Jason Bradley, boatbuilding project manager at the Archipelago Folkschool. (Image: Lennox Herald)
The man leading a project to involve recovering addicts in the restoration of the Skylark IX Dunkirk little ship has revealed that his own journey to boatbuilding was far from straightforward.
Jason Bradley, of the Archipelago Folk School, has joined forces with residents at rehabilitation charity Alternatives for the project, after a similar scheme helped him battle with the chronic illness that left him unemployed for a decade.
As he started work on building a St Ayles skiff as part of the project, based at the Denny Tank in Dumbarton, he explained his story to the Lennox Herald.
Jason said: “I wasn’t always a boaty person. I ended up involved when I was with a charity called the GalGael Trust in Glasgow.
“They work with the long-term unemployed, and much like Alternatives its somewhere a lot of people were on a journey away from drug or alcohol abuse.
“At the time I was unemployed and had been chronically ill for 10 years.
Skylark IX was raised from the Leven in 2012. (Image: LEN)
“In 2003 I was diagnosed with ME a type of chronic fatigue syndrome and I just couldn’t work with that.
“I had moved to Glasgow in 2001 and then in 2003 I fell really ill. I’d had a few viruses and issues but the doctors always told me it was post-viral fatigue.
“They only discovered it was something more serious when my line manager found me after I’d collapsed. And that was that, my last day at work for about 10 years.”
Jason’s journey to working with boats started with a short course at GalGael, after he realised an office environment didn’t suit him.
He continued: “I did a computing degree and then realised very quickly that I was in a profession that would see me working in an office, and that definitely wasn’t for me.
“I got looking for things away from computing and did a 12 week woodworking programme at GalGael that saw me fall into boatbuilding.
“I ended up staying at GalGael for three-and-a-half years, from the Navigate Life programme right through to working with professional boatbuilders.
“There were days where I was so tired I couldn’t do anything, and I’d just sit with a coffee and chat to people - but they were understanding of that and my condition.
“When I left GalGael I set up my own company working with young people who hadn’t had the best start in life, and we did projects with community gardens, boatbuilding, that sort of thing.
“I wasn’t enjoying self-employed life towards the end of last year, and that’s when Ben Wilde who had been my mentor at GalGael got in touch and asked if I wanted to come onboard with him.”
After successfully pitching to the Skylark IX Recovery Trust to run a project that will see two skiffs built in Dumbarton, Jason was preparing to start work in March - only for lockdown to put the plans on hold.
Members of the Skylark IX Recovery Trust. (Image: Lennox Herald)
However after arranging Zoom calls with residents at Alternatives and sending out boat kits for those working on the project to practice their skills with, he is now set to get to work on the skiff with a team from the charity - and he has been bowled over by their enthusiasm.
He said: “We’ve been very pleased with the response. The core group we have are so enthusiastic, but so are the staff at Alternatives. They get how worthwhile a project this is.
“I don’t think it can be accurately measured as to how worthwhile this is. For me personally much of the journey they are on is similar to my own.
“I’ve had my sense of self-worth, belonging and pride given back to me by a similar thing.
“It’s absolutely the be all and end all for me being involved in something like this.
“ It’s the reason why when I left GalGael I didn’t just go and become a boatbuilder. I wanted to give something back.
“For me there was a joy in the voyage of self discovery.
“I realised that I enjoyed the process of working to help people even more than I enjoyed the process of building the boat.
“My whole time being self-employed saw me working with young people who wouldn’t normally have a chance. I feel it’s vital that we have projects like this.
“It’s been really great to be involved with.”
Find out more about the Skylark IX Recovery Trust, GalGael and the Archipelago Folk School, all Shipshape Network Scotland Projects, here.