29 July, 2021
Kevin and his whips
Kevin O’Shannessy is 90-years-young, and has been crafting whips for over 72 years.
His whips are sold across NSW, and the Gilgandra man shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Mr O’Shannessy’s love for the art began in 1948, where he was staying in Warren as a shearer.
“There was an old chap there, and he was cutting out this leather,” said Mr O’Shannessy.
“I said, ‘excuse me, what are you doing?’ ‘I’m preparing leather for a stock whip,’ he said. A stock whip I thought. I think I can crack one of those!”
Ever so curiously, Mr O’Shannessy watched the man, a Canadian shearer, plait the leather. He soon moved on from Warren, but their paths crossed again.
“He gave me a go at cutting out and trimming the leather, and then he gave me a whip and told me to take it back to my room and have a go at plaiting it. I wasn’t particularly good at first, it was to lose. But I kept doing it, night after night.
“Then I had the thought ‘this is going to be a good hobby for me when I retire!’ And here I am, retired, and whips being the big thing in my life. I never went to Sydney unless I took a heap of whips with me to sell.”
Before her passing 20 years ago, Mr O’Shannessy and his wife Jill would travel all over Australia in their caravan. His whips and camera were the two items that went with them wherever they would end up, and a pretty penny was made here or there from interested buyers of Mr O’Shannessy’s whips.
He tells a story of a time he walked into a small store in the middle of Western Australia, the store didn’t sell any stock whips he noticed. Luckily for them, Mr O’Shannessy happened to have 50 made up whips in the back of his caravan that he sold to the store.
A good 25 years later, Mr O’Shannessy sits in his home at Coo-ee Lodge, reflecting on all the time he’s spent over the 72 years plaiting, whips and carving their handles.
“I used to shoot my own roos you see. I would send them down to South Australia to be tanned.
“I love cutting out whips. I think whips could be something that, when I’m down in the dumps, or I’ve got a crook back, or a cold or something, I can get my whips and plait. And because you’re pulling from left to right, its very good for your chest,” said Mr O’Shannessy.
Those 72 years of plaiting hasn’t aged Mr O’Shannessy in the slightest, and he continues to be as whitty and full of interesting stories as he’ll ever be.
“It’s just not my time to go yet, I still have so much more life to live. But you know what, I reckon I could sell a whip to the big man up there.”