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Published 14 October 2021

It all started when a public meeting was called by Voluntary Action Orkney (VAO) to see if there was any interest in starting a Men’s Shed.  We were encouraged with over 50 people attending, we all listened to a great presentation from Dave Thomson from Westhill Men’s Shed, who pointed out some of the advantages which we all know and try to live by, i.e. looking after men’s health and wellbeing.

With the feeling of the meeting being so positive, a working group was formed to try to make it work, now the fun was to begin but with a lot of help from VAO and Westhill Men’s Shed we had a constitution, bank account and charitable status.

Where were we going to get a Shed from?  About this time the Government introduced Community Asset Transfer for the release of redundant buildings owned by the council.  We found a property that fitted the bill.  It was an empty primary school that had been replaced by a new build and had been vacant for 15 years.  After meeting with council officers for around 2 years, it became apparent this was not going to happen as some of the officials didn’t think we could make a job of running a Men’s shed.

It was time to look at the private sector, and in the local press we found a workshop for sale.  We made some enquiries and discovered the owner had decided to take it of the market and lease the property.  We didn’t take long to sign a 15-year lease. The next while we enjoyed ourselves building a workshop from a blank canvas, and we were soon up and running with a lot of help and donations from the Orcadian public and businesses.

After some time and membership growing, we soon realised that we had no disabled facilities, and decided to apply for planning permission for an extension with disabled facilities.  This was recommended for refusal by the planning department, planning committee and the Scottish government so after about two and a half years the Orkey Men’s Shed (OMS) was homeless again.  We weren’t going to disband without a fight, but as Covid had spreading started we set up Zoom meetings twice weekly.  When lockdown relaxed and it became safe, we hired a local hall and started face to face meetings.

In the meantime, we got a visit from our council, including the Chief Executive, who came to listen to our woes. He was very knowledgeable of the importance of the Men’s Shed movement, and as he left us said “I will fix this”.  A man of his word, his presentation was presented to a council committee and passed with no opposition. We are now so chuffed to be part of a 3-way Charity Hub and looking forward to building our new workshop, mess room and offices to get back to supporting Men in Orkney.

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Morgan Harcus

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