NEWLY retired after decades of travelling around Scotland as a training consultant in the sewage industry, Paul Munday found himself wondering “what’s next?”

“My wife was out with her friends, having lunch, doing yoga, and I was sitting in the house looking at four walls,” explains the softly-spoken 66-year-old from East Kilbride.

“I knew I had to find something else to do.”

The “something else” turned out to be the Men’s Shed movement, an innovative programme tackling isolation and loneliness in older men.

It has been running across the country for a couple of years, inspired by the original Australian concept which brought together men from all walks of life to chat, share skills and get involved in workshop projects.

In a Scottish first, and thanks to £117,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, it is now taking to the road in South Lanarkshire.

The shed-on-wheels will travel through communities across the region, raising awareness of the idea and hopefully encouraging more groups to set up their own static shed.

Christine Calder, of South Lanarkshire Council’s Seniors Together team explains: “The idea started in Australia in 2007 as a tool exchange, where men met up to work on different craft projects.

“But then, they started to speak to each other, about bereavement, divorce, loss of status in retirement.

“The organisers realised that the men’s shed had created a positive environment – that was an alternative to the bookie’s or the pub - for people who might otherwise have been hard to reach.”

She explains: “Women tend to look at each other much more when they talk but men are more comfortable working side by side. That’s when they start to speak about things that matter to them.”

Groups started to spring up across the UK and in 2015, the Scottish Men’s Shed Association was formed to help ‘shedders’ running their own projects around the country.

Calder adds: “What we were hearing at Seniors Together was that finding premises was a real issue. I was in the supermarket car park one day and saw the mobile breast screening bus and thought – why couldn’t we do something like that for Men’s Sheds?”

After researching the idea with focus groups, who were overwhelmingly in support of the plan, the first shed-on-wheels (a refurbished mobile library) hit the road last month.

“The idea is to raise awareness of the movement, and to gauge interest across the council area,” adds Calder. “We are hoping to reach around 2500 men over the next three years. A development worker will travel with the shed, which will remain in each area for 12 weeks, with the aim of helping people set up their own static shed.”

She smiles: “Long after the mobile shed has moved on, the support will still be there for the men who need it.”

Councillor Jim McGuigan, South Lanarkshire’s Spokesperson for Older People, was one of the first to visit the refurbished mobile library and he was full of praise for the initiative.

“The Men’s Shed model has proven particularly successful so far at engaging with individuals who might traditionally be seen as hard to reach,” he explains.

“Becoming a member of a Men’s Shed provides a safe and busy environment where men can meet in an atmosphere of friendship. And, importantly, there is no pressure. Men can just come and have a chat and a cuppa if that is all they’re looking for.”

In the car park outside East Kilbride’s John Wright Sports Centre, the mobile shed is creating a lot of interest.

Development worker Paul Creechan is on hand to dispense advice and leaflets, while Men’s Shed volunteers warmly welcome first-time visitors.

A display set up outside shows the range of projects the men have been working on – everything from table lamps fashioned from old rum bottles to simple model train kits, wheelbarrows and bird boxes.

Charlie Miller was one of the first volunteers to get involved in the Men’s Shed movement in Scotland.

The 64-year-old from East Kilbride found himself unexpectedly isolated and struggling following a sudden illness.

“I was a field archaeologist, working all over the country,” he explains. “This particular day, I’d been feeling unwell, but I’d gone to work – we were on a remote windfarm in Ross-shire, and we had to be on site early morning.

“I remember feeling ill as we walked up to the site, and the next thing I recall was getting airlifted to hospital.”

Diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, Miller was unable to return to work and spent a long recovery at home, where he lived alone.

“I realised just how isolating that can be,” he explains. “I had not long moved to East Kilbride and I knew no one, there was no recovery group, and I felt very cut off.”

“When I heard about the Men’s Shed groups, I thought it was great. I set up a local one, and it really helped me get back on my feet.”

For more information about the project contact the Seniors Together office on 01698 454105 or email