Men’s shed fundraiser and Ringsend’s historical shed

Some of the men who used to frequent the old “men’s shed” in Ringsend. Someone you might remember could be among them!

Peter McNamara

There has been another breakthrough for the Dublin 4 Men’s Shed campaign– the shed is set to get a temporary location at the Ringsend & District Community Centre.

Now, with that temporary location, the shed organisers can finally set about getting funding, which is needed for tools and equipment for use at the shed, and for the establishment of a permanent shed building, at a location yet to be decided.

The organisers are reaching out to public and private community funds in the Dublin 4 area that have given support to other worthy projects. They also plan to run a special Race Night, with further details to be announced in the next few weeks. As part of the Race Night, the organisers are seeking sponsorship from local businesses, to finally get things off the ground. 

Working with the RDCC

The good news about the temporary location was announced at a public meeting held on August 22nd at the Community Centre. At this meeting the relationship with the Centre was roughly outlined, and the men’s shed organising committee was formally elected. Martin Byrne will act as committee chairperson, while Anthony O’Reardon will serve as secretary. 

The RDCC is currently being renovated and looks set to be an even more effective hive of community activity. At the public meeting, the shed organisers were enthusiastic about becoming (temporarily) part of it. The organisers were also careful to note that while the new space will be located in the Ringsend & District Community Centre, it will not be under the control of the RDCC. 

“The two organisations will work together,” Martin Byrne explained, “while at the same time staying independent.” The new chairperson emphasised that shedders will be free to do their own thing in their own way. “Men will be able to come and go to the space as they please. The whole point is to get people coming along, so it’ll all be very easy going.”

Byrne outlined how the shed organisers are following the official men’s shed handbook very closely, and trying to do everything to the letter. Added to this, the committee has also been looking into getting some real world advice, by visiting other successful shed projects in Dublin. It’s an impressive approach. At the public meeting it was clear that these organisers take the shed project very seriously, and are committed to bringing this valuable resource to the men of Ringsend and Dublin 4.

The remarkable benefits of a Men’s Shed

Sheds are informal spaces where men are encouraged to come together and undertake hands-on activities. You might learn something new, teach something to someone else, or just pop in for a chat and a cup of tea.

The movement started in Australia in the mid-1990s. The first community shed was set up here in Tipperary. The men’s shed movement has been a phenomenal success in this country: Ireland has over 400 sheds, the largest concentration anywhere in the world. 

The popularity is down to their effectiveness. Research proves that taking part in a shed is hugely beneficial for men’s physical and mental health. Male-friendly environments like men’s sheds can support people in identifying ways to reduce their risk of illness and make positive lifestyle changes. What’s more, the existence of a men’s shed in a community addresses one of the biggest challenges facing both rural and urban Ireland today: social isolation.

Sheds in Ireland engage in many diverse activities, but woodwork and crafts are the most popular. As has been previously reported by this paper, the organisers are looking to tap into the maritime history of Ringsend, namely its connection to the marina and the docks.

Alongside the many benefits that come with a shed, a Ringsend Community Maritime Shed could play a special role in the future of the area. With people coming to teach and learn different skills, it could be a place to pass on our local traditions.

One attendee at the public meeting suggested that the shed could be a place to teach the rope-making and knot-tying techniques of old. 

“If we set out to make a few lengths of that authentic rope, we could even decorate the local area,” he said. This man added that the intricate and elaborate knot-tying was an art in itself. “If you did up some of those knots and put them in a frame, you could sell them.” Indeed there are markets across Dublin that sell such locally made crafts. “And,” he went on to say, “if we got even three out of 1,000 young lads interested in learning this stuff, that would be a great way to honour the tradition. And carry it on.”

Ringsend’s historical Men’s Shed

Speaking of traditions, it seems that Ringsend had a kind of men’s shed of it own many decades before term ‘men’s shed’ was ever coined. A male-only meeting space (seemingly a men’s shed in all but name) existed in Ringsend from the 1940s through to the late 1980s. 

I sat down with two proud Ringsend ladies, who told me of the little space that a group of local men used to frequent, to meet each other and pass the time. 

They told me the ‘shed’ was located near the entrance to Ringsend Park. They reckon it was probably in an unused back garden along Brendan’s Cottages or Kennedy Court. At first, it was a run down out-building, little more than bricks and weeds, and very derelict. The local men got busy, and made the shack into something usable.

It seems these men banded together and set the space up for themselves because they had little other option. Times were hard, money was tight, the men could hardly afford to go to the pub. With nothing else to do they gathered at their ‘shed’. There was a tin kettle, a pot-bellied stove, and a few seats. The men came to chat, play cards or dominos, and make tea in their billy cans. 

“Some came every day,” I was told. “It was like a second home to some of them. Sure, it was all they had back then.”

The ladies listed some of the names they remembered from that time: Chunks Riordan, Francis Byrne, Daddy Dolan, Mr. Harris. For the most part, these were stylish men – as can be seen in the pictures accompanying this article. They wore Crombie coats with pinstripes, and classy George Webb shoes. They didn’t have much, but they sure made it count. 

“The little space they had was great. It was somewhere to come in out of the cold. There were 10 or so men. They’d come in the evenings, the afternoons, at all hours. It was great for them.”

It’s not clear what happened to the ‘shed’. It seems to have lasted right up until the 1980s, at one point even serving as the changing rooms for local football clubs. In the end, the shed most likely ceased to exist as the men who used it passed away. 

“These days,” the two ladies added, “there’s plenty for the women of Ringsend. But there’s nothing for the men, only the pub. A new men’s shed would be great.”

Fundraising plans – The Race Night 

With a committee elected and a temporary space secured, the men’s shed organisers of today are set on bringing this great community space back to Ringsend. It’s a new generation picking up where the old one left off – but they’re still in need of sponsorship and volunteers. 

The Race Night will be announced in the next few weeks. Local businesses are kindly asked to give what support they can. Aside from helping to bring this much-needed resource to the Dublin 4 area, any business which gives sponsorship to the shed will get a special mention in NewsFour when the future Race Night fundraiser is reported on. It’s a worthy cause. Any help given will not be forgotten.

During the public meeting, shed organiser Christy Barry brought the urgency of their work into  sharp focus. 

“A place like this could be especially important now that we’re coming up to winter. People can come and do all the crafts and things, but they don’t have to. The priority is inclusion and mental health,” he said. “This will be somewhere for anyone to come, have a cup of tea or a chat. You might come along and only sit in the corner. Some of the older people here, they might not see anyone for days on end. A community space like this could make a real difference to a person’s mental health. To their life.”

Keep an eye out for posters and notices about the upcoming Men’s Shed race night, to be announced in the next few weeks. Anyone looking to get involved in the D4 men’s shed project should contact, and I will forward your details to shed committee.