British wool producer Stuart Connor 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 achievement comes in spite of a year of personal tragedy, when Stuart and his wife Kira lost their three year old daughter, Grace, to mitochondrial disease.
Stuart has been shearing sheep since 2003 and started competitive shearing in 2017, after attending a number of competitive shearing courses run by British Wool to improve skill and output, and make shearers more commercially productive, giving them a competitive edge.
This is the first time Stuart has qualified for the World Championships, which would have delighted Grace. He said: “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. Despite her not being here now to enjoy these moments, I pushed on with attending the shows for her.
“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, who lives in Banbury, said: “We have already raised over £12,000 through our Just Giving page. We want to help others in honour of Grace and help towards finding a cure.”
Gareth Jones, British Wool Producer communications manager, said: “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.”