Sheep shearing fundraiser honours industry legend

In early August, Waupoos Island Sheep held a fundraising shearing event for one of Canada’s legends of sheep shearing, Don Metheral. 

Metheral, who operates Glen Huron, Ont.-based Great Lakes Shearing Company, has been a shearer in Ontario and other provinces for more than 30 years. Matt Fleguel, who co-owns and operates Waupoos Island Sheep with his wife Liz, said Metheral has been shearing his family’s sheep since the flock was owned by his parents. “He’s been coming here since I was a little kid.” 

Waupoos Island Sheep is one of Ontario’s largest sheep operations for both meat and wool, with nearly 2500 sheep, and markets grass-finished lamb. 

Why it matters: Don Metheral has been a mentor to many of Canada’s sheep shearers, and the industry wanted to step up and help contribute to his care after illness left him unable to work. 

But this year, Metheral was unable to perform the shearing task at the farm in Prince Edward County due to having suffered a debilitating brain aneurysm. 

When arranging to have shearers come to Waupoos Island for the flock’s annual shearing, Fleguel said the shearers had the idea to donate some of their wages to a GoFundMe page for Metheral set up by some of Metheral’s friends to help with his ongoing care and family expenses. 

“It wasn’t an organized fundraising event, not by any means, it just sprung up organically when we were talking about how important Donnie was to the industry and how instrumental he’s been in getting a lot of people into shearing,” he said. 

Amber Petersen set a personal record of shearing 303 sheep in an eight-hour day.

Waupoos Island Sheep

Shearers Jean-Michel (Jim) Popik from Quebec, Pauline Bolay from Manitoba and Amber Petersen from Atlantic Canada donated their wages for the first day of shearing, held Aug. 3, for Don. 

Fleguel said that all three shearers have been mentored by Metheral at some point in their careers and training. 

“So he’s really influenced [shearing] across the country,” he said. 

The Fleguels decided to match the donation, as did Kyle and Christine Denouden of Waupoos Island Camp, a local cottage rental business who helped with gathering and packing wool.

The event not only recognized Metheral’s skill but served as a challenge for the shearers. 

“We’ve got big shoes to fill today,” Liz Fleguel wrote on Waupoos Island Sheep’s Instagram page on the day of the event. “Today we are going for our personal bests and we have powerhouses on the team. The shearers are going for a shed record of 900 ewes shorn in an eight-hour day. Can they do it? This tally day is in honour of Don Metheral, a legend in Canadian shearing. Shearing is HARD work so the competition keeps us motivated and adds a little fun.”

In just eight hours, the team of three shearers was able to shear 909 sheep, and Amber Petersen set a personal record of 303 sheep. 

“In the shearing world, the first time you do 300 sheep in a day, it’s a big deal,” said Matt. 

On her Instagram page, Amber wrote Aug. 3 “Today was a big day for me. I have been working towards my 300 for a while now. I couldn’t have done it without amazing farmers Liz and Matt, and my shearing buddies PB [Pauline Bolay] and Jim.” 

The total number of sheep shorn was also a shed record for Waupoos Island Sheep.