‘Agricultural college, followed by running the family farm - I hated every minute of it and turned to alcohol’
'Living in Rural Ireland' series: Men’s Sheds founder John McEvoy on his life as a ‘recovering farmer'
Four years ago John Evoy won an Impact Award from the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland association for creating a space where men with time on their hands could hang out.
It sounds simple enough but the Impact award is not given lightly and in this case it was awarded for both the necessity of the service and the speed at which it was rolled out in Ireland. Today there are 400 plus Men’s Sheds across the country courtesy of Evoy’s brainwave.
"I saw the example in Australia where the Men’s Sheds originated and it had grown organically," explains Evoy. "I could see it was a great idea but also that for it to be of maximum benefit, it needed to grow quickly."
In fact, it grew so quickly that by Christmas 2014 Evoy himself was burnout and needed to take time out. He acknowledges the irony that the CEO of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association had to take time out, but the explosion of sheds had taken its toll on his health and this time around he recognised the symptoms.
Evoy explains that the Men’s Sheds has a very simple principle. ‘It is for men with time on their hands to hang out,’ he says.
"It is not to promote positive mental health or physical well-being or to provide a social outlet for lonely men – and yet it does all those things organically."
Evoy knows first-hand the reasons why he might have needed a Men’s Shed before they existed in Ireland. He was born to the land and was expected to farm. A short stint in an agricultural college was followed by running the family dairy farm and he hated every minute of it.
"The land I loved but the farming I really did not enjoy," he said. He turned to alcohol and drugs to minimise the loneliness. It only left him worse off, depressed and in a bad way.