Legend of the Lachlan Les Jarick

Les Jarick and Keith Politch at 'Booligar', on the border of QLD and NSWFormer shearer and renowned local identity Les Jarick reckons he must be at least 90.
With so many life experiences, shearing endeavours and country yarns it’s hard to believe he’s packed so much life into only 76 years.
Named as the 2009 Legend of the Lachlan at last year’s Condobolin Show which recognised his contribution to the pastoral industry in being a shearer for over 49 years until his retirement at 64.
Born on 5 October 1933 in Condobolin with two broken arms after a difficult birth, he moved to Sydney and lived with his father until the age of nine.
His father who worked for Fords Motor Company during the war then took him to Queensland where he was reared by his grandmother and at 13 he left school and worked in a butcher’s shop for a year.
As a jack of many hands Les spent his earlier years and the shearing off-season fencing and cutting fire wood and was a professional roo shooter for some time at Kings Plains Station before commencing his shearing career on the same property at 15.
Having never shore a full sheep before his first day at Kings Plain Station, Les says he has clear memories of the pain he was in after shearing 45 sheep that first day.
“I was so stiff and just sore all over and told the bloke flat out I wasn’t coming back,” Les said.
But with some wise words from his mother he returned the next day and shore at Kings Plain for another three weeks finishing up shearing a total of 68 sheep a day.
He shore two more sheds in New England that year and went to Cunnamulla early the next year shearing for a contactor in mainly large, eight to twelve stand sheds. The largest shed he ever shore at was a forty stand shed in 1950 at ‘Woolerina’ with over 100 people in the mess.
In 1953 at 20 years old, Les married and bought a caravan which they travelled around in. In 1956 after dropping the price of shearing work the union called the shearers strike which lasted for 18 months in Queensland. Lasting only six weeks in New South Wales, Les packed his family up and went over the border to find employment.
Moving back to Condobolin in 1957 Les got a job for the biggest contractor in town who he stayed with for ten years shearing at many of the same properties throughout the rest of his career.
After building a house on Whiley Street in 1960, Les and his second wife Gloria bought the property ‘Inala’ six miles out on the West Wyalong road in 1971 where they raised their three daughters Carole, Lorraine and Jennie and son Allan. With a strong work ethic Les purchased four other properties over the years of which his son now manages two of.
Les worked in multiple sheds throughout the Lachlan area including his cousin Eddie Larkins of ‘Rosewood’, well-known identity Athol Clempson and on Dick Gavel’s ‘Gulgo’ property.
“I shore at ‘Gulgo’ for forty years – it was only six miles out of town and good people and I really enjoyed it there,” he said.
es Jarick is the 2010 Legend of the LachlanOver the years Les sheared across Queensland, New South Wales, one shed across the border in South Australia and spent many years shearing right to the sea of Victoria.
Shearing until he was 64 years old, Les said it was the camaraderie and competition of the shearing shed that he enjoyed so much.
“I just really liked shearing. I didn’t mind the work and always enjoyed the company – I worked with some terrific people over the years many of whom are still great friends,” he said.
“You didn’t have to be the fastest shearer in the shed but there was always someone there who was about on par with your speed that you could put yourself up against.
“There was always someone to try and beat which made it a sports day everyday really,” Les said.
In his later years Les became a successful shearing contractor in town with a team of dedicated shearers who looked up to the shearing veteran as a mentor whom they never ceased to work hard for.
“I had a rule that it didn’t matter how much we’d all drank the night before, we all had to get up and work the next morning or else they’d be put off,” Les said.
“And I never once had to fire anybody,” he said.
At 64 Les entered the local shearing competition taking out the Seniors title which he says he felt pretty guilty about.
“I was still shearing 150 to 160 sheep a day and was so far ahead after a while I tried to slow down a bit and the sheep almost got up on me,” he recalls modestly.
“One guy was younger and one older but I still felt it was a bit unfair that I took out the title and hadn’t actually retired,” he said.
With an infinite number of shearing yarns and memories to share, the champion shearer says he’s had a very full and auspicious life and shearing career.
“I’ve got a good farm, some great shearing tales and a wonderful family with eight grandkids and eight great-grandchildren. I’ve led a very fortunate life,” he said.
By Sally Willoughby

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