Shoulder to shoulder in Allihies

July 25th, 2016 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Fr Martin Spillane, Seamus Irwin, Michael Collins, TD; Cllr Seamus McGrath, Mayor of Cork County; Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, TD; PJ O'Sullivan of Garnish; David Dudley, Michael Harrington and Mark Southgate outside the new Men's Shed facility.

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Following 18 months of hard work, most of it voluntary, the Allihies Men’s Shed – one of the most westerly in the country – is now open, and providing a warm welcome to all men in the area.  

The Allihies Men’s Shed was officially launched last weekend by Mayor of Cork County, Councillor Seamus McGrath, who, performing his first official duty since becoming Mayor, commented how delighted he was to be asked to officiate at the event, and emphasised the importance of such a community venture. ‘The council are much more than mending roads – we encourage and support all valuable community projects such as this.’  A crowd of approximately one hundred attended the launch, including West Cork TDs Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony and Deputy Michael Collins.   

The Allihies Men’s Shed was set up in 2014 as an initiative with the West Cork Development Partnership as a means to combat depression, isolation and loneliness amongst men through social inclusion.  A committee was formed, and joined by volunteers they set about creating a purpose built facility.   Fundraising was one of the main challenges facing the group, and they came up with the ideaof organising a scrap metal collection in the area which, as well as raising vital funds, also served to clean up the local environment. The scrap metal collection also included Dursey Island, which PRO David Dudley says was one of their biggest challenges. ‘It was difficult work on Dursey Island, with no machinery to lift very heavy metal such as old tractors etc. It was all done by hard, voluntary graft, literally taking it apart and bringing it to the island pier piece by piece – over fifteen tonnes worth – ready for loading onto a chartered boat. It also effected a major clean up of the whole island, as scrap metal was never before collected on Dursey.’ 

The committee members were also grateful to St Brendan’s Trust and the Diocese of Kerry and the local parish council who came onboard and offered a site next to the presbytery for the facility. 

The new Allihies Men’s Shed now consists of a workshop, social room, storeroom, kitchen and toilet, all of which are wheelchair accessible.  The premises also has an adjoining allotment. David says ‘We really have a flagship Men’s Shed, even though we are the furthest parish in Ireland from Dublin. We are here to share skills, work on projects or for those wishing to just pop in for a cuppa and a chat. We’re here for the continued improvement of the social and mental well-being of the men of our community.’

The group currently has approximately 20 regular members but is open to all and new members are always welcome.  They will be starting a Scriocht at the shed from Friday, July 15th, and every Friday thereafter.  Going forward the group plans to work on various projects including restoring an old tractor, model-making, woodwork or basket-making.  Their aim is to pass on skills or learn new ones, but more importantly just to provide somewhere for men to meet for a get-together and a chat. David comments, ‘Our mission is to combat the scourge of isolation, for the men of our community to enjoy each other’s company, for friendships to build. The men of this community have a lot to share and an awful lot to offer.  If we can get just one of these men out of the house to come and make use of our fine facility, we will have accomplished a lot.’

The Allihies Men’s Shed is affiliated with the Irish Men’s Shed Organisation, which was formed in January 2011. The organisation came about when it was realised that there was little encouragement for men to take an interest in their own health and well being.  The organisation’s motto is ‘men don’t talk face to face; they talk shoulder to shoulder.’

The Men’s Shed organisation emphasises that good health is based on many factors including feeling good about yourself, being productive and valuable to your community, connecting to friends and maintaining an active body and an active mind. Becoming a member of a community Men’s Shed gives a man that safe and busy environment where he can find many of these things in an atmosphere of friendship, and importantly, there is no pressure, men can just call in for a chat and if that is all they’re looking for.

The committee of the Allihies Men’s Shed thanked all those who assisted them with the project along the way, St Brendan’s Trust and the parish council for providing the site, Kevin and Miriam O’Neill for their kind permission allowing the use of their access road, and all the volunteers who worked on the shed, and the local community for their support.  

 The committee also welcomes the donation of any tools and materials to the facility. The Allihies Men’s Shed will be open every Friday at midday and will look to expand opening hours and the programme of events and projects over the coming weeks.  Further details can be had from group members Seamus Irwin, David Dudley, Mark Southgate or on the group’s Facebook page.

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