During the football frenzy of the past few weeks, Shearer was ever-present on our television screens, along with all those other ex-England players who never won a thing at international level.

But it was a Shearer of an entirely different ilk that dominated my waking hours last week.

For the first time in well over half a century, I played a minor role in the clipping of wild and woolly hill sheep in the Upper Rede Valley.

And I can safely say that clipping sheep has moved on many paces since my days as a hip popper and side stamper on my uncle’s Cumbrian farm.

In those days, it took about three days to “gather the fell”, when all the sheep which dwelt on the foothills of Cross Fell were rounded up by half a dozen people on foot and five or six collies.

There was always the chance of disappearing up to your waist in a temptingly green peat bog, or being scared witless as the heather exploded and a dozen red grouse took to the skies from around your feet.

When all were safely gathered in, it was all hands on deck to clip the brutes, using hand shears rather than the modern electric clippers.

Even my father – a plane maker rather than farm hand – was handed a pair and let loose on the flock.

You could always tell the sheep the Pater had clipped – they were the ones displaying a lovely shade of crimson from the innumerable nicks he had inflicted on them with his inexpert hands.

The fleeces were then gathered up by my aunt and cousins and jammed into vast sacks, before being loaded on to a trailer.

My job was to mark the the newly shorn with green dye – a blob with a stick on the right hip and a big H on the left side with a metal device that looked pleasingly like the branding irons I had seen on Rawhide on the telly.

There was a real branding iron, which to my chagrin I was not allowed to use, deployed to burn my uncle’s initials on to the sheep’s horn, which also had a hole drilled through it with a hand-operated brace and bit.

Fast forward to last week, and the sheep were gathered by one man on a quad bike and one dog, and all I had to do was open and shut gates.

I only managed to fall over once, but was critically slow in opening a gate, allowing “our” sheep to get mixed up with those of a neighbour, as well as making two or three sheep tiptoe dangerously over a cattle grid, which according to Willie, the kindly octogenarian shepherd on the quad bike, was “bad, very bad.”

His real wrath however was reserved for Cap the trainee sheepdog, who was very good at gathering sheep in, but then insisted on trying to drive them back the way they had come.

We eventually got them all in a large pen, ready for shedding, where the yows are separated from their lambs.

This involved driving all the sheep through a narrow passage with a little gate at one end which sent the bawling lambs into one field and the yows into another.

Then the yows were driven into a shed to allow clipping to take place.

The hand shears have been replaced by electric clippers which can whisk the wool off even the most truculent Texel in a matter of minutes.

I was asked before the process started if I objected to swearing and confirmed that I did not, which was just as well, as I have never known anything described in such a colourful and inventive manner in all my long days.

It was my job to pick up and roll the still warm fleeces, which I always imagined would be white, but in fact range from buttery yellow to dapple grey.

Wrapping fleeces is the perfect job for anyone worrying about dishpan hands, because you are soon coated from fingernails to elbows in enough thick layers of lanolin to warm the heart of Madge the Manicurist.

Soon the yard was full of bewildered naked sheep, and when they were reunited with their lambs, it was interesting to note that the lambs did not recognise the mothers they had spent their entire lives with in their newly-shorn state

Or at least they pretended not to – nobody wants to see their mother in the nude!