It is said that Australia’s initial prosperity came from the secret introduction of the Merino sheep and the later discovery of gold.
John Macarthur and those sheep led to the saying, “Australia rides on the sheep’s back”.
This was true for more than a century and even though he probably went to all that trouble to steal those sheep from Spain to ensure his own prosperity, he did indeed cause a lot of wealth to flow into this country.
At the turn of the 19th Century Australia had the highest standard of living in the world [equalled only by Argentina].
Wool, gold, and in recent times mining have kept this excellent little country afloat since the white man invaded in 1788 [the white man had been here a few times before that, just for a look see].
What a lot of people have forgotten is the amazing invention that Sid Leffew came up with in the middle of the last century.
It’s true that he kept it a very closely guarded secret, but that is no excuse for forgetting him.
He should be more widely know.
Just when the rest of the world was turning away from wool to synthetic fibres Sid came up with the idea of cutting out the middle man and breeding a sheep that could grow the highest grade wool carpet.
Everyone knew then, and knows now, that wool carpets are superior.
Getting the carpet off the sheep without hurting it became Sid’s biggest challenge.
In the end the answer was simple.
With the final hurdle out of the way Sid needed to be sure that his invention was kept a secret.
Someone was sure to see the sheep standing around.
The answer presented itself in the form of an old carpet factory that was going out of business.
The company had quoted to carpet the new Parliament House but they had lost the contract to an overseas company, and this was the final straw.
The building was huge and Sid picked it up for a song.
He had the machinery removed and the concrete floor dug up and replaced with lush grass.
The old factory already had glass sky-lights so all Sid had to do was install an irrigation system and he was ready to introduce the new breed of sheep.
As it turned out, the sheep loved it in this unusual environment and they thrived.
The factory was in an old residential area so he worried that the sound of the bleating sheep might give the game away, but another coincidence helped him out in this regard.
There happened to be a meat works in the next street so the residents thought that this was where the sounds were coming from.
Just to be on the safe side Sid installed loud speakers to broadcast the sounds of carpet weaving machines which he hoped would disguise the sounds of his sheep.
This turned out to work too well as several of the residents complained to the council about the noise of the machinery!
Sid was forced to spend a lot of money on ‘installing’ rubber pads on all his ‘machines’ to cut down on noise and vibrations.
Sid had a monopoly on this process for more than sixty years, but as always happens, the idea leaked out and his business was swamped by cheap imports from the third world, mainly the US, and his business folded.
The magnificent old brick factory was torn down a few years ago, and naturally, they built town houses where it stood.
These days no-one remembers Sid Leffew and his sheep that grew carpet but I’ll bet that the next time you walk across that carpet of yours that has stood up so well over the years, you will wonder if it came from Sid’s long forgotten factory and his ‘barn laid’ sheep that lived so happily under that glass roof.