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Happy's dream haven for men

Kate MatthewsCountryman
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Retired men in the Wheatbelt town of Narrogin have the sparkle back in their eyes, thanks to the local ‘Happiness Men’s Shed’.

The purpose of the shed is to help men cope with retirement, loss of a partner, loneliness and depression and to provide male company.

Narrogin’s shed opened three years ago as a result of the dreams of local Alan Ness, aka Happy, who died just before renovations were finished.

Now Happy’s dream has evolved and includes 30 members who meet every Thursday for a chat and to tinker around the metal workshop.

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The next plan is to source funds to build a woodwork shed.

The members are a diverse group — farmers, shearers, first-aid teachers, accountants, train drivers and jacks of all trades from across the world — Ireland, Denmark, New Zealand — and some born and bred locally.

Before they joined, they were strangers and now, good friends.

Chairman John McDougall said it was all about fellowship and supporting one another.

“We discuss, debate and argue about all sorts of things — the red headed Prime Minister has had a fair go, ” he said.

“It’s going to be a lifesaver for a lot of older men going into the future because there has never been anyone who has thought about what men do when they retire.

“Ladies just carry on what they have been doing, but we have to change and if we haven’t got the ability to change we sit at home and vegetate.”

Narrogin’s club is open to men aged over 55 who are retired, semi-retired or just “plain tired”, as one member put it.

And they are putting out the word to younger men to come and have a yarn, especially about the season.

But ask them what they do and they will probably say, “not much, and if we don’t do it today, we will finish it tomorrow”.

And busy they are — they have built the Town of Narrogin entry statements, regularly install alarms for seniors and recently challenged locals to guess the time it takes to drive a gopher the 14km between Cuballing and Narrogin (it takes one and a half hours).

The group is also restoring old guns, including a 1908 German field piece that could only be used in front of the German line, resulting in many being captured by the allies.

For Uffe Geysner, time at the shed is a day out with mates.

“It’s really good just to get out and talk to someone else — it really brings that spark of life back to you, ” he said.

And Roy Wallice, a former iron ore train driver, said instead of retiring, it was about starting new hobbies.

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