Thursday, November 25, 2021

Portlaoise Men’s Shed members swap tools for the ukelele. Photos: Alf Harvey

By Carmel Hayes

MEMBERS of Portlaoise Men’s Shed downed tools and took up musical instruments, as they embarked on a new venture creating magical memories.

The hard-working group have swapped hammers and saws for ukeleles, as they learn how to pull strings on the Music Generation Laois (MGL) Musical Memories project.

Well-known Portlaoise musician David Harte is visiting the group every Friday morning, at their base in the Equestrian Centre on the Timahoe Road.

The men are working on a series of songs on the ukulele, as part of a programme that is already well established in Mountmellick Men’s Shed, Paddock NS and Rath NS.

David says “It’s a great project. The men involved have really embraced the opportunity to take up the ukulele. This group have been keen to take part in a music programme like this for years, so they are finally getting this opportunity.”

Musical Memories came about as MGL responded to the isolation experienced by older people during the Covid pandemic. The initial idea was to develop an inter-generational music project, where people of all ages would come together online to sing songs from their own homes.

The project started in 2020 in Shaen Community Hospital, Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit, St Vincent’s Community Nursing Unit in Mountmellick and Paddock NS, funded by the Creative Ireland Laois ‘Creativity in Older Age’ scheme and Healthy Ireland Laois.

This year, the project expanded to include grandparents of the school children involved, Men’s Shed groups and ukulele classes, to a tremendous response.

Musical Memories is directed by Nuala Kelly of MGL, who explains: “The project has adapted as restrictions allow, often delivered online. There have also been outdoor performances and in-person visits by the MGL musician team.

I think that has been really important, that no matter what restrictions are in place we continue to forge a connection with all the participants. It’s really about maintaining a connection through music. We work on songs that work across generations, from ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’ to ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. It’s great fun, and such a rewarding project to be involved in.”

More information about Musical Memories is available at or contact [email protected] To get involved in Portlaoise Men’s Shed, call 057 2624092.

Musical Memories is funded by the Creative Ireland ‘Creativity in Older Age Fund 2021’, through Creative Ireland Laois in Laois County Council. MGL has partnered with Music Generation Offaly-Westmeath to extend the programme into both counties in 2021.

MGL musician educator David Harte introduces Portlaoise Men’s Shed members to the ukelele

Musician educator David Harte working with Portlaoise Men’s Shed, as part of the MGL Musical Memories and Ukulele project

Joe Murphy and Ray Harte of Portlaoise Men’s Shed learning a new musical instrument as part of the MGL programme



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