Vale of Avoca Men’s Shed and Avondale Forest Park
In our latest ‘Shed Story,’ we interviewed Pat Cronin, a member of Vale of Avoca Men’s Shed. Pat talks about the Sheds most recent project, which involved designing and building two benches for Avondale Forest Park.
We first asked Pat about Vale of Avoca Men’s Shed and the work they’ve done in the past. Pat explained that despite having different career and experience backgrounds, the 21 members of the shed are all determined builders, who each bring different skill and effort into their projects.
“We come from all walks of life. We have a farmer, a shopkeeper, schoolteachers, factory workers, lorry drivers, and so on. That’s the background of our people. There are two carpenters in our group, I, being one of them, as a retired woodwork teacher. We all get along exceptionally well together if I may say so. So, this project is not just down to me, or three, or four people. This is a complete shed project and effort. There was involvement by everybody in the whole group. Whether it be by drilling holes, sanding, making wooden pellets to cover the screws, or varnishing – you name it, everybody had a hand in it.
We have made benches similar to the ones for Avondale before, but much simpler models comparably. We have made them for local national schools and for private individuals. We also repair garden furniture and some farm machinery, like horse drawn farm machinery and high nelly bicycles.”
When asked about how the Avondale Forest Park bench project came about, Pat described how the contracting group working on the new developments reached out to Vale of Avoca Men’s Shed to see if they would like to build something to commemorate the vast and extraordinary history of the park.
“The project came about when the contractors in Avondale came to know about us in Avoca. They heard about the type of work we were doing for schools and individuals. And they came to us to know if we could design and build something that would be put into the park to remember Charles Stewart Parnell and all of the people that learned and studied there. They left it entirely up to us. The benches we made were entirely our creation, thought, work and effort.”
When asked about the meaning behind the designs of finished benches, Pat described
“We are delivering two benches. The reason we made two of them is because one is in the memory of Charles Stewart Parnell who was born and raised in Avondale Park. The other is in the memory of the countless thousands of men who would have come through Avondale to learn and to study trees and forestry and go on to bring that knowledge with them throughout the country to build up the forests and parks that we know and cherish today.”
Each aspect of the design for the benches was thoughtful and related to Avondale Forest Park’s history and native forestry. Pat described the various carvings and quotations seen on the benches.
“The benches are made of native larch. The timber we used were off cuts of the tree walk that has been built in Avondale Park the past few months.
On the front of one bench, we carved in a line from a song written about Charles Stewart Parnell when he was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail way back in the late 1800s. It reads ‘Where is my blackbird of sweet Avondale?’
The other bench is to remember the foresters. So, I found a quote from a booklet that I picked up way back in the seventies about Avondale that we carved into it. The quote is: “Avondale – the cradle of Irish forestry.” In other words, Avondale was the one centre in the whole of the Irish Republic that trained people to become foresters and to bring that training and skill with them throughout the country, and to bring up the forests that we have today. On the back of the bench, we have it shaped to resemble a sunray shining down on an ash tree.”
The entirety of the project took five weeks to accomplish, with many long days and sleepless nights according to Pat. But, Pat says, the Vale of Avoca Men’s Shed couldn’t have completed the two benches without the help of the greater community around Avoca and Avondale Forest Park.
“We couldn’t have done it without the cooperation of locals. Namely, a local sawmill who cut the timber down for us. And people with specialist machinery for engraving the name and tree into the bench…It’s proof of what community effort is all about.”
Thank you, Pat, for taking the time to share your ‘Shed Story’