Tools at the ready in Port

Armed with an impressive variety of new carpentry tools, the Portarlington Men’s Shed group are ready for action, and are inviting men with time on their hands to join them.

Armed with an impressive variety of new carpentry tools, the Portarlington Men’s Shed group are ready for action, and are inviting men with time on their hands to join them.

The group were formed last May, at the suggestion of Port Vision’s Theresa Carter. They are part of the international ‘Men’s Shed’ association, set up to give unemployed men somewhere to meet, chat, and work on small projects of their choosing. There is no cost involved, and everyone is welcome.

“The only condition here is the kettle is always on the boil. If someone wants to just come here and have a cup of tea, that’s fine,” says Darren Byrne, who helped set up the Laois branch. That kettle is on its way, along with a toaster, microwave, handtools, and even a sign outside, thanks to kind business donations.

Up to now the eleven members from Port were meeting at Darren’s business premises in Botley Lane, but Port Vision organised for them to move into Unit 2 at Portarlington Enterprise Centre last week.

They have big plans for their new ‘shed’, as Darren explains.

“Our first project will be making workbenches for ourselves. Then Port Vision have asked us to make fairground stands for the Blueberry Fair in September. Port GIY are giving us pallets to make up boxes for them too,” he says.

They have been overwhelmed with support.

“All the local groups are rowing in behind us. Their support has been absolutely fantastic. They have even offered training and people to come in and talk to us about things like IT and personal finance,” he said.

A grant from Laois Partnership paid for the tools. They are happy to accept more donations of material and tools and are available to work on community projects.

Michael St John joined the group back in May. The former credit union official is unemployed for four years.

“I am 62, when you put that on a CV, it cuts down your job prospects. The job situation is very tough,” said Michael, who hopes to pick up new woodworking skills.

“It’s the social aspect too. A lot of people around the town just need to get out of the house and do things, you never know what it might lead on to. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” says Michael.

Brendan Hughes from Castlegate joined after hearing about the group through the jobs club.

“I saw it as an opportunity to get back into something. I am unemployed just over two years. I have six kids from 11 years down to 20 months. It’s a struggle, we are literally living week to week. The wife has her night classes, and she told me I needed to get out of the house too,” he said.

Mechanic Charlie Holden is also hoping to make contacts through the group, after losing his job last year.

“I am looking for work all the time, most of the time you don’t even get called for interview, this will be good for networking,” he said.

The group meet every Thursday at the unit, from 4pm to 7pm, but hope to meet more often as they get busier.

“There is a lot of expertise out there, men are sitting at home, it’s time to get them out,” said Darren, who thanked the PCDA, Port Enterprise Centre and Laois Partnership for their support so far.

For more information contact Darren on 085 7434884 or see www.menssheds.ie