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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Steve Handley, shearing legend dies

The shearing world was shattered to learn that Steve Handley was found dead at Charleville last week.  He was a ranga of Scottish descent from Chinchilla.  He left home at 15 and started shearing at 17.

Steve Handley was a shearing legend.  He could shear 400 sheep in one day and was able to work flat out from 7.30 am until the final bell went at 5.30.

Better known as the "Chinchilla Killer" he's been described by everyone who knew him as a humble, gentle man who was proud of his reputation.  He prided himself on being asked back to the same properties year after year, he was good and he knew it.

The man who employed him and became his good friend and confidant, National Grazing Service's Noel Dawson said that as his reputation grew, other 'guns' from all over Australia and New Zealand were tested and struggled to keep up.

"If it wasn't bad enough to try and shear more than, or as many as Steve for a full eight hour day, it was most demoralizing to look out after work and see him riding away on his bike for a 15 kilometre ride, or strapping weights to his chest and doing 200 sit-ups" Mr Dawson said.

Queensland wool-classer Bob Tully remembers when he was shearing at Kapunda in South Australia and they were "chipping the wool off" the sheep.  "It was incredibly tough - we went down for nine days and were there for what seemed months" Bob said.  "I rang Noel and he said he would get Steve onto the job.  That was 2pm on Sunday - Steve drove all the way from Blackall (a small town 960 kms from Brisbane) had an hour's sleep and pulled into gear by 3.30 pm Monday.  By 5.30 he had 101 sheep done and we cut out in two days instead of six."

He didn't like competitions and only entered one - a Quick Shears in Blackall - and 650 people came to watch him in action.  He won.

In December 2003, Steve married his sweetheart Monica and daughter Rhianna was born in 2007.  The family travelled around the sheds until Rhianna started school and they settled in Charleville.

A few months ago Handley suffered a back injury that ended his career. Despite medical help, he fell into a deep depression and died last week. He was only 49 years old.

His funeral will be held in the cemetery chapel in Chinchilla at 2 pm today, Saturday February 15.