Silversmithing classes, model railway work and IT tuition could be among the unusual mix of services provided by retired men in Aberdeenshire as their vision to open a dedicated Men's Shed in Banchory takes a step forward.

Work has begun on converting a garage bay at the Royal British Legion premises in Banchory into a base for the town’s Men’s Shed.

It’s the first phase of ambitious plans which will be followed by a £55,000 project to extend and create a larger space for a multi-purpose workshop, converting adjoining space in the Legion’s undercroft for the purpose.

The Banchory and District group has received a four-figure sum from Aberdeen Standard Investments Charitable Foundation for furniture, tools and equipment to help towards this next stage of its journey and the volunteers are hopeful for work to be completed by the end of the financial year, provided they secure the necessary funding.

Banchory and District Men’s Shed chairman Paul Evans said: “Men’s Sheds provide contact and companionship for men who don’t tend to make friends face to face but rather shoulder to shoulder by doing something and bonding that way.

“What we will do will be based on the skills and wishes of our membership, but we have some projects in mind. We plan to provide a fabrication and repair service to community groups, so we will be mending and building things and generally hope to become a useful asset to the community."

The Banchory and District Men’s Shed was formed in August 2015 and has around 20 members who meet in the Legion every Tuesday morning. Group members have a diverse range of skills, with a silversmith, model railway enthusiasts and retired computer expert among those willing to put their skills to good use. Another member who has recently downsized has donated the contents of his personal workshop so the group will have a plentiful supply of equipment from the outset.

The Men’s Sheds concept started in Australia and has become a global movement. The first one in Scotland was in Westhill, Aberdeenshire, and it has gone from strength to strength. It has a social area, a well-equipped wood and engineering workshop for members projects and Shed work. The men take on projects for the wider community including schools, charities and individuals and also accept donations of unwanted tools and equipment to refurbish and sell at reasonable prices, to cover its running costs. In fact, Westhill is planning an extension to increase both the range of activities and to cope with the increasing demand for projects.

Mr Evans, a retired IT professional, added: “It’s taken time to get to where we are, but we hope to take off from here. We have been busy applying for funding and we are about a quarter of the way towards securing the money we need for phase two. We’re grateful to Aberdeen Standard Investments for this support and helping us come a step closer towards our ambition.

“A lot of men lack a sense of purpose or lose social contacts when they leave the armed forces or retire and the Men’s Shed is a good way to provide companionship and occupation. Other people have said that once we are fully operational, they will come and join us so and we look forward to being able to offer fellowship and purpose to even more men in Banchory and district.”

Claire Drummond, head of charitable giving for Aberdeen Standard Investments, said: “Men’s Sheds are a fantastic concept and we are delighted to provide a helping hand to the group at Banchory by way of providing furniture, tools and equipment, in addition to items already donated, which is vital to the success of the larger project.

“I’m sure this group will prove its value to the community in which it is based, while providing its members with a meaningful purpose through skills-sharing and friendship.”

The Aberdeen Standard Investments Charitable Foundation was established in 2012 to formalise and develop the Group’s charitable giving globally. The Foundation seeks partnerships with smaller charities around the world, where funds can be seen to have a meaningful and measurable impact. It encourages its employees to use their time and skills to support its charitable projects. For more information click here.

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