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Training and hard work pays off for Northern Ireland Young Farmer

Jack Robinson, aged 28 from Londonderry/Derry has seen his passion for shearing sheep take him around the world.                                     

Jack Robinson started shearing aged 17, working alongside his father Robert on the family farm, managing 1,000 sheep. His first competition was at Balmoral Show, still only 17, where he won the junior section.

Jack says: “I was absolutely delighted to win and from that point I was hooked. I entered as many competitions as I could and managed to win at Ballymena and other shows across Northern Ireland.”

The win at Balmoral Show qualified Jack for the Worshipful Company of Woolmen Competition in Wales as a Junior Member for the Northern Ireland team. 

“The top two individuals from each country qualified to go to the Worshipful Company of Woolmen Competition in Wales. I absolutely loved it and managed to win my section,” says Jack.

“It was life changing in many ways – it opened my eyes to a whole new world and introduced me to many inspiring people from the industry. In particular, I met world-renowned Kiwi shearer Matt Smith, who suggested I visit New Zealand, which was a major turning point in my career.”

“I arrived in New Zealand in 2010, and during my five seasons there spent time with some fantastic shearers, which encouraged me to improve and compete. The intensity of the work saw my speed and skill improve significantly, with my biggest tally totaling 530.”

Jack’s first Golden Shears competition was the Intermediate section, where he was placed 7th. The following year, Jack qualified for the Seniors, winning eight shows and achieving second in the Golden Shears. These are some of his proudest and greatest moments.

Jack has also represented Northern Ireland in the World Championships twice, at Invercargill and Gorey in Southern Ireland. As well as qualifying for this year’s World Championships in France, other highlights include winning at the Balmoral Show four times in a row, winning the Open All Nations in 2018, coming 6th in the 2017 World Championships and achieving 4th in the team competition at the same event with team mate, Ian Montgomery,.

Jack has also sheared in Estonia, Latvia, and Finland: “I have travelled and met wonderful people – and I wouldn’t have done any of that without the skill of shearing.”

Now married to Aime and with two children - Kassi, 7 and Archie, 3 - Jack wants to focus on his own shearing business, where he currently shears around 20,000 sheep every year:

“I started off with a one-day Ulster Wool course and have never looked back.  Competition is still a major part of my life and I now want to encourage and support the next generation.  Last year, I hosted an advanced shearing course on the farm - we had 25 young shearers who demonstrated such promise and enthusiasm for the skill of shearing.

“Ulster Wool really is supporting the industry and standards are rising all the time. But if I could offer any advice, it would be to understand the importance of quality when shearing sheep – it must be clean and efficient. In all honesty, you can’t do this without attending courses and watching the best in the business.”

“I’ve had some amazing mentors. Matt Smith taught me to ‘harden up and keep going.’ This is a physically demanding job and not for the faint-hearted!  Rowland Smith has also been instrumental, and, in my opinion, is the best competitive shearer in the world.  Although we are now good friends, I still look up to him to help me continue to improve - he really is something special to watch. 

“Regardless of how good you are, always look, listen and learn, and grasp every opportunity to improve.  Take any advice offered from anyone in the Open shearing community – and don’t be afraid to ask.

Jack’s immediate challenge is to beat his own record at the World Championships this summer: “It would be fantastic to be placed higher than 6th– I’ll put everything into it, so let’s wait and see.”

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Training and hard work pays off for Northern Ireland Young Farmer Jack Robinson at Balmoral Show in 2017