As we make our way through this wonderful life of ours, one thing is certain and it is that we all at some point will endure ill health or be met with an obstacle of some sort. For me, I was faced with an industrial accident in 1996 where I lost three digits on my right hand.

Unfortunately, it was my dominant hand, and I lost a lot of my independence. I am sure that I must have driven my wife crazy with my constant demands and eventually my weight increased to sixteen stone, and I knew something needed to change.

Roll on to 2014 when I suffered a heart attack in which I had to undergo a quadruple bypass. It was then soon after at a family funeral when a cousin of mine suggested that I set up a men’s shed in Tullyallen.

This seemed very doable as I had previously set up the playground in Tullyallen for the children in our community. So I quickly set about starting up a men’s shed, which involved getting permission from the parish priest to use the parish hall, spreading the word and purchasing mugs for cups of tea.

At this point, we were meeting at the back of the parish hall, having great chats with tea and buns. However, as we descended into the winter months, it was clear that the hall was becoming unsuitable as there was no heating.

A committee member from the local GAA club, Glen Emmets, allowed us to use their clubhouse as there was heat available there. We played bowls which was very popular along with darts, pool and cards.

However, as the space was upstairs, it became difficult for those with mobility issues in the shed. We stayed there for over a year and a half before we got our own premises. We met with the parish priest to discuss getting a small plot of land to build our own premises.

We now have our own workshop, social area and have plans for a polytunnel to be put in. There are 18 members at present in the shed. We are very active in the local area with activities such as litter picks, cleaning and painting the local playground, helping with up keep of the local walkway etc.

I would recommend for any men out there to join a local shed as through my experiences, I really could have done with one. Also, the men would have helped me recover from my accident and my wife would have found things easier because of it.

I have sadly lost my only two brothers, both younger than me, and the men were there to help keep me strong and to keep me going through the tougher days. We have men who sadly have lost their wives and have said that the camaraderie of the men has made a massive difference to both themselves and their families knowing they have a purpose to get up and go to the shed.

One thing I would like to get across to all is that every person who goes to a shed may not think that they have much to offer but I can tell you that each person has something to offer the shed.

I’m sure I speak for all when I say that when the pandemic hit and caused us to shut our doors, we realised how much it means to us and we truly missed it.

We are in the process of planning to meet up outside next week and have the shed painted, cleaned and ready to go for when we are back up and running. We had regular phone calls throughout lockdown to stay in touch and check in on each other but meeting in person is much better.

When a member says thank you and that the men’s shed has saved their life and has given them a purpose with somewhere to go, it’s emotional and it’s motivating to keep the shed running for the foreseeable.

The Tullyallen Men’s Shed has made one hell of a difference to a lot of men and it will continue to do so. I would go to say that the men shed movement will get stronger and stronger in the years ahead.

Dedicated to my beloved two brothers Vincent and Trevor and my wife Ann.

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