Can you use sheep to tell history? The Sheep’s Back Museum at Naracoorte has been preserving and telling stories of the wool industry since the 1960s, but on the March long weekend Blades of Glencoe put a new twist on telling history with sheep. Organised by the Mount Gambier branch of the National Trust, who manage the Glencoe Woolshed and also the Old Mount Gambier Courthouse, the premise of the event was to shear by hand 700 sheep – for the first time in more than 100 years.
For many years the Glencoe Woolshed has operated as an historical attraction, with displays of agricultural and domestic technology from the later nineteenth century being set up in the sheep pens and interpretive panels that highlight the Leake Brothers who built the woolshed and aspects of the wool industry in the Glencoe district. For Blades of Glencoe the building came alive with the sights, sounds and smells of 50 blade shearers and hundreds of sheep to create a unique and engaging living history experience.
Seeing hundreds of sheep in the pens ready to be shorn was quite a sight. The Glencoe Woolshed is usually a quiet, rather out of the way place to visit so for one day it was great to see it so full of activity.
Thousands of people flocked to the event, enjoying the entertainment on offer and not minding the significant queue to enter the woolshed and watch the shearers at work. The hard working volunteers, wearing their bright Blades of Glencoe shirts, ushered visitors into the woolshed, where they could take in the historical displays before going up the ramps and walking right next to sheep in their pens and within arms length of the shearers at work. It was an interesting experience to be able to stop and talk with a shearer about their work and to hear the conversations going on about back supports for shearers, how to tell if the shears are sharpened properly and the quality of the wool. Lots of images and news about Blades of Glencoe are available on Facebook.
History SA provided some funding through the Community Museums Program for Mount Gambier National Trust branch to engage a filmmaker to document activities on the day, interview past and present shearers and put together a short film. This will further add to the ongoing history of the Glencoe Woolshed.