Sticks have been used to aid stability, as a weapon and as a symbol of authority since the earliest of times, in ancient Egypt a stick was an object of prime importance, it commonly remained with the owner in death, to protect the deceased on their travels. In the Middle Ages even bishops carried sticks, some containing hiding places for money, precious stones and secrete weapons. In my area, as in many, the working stick or crook came into being with the arrival of sheep.

Towards the end of the 18th century, tenant crofters (small farmers) were evicted from their homes across the Scottish Highlands to make way for sheep farming.

From 1792 “The year of the sheep” displaced families began to arrive in Badbea, a small area of rough, steeply sloping land, squeezed between the high drystone wall of the sheep enclosures and the precipitous cliffs of Berriedale. (Where I live and work).



An aid to stability and defence or as a tool

Since walking sticks were tree branches picked up to aid stability and as a means of defence against wild animals, they have developed to the status we now know them, under the monikers of trekking poles, pilgrim`s staffs, hiking poles or hiking sticks, they are used by hikers for a wide variety of purposes: to clear spider webs, part thick bushes or grass obscuring the trail; as a support when going uphill or a brake when going downhill; as a balance point when crossing streams, swamps or other rough terrain; to feel for obstacles in the path; or to test mud and puddles for depth. Avid hikers sticks are often more ornate, adorned with small trinkets or medallions depicting a favourite animal or article.

The forbearer of our “normal” stick came into being around the 17th-18th century, a stout rigid stick took over from the sword as an essential part of the European gentleman`s wardrobe, used primarily as a walking stick. In addition to it`s value as a decorative accessory, it also continued to fulfill some of the function of the sword as a weapon. The standard cane was rattan with a rounded metal grip. Some canes had specially weighted metalwork. Other types, of wood, such as hickory, are equally suitable.   

American “walking canes”

In North America, a walking cane is a walking stick with a curved top much like a shepherd`s staff, but shorter. Thus, although they are called “canes,” they are usually made from material heavier than cane, such as wood or metal.

In the United States, presidents have often carried canes and received them as gifts. The Smithsonian has a cane given to George Washington by Benjamin Franklin. It features a gold handle in the shape of a Phrygian cap (a soft conical cap from north western Turkey.)

Collectors of canes strive to attain the most novel, varying from retractable canes that reveal such properties as hidden compartments, pool sticks, or blades, some canes, known as “Tippling Canes” or “Tipplers” have hollowed- out compartments near the top where flasks or vials of alcohol could be hidden and sprung out on demand.

When used as a mobility or stability aide, canes are generally used in the hand opposite the injury or weakness. This may appear counter-intuitive, but this allows the cane to be used for stability in a way that lets the user shift much of their weight onto the cane and away from their weaker side as they walk. Personal preference, or a need to hold the cane in their dominant hand, means some cane users choose to hold the cane on their injured side.

Ecclesiastical use

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and some of the Oriental Orthodox Churches an ecclesiastical walking stick is used by bishops, archimandrites and hegumens (abbots) when walking outside. It is usually made of dark wood and is straight, rather than having a curved handle. The walking stick used by bishops and archimandrites is normally adored with a silver grip at the top and a metal ferrule at the bottom. The walking stick used by a hegumen or hegumenia (abbess) is normally of plain wood, unadorned.


 Shepherds Crook:- A durable work orientated design, used by shepherds to aid stability while traversing uneven or steep ground, when not being used to control, catch or retain Sheep.

 Half- turn nosed crook:- 

Market stick:- A Market stick is a dress working stick to be used on Market day, or similar occasion. 



 Knob stick:- Knob shaped handle on walking stick length shank, wrist bone height to rest for palm of hand.

 Derby:- A very comfortable supportive walking stick, same height as above.


 Wading staff :-

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