An ode to the overlooked: ‘The Ruined Ringer of the Riverina’

Earlier today, in the midst of his final selection of the WA Wool Industry Team, Footy Almanac editor-in-chief J.T. Harms invited comments from Almanackers on the various grammatical forms of the verb to shear, in a piece entitled ‘Shear, sheared, shore, shorn’.

It is commonly understood that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Notwithstanding the options that are apparently available, just the one form of the verb to skin suffices for all possible variety. For example (I suspect because the very thought is so distasteful), there is next to no debate as to whether we should say after the event that we have ‘skun’ or ‘skinned’ the unfortunate feline. While I am fairly certain that ‘skun’ is not yet a word used relevantly in common parlance for this purpose, it seems to best capture the grisly, scraping cruelty I can only imagine to be required for the deed.

When it comes to animal husbandry however, we are contrastingly liberated to conjugate at will. Readers from across the ditch should beware any potentially unfortunate confusion in this process. We are at liberty to ‘conjugate’, not ‘consummate’.

This broad subject is one that I discuss from time to time with my brother Nick, who actually earns part of his crust as a real-life shearer, when he is not playing the uilleann pipes and singing Austral-Anglo-Celtic-Ethnic-Fusion folk songs with his band ‘Working Dog Union’.  We spent many a family holiday together listening to a well-worn cassette tape of ‘The Bushwhackers’, and he gives every appearance of having taken it all to heart. Sheep doggerel comes to us both instinctively, for good or ill.

I originally posted this poem as a comment on JTH’s piece, but after my wife begrudgingly listened to me recite it a third time she said she wouldn’t hear the words spoken in her presence again unless I made it ‘official’.

So, this one’s for my brother Nick, and all the other guns who didn’t make the grade in Australia’s Wool Industry dream teams.


The Ruined Ringer of the Riverina

Me mate Shaun, he was a shearer, and he sure loved to shear all day,
From his first ram to his hundredth, to Shaun shearing was sheer play.
Once he’d fleeced a cocky’s paddocks, he’d set off to shear some more,
Shaun sheared the golden sheep of Oz from mulga to the shore.

He’d shorn swathes through Lachlan tigers and he never called for tar,
Swept famous ringers up like locks in shearing sheds afar,
He surely never stooped so low to shear blue-bellied joes,
Right up there with Clancy, our Shaun’s mug did overflow.

Shaun’s tallies were a legend, and before long so was he,
Shout the bar with every round, a squeezer on his knee.
But one swag-roll too many, got mighty Shaun the sack,
He was shorn of all his greatness, struck down with shagger’s back.

I met Shaun in Cootamundra. Didn’t know the bloke from clay,
Bent-double and still spinning yarns of four hundred in a day.
When I asked him why he shore no more he bleated ‘Just because’,
A forlorn silhouette he cut, of the Shaun that he once was.

Long ago, you’d rest assured his wide full blades would fly,
A real-life, true-blue, Flash Jack from Gundagai.
Shaun had shorn more sheep than any shearer now could shear,
But comes a point you can’t deny the jumbuck just stops here.

Now Shaun’s days are hewn away, with beer and broken dreams,
Vainly looking for his name, in John Harms’ Wool Industry teams.


An Adelaide parklands devotee and Bob Neil disciple.


  1. Great stuff, Tom !!

  2. Brilliant.

  3. Spot on Tom ! Off to Brocklesby station for now.


  4. The bard of the bar (spiritual and legal).

  5. Paul Young says

    I read the poem first….It was so bloody good I thought it you were reciting Henry Lawson or Banjo Patterson. Then I read the preamble and realised – it’s an original ‘Tom Martin’. In the word of Bruce – SPECIAL.

  6. Malcolm Ashwood says

    For almanac folk Tom was more than a good player in his own write he played league footy for North Adelaide and was a exceptional leader as club captain of the Ad Uni FC yes he was in the words of Bruce special and is now a lawyer in WA a very talented and unique individual thanks TM

  7. Fabulous. A sure fire winner.

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