Ladies dominate Mull sticks competition

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The craft of stickmaking is very old.

Throughout time, shepherds were all crookmakers, as they invariably needed a stick to help them trek the hills in pursuance of their work.

To catch a sheep in need of assistance, he would need to devise a hook for the end of his stick and curly rams horns found on the hill were ideal for the purpose.

On long winter evenings, the shepherd would spend many hours whittling his crook, bending the horn in his peat fire by the light of his paraffin lamp. This was then attached to a hazel shaft cut from a nearby copse.

Shepherds still generally make their own sticks but stick-dressing has become a fascinating hobby for many enthusiasts in clubs formed throughout rural UK.

Indeed, the craft of crookmaking is alive and well on the Isle of Mull and there was an entry of more than 50 sticks at the recent Isle of Mull Crookmakers’ Society annual dinner and show.

Judge William MacPhail praised the high standard of work and commented of the proportion of trophies won by the ladies this year.

The best carved black buffalo-horn stick and best overall was won by Mari Kluczynski from Torloisk. The best one-piece wooden stick was won by Emma Morgan from Pennyghael, while the novice prize was won by her daughter, Katy Roberts, at the tender age of just eight.