Frugal funeral for Co Down man who made his own coffin

Deceased made plywood casket to save his sons money

Michael O’Shea’s remains are carried in the coffin he made 13 years ago in Ardglass, Co Down. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Michael O’Shea’s remains are carried in the coffin he made 13 years ago in Ardglass, Co Down. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 01:00


A Co Down man has been buried in a plywood coffin he built himself for £75 (€90) to save his family the expense.

Michael O’Shea, from Ardglass, made the simple coffin in 2001 in his workshop near his home. The former art and design teacher died this week aged 81 and was buried following requiem Mass yesterday.

In 2006 he attracted intense local interest following an interview he gave to BBC Radio Ulster in which he explained his motives.

“My sons have no money. I am not going to die and leave them with debts they cannot afford, so I have made my own coffin,” he said, adding he was planning a “frugal funeral”.


Health scare
He came up with the idea following a health scare when he was still in his 60s, and said he was “absolutely amazed at the interest shown in the simple process of making a coffin”.

“It is a simple matter of economic and personal necessity,” he said at the time.

“I designed it myself. I drew up the plans and went in and bought two sheets of plywood, 8ft by 4ft. I cut it, glued and screwed it together. The total cost was £75.”

The most difficult part, he explained, was bending the plywood to make the sides of the coffin. He added rope so the coffin could be lowered into his final resting place.


Making the news
“DIY bread-making or wine-making doesn’t make news,” he said. “Why coffin-making? I leave you to answer this.”

Mr O’Shea described himself in 1998 as “a toothless 66-year-old, joints creaking and groaning; a former teacher of art and design, at one-time a fledgling Northern Irish politician (Alliance Party), an ex-public relations consultant in London and Belfast, a Dominican friar, factory worker, merchant seaman and architectural student”.

In 2001 he moved to his address in Ardglass, close to the cemetery, and posted online: “A few broad shoulders instead of a hearse! Such a saving!”