Towards the end of 2021, Biggar and District Men’s Shed moved to its new permanent location, at the former Walston Primary School, in Elsrickle. A few months into its new home, the Shed reflects on its journey so far and announces big plans for the future.
Richard Crosse from the Shed said: “Peter Brotherstone was the man responsible for getting the Men’s Shed in Biggar started whilst in his role as Beadle of Biggar Parish Church in the early months of 2018.
“He had seen many situations where men, whose wives had passed on, were at a loss as to what to do with themselves. He felt that most women, in a similar situation, handled the situation better than men as they found companionship with other women. Unfortunately, not all men open up to other men as easily.
“Initially, the meetings were mainly held in the Gillespie Centre in Biggar but some more suitable accommodation was found in Symington, sharing a corner of an industrial unit used by the Albion Foundation, leased from the Hometown Trust.
“Upon starting in Symington, it was amazing how much tools and equipment we acquired from donations. Initially, the members brought in tools that were surplus to their needs but once word spread about the Shed, the general public began making donations, including 16 surplus office chairs and surplus office desks.
“During the later part of 2018 and the early months of 2019, the search for more suitable premises continued. However, it became more focused, when the Hometown Foundation gave the Albion Foundation notice to quit the premises in Symington by the middle of May 2019. This meant that the Men’s Shed would also be required to vacate.
“The search for new premises went into top gear. Various locations were identified including the old Police Station in Biggar, and Loaningdale (a former outward bound centre). Thankfully James Cameron, who owned Loaningdale, was open to helping us and offered us the possibility of using two vacant adjoining semi-detached properties, which had previously been used as staff accommodation, to which we readily agreed.
“We moved to Loaningdale in Autumn 2019 and it took a bit of getting used to as it was completely different from the industrial unit we had just left. It did not have the large spaces that we had before and a lot of thought had to go into making best use of the space available. However, we all adapted and were eternally grateful to Loaningdale for allowing us to set up our Shed in these premises.
“We got involved in local events including The Biggar Agricultural Show and The Biggar Vintage Vehicle Show to promote the Shed and its activities and seek to increase our membership. We started 2020 with great ambition and ideas. Membership had grown to 30 and there were a number of interesting projects in the pipeline. These included working with the local Beavers to create a garden at the rear of the Legion Hall in Biggar and working with the nursery at Symington Primary School.
“Then, the pandemic hit and everything drew to a halt. The Shed was unable to meet due to lockdown but we continued the search for a better and more permanent home. After some long negotiations with South Lanarkshire Council and much hard work, we managed to secure a 10-year lease of the former Primary School at Walston.
“We have now been in our new premises for just over six months. So far, the woodwork shop is up and running and a ramp for disabled access is in place. We have also made a start on improving insulation and preliminary work has started on the garden area. Membership is back up to 35 and the future looks bright.
“Before our takeover, the school building was unused for a considerable period of time and had deteriorated somewhat, becoming rather cold and damp. We have big plans to update and improve matters but this will take time.
“Heating the building with its current system is proving very challenging. However, we are getting through winter and our enthusiastic membership is working hard.
“Some of the projects in the pipeline include: installing new double glazing; upgrading to ECO heating; creating an allotment area, with polytunnel, for our green-fingered Shedders; finalising the woodworking area; and clearing the middle hall to create an arts and craft area.
“We are grateful to the many enterprises and individuals for their generous donations of tools, materials etc. and for the excellent support we are receiving from the community and are confident that we will be able to create a first-class facility that will benefit all in our surrounding communities.”
The Shed meets every Wednesday and Thursday, from 10am – 4pm—all visitors are very welcome. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07471 491099. You can also visit their website and follow them on Facebook.