The story of 90 years of wool classing between father & son begins in 1936, when a young boy by the name of Stanley James Hucker walked through the doors of the Gordon Technical School in Geelong. Born in 1921, Stanley was 15 years of age when he began his 3-year course in Wool Classing. 30 years later, Stanley’s second son Denis completed the same 3-year wool classing course. Beginning in 1966, Denis attended the same Gordon Technical School and walked the same halls as his father before him.
Stanley finished his course in 1938. He went back to the family farm in Lake Bolac for a brief period before enrolling in the Second World War. At the completion of the war, Stanley returned home and married before gaining a soldier settler allotment, north of Willaura. This enabled Stan to use his wool classing knowledge. He ran between 1,500 and 2,000 sheep for many years, while his wool classer stencil also allowed him to go out and class at various sheds around the area. He held his stencil from 1938 until he retired at the age of 60 in 1981. On retirement, his second son Denis was working in the district, managing a local property while also leasing land himself. Upon his father’s retirement, Denis had the opportunity to lease his father’s farm, an opportunity he could not refuse.
Denis had finished his wool classing course at the Gordon Technical School in 1968, graduating dux of his class. He began working with a local contractor and started classing wool in his team. Denis gained a great deal of experience working as part of this team in big sheds of up to 8 stands servicing between 10 & 20,000 sheep.
It was not all smooth sailing for Denis however, and he soon learnt an important lesson. Class wool the way you’re taught, don’t listen to the owner standing over your shoulder. At a clip of Corriedales near Casterton, Denis was pushing too many fleeces into the line of fine wool. This resulted in a notice from the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) “mixing counts too much, submit three clips for inspection”. Denis was able to submit 3 clips with no further complaints, however, this proved a valuable lesson he would never forget over his long career classing wool.
In the early 1980s, when Denis was leasing two properties including his father’s, things were going well until drought struck. February 1983 was the date of the Ash Wednesday bushfires, and saw Melbourne have three days over 40 °C for only the second time on record. This period saw Denis give away farming, turning towards contracting work instead.
After the difficult times of the early 1980s, the next two decades were a good time for the sheep industry. 15 micron wool was selling for prices between 4 to 5,000 cents per kilo, double what you’d expect for the same wool in 2022. In 1995 a single bale of wool sold for a million dollars. This was a good time for Denis too. His contracting work saw him employing local shearers and shed staff. His team was involved with the shearing and classing of more than 130,000 sheep.
After 20 years of contracting, it was time for Denis to transition into the next phase of his life. He gave up independent contracting, preferring instead to return to being a member of someone else’s team. In 2018, having completed 50 years of wool classing, it was time to call it a day and retire completely.
At the annual Gordon Wool School Old Students Association dinner held in 2018, Denis was presented with his 50 years as a registered wool classer stencil awarded by the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX). This is a rare honour achieved by few. As of February 2020, a total of 430 wool classers had achieved this 50-year milestone. For Denis however, his proudest achievement is achieving 90 years of wool classing with his father.
The National Wool Museum is proud to share the collection of objects gained from 90 years in the wool classing industry by Stanley and Denis. This ranges from Stanley’s first stencil and Wool Sample book, started when he first attended the Gordon in 1936. The collection concludes 90 years later with Denis’ 50 years of wool classing Stencil. The collection contains many more objects, all telling the story of these 90 years, and the hard work invested by this dedicated father and son duo.
This is the fourth in a series of 5 wool classing exercise books. They were written by Stanley Hucker in his time at the Gordon Technical College from 1936-1938. This book begins in a white cover with blue ink illustrations and writing. It has a centrepiece-coloured emblem of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth with flags of the Union Jack & Australia in background.
Internally, the book is handwritten on yellowed pages with blue lines for the assistance in clarity of handwriting. The pages are also surrounded by a margin of red pen.
The exercise book’s content is about wool studies relating to the health and productivity of wool sheep. It is handwritten. A selection of pages have been photographed to give an impression of the information taught in classes, 90 years ago. This includes information about:
- Wool scouring
- Lamb marking
- Comparison between wool and artificial fibres
- Characteristics of good wool
- Wool selling methods
- Established studs in Victoria
- Award rates (1937-38)
Front Cover. Wording, printed and handwritten.
EXERCISE BOOK /
NAME Stanley Hucker /
GRADE SUBJECT Wool /
Front Cover. Illustration’s colour, printed.
King George VI & Queen Elizabeth with flags of the Union Jack & Australia in background.
gordon institute geelong, wool classing, 1930s sheep farming, 90 years wool classing between father & son