Adept wool presser will ‘never give it up’

Turangi Morehu left school at the age of 13 to become a wool presser and despite ill health and...
Turangi Morehu left school at the age of 13 to become a wool presser and despite ill health and disability he has managed to keep at it. PHOTO: ALICE SCOTT
Here’s a riddle ... If two shearers clip a total of 100 sheep, and one shears three more than the other — what is the tally for each? Turangi Morehu jokes that he has asked this riddle to many in the shearing fraternity over the years, including world champion Sir David Fagan "and I’m still waiting for his answer", he quips.

Mr Morehu, known to most as Tu, "after one and before three", is the ubiquitous and hard-working character floating between the gangs of Peter Lyons Shearing, keeping an eye on things for Mr Lyons and wife, Elsie.

Originally from Tuatahuna and spending his younger years in Rotorua, Mr Morehu has worked as a wool presser since he left school at the age of 13.

He moved to Otago in 1981 when Mr Lyons started out. "We were working together up north and Peter said he was going to head south and start his own gang and asked me if I would join him. I said no, that he was mad. And so here we are now, nearly 20 years later — he’s still my worst enemy" he said, laughing.

At the age of 62, Mr Morehu has an unbeatable work ethic and a unique style of getting the job done, particularly when it comes to penning up the sheep; often he can be heard before he’s seen, his signature "y’up" will turn heads initially, but the right result is achieved with minimal fuss.

Surviving a high-impact car accident at the age of 36, Mr Morehu woke three and a-half months later to find his pelvis had been pinned back together.

Along with other ongoing health issues, he has limited use of his left arm and no feeling in that hand. But despite this, he continues to push through the pain and tackles any barriers with a can-do attitude. "I love this job.

I will never give it up. There is always another way around something that too is difficult."

Part of Mr Morehu’s job is to train the young men and women that join the Lyons’ team.

"I say to the young guys; in the morning you poke your head out the back of the shed and yell ‘good morning girls’ they will all look up at you like they know what you’re saying. You give them a wee pep talk at the start of the day and just like that, you start the day on the right foot."

Outside of work, Mr Morehu enjoys spending time with his four sons.

"One is becoming a shearer, one is a carpenter, one is a plumber and the other is second in charge at Coca-Cola in Christchurch. They all earn more than me and they still ask me for money!" he said, laughing.

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