Men’s Shed at helm of restoring the Mary Jane

Oban's Mens Shed John McAllister and Colin Turtle with the Mary Jane

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Funding is helping float a Men’s Shed project to restore a 90-year-old clinker boat and get her back on the water.

A grant of £1,965 from Argyll and Bute Council’s Supporting Communities Fund means the Mary Jane, built by McQueens of Easdale, will make it to sea once again but she needs some tender loving care first.

Registered in World War Two as a small craft, the Mary Jane is now in the hands of Oban Men’s Shed who are happy to be its custodians and to be bringing a little piece of maritime history back to life.

The Mary Jane is now in the hands of Oban’s Mens Shed as a restoration project to get to sea.

To help them achieve it, the project is on the look out for anyone with boatbuilding experience, retired boat workers or joiners, to come along and share their knowledge.

‘When we make a start, we hope to encourage people to help and share their knowledge and experience to bring the Mary Jane back to life and be back on the water again. We also want to thank Argyll and Bute Council for their support with a project grant,’ said Mr Turtle.

Oban Men’s Shed, part of a growing network of groups, is based in Stevenson Street and is also open to women. It offers people the chance to meet up and get hands-on with creative and recreational activities.

‘We’ll start with stripping off all the paint and varnish to see what’s underneath it first. It seems solid but until we get to the bare wood we won’t know exactly what we’re facing. It’s been painted various colours in the past and it’s all got to come off.

‘Until we got her, she had been stored upside down on the ground, not the best way to keep a wooden boat, but hopefully she will be restored to all her former glory,’ added Mr McAllister who is more used to building model boats.

It is believed originally Mary Jane was a rowing boat before being converted to a dipping lug in the 1970s, then converted in the 80s to have a mast and rig.

‘There’s also a place at the stern for a small engine. It’s a seagull engine and we believe we still have that as well and will try to get that restored too,’ said Mr Turtle.

At about 15ft long, Mary Jane’s restoration will have to be be carried out on a driveway  under a temporary covering or gazebo to keep her and her workers dry because she will not fit in through the Men’s Shed doors.

‘If someone’s got a lovely garage space we could use that would be good but we’d need it for quite a while.

When she was first built on Easdale, she had to be carried into the water by villagers who turned the launching into a local event. We hope to keep as much of the original as possible so she will become a living piece of history and if an event comes up we will get her out on the water, get people in her and see her sailing again,’ added Mr Turtle.

Caption: Oban’s Men’s Shed’s John McAllister and Colin Turtle with the Mary Jane
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