Mayo man who will be buried on own land bequeaths it to public

Martin Neary opens woodland park: ‘I thought it better to have my wake before I die’

A 78-year-old Co Mayo man who won a lengthy planning battle to be buried in a private burial plot on his own land has now bequeathed his 37-acre holding for community and recreational purposes.

“All of my arrangements for the hereafter have been finalised,” Martin Neary, who lives at Madogue, Swinford, said on Thursday evening.

The former migrant worker, who spent years working in England, was speaking in advance of a ceremony on his holding on Friday when Pippa Hackett, Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, officially opened what will be known in perpetuity as the Martin Neary Woodland Park.

It has always been the intention of Mr Neary, a single man with no next of kin, to donate his land for philanthropic purposes.


A large crowd enjoyed refreshments with visiting dignitaries, lending an outdoor party atmosphere to the official opening.

Ms Hackett said the size of the gathering highlighted how important Mr Neary’s legacy would be to present and future generations.

Mr Neary was in jovial mood as he surveyed the crowd on the land where he once used to cut turf and graze cattle.

“I was thinking how much I used to enjoy many a wake. They were sad occasions but good fun also. I thought it better to have my wake before I die rather than after,” he said.

“I am very happy that there seems to be quite a few people here. I was only trying to please myself [by donating the farm] but everybody seems to be quite happy with that.”

Peter Gill, parks superintendent with Mayo County Council, described Mr Neary’s gesture in donating his farm for use as a public park as “a huge act of philanthropy”.

Mr Neary said he had been determined that the farm he inherited from his late parents, Martin and Elizabeth (Bessie) never be sold or redeveloped or used for grazing livestock. With the assistance of the county council and the Western Forestry Co-Op, Mr Neary has been able to realise his vision of a woodland oasis which embraces sustainability and celebrates history and culture.

An Bord Pleanála

He is one of only three people in Ireland who has been granted planning permission to be buried on his own land.

The initial application to Mayo County Council was turned down. However, that decision was overturned on appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

He explained that one of the reasons given for refusal by the council was that permission for such burial would set a precedent. The local authority also highlighted the need to protect water supplies from pollution sources.

“They reckoned I would poison the water,” Mr Neary commented. Jokingly, he added, “I’m only about 10 stone. I don’t think I would cause much pollution.

“Anyway, when you come to think of it, thousands of tons of slurry goes out every year on the land.”

An Bord Pleanála decided that the site for the proposed grave was far enough away from water sources as not to pose any environmental threat.

In her decision, An Bord Pleanála inspector Lorraine Dockery said Mr Neary’s appeal was unlikely to set a precedent. She said Mr Neary’s wish to be buried on his land did “not raise any issues of principle”.

Burial plot

“I can understand the need for concern with regards to setting of precedent within large, urban areas,” she said.

“However, in this instance, the application is for a single plot within a rural, agricultural area where there is no evidence of widespread demand for such facilities. The proposal is therefore considered acceptable in principle, subject to compliance with all relevant criteria.”

Ms Dockery said that the impact of a decomposing body on groundwater “would be limited”.

She also found that the proposed burial plot would be a sufficient distance from dwellings and posed no issues in relation to traffic safety, wells and the water supply infrastructure.

As a lifelong atheist with “no interest in religion”, Mr Neary said he had no desire to be buried in the traditional place of “consecrated ground”.

A flagstone has already been erected at the spot where Mr Neary has chosen for his interment.

The remains of a beloved sheepdog, Van Gogh, have already been interred nearby. “It will be nice to be buried close to a cherished friend,” Mr Neary said.