Golden Shears founding members Ian Stewart and Laurie Keats with Tranzit’s Jenna Snelgrove in front of the bus where the idea of Golden Shears began. PHOTOS/JOHN LAZO-RON

Golden Shears legacy started on a bus trip

Sixty-two years ago, a group of young Wairarapa farmers took a bus to Wairoa for a sheep shearing competition. It was the start of a legacy that put Masterton on the map. JOHN LAZO-RON reports.

It was a hot sunny day in Wairoa, 1959.

Golden Shears founding members Laurie Keats and Ian Stewart had just competed at a sheep shearing competition in the Hawke’s Bay town.

The two were preparing to head back to Wairarapa but left with a stinging thought that came from a robust debate among people at the competition – there was no national shearing competition.

Keats said the discussion started after people were claiming to have the best shearers in New Zealand.

“While we were waiting for results in Wairoa a big discussion started about wanting shearing to go a step further … there was no national competition,” he said.

“A lot of us started thinking and talking about it on the bus trip home, so we decided that we were going to do something about it.”

However, they didn’t get the initial response they were hoping for with a lack of interest in the idea.

“National Young Farmers weren’t interested in it,” Keats said.

“We then went to the Federated Farmers, who were quite supportive but didn’t do much about it. So we went to the A&P about running a competition.

“So we did it and it ended up being a huge event. The people just queued up everywhere.”

After that success they formed a committee from a bunch of different parties to look into the prospect of hosting a national competition.

The rest is history.

And that’s where Keats says what many in Wairarapa and around the world have come to know as the Golden Shears all began.

A photo of the young farmers on the Blue Bus Services [Tranzit] maiden voyage where the grass roots of Golden Shears began

Keats, Stewart, along with current Golden Shears president Sam Saunders visited the infamous bus – still sitting at Queen St’s Tranzit base – to remember where the idea of Golden Shears started and to pass on a gift to commemorate the significant maiden voyage of that bus.

They handed Tranzit Group sales and marketing director Jenna Snelgrove a picture of the young famers who made that trip, calling it the “Grass Roots of Golden Shears”.

It was the first trip for the Blue Bus Services [now Tranzit] bus that took that bunch of young farmers to Wairoa.

Sixty-two years on, the pair says they remember that day like it was yesterday.

“It was a terrific day,” Stewart said of the bus ride.

“After talking about it on that trip, we just wanted to have the first one and get it off the ground, and we had so many people trying to get in, which was amazing.”

Keats said people got the shock of their lives when the interest for the inaugural competition had spread as far as the South Island.

“The first two entries came from the South Island, and some people who were against it couldn’t believe it. In the end we had to cut off entries because we couldn’t cope [with the amount of entries].

“That confirmed that there was a need for a national competition.

“What Golden Shears is now is something all the young farmers in those days can be proud of.”

Although the idea of Golden Shears was birthed on that bus ride, Stewart said part of the legacy truly belonged to the volunteers who have been keeping the competition afloat all this time.

“We depend on volunteers,” he said.

“This has gone on for 60-odd years because of them. People take days off, sometimes weeks, to keep this going so we take our hats off to them.”

Keats said Golden Shears was the ‘Wimbledon’ of shearing, and described the discussions in Wairoa as the turning point for what Golden Shears has become.

After the competition had to be cancelled this year due to covid-19, Saunders said they had plans to get it up and running again in 2022.

There are only six members of that ‘grass roots’ crew who went on that bus ride still alive.

Asked about what mishaps took place on that bus ride, Stewart said, “it was christened”, after sharing there were quite a few shenanigans that happened.

“I won’t say much but there were a few who were sick on that ride let me tell you that.”



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