ALEX CLAPHAM TYPIFIES THE West Otago community spirit that drove the ‘Shear 4 Blair’ Waitangi Weekend shearing marathon.

He started out at 6am on Sunday with a handpiece and eight hours and 542 lambs later moved off the board and out the back to help with penning up before moving on to the wool press, and rouseabout duties.

“He’s an English guy who hasn’t been here long who wanted to be part of what we were doing… what he did epitomises the attitude of everyone who helped out,” Nelson Hancox says.

Nelson and Fi Hancox provided the 10,000 lambs and woolshed for the fundraiser event similar to one they helped organise in 2020 in aid of their stock manager Shaun Bradley’s cancer treatment. The Hancox’s wool buyer Jared Manihera was lead organiser of that event and it was him who got them on board for ‘Shear 4 Blair’ to raise money for the charity hospital, a project spearheaded by a trust and the family of Southland man Blair Vining who turned the spotlight on the dire shortage of care and support during his own terminal bowel cancer battle.

The benefit of hindsight made organisation relatively straightforward. So too did the huge group of supporters who selflessly gave their time.

“The cool thing is that help came from right across the community and what blew us away was the number of young people who got involved,” Fi says.

A good example was the full crutching of the 10,000 lambs the weekend before the event. Two Southland crutching contractors donated their time, making the four hour return trip with two trailers.

“We had 22 stands and 70 helpers of all ages and from lots of diverse groups and we got the job down in four hours,” Nelson says.

Closer to home it was the Hancox’s neighbour Wilson Devery who made sure handpieces and fleeces were kept flying during the 24 hours of continuous shearing. Experienced in the set-up of competition shearing events he had several tips and tricks to increase run tallies such as the downsizing and carpeting of catching pens.

“It was a precision exercise from the emptying out of the lambs through to when and how many were brought into the woolshed and holding pens. We reckon we ended up shearing an extra 1000 because of his help.”

The community camaraderie and sponsors were well and truly rewarded with the raising of more than $200,000.