Man shed no longer solitary refuge but somewhere to meet the boys

Usually sited at the bottom of the garden, they are a place of male retreat; out of bounds for wives and children, a wooden den where tools are cleaned, ale is brewed and newspapers read, all to the soundtrack of a crackly football commentary on an old transistor radio.

The traditional man shed has often been seen as a place of refuge.
The traditional man shed has often been seen as a place of refuge.

The man shed has long been considered the last refuge of the hen-pecked husband in British sitcoms, but now it seems that sheds are good for men’s mental health.

And as MSPs discovered yesterday, no longer are they solitary affairs - in fact 21st century men’s sheds in Scotland are about tackling isolation, bringing older, retired men together, helping them create a network of friends and giving them a place where they can put their skills to use.

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A Holyrood debate, brought by SNP MSP Christine Holyrood, expounded the virtues of the Men’s Shed Movement and the “shedders” who report living healthier, happier and more connected lives.

Ms Grahame said: “It may seem like it’s a new phenomenon because of the apparent explosion in men’s sheds, but the first in Scotland was in Aberdeenshire in 2013. There are now 106 open sheds, 58 in development with 1612 members.”

Recalling her own father’s shed, she said: “My late father with five children, corralled in a small council house took refuge in a small green shed at the bottom of the garden. “The men’s sheds has much in common with that shed - they are a sanctuary, a place to make things, to sit and share concerns. It’s all good for body and soul.”

MSPs also paid tribute to the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association which helps communities to start sheds. The Association says the sheds “respond to a need for camaraderie and give opportunities to work together in a way that contributes meaning to their lives.”

Scottish Labour’s Iain Gray said sheds have a serious intent: “Loneliness is one of the biggest problems which men in particular face - it’s considered by health authorities to be the equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day in terms of the damage it does to your health.

“This toxic damage is what men’s sheds tackle.”