Very little was said; one heard the click, click of the shears, and sometimes the sigh of a pocket whetstone as the shearer sharpened his weapons; but occasionally it seemed as if all the dogs of the dale had gone mad; such barking! such fun!  For some sheep, after being let free from the shearing-bench and feeling his unwonted lightness of body, had gone off on a scamper, and must needs be brought back to the pen to wait for sauving or salving and straking or marking. (pp. 258-259)

The gravity of the whole business struck one.  It was solemn work of a very solemn order.  At least, so the men astride of the clipping benches seemed to feel.  I daresay they were right to be solemn, for I know that a “Herdwick” can kick and struggle with much spirit, till he is mastered.  The shears are sharp and very near the surface, and no man cares to wound his neighbour’s sheep.  But in addition these men were friends from a “lang time sen,” and one clipping bench was filled to-day by a new man; “T’ auld un hed gone down.  It was aw in course o’ natur,” said my friend, “so you cannot complain, but it natterly teks heart o’ yan for aw that, to see ald nebbors and good nebbors neah mair at clippin’ time; and it meks one think to onesel’ that it’s mebbe last time fer some on us an’ aw.” (p. 259)

But if there was a kind of dignified solemnity in the air as far as the clippers went, there was plenty of sparkle and life amongst the youngsters.  It seemed to be their privilege to catch the sheep as they were called for and hug them to the shearers’ benches.  They would hear the cry, “Bring us anudder—a good un this time, my lad!” and the boy dashed into the flock, and, while the dogs barked with excitement, seized and dragged them willy nilly to their fate. (p. 260)

At eleven o’clock a girl came from the farm saying, “Oor master bids you coom to lunch,” and in a moment the benches were deserted, and the men were busy washing their hands in the tin basins by the garden wall, and others went round “backside o’ the house, and cleaned up in the back kitchen.”  We sat down, no one spoke nor stirred finger, till the master of the feast, with a kindly smile, said: “Now my lads, reach till,” and we “reached till,” and took good oaten cake or haver-bread, and cheese with milk or ale or coffee to wash it down, as men minded. (p. 260)

It was astonishing to note how little was eaten, and in twenty minutes we were all out of the house and hard at the clipping again.  So the work went forward till dinner was served, and so the work went forward till tea came round; and the men took this at their clipping stools, for there was a deal yet to be done if the flock was to be finished off before night-time. (p. 260)

There was something for all to do; the little girls, home rom school, were soon busy carrying the fleeces which were folded and tie dup inside-out in a very clever way by a single turn of the wrist, to the barn; while the keenest amongst them took their share at catching and bringing the woolled ones to be shorn. (pp. 260-261)….

The light began to go for all that long after-glow of Cumberland clipping-nights, and still the shears clicked away, till the girl came with a summons to supper, and the work of the day was over. (p. 262)

“A reet doon good supper it was, an’ aw,” said one of the shearers afterwards, and he spoke but the honest truth.  It was the women-bodies’ turn to show what they could do to crown the clipping with success, and they certainly managed to make all the hungry shearers feel that a farm supper-table would be a very poor thing if it were not for the womenkind.  There was a bit o’ fiddling after supper, and a deal o’ good shepherds crack, and the following famous Herdwick shepherd’s song [‘The Sheep-Shearing Song] was sung by John Birkett to an old-fashioned country-side tune.  It was a song all seemed to know, and had been sung time out of mind at all the clippings under Helvellyn.  How they made the rafters ring with the chirus! (p, 263) 


(Life and Nature at the English Lakes, pp. 250-264)