Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue... And something red for good measure! In 2018, the Louisburgh Area Men’s Shed rocked their small town in Mayo with their Mock Wedding; an event which saw many of the men dress up as blushing brides or bridesmaids.

The Louisburgh shedders pictured at their 2018 'Mock Wedding' (pre-Covid).

Since then, COVID-19 restrictions have meant there have been few fundraisers – or even real weddings – over the last few months.

However, there has been a wonderful union of a different kind in Louisburgh which captured the attention of many; a marriage of minds in the local men’s shed.

Despite being forced to shut their doors in March 2020, the shedders have been busier than ever, and even produced some of their finest work yet – all in the middle of a pandemic. Thankfully, with restrictions easing recently, visitors have once again begun flocking to the popular tourist spot of Louisburgh for the summer, just in time to see the results of all the shedders’ hard work for themselves.

One of the biggest fruits of their labour is the town’s Book Bench, which the One Foundation kindly commissioned the shedders to help them create. The bench is catching the eye of many a local and holidayer, not just because of its unique design (in the shape of a real book), but also thanks to the local history inked on it.

The bench proudly displays excerpts from An Coinneal, Louisburgh’s annual publication of literary contributions from the town’s young and old, current residents and diaspora. An Coinneal is a treasured “social history” of the area, and now that history has been given a new lease of life, to be discovered by all who come across the bench outside the local book shop. Something old and something new indeed.

The shedders’ “something blue” comes in the form of cerulean flower pots, containing stunning floral arrangements to brighten the town – all perched atop donkey and horse carts which were recently restored by the skilled shedders. The wheels of these carts were also upgraded with new iron rims – which the men forged themselves – before the carts were painted and donated to the local Tidy Towns committee.

However, iron rims weren’t the only metal parts the men got hands-on with during lockdown. Their supplementary “something red” is a Massey Ferguson tractor that one of the shed members diligently repaired safely in his own home with the help of his father. Over many months the two men worked side by side, procuring and adding new parts, to get the Fergie back in working order. In their home, and many others across the town, family members of all ages, or those who were allowed in a shedder’s bubble, did their bit to get the projects finished. The men involved fondly look at all those helping hands as the “something borrowed”. These small ways of connecting with each other mean a great deal in a town like Louisburgh. The majority of members of the town’s men’s shed are either retired or part-time farmers, who feel these projects were a godsend that kept their minds occupied while they were confined to their homes.

It’s because of these lonely times they’ve all endured that the men are now anxious for their shed to fully reopen.

The shed’s benches, carts and tractors have become the talk of Louisburgh, so much so that the men behind the projects are in high demand to produce more. They have high hopes to keep pushing boundaries and experimenting with new ideas going forward. Most of all, they look forward to working shoulder to shoulder in their shed once more, and to catching up with each other over a cup of tea.

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Men supporting men in Tullyallen Men’s Shed