Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 26 (March 1959)
– 36 –

Picture icon

Jim Morris doing the last side of a lamb. Unlike many shearers, Jim likes his lambs small, like this one. (Photo: Times-Age, Masterton)


Trained by his father Mr Hipa Morris of Okautete, Homewood, the 32 year old gun shearer Jim Morris spent most of his earlier years in the atmosphere of the shearing sheds. Hipa was himself a shearer of distinction who, in his day often shore as many as 340 big sheep per day. He had learned from hard earned experience that a shearer could be forced to retire from the game too soon through over fatigue if he consistently aimed at high tallies while still very young, and for this reason Jim was kept in check, being permitted to shear only a certain number each day. As his ability developed and a clean accurate technique was acquired the number was gradually increased.

Although he had been shearing in the Wairarapa for several years Jim was only a weekend shearer when he decided last year to attempt a world record for shearing fat lambs. An extremely high tally of 464 was claimed during the 1957 season by G. Hawkins, and it was the newspaper report of this achievement which first gave him the idea. He joined his brother's gang for the attempt which was made at the Korarau shed of Messrs N. and W. Beetham near Homewood. In spite of an injury to his right hand which was bandaged and gloved throughout the whole day he managed to equal the tally set by Hawkins. “He shore very freely,” said Mr E. P. Riley, Federated Farmers secretary. “A very creditable performance, and he was hampered by his cut hand which upset the feel of his handpiece. At the beginning of the last run he was five ahead and I was convinced he had it in the bag”. It was thought immediately after the last run that Jim had beaten Hawkins tally by one but a recount showed that he had only equalled it.

The disappointed shearer was not satisfied with what had been accomplished. Both he and Hawkins had set their record during an ordinary working day and the result was not recognized as official. According to the Wool Board no official attempt to set a record for shearing lambs had previously been made. It was not until the 1958 season, however, that Jim Morris was able to establish what is now claimed as the first official record for lambs. This attempt was carried out at the Wairere shed of Mr J. Daniels, where

– 37 –

Picture icon

Mr Hipa Morris, Jim's father, keeps tally during the first official attempt at the record for lamb shearing. A J.P. and a time-keeper are not shown, but work in the background.
(Photo: Times-Age, Masterton)

Jim who is now a contractor with his own gang happened to be shearing. The run totals and times were checked throughout the day by a J.P., Mr J. H. Macdonald, and a stock and station manager, Mr E. C. Barraud who acted as official timekeeper. The final tally of 424 was disappointing and it was therefore decided that yet another attempt at breaking the 464 record would be made about a week later.

The shed selected this time was that of Messrs J. and G. Moore at Eparaima 36 miles from Masterton on the Homewood Road. As in the previous attempts the lambs were well grown Romneys and regarded as typical hill country sheep. With his elder brother Jack Morris to pace him Jim was confident that he could better 464. Although a very fast shearer and the holder of the Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay open championships Jack was no match for his younger brother on lambs. Shortly before the commencement of the first run a startling report was conveyed to the shed. G. Horsfall another Maori shearer near Gisborne had just broken all records by shearing 470 lambs in an ordinary 9 hour working day. But this news only provided added incentive and towards the end of the day as tension mounted, and before a large crowd of spectators, Jim Morris shore his 474th lamb of the day while his workmates broke out into a cheering haka.

Picture icon

The fleecos are kept busy at the table. Workers in the Jim Morris gang are, left to right: Mrs N. Manning, Mrs R. Waaka, and Mrs B. Edmonds.
(Photo: Times-Age, Masterton)

– 38 –


This strange little container was used as a skull box. The peg below was used to stand it upright on the floor of the cave where it was hidden. Maori skull-boxes are rare; the one pictured here is now in the Auckland Museum, with two similar boxes, all from Whangaroa.

It may seem strange to place the skull of one's ancestor or dead relative in a carved container, but this was a widespread custom in Indonesia and many Pacific islands. It is not therefore surprising to find evidence of this practice in the Polynesian islands of New Zealand. We must also remember that in Polynesian belief the head was an especially tapu part of the body.

This skull box provides us with an example of the distinctive North Auckland carving style, artistically advanced and somewhat similar to Hawaiian image carving. Basically, this style is akin to the more familiar forms of Maori carving. The simplicity of form and lack of surface decoration are particularly attractive features. (Photo: Peter Blanc)


There is so little ancient Taranaki carving in existence that when new pieces are found, this is quite an event for admirers of Maori art. About a year ago, two very impressive ‘epa’ were found at Waitara. Both are genuine stone-age pieces and among the finest Maori pieces in existence. Dr Roger Duff, Director of the Canterbury Museum, has stated they are right-hand ‘epa’ from two different pataka, found half a mile apart in the same swamp. On the left: Panel of female figure, 3ft × 1ft, with four fingers on the hand, four toes on the foot, evidently incomplete. On the right: Another female figure, 3ft × 10 ½in, three fingers and three toes. (Photographs: George Walker)

– 39 –