One-armed shearer off to Wales
THERE is a four-letter word which one Warwick shearer won’t utter to flair his vernacular.
Despite blistered fingers, sweat tracks streaking down his face and with his back cradled in a shearer’s sling, “can’t” is not a word which lurks in David Wyllie’s mind.
“I lost my right arm in a car crash in 2003. You can chop off my arm but I can still shear a sheep,” Mr Wyllie said.
“It’s been a hard slog and there’s been sweat, blood and swearing.”
The single parent said sitting depressed in the corner “wasn’t his style”, and he embarked on a journey to continue in the shearing profession which he enjoyed for about 25 years.
“As far as I know I’m one-of-a-kind – the only one-armed shearer. And in two weeks I’ll be off to Wales for a shearing demonstration at the Golden Shears World Championships,” he said.
The competition is part of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society which will include about 300 competitors from 15 countries. Mr Wyllie says he’s eager to see how the “guy from Japan goes” wrestling a sheep.
“I have a Bachelor of Education and do supply teaching at Charleville State High School, and I reckon the work with kids kick-started my invitation to the championships,” he said.
While the horrific memory of the crash which severed his arm is a haunting reminder of his previous life, Mr Wyllie said the remains of his limb were enough to ensure a future in the industry.
“There’s nothing wrong with my left hand, I had to learn to write and change a nappy one-handed,” he said with a laugh.
“Now I can shower, shave, get the kids ready and be off in the same amount of time it took me when I had both arms.
“But amputations above the elbow are hard to attach prosthesis to, but with some help we made something which could hold a sheep and stay on.”
Mr Wyllie said with the help of mates he was able to devise an apparatus to help wedge the sheep against his body with clippers in the other hand.
“Hugh Tindall helped to develop the bits and pieces to hold sheep, like muzzles and bolts; Lex Brackin from Warwick TAFE gave me support, and I’d like to acknowledge Saddlery One, Sally Keable and her saddler Bill who helped modify my shearing dungarees to attach the prosthesis,” he said.
“Next week I’ll be out at Dirranbandi practising for Wales with shearing contractor Rob Kelly, who gave me a chance.
“I’m not as quick as I used to be put I can still do 50 to 80 sheep a day.”