He is believed to be the last wooden flute maker in Scotland.

So exquisite are George Ormiston’s instruments they are sold across the world, while musical luminaries such as Jethro Tull guitarist Ian Anderson and revered jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith are among his previous customers.

But after the Heritage Crafts Association classified his trade as endangered, the 68-year-old is not confident the skills he has developed over a lifetime will survive north of the Border, despite a history stretching back centuries.

And if they do disappear, the loss, he warns, will be significant.

“I think I’m the only flute maker left in Scotland,” he said. “There are plastic ones and they’re just not  that good.

“In terms of wooden flutes, there’s less than 10 [makers] left in the UK.”

The Herald:

Mr Ormiston has been producing flutes and piccolos for 42 years. A keen player of the flute as a teenager, he has two workshops  – one in Bo’ness, Falkirk and another in Stirling – where he meticulously crafts the instruments.

Mr Ormiston studied engineering at college in Edinburgh and Coventry, and began making woodwinds after he realised there was a demand for new flutes.

He discovered most flutes in the late 1970s had been made in the 19th century and were in disrepair.

After graduating from college at the age of 22, he moved to Ireland and then Bavaria, Germany, where he learned the ropes of woodwind-making  while working at a recorder manufacturer.

The father-of-two said: “I played the flute and at 16 I started working and going to college studying engineering and put the two together.

“There was a lack of good quality wooden flutes. Most were made in the 19th century so there was a bit of an opening for re-making.”

Following the technical specifications of pioneering Edinburgh flute-maker John Mitchell Rose, Mr Ormiston began crafting his own instruments  in 1978. Over the last 42 years, he has made more than 1,000 flutes.

Unlike other instruments, such  as guitars, which are made by hand, he uses machinery in only a tiny portion of his work on  flutes, with the keys produced from air-dried African Blackwood and Sterling Silver.

He has even made flutes for British rock band Jethro Tull’s guitarist, Ian Anderson, and jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith.

The Herald:

It takes Mr Ormiston up to four weeks to make a flute, but preparation of the wood happens over several years.

Weeks are also needed to craft the elegant silverwork and head-joints. The elegant silverwork and headjoints can take weeks to craft.

“We leave the wood for a year to dry, then we rough train and bore the wood, putting a hole all the way through it,” he said. “Then we second train it, finish train it, then use it to make a flute.

“If somebody wants keys then they can be put on – that can take much longer than the actual woodwork. It can take two to three weeks to do the silverwork.

“We also make wooden head-joints that are very sought after by classical players.”

Thanks to their quality of his work, there is no shortage of customers queuing up to buy his wares.

From Belgium and Spain’s Basque Country to Manchester and Missouri, he has sent his handcrafted instruments all over the world.  Some of them sell for more  than £4,000.

Today, the flute, which previously had a relatively marginal role in Scottish traditional music, is enjoying something of a revival as an increasing number of younger players across the country pick it up.

And yet there is no guarantee the expertise built up by Mr Ormiston over decades will be preserved and developed.   

He hopes someone will take over the business from him when he eventually decides to hang up his tools and retire. But, he admits, there is little ground for certainty.

“I hope it continues because there’s an immense tradition of flute making in Scotland, going back to the 17th century,” he said. “Who knows what the future holds?”