Enjoying the ‘way of the shed’

Published date11 August 2022
Publication titleKatikati Advertiser
After all, the Dunedin woman was born in the Chinese Year of the Sheep and had an appropriate Christian name

While not from a rural background, she embarked on a career in wool 47 years ago and it has evolved into a lifelong passion.

Since graduating in the mid-1970s with a diploma in wool and wool technology, Newton has spent the past 45 years involved in the wool harvesting industry.

Initially, she was a broker classer before a career as a self-employed professional shed classer — a role from which she has recently retired.

While her classing had been based on the merino industry, her interest remained with the entire New Zealand clip.

Most of her work was centred on the Central Otago and upper Waitaki areas and she also had a five-year stint classing at Man-O-War on Waiheke Island.

Newton’s initial interest in wool began in her early teens through her mother, whose fleeces were spread out in front of the fire, from which Newton would select staples for her to card and then spin.

Both her grandmothers and her mother were keen knitters and craftswomen and there was never any shortage of woollen garments.

Her first specific job, in between two stages of study at Massey, was working at the Donald Reid wool store in Dunedin.

She was dispatched to the oddments department and “picked pieces” — taking out stain from crutchings, which did not impress her much.

So she gained her full broker classer registration and was believed to be the first woman to attain that qualification.

After completing her studies and spending a year working at the Wrightson wool store in Timaru, she returned to Dunedin to work in the Dalgety store.

After about four seasons in various wool preparation facilities, she was asked if she would be interested in classing a merino blade run in the Upper Waitaki in 1981.

She jumped at the opportunity “and pretty much never looked back”.

After two seasons, Newton took a small break to have her two sons but managed to do the odd bit of classing in the ensuing years until the late 1980s when she restarted classing in earnest.

She was “indebted” to her husband, family and friends who made it possible for her to continue.

For the past 20 years, she was away from home for three to four months during the pre-lamb shearing period.

As the season approached, she would be “champing at the bit, counting down the days”.

She was appointed the first wool classer representative to the Wool Board Classer Registration Advisory Committee and was an inaugural...

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