Last Stand tour 'lot of laughs'

The Last Stand shearing team of (front, from left)  Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Gavin (Swampy) Rowland, of Dunsandel, John Hough, of Rakaia, Tom Wilson, of Cust, Robert (Rabbit) McLaren, of Hinds; (back, from left) Johnny Fraser, of North Otago, Rocky Bull, of Tinwald, and Norm Harraway, of  Rakaia, have hung up their hand-pieces after a memorable season. Photo by Ruth Grundy
The Last Stand shearing team of (front, from left) Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Gavin (Swampy) Rowland, of Dunsandel, John Hough, of Rakaia, Tom Wilson, of Cust, Robert (Rabbit) McLaren, of Hinds; (back, from left) Johnny Fraser, of North Otago, Rocky Bull, of Tinwald, and Norm Harraway, of Rakaia, have hung up their hand-pieces after a memorable season. Photo by Ruth Grundy

The yarns are bound to grow much longer in the telling but the Last Stand tour is officially over.

''It's been a bloody good journey.''

Retiring master shearer and shearing sports New Zealand official John Hough, of Rakaia, or ''Houghy'' to his mates, was already reminiscing after his last competition - the Mackenzie Shears in Fairlie on Easter Monday.

Mr Hough, who turns 70 in June, decided last year this would be his last season.

As his ''last stand'', he set out to compete in shearing competitions up and down the country.

When his mates - all retired shearers from Mid and South Canterbury - got wind of it, they decided he should not go it alone so banded together and joined him.

And although only ''the Hough'' and ''Rabbit'' - Robert McLaren - managed all 21 competitions, they have had a ball.

''They are all characters.

''It's been a lot of laughs ... [The stories] will keep us going for another 70 years.''

Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Gavin (Swampy) Rowland, Tom Wilson, Johnny Fraser, Rocky Bull (team manager) and Norm Harraway made up the rest of the team.

Mr Hough nearly gave up at the last hurdle; he had wanted to skip the Mackenzie Shears.

But, unknown to him, his team-mates had planned a special tribute.

Longtime friend and veteran shearer David Fagan, of Te Kuiti, had flown down to compete one last time alongside Houghy and the rest in the open machine final.

After the competition, won by Rakaia shearer Tony Coster, Mr Fagan presented Mr Hough with a Mackenzie A&P Show tartan scarf, an acknowledgement by the A&P society.

The man of few words admitted the occasion triggered a few tears.

''I was really chuffed.

''I nearly didn't go. But Swampy said 'I have to go ... so you better bloody come down too'.

''What made it really special was it was David presented me with the ribbon.''

When Mr Fagan won his first show at Riversdale, Mr Hough had given him a comb.

The Fagans had become great family friends.

''It was very special when I found David only came down for me.

''I think he's the greatest shearer that's ever been. I don't know how many young fellas have looked up to him ... wanted to be like him.''

Houghy is determined he will not be ''doing any more shows''.

He will go to the Southern Shears 50th anniversary in Gore next year but only as a spectator.

But wait, there is more.

Mr Hough is manager of the New Zealand team going to the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Gorey, Ireland, next month. ''It'll be a great finale.

''As it's turned out, it's been a great year ... with that at the end.''

- by Ruth Grundy