What do you get when you put a group of men in a shed with some tools…sometimes you get a boat, or in the case of the Clonakilty Men’s Shed, quite a few boats in fact, as Mary O’Brien finds out on a recent visit.
After months of hard work and sweat, under the tutelage of renowned boat maker Holger C. Lönze and in conjunction with the Skibbereen Men’s Shed, members of Clonakilty Men’s Shed gained their sealegs with the successful launch of two of their three lovingly crafted currachs at the Baltimore Traditional Boat Festival last weekend. The men’s hard work paid off when they took first place in the Two-handed class in the competition and were presented with the Stanley Wood Perpetual Trophy — an impressive accomplishment for a first-time project.
The group was also acknowledged and praised at the competition for the importance of the Clonakilty and Skibbereen Men’s Sheds within the community.
A currach is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched, though now canvas is more usual. “Rods woven into a large basket and covered with skin or cloth make a boat – our curach,” explains Holger.
It all started last October when Clonakilty Community Arts Centre Chairperson Clodagh Connaughton approached artist in resident Manny Lange about setting up a Men’s Shed in Clonakilty. Men’s Shed’s have been popping up all over the country since first introduced to Ireland in 2011. The ethos behind the initiative is to create a dedicated, friendly and welcoming meeting place where men can come together and undertake a variety of mutually agreed activities.
Members of Men’s Sheds come from all walks of life — something that the Clonakilty Men’s Shed reflects. Stephen Henning, a native of South Africa, recently moved to West Cork from Carlow and the Men’s Shed has been a great introduction to the area and a fantastic way from him to meet people. An electrician by trade, he recently completed a degree in engineering. He loves restoring old cars and has really enjoyed learning about woodwork and making boats.
A native of Manchester, Nic Pease has lived in West Cork since 1990. He is employed by the Education and Training Boards Ireland and was originally introduced to the group as a facilitator. “I enjoyed it so much I decided to become a member,” he explains. Nic has some experience working with wood and has built small boats in the past. Although he fished in one many years ago, this is his first time building a curach.
Paddy O’Shea hails from County Clare but spent most of his life growing tea in Zimbabwe. He moved to West Cork seven years ago and heard about the Men’s Shed through word of mouth. “I wanted to meet people in the area,” he says.
Clonakilty man, Vincent Harrington was initially a member of the Men’s Shed in Bandon. “It’s great to have somewhere to go and something to do as a group close to home that doesn’t involve the pub culture,” he says.
Manny Lange has been involved in community arts for many years. Craic na Coillte street theatre group attracted him to Clonakilty 24 years ago. A trained sculptor, he says this is the first time he has created something really practical, which he has thoroughly enjoyed. Manny is also very involved in local drama projects. His next project ‘Classical Gas’ a parody of the ancient Greek dramas will involve the creation of a chariot in the Clonakilty Men’s Shed.
Young men Alex Palmer and Bertie Blackwell travel over from Kealkil to partake in the Shed. Their interest is in boatbuilding.
Clonakilty Men’s Shed would like to give a special word of thanks to Susan O’Regan at Skibbereen Family Resource Centre for organising the grant for their boatbuilding project.
Although the group is small at present, the members are hoping that if they can acquire the use of a suitable premises within the town, making it more accessible, the numbers will increase. They are currently working out of a shed outside the town kindly facilitated by Richard Jennings. “I never thought that my old shed would one day turn in to Harland and Wolff,” says Richard laughing.
As well as a shed to house future projects, the men are looking for any old or unwanted tools that they can restore or repair.
New members are very welcome.
For more information and to join the group find Clonakilty Men’s Shed on facebook or call Stephen on 083 3130079.