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Unravelling memories at Wool Shed museum

A retired shepherd who worked at Masterton’s Glendonald Station 60 years ago had a blast from the past over the Christmas holidays while visiting the district’s Wool Shed museum, which has housed the station’s woolshed since 2003.

When Ken Ford passed through Wairarapa a couple of years ago on a nostalgic trip he was disappointed to find that the Glendonald wool shed wasn’t in its old spot.

That’s because it had been transported to Masterton’s Wool Shed heritage museum, where visitors can experience an authentic wool shed that had trucked in from its original farm.

This time again, Ford was thrilled to take the opportunity to visit his old stomping ground and had the faintest of tears in his eyes while staring at the shed housed in the museum, now occupied by mannequin shearers bent over pseudo sheep.

“It feels strange, you know, because 60 years ago I was a young man,” Ford said.

“They were happy days on Glendonald Station. But I don’t know how the locals felt about a Pom working on the sheep stations in New Zealand!”

Ford said he was taught to shear in that very shed and that, although much had changed since then, he doesn’t believe the art of shearing is dramatically different these days.

“You get fit while doing that every day,” Ford said.

“Shearing isn’t about brute force, it’s about skill. Once you perfect that technique and master what you’re doing, you’re set.”

Ford arrived in New Zealand in the early 1960s and eventually made his way to Glendonald Station where he worked for Ken Russell, the manager at the time.

He said he stayed for two years and enjoyed working in hill country with his dogs.

He was working there when he heard the news of the Wahine disaster in 1968, something he said he would never forget.

“We’d been out mushing cows and calves, and the weather just got worse and worse,” Ford said.

“I had to get the sheep into the shed, and the rain was just driving through the weatherboards, the wind was that strong.

“Then, of course, we heard the news come through from Wellington.”

Roger Barton, a volunteer at the Wool Shed, said it wasn’t every day that the museum had someone like Ford pay a visit.

“His signature will be an important one in our guest book,” Barton said.

“We do sometimes get some older shearers come through, and they stand and reminisce about the past Golden Shears winners.”

The museum also boasts another authentic woolshed, several displays describing the history of Wairarapa’s sheep farming, and samples of wool.

Barton said while people visit for a variety of reasons, Ford’s reason for wanting to see the woolshed was special.

“Some people stop because they’re curious, others stop because it’s part of their lives.”

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Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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