World champion sheep shearer Tom Wilson demonstrates his skills to top Irish shearers attending a training session in Ballinrobe, County Mayo.

Originally from Scotland, Tom Wilson is unequalled in the profession and has been known to shear a sheep in 46 seconds. He visited Ballinrobe to show a group of farmers attending the Advanced Irish Sheep Course for top shearers how to shear better, faster and more stylishly.

Assisting Tom in his demonstration is Seamus Brannick, himself a past champion, and holder of the 1975 Irish record for shearing 585 sheep in nine hours. Seamus from Hollymount in Mayo still shears regularly, although the Irish season is often as short as three weeks.

The annual clip is believed to be worth seven or eight million pounds to the Irish economy, so it is vital the skills of Irish shearers are developed. Seamus believes domestic and competition shearing are both important to the industry as a whole. 

High speed shearers means a sheep can be sheared in 55 seconds, but Ireland is still a long way off from the world record. For Billy Donnellan shearing is all about technique.

If you get your method right and you get your gear right, it’s enjoyable.

The challenge of shearing is to do the job well and many shearers claim it is enjoyable work. For Michael Stephens shearing, 

Is like going for a pint.

Ireland has only a handful of professional shearers who can earn up to £300 a day during the Irish season. Tom admits he earns £15,000 a year but this is a bonus as he enjoys the work and the travelling.

It’s a great job for me.

It is generally agreed that further training sessions of this kind are required if Ireland is to make its mark on the world sheep shearing stage.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 5 June 1987. The reporter is Jim Fahy.