Born in Fishguard to a local family, Sharon McCarney worked all over South Wales in pub management for many years. Settling for a time in North Devon, she brought her daughter up in Torquay but couldn’t resist coming home to Pembrokeshire last year and immersing herself in local life.
“I came home to Fishguard for a quiet life.” Sharon told me with a laugh, “but moving on the May bank holiday was anything but.” A self-confessed cat lady (“ Fred and Flo are my world”) Sharon has been delighted to deepen her connection with the family and friends she has never lost touch with. Her oldest friend she met when they were just four.
“When I came back to live here, I felt I was on holiday for three months.” Sharon told me. “I pretended to be a tourist and explored all my old haunts.” But Sharon was not happy to be idle for long.
Having rheumatoid arthritis is a big challenge for anyone wanting to be busy but Sharon was determined not to let this condition hold her back. She wanted to use her skills and to get involved with local issues so she began volunteering with the town council. A great deal of her time is now taken up with council work and four sub committees.
“In Torquay I undertook a foundation degree in business, followed by a B A in leadership and management over four years at a local college. It made me methodical and more careful with information that informs my beliefs.”
These skills have stood Sharon in good stead for the work she has undertaken in her home town, which includes planning events and being proactive to residents’ concerns. Part of her work is in helping with grant applications.
The Town Council was delighted to be able to help Theatre Gwaun last year while it was in the process of becoming community led. Money also went into Lota Park. “We also were involved in Christmas competitions with prizes and community awards. The latter were a bit delayed this year, but were the usual joyful experience.”
As if that were not enough, Sharon has joined the Town Team and Community Forum. And she has become a committee member of the Charterhouse Returns, which is a project to turn a former lifeboat into a heritage experience locally. (You can find an article about this interesting and valuable project here in the magazine.)
Sharon has also helped her cousin host lunches for the Corinthian, one of the Grand Circle cruise ships that visits our harbour and who actively encourage their travellers to meet local people. She has also become one of the Fishguard Friendly Faces that greet the many cruise ships docking here.
Sharon was impressed by the conference that took place in Goodwick in December 2018 on Wellbeing, which was hosted by Hywel Dda Health Board. The report she took back to the Town Team resulted in setting up a sub committee to promote intergenerational work . It also seeks to reduce isolation in the region and meet the challenges we face in ensuring well-being.
“I broke my ankle a while ago,” she told me, “and despite having lots of family, and friends, after the first few weeks, it was the loneliest seven weeks of my life. So many people are isolated and I want to do what I can to bring people coming together to support each other.”
“Mental health has to be addressed. Everyone deserves to be respected. Depression and isolation in rural communities are a big problem, particularly for men.”
We talk a little about Men Sheds and she tells me about the D P J Foundation (www.thedpjfoundation.com ) who have a local branch which supports men in the farming community with their wellbeing and positive mental health.
“Farming has changed so much and made people more isolated. Our well-being is also affected by centralising everything. It causes tremendous stress. Getting anywhere in rural wales is hard, with limited travel choices. Work options are very poor.”
“I want to see better coordination and better communication between the many groups that we have in our area. It’s time to bring people together and to ensure people get to the right places and find the best advice and support.”
If you would like to know more, or get involved with Sharon’s work please email her at email@example.com