FOR a special gift for the man – or woman – in your life, a crook or stick is definitely worth considering. Not only will you be gifting a unique piece that has been lovingly and carefully crafted, you will be keeping alive the traditional skill of crook-making for future generations.

Experienced crook-maker Ian McConchie, who has recently relocated from Dumfries and Galloway to Stirlingshire, has sent his crooks all over the world, from New Zealand and Australia to the USA and German. “I aways get a few commissions ahead of Christmas,” he points out.

“The industry is fairly strong just now and there are still stick-making classes in places like Dumfries and Galloway so interest is there and it’s good to see young people being encouraged to take it up.

“Competitions are the agricultural shows keep stick-making front of mind too with the big shows like the Royal Highland also introducing the craft to non-farming folk.”

Ian praises the work of the Scottish Crookmakers Association in promoting the craft and believes it’s up to people like him to “do our bit” to keep stick-making in the spotlight. “We have to pass on what we’ve learned about crafting walking sticks and crooks,” he adds. “Over the years, I got help and advice from people like Arthur Dent and Dane Love – people are always keen to help.”

He says that there are many “exceptional” crook-makers whose workmanship is outstanding although Ian remains modest about his own skills. “I started about 15 years ago after I retired,” he points out. “Before that, I was doing it off and on and went to night classes. It’s something you get real satisfaction from but you need to be patient because rams’ horns need to be heated before being shaped and the wood needs to be seasoned – it’s a fairly long process.”

How much should you expect to pay? “I would expect to pay about £100 for a really good quality stick and the fancier ones will be between £200-£300. There are cheaper options, of course, but with sticks and crooks you should be looking for quality workmanship.”

There will be crook-making competitions at the upcoming LiveScot in Lanark on November 24-25.