware of ; I did not agree not to keep you idle ; you were kept idle three days from lost sheep, and it might be five days from bad weather ; told you after those three days that if you were further detained you should be paid for it ; some further delay arose through thunderstormns, and not from any fault of mine ; I said I would not allow anything for lost time.

By W. Jackson : You commenced on Monday, 10th September--the sheep were ready on Saturday, but you declined shearing ; can't say how many days work I have given you since that time. Defendants had no witnesses. One of the men said he had been shearing for twenty-three years, and never sborn a ram without bring paid extra for it. Another said he had been shearing for Mr. Davis for three weeks and had only been given work eight days-- had been shearing since '49, and never had such a thing as that--(the extra for rams)--put in an agreement.

The Bench told the defendants they should have finished their agreements, and then sued Mr. Davis, if they had been compelled to lose time. The Bench, after retiring to a privote room, asked the prisoners if they wished to go back again. They replied that they did not. Fined 20s. each, in default three days imprisonment.


From the Queensland newspaper the Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser Saturday 20 October 1866 p. 3.

We can see the "Masters and Servants Act" in operation here indicating the problems that shearers had with poor pay and poor conditions. Refusal to accept the employers conditions often mean a court case resulting in a fine and/or imprisonment.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory