“Being busy with Shed life is currently my coping mechanismMike Rowlinson, Secretary of Dunfermline Men’s Shed
—I really do not know where I would be without it.”
Secretary of the new Dunfermline Men’s Shed Mike Rowlinson (70 years young) shares how focussing on getting the Shed up and running and making new friends has got him through the darkest of times following the recent death of his beloved wife, Helen.
Mike said: “My wife and I moved from Scotland to Nottinghamshire in the early 80’s. Initially meant as a ‘temporary’ move, we eventually returned to Scotland when we retired after 33 years there. Whilst in Nottinghamshire, that’s where I initially heard about the Men’s Sheds Movement. There was a Shed some 15 or so miles away from us and with retirement looming, my interest in DIY, my background in homeopathy and complementary health as well as the need to keep myself occupied and meet like-minded people—I really liked the concept.
“On our return to Scotland, I wanted to do something productive with my time. I searched the SMSA ‘Find a Shed’ map and was gobsmacked to learn that there was not yet a Shed local to me in Dunfermline. Unfortunately, the pandemic then hit and we went into lockdown so I put the idea on hold.
“In July 2021, I was on Facebook one day and came across a post about a group of local guys setting up a Men’s Shed in Dunfermline. Our founder, local award-winning bee keeper Neil Lyndon, came up with the idea to set up the Shed. He had originally wanted a special kind of hive for his bees but it was an extremely expensive piece of kit. He considered utilising the workshop facilities and members’ skills at a Men’s Shed however found that the nearest Shed (Glenrothes Men’s Shed) was quite a distance away and so his dream to set up a new Shed was born.
“I went along to the first meeting and quickly volunteered to become Secretary to get all our ducks in a row. I wasn’t sure, at this stage, what the Shed could do for me personally but it certainly was fun being involved in setting up a new Men’s Shed for our community.
“I call our eight-strong committee ‘The Dream Team’ as we have a great range of invaluable skills across the board including our digital guru Ron Skirving (our Chairman) working on the website and Mailchimp communications. Treasurer Jim Myles applied for and secured our first real funds—£1,500 from the Arnold Clark Community Fund. Neil Lyndon deals with the press and promotional side, Richard Lawrence has valuable experience applying for funding, Ally Craig is our design and protocol guru, Robin Sharp has loads of experience in the charity sector and last but not least Alastair Wood with his business background is producing our business plan. My role is producing the weekly updates and keeping everyone—members, supporters, funders and the community—informed of our progress and plans. I thoroughly enjoy it.
“Then, just before Christmas, my wife of 48 years unexpectedly died and it is all still extremely raw. We met at Edinburgh University whilst I was doing my Degree in Microbiology. Helen was a friend of a friend and I begged my pal to take her along to my 21st Birthday party. She came along, and I gave my best chat up line ‘Grab your coat, you’ve pulled!’ Two weeks on, I proposed and we were married the year after.
“One evening, we were chatting about how great our lives have been, how happy we were and that we had zero regrets. Helen also told me how proud she was of my work with the Men’s Shed. Not long after that conversation, my Helen passed away in her sleep from an aortic aneurysm. Even with my medical background, I did not see any warning signs.
“It has been an extremely difficult time. I just had a big milestone birthday—my 70th—without Helen and we had even booked a cruise for 2023. My life changed overnight. I had to learn to fend for myself, my diet now is…interesting, my choice of TV programmes has completely changed and waking up in the morning and remembering and evenings on my own are just so hard.
“The Shed really has been my salvation. The support from the guys has been superb and right now, I need to be kept busy. Putting something back into the community to help local men, like me, who may be suffering from loneliness, isolation, bereavement or just want to make some friends and have a laugh—it means the world to me.
“I am not a great cook, Helen did most of the cooking, and there are a number of our members in the exact same position. We are currently in talks with Fife Council and Tesco to get ‘Cooking for Yourself’ and healthy eating demonstrations for our members who are struggling with cooking for one.
“Through talking to the membership, we have also identified that at least 30% have shared that they are experiencing or have experienced anxiety and/or stress. Being an anxious person myself, it is a privilege to befriend and support these men and see the improvements already just from our weekly get togethers.
“We recently had a brilliant boys’ road trip to Aboyne & District Men’s Shed, endorsed by the SMSA and fully funded by the Scottish Community Alliance Community Learning Exchange. This trip was not only thoroughly enjoyable for us all but also invaluable to hear all about another Shed and how they got up and running. We learned so much and would highly recommend Shed to Shed visits.
“As part of my therapeutic process, I have made a bucket list. I have had taster sessions to fly a plane and a helicopter now. I also had a day at the Scottish Gliding Centre and flew the glider there. It was a free as a bird experience, I absolutely loved it and would encourage anyone considering it, to go for it! It was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done.
“I have also recently become a volunteer driver for the Community Transport Scheme for the Royal Voluntary Service for people with health conditions and/or restricted mobility to get them out and about to appointments and activities. It feels good to give back and help people.
“Discussions continue with the Carnegie Trust and Fife Council to bring us closer to creating a permanent Shed in the Pittencrieff Park Steadings. The Trust and local authority have been totally behind us the whole way.
“Pittencrieff Park, known locally as ’The Glen’, has 76-acres and is famed for its peacocks that have roamed freely for over a century. We are forging links with our fellow organisations at the park including the peacock sanctuary, Friends of Pittencrieff Park, Sustrans, Cycling Without Age, TURN (men’s group) and Dunfermline Cycling Club. We will continue to maintain good relationships with them to keep ‘our neighbours’ happy and fully updated with our plans.
“The park is extremely popular with the locals and visitors and it is affectionately known as the ‘Jewel of Dunfermline’. With limited resources, Fife Council is doing an excellent job maintaining the park however the old animal steadings are under used and starting to deteriorate. We now have full permission to carry out some maintenance work/improvements on the premises and we hope to take on other tasks around the park as we develop a presence. The area is so beautiful and has so much potential to be great again.
“The windows in the Steadings meeting room were painted shut so recently, we managed to prise them open again and are freshening up the paintwork. We have been granted use of this recently refurbished ‘Activity Hub’ within the Steadings (with meeting room and kitchen) and we meet there every Wednesday.
“We have also cleaned up the toilets, steam cleaned the carpets and cleared the guttering and downpipes. Our next project is to reconfigure the Medished for peacocks that need to be kept in isolation for a time. Having some practical jobs to do, and seeing the difference it is making, has been so great to see and beneficial for the guys too.
“The west wing of the Steadings, if/when we finally manage to officially make it our permanent home, will offer ample extra space for practical activities (about 230 square metres)—the Old Keeper’s House, three workshops and an office. Our ultimate dream is that we want to be the biggest and the best Men’s Shed in Scotland!
“Without the Shed, and the passion I have for it, I would have way too much time on my hands right now and know I would currently be in a downward spiral. The Shed keeps me occupied.
“Being busy with Shed life is currently my coping mechanism—I really do not know where I would be without it.”