It’s a convivial atmosphere every Monday and Wednesday morning between the hours of 10am and noon at Clonakilty Men’s Shed where Mary O’Brien finds a healthy dose of banter and laughter is served up with the tea.
Birthed first in Australia, the men’s shed movement took off in Ireland in 2009 with the formation of a men’s shed in Tipperary. The movement – now recognised for its massive physical and mental health and wellbeing benefits to men – grew rapidly, with the Irish Men’s Sheds Association, formed in 2011, today boasting over 400 registered sheds, of which Clonakilty is one. Currently Ireland has the highest number of Sheds per capita of any country in the world
Up and running with two years, Clonakilty Men’s Shed provides a space for men from all walks of life, from retired tour guides and carpenters to busy hoteliers, to meet and connect with one another, sharing expertise and experiences, for some even bringing a whole new sense of direction to life.
“We’re always meeting and doing things,” shares Clonakilty Men’s Shed Chairperson Tom O’Donovan. “We’re a very proactive and engaged organisation, whether it’s doing yoga, going to the gym, taking a walk around town together or heading off on a trip somewhere. Yesterday we went for a spin down to the Michael Collins Centre Museum in Arigideen and from there on to the cafe at Ballyseedy for food, before ending in a visit to the Carrigaline Men’s Shed.” Making the days out even more carefree and enjoyable is the free community bus and Garda driver at their service a number of times throughout the year, for which they’re very grateful.
While they’re currently availing of the convenience of a small house located in the town at St Paul’s Close on Western Road, which has been kindly donated temporarily by the local Saint Vincent de Paul association, the plan eventually is to fit a stove in the prefab building they’re renovating on the site of the Allotments on the outskirts of Clonakilty. Some of the participants have already turned their hands to vegetable growing here and there is ample space to build a proper workshop, where the breathtaking view of Clonakilty bay will surely more than make up for the distance from town.
Around the table is where most of the ideas and plans for future activities and trips are hatched, with many of the men up for turning their hand or “chancing their arm” as chairperson Tom puts it, at anything, from throwing shapes on the yoga mat to throwing pottery on the wheel.
Last year a large group travelled up to Dublin on a cultural outing to see a play at The Gaiety Theatre, the number of buses and trains missed along the way all taken in stride, and only adding to a memorable day out. “Everything always gets done in the end,” shares Tom laughing.
Just before Christmas, a group completed the community-based health promotion ‘Sheds for Life’ programme, the purpose of which is to engage men in more open and meaningful discussions around their physical and mental wellbeing, while also encouraging them to maintain healthier lifestyle choices and increase their awareness in areas such as physical activity, healthy eating and mental wellbeing.
Lorna O’Regan of FeelGood Health and Fitness in Clonakilty, who delivered six weeks of cookery workshops, as well as 10 weeks of exercise classes as part of this programme, found working with the Clonakilty Men’s Shed to be “an absolutely fantastic experience. “I worked on balance and mobility with men of all ages and fitness abilities, we well as having the craic with them,” she shares. “This is what everyone wants…an opportunity to connect and have fun.”
Many of the participants mentioned how the classes helped them to bond with each other, as well as giving them more confidence in exercising and cooking.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the classes with Lorna, as she made them fun and interesting,” says John McNulty.
“We had great chats and I got to know people I never spoke to before,” shares Dave Sheehan. Learning to cook from raw food to beautiful healthy cooked food and the sitting down and eating together afterwards was so good for the company and I believe our mental health. Throughout Lorna was knowledgeable and entertaining, a brilliant teacher.”
Pádraig O’Mahony has seen his balance improve since the classes, which also helped his sciatica, and while he admits to not having tried his hand in the kitchen at home yet, he blames his wife Mary for setting the standard too high!
After two years, the Clonakilty Men’s Shed has visited nearly every museum in Cork and most islands west of the city. There have been sailing lessons and cycles, health talks and classes, floats in local festivals, deliveries of wood organised to the elderly in the community, even visits to the Dáil and meetings with the President, and much more besides! And the bucket list is endless. Visiting caves or the local sauna on Red Strand will be another day out soon,” says Tom. But of course there’s always someone aiming higher! “There’s a men’s shed in Florida we’d like to visit,” laughs one “or I rather fancy a trip to Australia to see where it all started,” chortles another. ‘Who knows where it’ll take us next!” says Tom wryly, one eyebrow cocked!
Anyone is welcome to join Clonakilty Men’s Shed. Contact Noel Lynch on 0862316029 / 0872924372 for more information. Follow Clonakilty Men’s Shed on Facebook.