‘There are quite a few characters in the group and the craic is always good’

Thomas Carlin, front left, Brandywell and Bogside Health Forum Getting On Well Project, with men taking part in a health and well-being outing to Brooke Park Bowling Club. (DER3013PG065)
Thomas Carlin, front left, Brandywell and Bogside Health Forum Getting On Well Project, with men taking part in a health and well-being outing to Brooke Park Bowling Club. (DER3013PG065)

Creggan man, Manus McCallion, was left with a void to fill when his brother sadly passed away several weeks ago.

Before his brother’s passing, 68 year-old Manus would travel to the Waterside every Wednesday morning where he and his brother would chat and enjoy a few cups of tea.

Manus is married and has three grown up children and despite missing his brother greatly, he has managed to find some comfort in a local men’s health group.

“Wednesdays with my brother was my time out of the house. We’d meet up at 12 o’clock every Wednesday and talk and just enjoy the craic so when he died I found that I missed not only him but the conversation - him dying left a big void for me to fill.”

Eight weeks ago, Manus joined the men’s health group. They are based in the Triax area of Derry (Brandywell, Creggan, Bogside, Bishop Street and the Fountain).

“I am not as mobile as I once was - I have a very sore leg and I have to use a walking stick so I am unable to take part in many of the physical activities the group are involved with but I am still able to come along and meet up with all the other men and have a chat and a wee bit of lunch,” he smiles.

“I know it’s not strictly politically correct, but it’s nice for a man of my age to come and mix with men of a similar generation. We talk about many things but it always descends into a slagging contest,” he laughed.

One of the group’s most recent outings was to Brooke Park bowling green during the recent good weather.

“Because of my leg I couldn’t bowl today but I enjoyed watching the others bowl and I always have a laugh when the slagging starts,” said Manus.

Since the group started in May, they have visited an organic farm outside Coleraine, Bushmills whiskey distillery and they have also taken part in a spot of gardening.

“I’ve made a quite a number of new friends here since I joined,” said Manus.

“It was my friend Mickey Murray who told me all about it and I have to say it’s one of the best things I could have done.

“There are quite a few characters in our group and the craic is always good.

“My message to any men living in the Triax area would be to give the group a go. You don’t have to Mr. Fitness to get involved - it’s more about just coming along for something to eat and a chat,” said Manus.

Danny Sheerin will be 60 in September.

Danny is well known throughout Derry for running and he has completed every Liam Ball Triathlon since it began 28 years ago.

Unfortunately, Danny was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and will commence treatment in September.

“The doctors tell me that the cancer is treatable so fingers crossed,” he said stoically.

“There’s very little I can do between now and then but coming to the men’s health group definitely helps my mind.

“It’s a great place to come and meet with other men of the same age. I didn’t know all of the other men when I first joined but now we all know one another and the craic is always good.

“Groups such as this one are vital to local communities. There are many men and women who are isolated in their own homes and it’s through such projects and activities that they are able to have a voice.”

Danny is also a keen marathon runner and has completed all of the Waterside half marathons. Despite his illness, he is determined to take part in this year’s race too.

“I have always taken good care of myself and I when it comes to running I am completely self-taught. I’d be delighted if I could take part in this year’s race but I will just have to wait and see.”

The Triax men’s health group is managed by the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum’s ‘Getting On Well’ project. The project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

Project manager, Tommy Carlin, said he didn’t really know what to expect when they set the group up eight weeks ago.

“The main reason we set up the group was because we wanted to tackle the issue of isolation of older men in the Triax area and believe me when I tell you, there is a considerable number of them.

“We wanted to create a group where local men could feel comfortable coming. The whole point of the group is introduce men to new activities and to help them maintain and improve both their physical and mental health,” said Tommy.

As it is in the early stages of its existence, the Triax men’s health group is still on the look out for new members and Tommy said all are welcome.

“The good thing about this group is that it’s led by the men. I have a programme of things we can do but if truth be told I just listen to what the men have to say. For example, it was their idea to come to Brooke Park bowling club. All I do is organise it and a make sure there’s a wee bit of lunch for them.

“We have plenty of other things in the pipeline too so if any men out there in the Triax area want to get involved all they have to do is contact either myself or my colleague Bronagh Cooper at the Gasyard Centre.

“At the minute, we meet once a week, on a Wednesday between 10.30am and 12.30pm but we are looking at extending it to a Friday too,” said Tommy.

For more information on the Triax men’s health group, contact Tommy Carlin or Bronagh Cooper at the Gasyard Centre on 02871 365330.