Sunday History Photo, Person

Submitted: Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 08:10
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Jackie Howe was born at Canning Downs station in 1861, on the Darling Downs. In 1892 an Australia wide competition was held to see who was the greatest shearer in the land. Two gold medals were offered as prizes and Jackie was determined to claim both. On 10th October 1892, at Alice Downs station outside Blackall, Jackie set the record for hand shearing 321 sheep in just seven hours and forty minutes.a faster tally than anyone had before achieved. In the week beforehand, Howe also set the weekly record, shearing 1,437 sheep in 44 hours and 30 minutes. Howe's daily record was beaten by Ted Reick in 1950, but Reick was using machine shears, while Howe's hand shears were little more than scissors. Howe's weekly record stands unbeaten.
Jackie Howe was the subject of a book, Jack Howe: The Man and the Legend, by Barry Muir, and a bronze statue, on display in Blackall.

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He wore a flannel undershirt while shearing. The flannel had short sleeves covering the biceps and absorbed the shearer’s sweat. In addition, it was reputed to protect the shearer’s back from ‘. . .getting a chill’, something no shearer could afford.
Shearing was, and still is, a backbreaking job.
He found the sleeves of his flannel restrictive so one day he tore out the sleeves and wore his flannel with no sleeves. Finding it much more useful with the sleeves out, Jack then got his mother to convert all his flannels into ‘singlets’ and later she started making them especially for Jack.
The ‘fad’ caught on and, before long, all the shearers were wearing sleeveless flannels. One of the manufacturers ‘cottoned on’ and started making lighter cotton singlets especially for the wool industry. It was not too long before the lighter singlet became popular with all men in all industries and so the ‘Athletic Singlet’ was born. That garment is still sold in its thousands daily in department stores around the world and they are worn by most Australian males.

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Jack’s father became a stockman and married a girl who had accompanied the Leslies in pioneering the Darling Downs in South East Queensland, a rich wheat belt. Jack Howe began shearing in the 1880s, beating the ringer at Langlo Station by shearing 211 merinos in one day for a bet - a feat that made him a legend along the Barcoo River.
He bought a pub at Blackall in 1901 and bought Sumnervale Station in 1919 but died the next year, aged 59.

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In 1983 Warwick remembered this famous son by establishing a Jackie Howe Memorial at the Jackie Howe Rest Area on the corner of Glengallan Road and the Cunningham Highway. It is notable for the large shears at the top.

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Reply By: Whirlwinder - Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 08:40

Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 08:40
Thanks again Doug for another "gem" of Australian history. I look forward each week to reading them.
AnswerID: 474939

Reply By: lancie49 - Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 09:42

Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 09:42
Incredible energy level of the blokes on the land.
Great read yet again Doug.
Thanks mate.
AnswerID: 474942

Reply By: Member - Michael John T (VIC) - Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 12:31

Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 12:31
Thanks Doug,

The legend continues in Blackall a great little township with a small museum largely devoted to Jackie Howe. There are many other sites to visit while there.
The old wool scouring plant is a gem.

AnswerID: 474954

Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 16:15

Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 16:15
There is also Jackie Howe memorabilia in the Clancy of the Overflow Hotel in Isisford. Wasn't Jackie Howe also involved in the Union movement which commenced in the shearing industry following a strike Doug? Blackall and Isisford are great places to visit, with a history of huge sheep stations and shearing sheds. Sadly hardly a sheep to be seen these days.


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Reply By: Bazooka - Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 23:24

Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 23:24
Thanks Doug. What an incredible feat - hand shearing one sheep every minute and a half for nearly 8 hours. Sadly if you ask anyone under 50 what a Jackie Howe is (or a ringer for that matter) and you'll get nothing but a blank stare 99% of the time. I read where he had hands the size of small tennis racquets - presumably that would have assisted him in weilding the shears for hours on end. Tough work for about tuppence a sheep!
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