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Up Sticks

Posted by James Briggs on January 19, 2004

Sticks: To up sticks is to leave a place and go elsewhere. The origin is obscure. Some say that the 'sticks' are items of furniture, and others that it to do with raising a mast before a ship sails. Lawrence, on this Forum, thinks it came from the days of horse travel where the 'picket' was a rope strung from sticks/stakes where the horses were tethered. To 'up sticks' was to depart for a fresh pasture/camping ground.
An alternative was given on a BBC TV programme about the restoration of a Scottish croft. These small houses were small and often meant only for temporary occupation during a period of work. The frame was of rough cut, unseasoned timber, often straight from the forest. Some of the timber pieces (sticks) had to be of a special shape, such as those needed for the roof structure. Such pieces were of great practical value and were taken from the croft and reused when the family moved on - thus the expression. You may take your pick, although the saying is said to be no older then the 19thC.