Champion Shearer competes in memory of his daughter
Stuart Connor, from Oxfordshire, has qualified through the English Open Shearing circuit as a member of the England team for the World Shearing Championships to be held in France next year. This amazing achievement comes in spite of a year of personal tragedy, when Stuart and his wife Kira lost their 3-year-old daughter, Grace, to mitochondrial disease.
Stuart and Kira live in Banbury. He is a British Wool producer, who has also been shearing sheep since 2003. He only started competitive shearing in 2017, after attending a number of competitive shearing courses run by British Wool, most recently an Advanced Open Class Shears Course run in Wiltshire with brothers Matt and Roland Smith earlier this year. Advanced courses improve skill and output, and make shearers more commercially productive, giving them a competitive edge.
This is the first time he has qualified for the World Championships, which would have delighted Grace. Stuart says, “She loved everything sheep-related. She would go to shearing shows with enthusiasm, and love every second, so I wanted to do this for her,” he says. “Despite her not being here now to enjoy these moments, I pushed on with attending the shows for her.”
All his hard work, dedication, determination and training has paid off, with Stuart winning the 2018 Open Shearing English Shearing Circuit. “Two people qualify for the World Championships - the first is the winner of the English National Championship, which was held at the Royal Bath and West earlier this year. I missed out by 0.1 points so I put everything into the circuit events, whereby you attend at least 6 out of 9 competitions throughout the year, and score points. I attended all 9, with the final event being the Great Yorkshire Show in July where I was announced the winner and qualifier for the World Championships.” he explained.
“The start of 2018 dealt us, as a family, the cruellest hand it could. However, we stayed strong and have had a lot of support from much needed family, friends and the farming community. They have not only helped and encouraged me through the shearing competitions, but more significantly given us massive support raising funds and awareness for the charity, The Lily Foundation.”
The Foundation funds research into mitochondrial disease and offers invaluable advice and help for families affected by this very serious genetic condition that can affect any person at any time in their life.
Stuart continues: “We have already raised over £12,000 through our Just Giving page, which is an incredible amount, and will make a difference to so many people’s lives. We want to help others in honour of Grace and help towards finding a cure. We have several events planned for the coming weeks including a fundraising disco, an obstacle course run and a half marathon.”
Gareth Jones, British Wool Producer Communications Manager, adds, “We want to express huge congratulations to Stuart, in qualifying to represent his country under extremely difficult personal circumstances, and wish him every success."
"It is a fitting tribute to his daughter Grace and shows his dedication to her to persevere with competition despite his grief. What a remarkable man to be able to do this, and an amazing personal accomplishment. We would encourage everyone to support Stuart and Kira's appeal in little Grace's memory."
Please visit the Lily Foundation website to find out more about this disease at www.thelilyfoundation.org.uk, or to offer support go to https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/lilyfoundation/teamgrace. Details of Grace's story and upcoming fundraising events can also be found on Facebook at Supporting Team Grace.
For more information about shearing, shearers, and wool, visit https://www.britishwool.org.uk/shearing. You can also find British Wool on Twitter - @britishwoolfarm
For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Gareth Jones, Producer Communications Manager
07590 355885 or [email protected]