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Company and craic as Armagh Men’s Shed on lookout for new members

'The shed has been a godsend and has definitely added a wee bounce to my step'

Members, from left, Vinnie Loughran, Oliver McKee, Joey Dotters and Stephen McCleary and some of the cottages which are for sale

Armagh Men’s Shed is looking for new members and the message is that you don’t have to be of a certain age to join.

The shed, which is an unofficial place for men to meet and have a bit of craic, has been going for the past nine years and at its height had 80 members.

However, the pandemic has had an impact on numbers and founder Stephen McCleary said he would like to see “new blood to rejuvenate it”.

The shed, which is located at Coppersmith Entry (behind the bus station in Armagh), is open Monday to Friday from 9am-3pm and is a drop-in facility for men of all ages who are unemployed, retired or simply at a loose end.

Said Stephen: “There are young lads hanging about with nothing to do. The big thing for men is lack of confidence about coming to a new place. But once we have them over the door, they’re captured!

“Men need company, even more so after lockdown. I can see the difference in them once they start coming here.

“I think many of them would be surprised at how much they would enjoy it. You can simply call in for a cup of tea and a chat. It’s about getting away from the mundane things in life and taking a break for a few hours.”

Stephen McCleary with some of the art and woodwork made by members

The premises has a large workspace, complete with woodwork tools and machinery, and members are taught how to make everything from bird houses to benches, which are then sold to the public.

Art, craft and pottery classes as well as health information sessions are also organised, with members having an input into what they want to learn.

There are also day trips and even a choir which sang for Irish president Michael D Higgins, who is patron of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association.

Member Dessie McElroy said the Men’s Shed had had a really positive impact on his life, both physically and mentally, and he would be “lost without it”.

“When I retired I looked forward to taking it easy, going on plenty of holidays and getting all the usual work done around the house but when all that was done I found myself in a rut and creeping towards depression,” he said.

“It was hard to fill my days and I would have found myself dozing every day in front of the TV and not being able to sleep at night.

Woodwork is one of the activities enjoyed by the men

“The shed has been a godsend and has definitely added a wee bounce to my step. I look forward to going down and working at crafts with the other members and having someone to talk to every day. Its also very rewarding working on community projects together.”

The wife of a shed member said she had been worried about her husband’s mental health, as he had become very withdrawn and grumpy after being made redundant.

“It took a bit of persuasion to get him interested but now he is up early every day and away off to the shed,” she said.

“I listen to his stories at night of what he made and got up to in the shed and can see a great improvement in his health. It also gives me great peace of mind, knowing that he is now happy with his lot.”

Anyone interested in finding out more should contact Stephen on 07763818393 or any shed member.


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