Men’s Shed is an organisation that was started in Australia some 20 years in an effort to address the imbalance in health outcomes between men and women. In particular the movement sought to stem the tide of male suicide in remote communities. Such was the success of the Sheds that the idea has gone worldwide and has been enthusiastically adopted in the U.K. to tackle social isolation particularily among men.
Men’s Sheds are meeting places (not necessarily a shed) where men can come together and take part in a variety of mutually agreed activities. These ‘activities’ can involve carpentry, wood turning, wood carving, electronics, playing chess, dominoes, cards, simply having tea or coffee and having a natter. Each shed is completely different and it is up to the members (called Shedders) to decide what they want to do within their shed. The members can be 18+ years of age.
Peter Brotherstone was the man responsible for getting the Men’s Shed in Biggar started. In his role as Beadle of Biggar Parish Church, he had seen many situations where men, whose wives had passed on, were at a loss as to what to do with themselves. He felt that women in a similar situation handled the situation better than men as they found companionship with other women. Men did not open up to other men as freely.
In the early months of 2018, it was made known by South Lanarkshire Council and in particular the department called Seniors Together, that they had been awarded agrant of £117,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to run an innovative programme totackle isolation and loneliness in older men by creating a Mobile Men’s Shed.This was a converted library van, which was to travel around the county promotingthe virtues of Men’s Sheds.
In February and March, 2018 an itinerary was drawn up for the mobile van to visit various locations in South Lanarkshire.
Peter had read about the Men’s Shed and thought that it was just the thing for the men of Biggar. He visited the mobile shed in Carluke.
From this visit, Peter put a post on social media inviting anyone interested in forming a Men’s Shed in Biggar to meet at the Gillespie Centre in Biggar on 3rd April 2018.
Eight men attended including Paul Creechan, administrator for Men’s Sheds within Seniors Together. It was agreed to go ahead and establish a Men’s Shed in Biggar and a steering committee was established. The committee was Chairman:- Ranald McGregor, Vice-Chairman:-Peter Brotherstone, Secretary:- Martyn Greene and Treasurer:- Ian Veale.
The next meeting was held on 12th April, 2018, with a turnout of 20 people. It was agreed at this meeting that there was enough interest to proceed in forming Biggar and District Men’s Shed. Over the next couple of months, the steering committee worked on the Constitution, Health and Safety documents, applications to join SMSA and UKMSA and opening up a bank account. Regular meetings were held during this time. These were mainly held in the Gillespie Centre, Biggar.
Due to work commitments, Martyn resigned the post of Secretary at the beginning of June, 2018. Ian took over the role of Secretary along with being Treasurer until a suitable replacement could be appointed.
On the 21st June 2018, after having all of the paperwork in place and the Constitution adopted, the first meeting was held at the unit in Symington. It was agreed that the meetings would be every Thursday between 1.00 p.m. and 4.00p.m. The membership at this time was 18. The first donation made to the Men’s Shed was £500 from the Hometown Trust, the owners of the unit in Symington.
From the early days in Symington, it was recognised that this would not be the Shed’s permanent home and that we were always on the outlook for more suitable premises, more than likely, but not necessarily, in Biggar. However, given the type of accommodation required to run a Men’s Shed, it was always acknowledged that it would not be easy to locate suitable premises. This is a common problem that most of the newly formed Men’s Sheds experience. However, we were more than grateful to the Hometown Trust in allowing us to use the premises in Symington to establish the Shed and to The Albion Foundation in allowing us to share the premises.
Upon starting in Symington, it was amazing how much tools and equipment we acquired from donations. Initially the members brought in tools that were surplus to their needs but once word spread about the Shed, the general public began making donations. We acquired 16 surplus office chairs from Greenwood Insurance in Hamilton and the disability charity donated surplus office desks.
As soon as we started in Symington, we established workshop areas to carry out projects. One of the first projects that we did was to build a ticket desk for the Corn Exchange in Biggar. This project was successfully managed by Peter. On completion of projects, we ask for the material costs to be covered and a donation for the labour involved. Many projects were carried out over the coming months such as bird boxes, bird tables, bat boxes, light stands etc.
