There’s life in the old sticks yet, says caman maker George

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A caman maker who was brought up in Ardnamurchan is encouraging shinty players to try the craft themselves.

George Mead, 31, moved to London after studying woodwork in Buckinghamshire and since 2018 has been supplying handmade shinty sticks to players from both north and south from his workshop in the UK capital.

Most of his business comes from Scotland, however, and tends to be individuals looking for sticks for themselves or their children. George also does the odd team order and has sent camans to as far as the USA and New Zealand.

George says he has seen the demand for camans rise since the end of lockdown and realises there is a need to attract others to take up the trade.

‘The sense I get from my customers is that they have been struggling to get hold of sticks from their usual suppliers, so they are turning to outlying makers with shorter lead times,’ he told the Lochaber Times.

‘The pandemic had a big impact on the sport and consequently the craft.

‘It’s a sad fact caman making is barely a viable business on its own and better money can be had using woodworking skills in more conventional ways.

‘During lockdown I took on work doing site joinery which was comparatively well paid but not nearly as fulfilling. I’m sure other makers did similar things and I think that when the pandemic eased and shinty picked up again they were slow to come back to the craft.

‘Couple that with the recent supply chain issues, the rising cost of materials and sudden influx of demand when the sport kicked off again, it’s no surprise there is now a shortage.’

Excluding the caman he made from some architrave and plywood in high school, George didn’t make his first proper stick until 2018 – and he has never looked back. He is now encouraging other shinty players to try it or help alleviate a possible shortage by repairing old and damaged sticks to give them a second life.

‘If you don’t have the ability yourself, a carpenter or joiner might be able to help,’ he said.

‘If the stick is too far gone, it can often be cut down and given to a child. If you’re feeling adventurous, making a shinty stick for yourself is a great thing to do. The earliest and simplest camans were just curved tree branches carved into shape. This can be done in a garden shed with basic tools and with time and patience it’s an achievable and rewarding process.

‘Nothing beats the feeling of scoring a goal with a stick you’ve made yourself.’

Born in Somerset, George and his family moved to the peninsula when he was five. He went to Ardnamurchan High School where he first set foot on a shinty field and since moving to the metropolis has played with London Camanachd.

Photograph (NO_T46_CamanMaker_GeorgeMead): Caman maker George Mead inspects his workmanship. Photograph by Flavio Bosi.