Bernie Walker has channelled a lifetime in the shearing industry into his bush poetry.
Story Terri Cowley Photos Neil Newitt
The shearing shed is deathly quiet as Bernie Walker ambles over the boards, deep in thought about his lifelong connection to an industry that’s unshakeably in his blood. “In 1974, 20 shearers shore 30,000 sheep over 10 working days here,” Bernie says wistfully, running his fingers over a half-opened gate. Drysdale Estate, near the small town of Euroa, Vic, is still a working shed. The halcyon days that Bernie recalls, however, speak to a different time, when the district was peopled by shearers and Euroa hosted the Golden Shears, the pre-eminent Australian shearing competition, which Bernie co-founded in 1974.
Today, tufts of wool blow like tumbleweeds around the property, and what was once a small village with a tennis club, is home to just one couple. Bernie now lives in town, but has retained his connection to shearing and the wool industry by writing poetry and articles. His job as the author of poetic tributes to biannual inductees in to the Shearers’ Hall of Fame at Shear Outback in Hay, NSW – including Jackie Howe, the best-known Australian shearer of all time – has seen him described as ‘the shearers’ poet’.
Not one to spruik his credentials and talents, Bernie has nonetheless recorded these tributes and another album of bush poetry, after being encouraged by others and inspired by the likes of Will Ogilvie, Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. “I enjoy the challenge,” Bernie, 80, says. It’s the same answer he gives as to why he took up shearing.
This story excerpt is from Issue #128
Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2020