The Story of Kirkmuirhill & Blackwood Men’s Shed (KBMS)
In 2017, when one of TRCCA’s Board members, Jim Wisner, suggested the idea of creating a Man Shed, the Board responded positively. Although some of us had heard of the concept, few of us had any idea of its place on the world stage or its importance to society.
The Men’s Shed movement started in Australia in the 1990s and is now worldwide. It reflects the fact that older men tend not to socialise as much as older women do, and addresses issues such as loneliness and isolation. Men Sheds create a social space that allows older men to meet regularly, to re-use or share old skills or learn new ones. Typically, activities include wood working, metal working, electronics, or simply playing a game of dominoes or cards. But over and above all that, it’s important to have a cup of tea or coffee and a chat!
TRCCA have been working with South Lanarkshire Council’s ‘Seniors Together’ since August 2017. Seniors Together have been promoting Men’s Sheds for a few years now, and the regular meetings we have attended included men from Sheds in East Kilbride, Hamilton, Rutherglen, Bellshill, Carluke and Biggar. This proved to be an excellent forum for the dissemination of information, largely based on the experience of existing Sheds.
Seniors Together also arranged for the conversion of an old library bus into a mobile Men’s Shed, which is used to promote the idea in communities all over South Lanarkshire. The mobile Shed has been to Kirkmuirhill on two occasions, the last of which was on the same day as our own Shed was craned over the fence into the back garden of TRCC (7th May 2019).
We had considered several sites in the villages but none of them proved feasible or possible, so we reverted to our original option to place a container in our back garden. We had also considered an offer from the trustees of Kirkmuirhill & District Pensioners’ Association in the form of a gift of that piece of ground which lies on the other side of Kirkmuirhill Pub. However, this option was put aside as the costs of starting from scratch would be much higher than putting a container on our own ground, with access to existing utilities.
We also arranged local monthly meetings of a number of interested men and the first one took place on 11th October 2018. They have been waiting patiently ever since!
As we had been trying to bring this matter to fruition for so long, the time had come to move more quickly. At a visit to their Shed on 31st January 2019, we were referred by Hamilton Men’s Shed to Containers (Scotland) Ltd (CSL) of Motherwell, who customise and sell containers.
Three Board members (Jim Wisner, George Buckley and Dennis White) visited their yard afterwards and saw a second hand 32’x10’, lined and service-ready container which was deemed to be suitable for our purpose. At a cost of £3,500 (including delivery, which was entirely borne by TRCCA), this was at least half the cost of a new one elsewhere, and the price also included new floor covering, heaters, and some tables and chairs, and a fresh coat of paint on the outside.
Alex Jackson, owner of Kirkmuirhill Pub next door, kindly gave his permission to access his ground, which would allow the container to be craned over his fence onto the site.
So, the location was decided and a container had been earmarked. All that had to be done was to drum up a team of men to remove the decking from the garden, scrape off some soil to level the ground, and hey presto, job done? Not quite!
After a team of ‘Shed men’ worked hard, it soon became apparent that levelling the ground was too big a job for us, so we approached Tom Ferguson of J&J Ferguson Ltd, of Kirkmuirhill. Tom came in, looked at the site and kindly said he would bring in a 3 ton digger to clear and level the ground.
Alex Jackson again came to our aid by kindly giving us further permission to temporarily remove a section of his fence to allow the digger to access our garden.
We then had to find a way of removing the soil. A friend of TRCCA asked Archie Ballantyne, farmer at Auchenheath Farm,if he would do it and he kindly said he would, and duly left his trailer in our drive.
However, although it allowed us to start clearing the ground (until we realised that the job was far too big for us), it became apparent that the trailer could not be brought close enough to the digger. The staff of CSL referred us to John McKnight of Auchenheath, who kindly said he would bring in his 20 ton (8 wheeled) lorry, but this time it was too high for the digger!
We then approached Jake Bryson, of Kilylees Farm, and of Bryson Tractors, Lanark, who kindly said he would provide his tractor and large trailer to take the soil to his own ground. His son, Angus, kindly and skilfully did the driving and six large trailer loads were taken away!
Was the task still thought to be too big for a team of Man Shed ‘oldies’? Definitely!
All this fantastic help and co-operation was carried out at no charge and our huge thanks go out to those local businesses and individuals mentioned above. We did, however, give these kind benefactors Asda gift vouchers which they and their families could use.
So, on Tuesday, 7th May, the Shed was craned precariously over the Pub fence and gingerly placed on the prepared site, ready for its new, important role in the social scheme of things…awaiting its KBMS sign to be proudly attached…
Cemex have kindly said they will come back and replace the mono-blocks in front of the Shed, and when this is done (hopefully in July), a Grand Open Day will take place, jointly run by TRCCA and KBMS.
The Shed Committee is busy raising funds, planning layout and machines and the Shed will open - after the Open Day!
Donations of wood-working tools have begun to come in from people in the local community, and we all look forward to a successful future for our Community Centre and its Men’s Shed.