News

Gun shearer inducted into hall of fame

By Alana Christensen

Shepparton’s John William Harris has been celebrated for his 65-year contribution to the wool industry, inducted into the Australian Shearers’ Hall of Fame in Hay during the Easter long weekend.

Born in Mansfield in 1913, Mr Harris grew up in Merton before moving to Taggerty and later Shepparton.

Shearing from Hughenden in northern Queensland to Murnpeowie in South Australia, as well as in New Zealand and across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, he also won a number of competitions.

Mr Harris set many unbeaten shed records, including shearing 5000 Merinos at Warbreccan station in south-west Queensland in 1942.

Known far and wide as ‘Taggerty Bill’ to distinguish himself from a cousin of the same name, Mr Harris was something of an anomaly in a shearing shed — he wasn’t a drinker or a smoker.

Mr Harris’ son, John, said his father was a very calm man and also helped teach him the art of shearing.

When World War II came around, Mr Harris tried to join the army.

‘‘But he was a shearer, so they wanted to keep him here. Someone’s got to shear the sheep,’’ John said.

‘‘He shore throughout the Great Depression, the war and the 1950s.

‘‘He always said he’d had a good life shearing and he’d never knock them around because they were his livelihood.’’

It was a message that carried through into John’s life, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame himself in 2009.

Like his father, John has dedicated more than 65 years to the industry.

‘‘I was lucky I had Dad,’’ John said.

‘‘For a long time there Australia rode on the sheep’s back. Things are a little different now.’’

Although many of Mr Harris’ days were spent in the shearing shed, John said he had plenty of other interests.

While growing up in Merton, Mr Harris explored his love of horses — training and riding two Merton Cup winners in 1940 and 1941.

It was a love that continued long after Mr Harris’ jockey days were behind him, along with a fascination for cars.

‘‘He must have owned 140 cars in his lifetime by the time he died,’’ John said.

‘‘It was a great night (seeing him be inducted).’’

Mr Harris died in Euroa in 1997.

He was one of five inductees into the Hall of Fame this year, along with Longwood’s Brian Morrison.

A former VFL footballer, Mr Morrison gave up the game for shearing and won the Australian Open shearing title twice.