Friday, 18 July 2014


It's shearing time and, as with so many things in the crofting world, the work's so much easier, and more enjoyable, if it's done communally.  The other day I had the pleasure of watching Hughie MacLachlan shearing some sheep.

The process starts with the sheep being upended so the shearer can remove the wool from its underparts, then....'s rolled onto its side so the back can be reached, this area being shorn with a series of long strokes, while the sheep's head is held firmly - it's in Hughie's left hand.

Lastly, the rear of the beast is dealt with after which....

....any nicks are dealt with and the sheep marked with dye.  Throughout the process these sheep were remarkably co-operative - or perhaps they knew better than to muck around with Hughie.

The fleece is rolled up and....

....stuffed into a bale ready to go away to be used in insulation or mattresses (in Italy, apparently).  Very little is paid to the crofters for fleeces - about £1.40 each - but at least.... this warm weather it's a relief for the sheep.

There are several crofters in this community who can shear sheep, and their services are much in demand.  On the Ardnamurchan Estate, contract shearers are brought in, and they were at work earlier in the week, the three men typically managing over 1,000 sheep in a day.

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