Image: The good life: Michael Gallagher, left, with Bill Harris, Arthur Cudden, Brian McCormack and Alan Kane
By Brian Pelan
I came across the ‘Flower Pot Men’ in a well-kept corner of north Belfast and I’m pleased to report that they are doing well in a community garden that bring joy into their lives.
One of the volunteers, Bill Harris, who works at the community garden at Glenbank Park, Ligoniel Road, told me how he first got involved. “I was volunteering at the north Belfast’s Men’s Shed project. They were asked would they take over this site which at the time was totally derelict. “We’ve been here about three years now and have the support of Volunteer Now and Belfast City Council.
“Everybody who comes here has an individual reason for doing so. It was a big change in my life when I retired as you no longer had a structure to your day. You didn’t have a reason to get up and get washed and shaved. Volunteering helps to fill the gap in my life.”
There are seven regular volunteers at the site, including a young woman.
Alan Kane, who is a joiner by trade, has used his skills, since retiring, to help improve the garden.
It’s great to be here and enjoy the fresh air,” he said. “During the winter we all sit in the shed and talk about what we are going to do the following year.”
Alan and Bill both urged more people across the community to get involved in the project. A variety of flowers and plants are grown in the community garden, including tulips, daffodils, sweetcorn, onions, turnips, chilli peppers, potatoes and rhubarb.
“People passing the garden are able to come and take some of the produce away with them for free,” said Alan.
“Also we give away some of the surplus vegetables to pensioners living in the nearby area.”
The garden is obviously a big part of Alan’s life. “I’ve been coming here for a year-and-a-half now and I haven’t missed a day yet,” he said.
Brian McCormack, who also volunteers, has been present from the start when the community garden was set up. He retired from a life spent working on the railways for health reasons. “The humour amongst us is great and there is no stress involved. You get a huge amount of satisfaction from planting a wee seed and watch it growing.”
The group of volunteers call themselves ‘The Flower Pot Men’. People of a certain age may recall the popular BBC programme of the same name that was broadcast for many years. A time of innocence has been captured in a little garden in north Belfast.
It was a pleasure to meet these charming volunteers.
• A full list of community gardens and allotments can be found at www.belfastcity.gov.uk/leisure/allotments-communitygardens/allotments.aspx
To read our latest issue of VIEW on volunteering, go to http://viewdigital.org/2017/06/05/latest-issue-view-celebration-volunteering/