Thomastown Men’s Shed is exceptional in a number of ways. Since being set up in 2017, the Co Kilkenny shed has enjoyed a strong, committed membership, with about 30 men attending each week pre-COVID-19.

However, while many sheds across the country saw membership dwindle during the pandemic due to lack of fundraising opportunities in lockdown and a loss of momentum during extended shed closures, this hasn’t been the case in Thomastown.

After holding their long-awaited AGM back in August, the shedders were delighted to find that membership had actually increased over the past year, during what had been a dreadful time for many sheds like theirs.

There are many possible reasons for this: lockdown boredom perhaps may have inspired a number of Kilkenny men to put themselves out there and try something new once restrictions were lifted. Many men’s sheds also offer a safe way to connect with others by hosting socially distanced activities outside such as regular walking groups.

The mural is on Marshes Street in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny.

Perhaps this opportunity to grab some fresh air and see human faces again prompted some men in Thomastown to reach out to the shed. One very likely cause for this increased interest in the town’s men’s shed, however, is a piece of local artwork that’s got everybody talking.

The Thomastown Men’s Shed mural is a sight to see. The artwork’s vivid, bright colours catch the eye of anyone who passes the shed on Thomastown’s Marshes Street, while the finer details of the piece are what draw onlookers in further. It seems every time you glance at the work there’s another piece of imagery that jumps out from the project, which was made in conjunction with the Kilkenny Leader Partnership and renowned local artist Amelia Caulfield.

While the Thomastown shedders hail Amelia as the “brainchild” behind the mural, they also credit her for ensuring that the men themselves would be accurately reflected in those deeper layers of the work. After a number of workshops between Amelia and the shed, involving lengthy design discussions, the lads got to work on the mural in summer 2020. The project was finally completed in July 2021, when the final product was unveiled, revealing a piece that immortalises and captures the very essence of the shed.

The dazzling mural is painted outside the shed for any visitors to come along and see for themselves and, indeed, the shed is also always eager to welcome new members.

Other projects

Like many other sheds across the country, an appreciation for raw materials is at the core of much of the Thomastown shedders’ work. In particular, they enjoy working with wood. Producing kindling for the local community is one of their most frequent projects, as well as creating bird boxes. This tradition of woodwork in the shed is paid special homage in the mural, with line drawings of a traditional kindling fire incorporated within the design. The line drawings extend to capture images of men hard at work, drill in hand, or just sitting down for a chat. This balance between work and play is an aspect that the Thomastown shedders hold dear in their values. A traditional start to the day in their shed involves drinking tea while they discuss and sort out all the ailments of the world – an impressive feat that they claim to always achieve before lunch time!