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South of Scotland Shears
Welsh sheep shearers certainly made their journey worth while by taking six of the possible sixteen finalist stands at South of Scotland Shears, held at the Barony College, Dumfries, at the weekend. Eight shearers travelled up to shear at the event, which is now counted as part of the Welsh circuit.
Three young Welsh shearers competed in both the Junior and Intermediate classes. Alun Jones and Dylan Jones topped the billboard in the Junior heats, with local shearer Lewis Harkness in third place and newly established Dumfriesshire shearing contractor, Bill Ramsay, from the renowned Blackface sheep property – Milnmark – making the grade, in fourth place, for the straight final.
Skye man Kenneth O’Connor, who had successfully lifted the Young Shepherd of the Year Title at Scotsheep earlier in the week missed out on a final shear by 0.23 points.
Bill Ramsay picked up the time points in both the heats and final, but the Welsh boys had quality control and the final line up mirrored the heats, with the Scots not quite keeping up with the Jones’s!
The six heat Intermediate final was strongly contested with UK shearers from Orkney to Cumbria to Wales and overseas hopefuls from New Zealand and Japan. Welshman Dion Hughes, who had come last in the Junior section, redeemed himself and qualified in prime position for the three heat semi-finals. Charles McCombie of Huntly, Neil Edmundson from Cumbria and Sean Cursiter, Orkney were next to qualify, with Calum Lindsay (Stirling), Neil Sandilands (Jedburgh), Stuart Davidson (Blyth Bridge), David Gordon (New Zealand), David Gibson (Gartocharn), Alister Shaw (Saline, Fife), Alun Jones (Wales) and local man George Brough making up the ‘dirty dozen’ for the semi-finals. Aberdonian John Milne and Kenneth O’Connor missed out.
Alun Jones from North Wales, who won the Junior section, sharpened his gear and upped his pace from 9mins 51secs over five sheep in the heats and 11th place to 6mins 38secs over six sheep in the semi-finals to pole position and a stand in the final. Orcadian, Sean Cursiter and David Gibson, both found fifth gear and cleaned up on the board to move up from fourth and ninth places respectively to take second and third slots into the final. Dion Hughes took the fourth stand.
Sporting red singlets from sponsor Wm Horner, the four Intermediate finalists took to the podium to tackle eight Scotch Mule hoggs. David Gibson, who has won the Young Farmer Silver Handpiece at the Royal Highland Show, went for the time points, pushing his last hogg down the porthole in 8mins and 35seconds. He had a two minute, 10 second wait, while the Welsh boys photo finished on the 10min 45sec mark and Sean Cursiter pulled his cord five seconds later.
David Gibson lifted the new Intermediate farmingscotland.com Quaich and £110 prize money with an impressive 7.15point lead. Dion Hughes, with the cleanest pen, came second, with Cursiter and Jones in third and fourth.
Young Stuart Davidson (19) from Blyth Bridge, who was second in the Junior final at the Golden Shears in New Zealand earlier this year, tried his hand in the Senior competition. He qualified in seventh position in the twenty-five strong heats. Rowan Forrest, Ross Gibson, Jack Fagan, Dafydd Jones, Stuart Kennedy and John Struthers were placed in front of him, while Cursiter, Alan Brady, Neil Sandilands, Steven Tudor and David Milburn made up the top twelve.
Like father, like son, Jack Fagan, son of shearing icon David Fagan, pulled out all the stops and qualified in first place for the final. Surprising himself as well as everyone else, shearing for the first time in the Senior, Stuart Davidson was next man in, followed by Forrest and Gibson.
Unfortunately for Ross, his speedy time of 9 minutes and 46 seconds was marred by a puncture wound, which cost him the title and pushed him into fourth place, scoring 14.20 out the back. The wriggly Scottish Blackface hoggs tested the Kiwi’s mettle but Jack Fagan cleaned up on the board and out the back to lift the Senior Title and £175 prize money. Rowan Forrest and Stuart Davidson were second and third.
Numbers forward for the Open section were down considerably on the year, but last year shearers had been getting in competition practice on the run up for team selection for the World Championships.
A quarter of the semi-finalists were Welsh, with Welsh team member Gareth Daniels leading the pack in the heats, clipping his seven sheep in 6min 20sec and a total score of 26.14. Simon Bedwell, who lifted the time points (6m 6s), was only 0.2 points behind. Richard Jones, Alan Kennedy, Calum Shaw, Ian Jones, Gordon Nicol, Archie Paterson, Grant Lundie, John Gibson, Una Cameron and Ross Gibson, made the draw for the semi-finals.
Keeping up with the Jones’s was the name of the game once again as Richard and Ian Jones flew the Welsh flag in first and second places in the semi-finals, with only 0.4 points between them. Grant Lundie – “the best thing to come out of Dundee since the cake,” roared Welsh commentator Huw Condron – was third qualifier with Simon Bedwell in fourth. Archie Patterson just missed out.
Grant Lundie, who won the Angus Open the previous day, led the field for the first four sheep, until Simon Bedwell, found full throttle, blasting his score of hoggs out in 16m 44s, 22 seconds ahead of Ian Jones. Bedwell, who has many a time played bridesmaid to Gavin Mutch and Hamish Mitchell, must have been delighted that the 2011 Scottish Team were not present, leaving the field wide open and the £350 up for grabs. His time score helped him secure the Open title and the cash prize.
Ian Jones, Grant Lundie and Richard Jones were second to fourth respectively.
The South of Scotland Shears Committee presented Secretary of 23 years – Russell Marchant – with a sheep shearing Border Fine Art – ‘Fleeced’ – for his dedicated services to the event. Russell, who is Principal of the Barony College, is heading to another establishment in Somerset, due to the merger of the Scottish colleges with SAC. Veteran shearer Herbie Kennedy, who established the competition, made a short speech and wished Russell well on behalf of the committee. Eilidh MacPherson, who set up and ran Isle of Skye Shears and is now married and sheep farming in the South West, is taking on the role of Secretary.