Volunteer Blogs – Maureen Kerr: Sourcing Fleece

I work in the textile area of the Crannog as a volunteer 2 or 3 days a week and I source much of their wool/fleece for spinning, dying and weaving.

Last week was shearing time for the Cheviot flock that live near Durness in the far north-west of Scotland and I headed up there for their Hogg and gimmer annual clip. Hoggs are castrated yearling lambs and gimmers are yearling breeding stock. The hoggs have the best fleece and that’s why I went there.

At 8am when I arrived at the shearing shed the clippers had already been clipping since half seven. There were only 2 girls rolling the fleece so I joined in, helping keep things moving, as the clippers were on average Taking 53.4 seconds per sheep to get their wool off !!It was years since I’d been ‘rolling’ at a clip, but you never forget.The ‘rollers’ take away the fleece the minute it is off the sheep. The clipper is already reaching for another sheep from the pen behind him and does not, and I mean does NOT want the previous fleece in the way. They get very cross !!!

You are also responsible for spraying antiseptic on any cuts or nicks. Rollers have to remove any stray lumps of wool lying around on the clipping stage and brush the floor of any stray wool as wellThe fleece is thrown onto a table, rolled up and tossed into the wool sack. Someone will periodically get inside the sack and tramp it down to make more room. When full, the sack is sewn up securely and removed and a new one set up in the frame which holds it open……..and on it goes apace all day. The clippers usually have a brief mid morning break, then a quick lunch as they aim to get through 1100 hoggs and gimmers today, more if they can. They are fast, accurate and a very experienced crew. Much in demand as the older generation of shearers retire, the younger generation are not so keen to carry on the skills needed for this hard and back breaking work.I came away with 10 premium Hogg fleeces for our Crannog. No money changed hands, but as the shepherd said……..I’d earned them all.Next years clip is already booked into the diary !!!!