Shearing at Salts Farm

A report on sheep shearing appeared in the East Sussex News, 1983 where Mick Cutting was featured giving a sheep a short back and sides at Romney Marsh Shearing Championships, he was one of three in the year’s England International team which reached the last six in the Shearer of the year Competition. Competing were shearers from France, New Zealand, the Falklands, Scotland , Ireland and Wales. Mick has sheared in most competitions in the country until he gave up competing to become a judge. Barry Goodsell, at the age of 19 was nominated as “best newcomer” in the same year ,Mick Cutting and Barry Goodsell are still going strong!

There was a hive of activity going on at Salt Farm on Sunday July 6th where Mick a Contract Shepherd was sweating along with his shearing team, his wife Jo’, Barry Goodsell and Arthur Freeman. The whirr of clippers and the cries of sheep drowned out any hope of conversation which was not possible anyway as the shearers were so intent on their jobs the arrival of a lone reporter went unnoticed for some time.

Eventually Arthur Freeman took some time out from his job as “winder”, (collecting the skins) which he was putting into very large bins ready for their collection by the wool Marketing Board. Winders are often referred to as Rowsers and get called “Rowsey”. He explained that normally he would be shearing along with the rest of the team but young Barry Goodsell was shearing today and took his place. Arthur, a very fit seventy eight years young has been shearing for over fifty years, mainly around the local area apart from four years in Australia where he sheared, “down under” for a while. He also mentioned Barry Goodsell usually rides with the Rye Wheeler’s on Sundays but shearing is a priority for him as it is the best exercise for physical fitness and he wants to beat Jim Hollands in the races! (this said with much joviality!) He went on to say the only occupation to beat sheep shearing for physical exertion was that of coal mining an industry which is now part of the past.

Arthur Freeman - 50 years  a shepherd
Arthur Freeman – 50 years a shepherd


Barry Goodsell, competition shearer.
Barry Goodsell, competition shearer.

Mick Cutting, ( Rye boy) heads the team. He did not stop at all but shouted above the din as he continued to manoeuvre the clippers between a very large ewe’s legs, her head tucked firmly between his own, “I started contracting when I was in my 20’s, that’s over thirty five years ago” he shouted, “I was trained by Colin Cook over on the farm there when I left school at 16″, he said, with a nod of his head in the direction of what was then Mr. Cook’s farm. ” There’s not many of us left now so we’re kept very busy during the season. We get a pound a sheep which may seem like a lot but by the time I’ve paid my shearers, the winder, and running costs there’s not much left. My shearers are Arthur, Barry and my wife Jo’, I always have three shearers on the team.

At that moment a door in the pen opened allowing Jo’ to skilfully drag the biggest ewe into shearing position, then off she went with a whirr and glint of the clippers until suddenly there was a whole fleece at her feet, quickly picked up by Arthur and put into the bin.

Mick and Jo’ live on Salt’s Farm which is owned by Alan Catt and has been in the family for four generations. Mick proudly talks about his life with the sheep; his home portrays the love he has for them in every way, “We can see sheep at the back, sheep at the sides and sheep in front, we love sheep. Ninety percent of the battle is enjoying it, earning money is secondary. I taught Jo’ how to shear, she received her Certificate from The Wool Board five years ago. We work well together, she can shear 200 sheep in a day and she is also a full time shepherdess at Robert Wheeler’s Farm in Udimore where Barry also works. There are only three shepherdesses in the country and she is one them. That says a lot for women and a lot for Jo’,” said he, giving Jo’ an affectionate smile. Contract shepherding includes looking after the sheep, ramming in the Autumn, lambing in April, crutching (cleaning up the ewes ready for lambing) and covers a radius from Lewes one way, to Biggin Hill up to the top of Folkestone the other way. They work every day from the middle of May to the second week in July shearing, then resume their full time jobs as shepherd and shepherdess. “We wouldn’t change our jobs for a million pounds, I’d do it all over again and I’m proud to tell you that my son-in-law, my daughter and their three children are emigrating to New Zealand in October where he’s got a job as – guess what? – a contract shepherd!

” “Rye’s Own” August 2003

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