Image Wool sorting at Gilgandra, 1936

TLF ID R3003

This is a black-and-white photograph, measuring 21.3 cm x 16.2 cm, of four men skirting fleeces and classing wool at Berida Station near Gilgandra in New South Wales. They are using two long tables in a large shearing shed. The station manager's daughter, a shearing contractor and two shed hands are looking on. In the background a man is working at another sorting table. Fleeces waiting to be pressed are piled in the loft.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows the head wool classer (wearing a white apron), who was responsible for classifying wool according to its length, colour, evenness, strength and quality, as well as maintaining records of the wool he classed - the head wool classer also instructed and supervised all the workers involved in wool handling, including the pressing, weighing and branding of bales of wool; prior to shearing, the wool classer advised on the selection of sheep so they could be shorn in groups according to the perceived quality of their fleeces.
  • It includes other men who are likely to be either junior wool classers or shearing shed hands (called 'rouseabouts' or 'wool-rollers' in the past), who appear to be 'skirting' fleeces, an important stage in the preparation of wool for sale - skirting involves the removal of all inferior wool from the fleece, largely scrappy pieces from the sheep's belly, legs and neck and including dirty, stained or coloured pieces of wool; after skirting, the fleece is inspected and classed by a wool classer, then rolled with the shorn side outermost ready for baling, with the removed pieces bagged according to their type and quality; the man in the background (left) is removing the 'pieces' from the skirtings at a 'piece picking table'.
  • It shows a young man moving on the left-hand side who is likely to be a rouseabout waiting to take the skirted fleeces to one of eight bins depending on its quality, from where it will be picked up by the 'pressers' for baling - rouseabouts also helped pen the sheep ready for shearing, picked up the fleeces from the floor after shearing and threw them on the skirting table, and swept the shed floor regularly to help keep the fleeces clean; many shearers and wool classers started work in shearing sheds as rouseabouts.
  • It shows the shearing contractor, Jack Peacock from Mumbil, who contracted work at Berida between 1907 and 1949 (he is standing in the background on the right-hand side) - the contractor was responsible for hiring all the workers in the shed, overseeing their work and negotiating rates of pay with the owner; a shearing contractor often held the contracts for a number of sheds in a local area.
  • It provides a glimpse of part of the shearing machinery (upper left-hand side) - a steam engine drove a pulley belt attached to a large wheel that turned the shaft to which each shearer's handpiece was attached, operating the shears; normally the steam engine driver was outside tending to the traction engine.
  • It was photographed by Frank Hurley - famous for his photographs of the Antarctic expeditions of Shackleton and Mawson, Hurley also travelled throughout Australia, photographing everything from modern cities and industrial sites to vast landscapes and agricultural scenes.
Year level

1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • Studies of society and environment
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Frank Hurley
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Frank Hurley
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and National Library of Australia, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements