Capturing the Shearing Shed – An Analysis of ‘Shearing at Castlereagh’ by Banjo Paterson
In ‘Shearing at Castlereagh,’ Banjo Paterson masterfully brings to life the bustling chaos inside an Australian shearing shed. Through vivid imagery and clever rhymes, Paterson transports the reader right into the action of shearing season.
The poem plunges us straight into the noise and urgency, with the shed bell ringing and engines tooting as the enormous flock is mustered. Paterson conveys the frenzied pressure the shearers are under to work quickly and skilfully or face the wrath of impatient buyers in London.
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses
by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson
Paterson’s descriptions are richly sensory and rhythmic, emulating the energy inside the shed. The shearers work smoothly and swiftly, “racing for the ringer’s place” as the fleece is peeled off in “a track of snowy fleece”. The concise language mimics the rapid shearing motion.
Against the steady activity, Paterson interweaves moments of drama and tension. The shearer repairing clippers scolds the men harshly for their mistakes. Keen rivalry motivates everyone to work at pace.
By the final stanza, with the pressers barely keeping up and wool packed to the rafters, the scene reaches a triumphant climax. Paterson celebrates the backbreaking labor required to fill each bale of “golden fleece” at Castlereagh.
Shearing at Castlereagh
The bell is set a-ringing, and the engine gives a toot,
There’s five and thirty shearers here are shearing for the loot,
So stir yourselves, you penners-up, and shove the sheep along,
The musterers are fetching them a hundred thousand strong,
And make your collie dogs speak up — what would the buyers say
In London if the wool was late this year from Castlereagh?
The man that `rung’ the Tubbo shed is not the ringer here,
That stripling from the Cooma side can teach him how to shear.
They trim away the ragged locks, and rip the cutter goes,
And leaves a track of snowy fleece from brisket to the nose;
It’s lovely how they peel it off with never stop nor stay,
They’re racing for the ringer’s place this year at Castlereagh.
The man that keeps the cutters sharp is growling in his cage,
He’s always in a hurry and he’s always in a rage —
`You clumsy-fisted mutton-heads, you’d turn a fellow sick,
You pass yourselves as shearers, you were born to swing a pick.
Another broken cutter here, that’s two you’ve broke to-day,
It’s awful how such crawlers come to shear at Castlereagh.’
The youngsters picking up the fleece enjoy the merry din,
They throw the classer up the fleece, he throws it to the bin;
The pressers standing by the rack are waiting for the wool,
There’s room for just a couple more, the press is nearly full;
Now jump upon the lever, lads, and heave and heave away,
Another bale of golden fleece is branded `Castlereagh’.