By Eilidh MacPherson

The French pulled out all the stops in searing heat, up to 40 degrees, at the recent four-day World Sheep Shearing and Wool Handling Championships at Le Dorat, in the Limousin region.

With cabaret can-can dancers and a ‘through the ages pageant,’ similar to the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, the 2000 capacity crowd in the main marquee and several thousand watching outside on large screens, patiently awaited the results with baited breath in the sweat dripping conditions.

Everyone was beginning to think that New Zealand were going to have a clean sweep ‘as they claimed both the Blade Individual and Blade Team Event titles with young Alan Oldfield lifting the former and paired with Tony Dobbs the latter. Scotland’s hand-shearing team – Willie Craig, who shepherds Scottish Blackfaces at Gosland, Biggar and Mark Armstrong, who manages Wester Tullich, on the south side of Loch Tay – came a credible fifth place. South Africa, England and Australia were second to fourth respectively.

Willie, whose hip replacement has certainly not hindered him, came 11th in the individual World Champ semi-finals.

The New Zealand National Anthem was played a third time as the Wool Handling team of Sheree Alabaster and Pagan Karauria, swept the title for the Kiwis for a seventh time out of the eight years that it has been run at the World Championships. The Scottish lassies, Lanarkshire-born Audrey Lamb, who now works in HR in Cumbria and Lochearnhead full-time rousie, Rosie Keenan surpassed any previous Scottish team by taking out the blue sashes in second. They worked really well as a team and gained the time points, by sweeping up first. France was third in the final.

Individually the Scots excelled themselves as both qualified for the World semis, Rosie in second and Audrey in sixth. The Welsh erupted as Aled Jones was announced the winner of the final. Rosie took second, pushing the Kiwis, from the four stand final out of the limelight.

Audrey was placed second in the Open Wool Handling event, behind Pagan Karauria. Welshman Aled Jones was third and Cook Islander Tina Elers was fourth.

The machine shearing team final was a riveting affair, with Gavin Mutch (40) ringing the board by two whole sheep before swapping places with team-mate Calum Shaw (29). The Fifer kept up the momentum and the lead over his 10 ovines clocking off with at least one or two still in the pen for all his rivals.

Their skill and tenacity paid off as team Scotland lifted the red ribbons and silverware for a third time in the 18-year history of the World Champs, which has been dominated by the New Zealanders with 13 wins. All Scots present proudly belted out Flower of Scotland and flew Saltires.

The Kiwis fully expected Rowland Smith (world champion 2014) to lift the Individual World title. The Welsh went mental when Richard Jones was announced the winner. It was a double for Jones as he won the Open the previous evening and a first for Wales to have a machine world champ. The roof was raised as they sang their hearts out for a second time that evening.

Fife farmer Calum Shaw was placed fifth in the world final. Unlucky for Gavin, who held the World title in 2012 and has been second place getter since, was next man in.