GaeGael working with the turn of the tide

Gehan Macleod’s charity GalGael uses boatbuilding and woodwork to help distressed Glaswegians rebuild their confidence and their lives.

GalGael offers activities that help people reclaim skills, agency and sense of worth. Without their crew of dedicated volunteers these activities wouldn’t happen nor would the many other adventures they have.

How did GalGael start?

My late husband grew up in South Glasgow and became involved in an environmental campaign to stop the M77 being built through
Pollock Country Park in 1995. We failed, but from the road protest camp we learnt some interesting things about how to create a
community in a difficult space.

What does GalGael mean?

GalGael, meaning ‘foreign natives’ in Gaelic, was a term used to refer to the Norse settlers who came to Scotland in the 9th century. For us it is a good way of tapping into notions of national idenity which are inclusive, not exclusive, and the idea of peoplehood.

Who does GalGael help?

We cater for people from all walks of life, struggling with addiction, depression or unemployment for example. We prioritise those who live in our local area, Greater Govan, and create opportunities where they can get involved in ways that will allow them to increase their skills and personal capacity – we help them find the best within themselves and work with others.

What skills can be learned at GalGael?

It is woodwork based, mostly craft products and bespoke furniture or boat building. We have a mobile mill so our team can go on site and plank timber, bring it back to the yard, dry it in our kiln and use it for these projects.

How many volunteers do you have?

Throughout the year we’ll have about thirty volunteers working alongside our staff. They are involved in every area, from teaching people skills on the work benches to contributing to planning or helping in the kitchens.

How do you differ from other charities?

We don’t see ourselves as here to help people. Instead we have created a community in which we can aid and support one another. It really
helps people feel respected and included.

How did the boat building project begin? 

Initially the boat was just an emblem for the organisation, but within a few years of being established we started the boat building project with a local addiction service. We saw an opportunity for people to not only develop skills through the building process, but contribute to something bigger. The happy outcome is that these boats can then carry them on a voyage – the journey from start to finish really clicks with people.

(This feature was originally published in 2016)