Event fundraising

Mowing ‘in the blood’ of family at heart of Southland event

Patsy Shirley and her daughter Megan Shirley at the Southland Community Shears North event on Friday.  The Shirley family have played a key role in keeping the event going for the past 20 years.

Evan Harding / Stuff

Patsy Shirley and her daughter Megan Shirley at the Southland Community Shears North event on Friday. The Shirley family have played a key role in keeping the event going for the past 20 years.

Patsy Shirley watches the shearers get to work Friday at a southern wool shed.

The Northern Southland Community Shears event is on and Shirley is in her element.

She has been one of the main organizers of the event for over 20 years, ever since she and her family helped move it from Mossburn to Lumsden when it was about to fold.

More than seven national wool shearing and handling titles are on the line at the farm near Five Rivers.

Several dozen spectators are present as the shearers set to work, the judges close in on the action and Norm Harraway comments on the microphone.

It’s hot outside, shearers are perching under umbrellas working on their equipment, a dog is tied to a fence in a shady area, and teenagers are chewing food from the food truck.

This is a Southland country event, and the fact that shearing is still in progress can be attributed to the committee’s positive attitude.

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About 24 of 59 mowing events nationwide have been canceled this season due to Covid-19, with vaccine passes required at each event.

Patsy and her daughter Megan, whose family has mowed contractors in northern Southland for three generations, said cancellation was never an option, despite the drop in the number of competitors this year.

This was partly because the North Island shearers did not venture south when other southern events were cancelled.

“Shearing and handling wool is in our blood and we didn’t want them to bend,” Megan said.

“We were determined to keep going.”

Her mother said she enjoys helping out and meeting up with shearing friends at the event every year.

The North Southland event began 40 years ago in a Mossburn wool shed when sheep farming reigned supreme. It was so successful that it was moved to the town’s community center in subsequent years, with up to 200 shearers and wool handlers competing in front of large crowds.

Mike Hogan, chief shearing judge for North Southland’s shears and National Shearing Committee delegate, said people came in droves in the 1980s to watch the shearers known to make big tallies.

“There was standing room only in the Mossburn Community Center.”

He thanked Patsy Shirley for keeping the event going since moving to Lumsden, where it was held at several locations in and around town.

“She was both secretary and treasurer, and kept the committee together…there was one constant and that was her.

“The Shirley family has been synonymous with the event for many years and it is their efforts that have kept it all going.”

Patsy said it was her last year as an organizer.

“That’s what she keeps saying, but it’s not,” her daughter Megan said.