Since it officially opened in 2011, the Clane Men’s Shed’s first decade of existence has been bookended by crises.

In its early days, the Kildare shed was an outlet for the many local men who had been hit hard by the economic crash of 2008, and who had lost jobs or seen their retirement plans go awry as a result.

The recession left its mark for many years to come, and many of the shedders believed there would never be a downturn quite as severe as it again in their lifetimes.

However, as the Clane Men’s Shed turned 10 years old recently, they were sadly proved wrong. Fast forward to 2021, and there’s now a new era of economic uncertainty to be reckoned with, as the shed and the entire country navigates the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In spite of this, Clane Men’s Shed has thrived. The shed has attracted members originally from all over the country, with as many as 30 men attending prior to COVID-19, and with these new characters a whole host of new activities and skillsets have also been introduced.

“As Clane is a commuter town for the likes of Dublin, Maynooth and Naas, most of the men who joined in the early years were from different counties totally outside of Kildare,” says founding member Ted Murray. “Going as far back as to our start-up committee, we had men from Donegal, Mayo and even a man from Scotland involved. So we’ve always had a great mix of guys in the shed.”

Having such a diverse set of members required an equally varied range of projects to pique their interest. From a busy woodwork studio, to a large men’s choir, horticulture lessons and art groups, there was always something happening in the shed pre-COVID-19.

Since the shed reopened in September, most of those activities have been steadily returning in Clane.

“The carpentry hasn’t been as active because we can only have very limited numbers in the workshop to allow for social distancing, but the work is picking up a bit now,” Ted explains. “We were worried about the safety of singing together in a confined space, so the choir has recently morphed into a ukulele group instead!”

This ability to roll with the punches and keep the show on the road is a trait that’s helped the shed to gain a name for itself across Leinster. The carpentry the men are back working on is no amateur production- some of the benches they make sell for €300 apiece, while their handcrafted Christmas decorations are so highly sought-after that they’re now considered collectors’ items!

The shed’s craftmanship and community work culminated in a very significant milestone in 2015 when they were invited to meet President Michael D Higgins, who is a great patron of the men’s sheds himself, a memory that Ted says will always be a highlight for the group.

Biggest achievement

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the shed over the past decade, however, is the common purpose it has given to some very unlikely friends.

“There’s such a wide spread of us from across Kildare and Dublin, it means many of us in the shed support rival GAA teams. Sometimes the men can get a bit, shall we say, ‘excited’ about that,” Ted jokes. “But we’re very lucky because the local referee, who referees at a lot of the games around here for all the teams, is a member of the shed too, so he can step in and referee any disputes!”

So besides keeping the peace, what comes next for Clane Men’s Shed as they enter a new decade?

“We just hope that the shed continues to thrive, and will remain a space where men can come to entertain themselves or learn new skills they never would have tried otherwise,” says Ted. “I also hope we’ll continue to be a major contributor to the community, from providing furniture to local schools, or helping out with the Paralympics, or just being bodies on the ground for other big community events, I just want the shed to remain a key presence out there locally.”

If they can handle a national recession and various global lockdowns all before reaching the age of 10, it’s safe to say those goals will all be achieved, and that no challenge will be too much for Clane Men’s Shed in the years ahead. Here’s to a bright future.

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