Jean Bland, 76, of Sedgwick, looks back at clipping day at Grayrigg where she lived as a child.

ONE of the busiest days of the year on grandfather’s farm was clipping day in the 1940s.

One thousand sheep had to be sheared. The day before, men with many dogs gathered the sheep from the fells and drove them home to the farm.

The day chosen was in early June before the grass was ready to be cut for hay and the large hay barn was empty.

The weather was important. The sheep had to be dry to be sheared. Apart from the awfulness of handling sheep in heavy wet fleeces, the fleeces were worth money and had to be in the very best condition for sale to the wool merchants in Bradford.

Clipping Day meant a gath-ering of family, friends and neighbours. All there to help.

From early morning the men hurried to be ready while the women made food.

The hay barn was an oblong and divided into three.

The unsheared sheep were brought in at one end, the shearers – about 15 of them – worked in the middle section, with the fleecers at the other end. The sheep were caught, sheared, marked and pushed out into the yard, just like on a conveyor belt.

The best shearers sat nearest to the barn doorway. They could look out, and the fresh air was welcome. Sheep in such numbers do smell.

They sat astride creels, perhaps best described as like a slatted table top on legs. Each sheep was hoisted up and laid on it on her back.

The shearers were quick and did not expect to be kept waiting. As they finished one sheep, the next had to be there waiting.

In the third part of the barn men with sleeves rolled up tried to keep up with the 15 shearers. Each fleece had to be checked to make sure it was clean and whole, its sides folded to the middle, rolled into a bundle and tied.