Una Cameron of St. Boswells is a name that inspires many across the shearing industry worldwide.

With 29 years of shearing experience under her belt, The Scottish Farmer hears exclusively from her in preparation for the 9-hour solo shearing world record as the first Scottish woman to ever attempt the record.

Despite being 51 years of age, she proves age is just a number as she is as determined as ever to do herself, the industry, and those around her proud in paving the way for Scottish and female shearing standards.

How did you get started in shearing?

At 15 years old, I was keen to leave school and study agriculture. I attended Borders College at St Boswells in 1988 before heading to Oatridge to complete my OND and graduated in 1993. My passion for shearing became apparent when I attended The Royal Highland Show alongside my mum during my late teens. I watched the shearing competitions and said to her, ‘One day I want to become a shearer and work in New Zealand.’

Having undergone shearing courses at both Oatridge and Borders College with tutors including the head of agriculture at Oatridge, the late Dave Turner, and Ronny Nichol respectively, I am now a qualified wool board instructor offering training to others looking to get into the industry, with my next training session at Westruther on June 13.

The Scottish Farmer: Una getting her gear ready for the upcoming season Ref:RH230424067 Rob Haining / The Scottish FarmerUna getting her gear ready for the upcoming season Ref:RH230424067 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer

I also completed my college placement at Over Langshaw Farm, Galashiels, for the Bergius family. I continued to work there and shear with my Uncle Rob Baxter until I took my first solo trip to New Zealand in 1995 for the shearing season which runs typically from November to March. There I worked for shearing contractor, John Hopkins, on the North Island near Pahiatua. I would also work in the South Island with The Shirleys near Lumsdon.

Following the season, I would come back to the UK and during the early stages of my career for the May-July season I worked for various names in the industry including John Gibson, Lockerbie; Hamish Mitchell, Lochearnhead; and Jimmy Sinton, St Boswells.

Since then, I have been to New Zealand for 22 shearing seasons. With other off-peak UK seasons spent in countries including Australia three times, and Norway six times.

Having worked in various countries across the world, gaining lots of experience, I decided to commit to shearing self-employed during 1995.

Myself and my partner, Geordie Bayne, who is also a key figure in the industry having won the World Team title in 1996 in New Zealand, now work alongside local shearers including Bonchester Bridge brother and sister duo James and Sophie Smith.

When not shearing, I ensure I keep myself fit with roles including tree planting, hedge laying, lambing, horse riding, and welding horseshoes into upcycled and bespoke gifts.

Do you need qualifications to become a sheep shearer?

No, not if you’re shearing for yourself or even as a contractor; however, when competing it is a requirement. I have obtained my gold seal stickers as awarded through the Wool Board. This is the highest level of certification achievable by any shearer, I carry both the UK and New Zealand equivalent, achieving both in 2003.

Additional titles won?

Only woman in over 60 years of competition to make the top 30 in the New Zealand Golden Shears.

I also won the Bonchester Bridge Speed Shear in 2016 and 2019, which led to winning the Open Speed Shear title at Strathaven Show in 2023, while William Dickson won the Scottish Speed Shear Circuit.

The Scottish Farmer: Sheep shearer Una Cameron Ref:RH230424069 Rob Haining / The Scottish FarmerSheep shearer Una Cameron Ref:RH230424069 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer

Do you notice any cultural differences when shearing in other countries?

Only really in Norway due to the cold weather in spring and the short hours of daylight but overall, not necessarily, at the end of the day it varies from place to place depending on the sheep, farm, shed, and farmer.

How are you preparing for the record?

Having recently returned from a shearing season in New Zealand, I am due to head down south shortly to begin the first of the UK shearing season, ensuring I am getting as much shearing in as possible in preparation for the record. Also, I am training six days a week in the gym with tuition from Matt Luxton from Blast Fitness at Launceston.

He has influenced the industry greatly by having previously trained over 10 world record sheep shearers.

How is the record conducted?

Starting from 5am and finishing at 5pm with mostly 1:45 min stints followed by a break. The aim is to surpass the current record of 458 sheep shorn held by New Zealand shearer Sacha Bond, set during February 2024.

Four judges including three from the UK, Andy Rankin; Scotland, Mark Fox; England, Martin David; Wales, and one from New Zealand, who is yet to be confirmed, will be assessing my work with two checking every 30 minutes to assess the quality of the finished ewes to ensure they pass the mark.

If a patch of wool the size of even a credit card is left on the sheep this will equate to one point, including any minor cuts, with a maximum of 12 points permitted per ewe before that ewe no longer counts towards the final score.

Among my team of 40 fellow shearers and helpers on the day, I will have a team member on hand to ensure the catching pen is topped up, allowing me to catch, drag, and dispatch each sheep myself, however, the pen is only allowed to have a maximum of 10 sheep within and running down to just two before the pen can be topped up again.

Do you need to provide your own wool handlers?

Yes, I will be working alongside my Norwegian duo including Anna Leira although originally from New Zealand, and Jonathan Gerhard Haakull who is a wool handler that has represented Norway in world championships over the last 10 years.

What skills do you think are essential for someone within the profession?

In this order, a good sense of humour, love of hard work, strong mind, and a fit body.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Being part of the shearing community is hugely rewarding in many ways, including after a hard day’s work when you look back at the flock of well-clipped sheep.

It is also a career unlike many others in allowing you to travel the world and meet so many great people from their different cultures.

Lastly, I would add it is a fantastic job for anyone needing to get back on their feet.

What advice would you give to others wishing to take up a career in shearing?

Go for it and never be afraid to ask for help from other shearers.

Also, I would recommend going on a shearing course as it means you are solely focusing on what you are learning.