The ugly stick is a traditional Newfoundland musical instrument fashioned out of household and tool shed items, typically a mop handle with bottle caps, tin cans, small bells and other noise makers. The instrument is played with a drum stick and has a distinctive sound.
In outports and remote villages, social gatherings such as concerts (colloquially referred to as "times"), mummering and kitchen parties, were an important part of the rural culture. The principal melody instruments were accordions and fiddles with rhythmic accompaniment from the ugly stick.
The instrument’s main body is a mop or broom handle cut to approximately four feet. An old rubber boot was attached to the bottom and a cymbal attached at the very top. At strategic intervals along the length of the shaft, nails affixed with bottle caps, felt tins and other noise makers would be nailed into the shaft. The instrument would then be decorated with items of colour and fluff to the artist's taste.
The ugly stick is held in one hand at about ¾ up the shaft and the musician would hold a drum stick in the other. The instrument would be lifted and dropped on the floor in a rhythmic fashion while the musician would strike the attachments and cymbal to embellish the sound.
"Beaten with the ugly stick" is an American idiom for someone or something that looks ugly or unappealing.