As soon as we started in Symington, we established workshop areas to carry out projects.
On 27th September, 2018 Chad McCail was appointed as Minutes Secretary and subsequently on 25th October, 2018 Stuart McKay was appointed as Membership Secretary taking over the temporary duties carried out by Ian, who still carried on his duties as Treasurer.
On 15th November, 2018 Richard Lovering and Bill McCormack were appointed to the Board. Richard was appointed as being responsible for Health and Safety and Bill for all electrical compliance.
During the later part of 2018 and the early months of 2019, the search for more suitable premises continued. However, it became more focused, when the Hometown Foundation gave the Albion Foundation notice to quit the premises in Symington by the middle of May 2019. This meant that the Men’s Shed would also be required to quit the premises. The search for new premises went into top gear. Various locations were identified including the Police Station in Biggar, which was not being used to the full benefit of the community. Ranald and Stuart took time out to drive around Biggar to identify any possible locations. One place that they visited was Loaningdale, a former outward bound centre, which had just been recently purchased by James Cameron to convert into an arts centre. They met with James and told him of our situation. He was open to helping us and offered the possibility of using two semi-detached properties, which had been previously used as staff accommodation. The meeting ended with both parties agreeing to consider this proposal further.
Meanwhile activities carried on at Symington. Due to work commitments, Chad resigned as Minutes Secretary on 7th March, 2019. At the end of March, the Shed became a registered charity under the auspices of OSCR, the charities regulator. On the 9th May, Tom Blackwood took up the roll of Minutes Secretary.
At the end of May, The South Lanarkshire Mobile Shed made a visit to Biggar, in support of our Men’s Shed. It was located outside the Corn Exchange for 4 days. A lot of interest was created by the Mobile Shed and it was later reported by South Lanarkshire Council’s Seniors Together, as being one of the busiest durin the Shed’s tour of South Lanarkshire.
The date for quitting the premises in Symington came and went without any further correspondence from the landlords to vacate the unit. With the Albion Foundation being the main tenants, we took the lead from them and therefore waited for further information on what was to happen.
Two of the big events that happen during the Summer in Biggar are The Biggar Agricultural Show and The Biggar Vintage Vehicle Show. The Men’s Shed took part at both of these. In July, we made a representation at the Biggar Show, showing what the Men’s Shed was about and seeking to increase our membership. One new member who joined us on the day was the local MP, David Mundell.
Cheque being present to the Shed from Biggar Bridge Club on the visit of Moblie Shed
In August, we also volunteered to help The Albion Foundation at The Biggar Vintage Vehicle Show. Unfortunately, the weather was not too kind on the day and it was a bit of a wash out. Some of the Shedders were fairly drookit by the end of the day.
The day after the Show, Albion Foundation were informed that they had 30 days to vacate the premises in Symington. On this basis the Shed decided to approach James Cameron to ascertain whether it would still be possible to take him up on his offer of the premises at Loaningdale.
He agreed that, as we had found no alternative premises, he was agreeable to this. A big move was under way.
David Mundell MP with some of our Shedders
Due to the fact that we had accumulated so much equipment, material etc and that we would be limited in space at Loaningdale, Stuart offered up his garage to store a lot of this until we found our feet. The last thing we did at Symington was to have our first Annual General Meeting on 29th August, 2019. The week after this, we commenced our meetings at Loaningdale, now meeting every Thursday 10.00a.m to 4.00p.m.
It took a bit of getting used to Loaningdale, as it was completely different from the unit in Symington. We did not have the large spaces that we had before and a lot of thought had to go into making best use of the space. One of the first things we did was to purchase a shed to store our timber.
Building the storage shed at Loaningdale Christmas lunch 2019
The Shed was unable to meet during the pandemic but continued the search for a permanent home. After long negotiations and much hard work we managed to secure a 10 year lease of the former primary school at Walston. In September 2021 restrictions were sufficiently relaxed for us to reopen the Shed. This allowed us to prepare for our move when we finally got access to our new premises on 22nd October.
Walston Primary School