I live between Swinford and Charlestown in Co Mayo. I was born in the old house, it’s still down there. My father died when I was five and my mother then farmed the few acres down there.
I worked in the sugar factory in Shropshire in England. I went for about eight years, for four months every winter. That made it much easier to run the farm and you could expand it.
The fact that I bought this place here, up the road from the old house, was due to the fact that I was working in England.
After England, I started working for a company that had a factory in Charlestown. It was called Agron. I worked for them for two years and then the factory went to the wall.
I came back to farming and started farming full-time. I stayed at it all my life. There was no alternative, there was nothing else happening.
I was in milk for a short time back in the 60s. Then I turned to suckling. At the same time I had to reclaim the land.
I had the five acres here around this house, the seven good acres from the old house and I reclaimed all the rest of it. In order to increase your herd, you had to reclaim the land. I did that and it took a lifetime, I suppose. I wound up with 40 acres in the end.
I eventually built my herd up to 20 cows, that was about the maximum I could carry.
The idea of being buried on my own land, I probably had it in my mind all the time. My father, he was in America for a long time and he was an atheist. He had no belief in an afterlife. I’m an atheist too. So I suppose I was trying to create an afterlife for myself on the farm.
All along I knew where I want to be buried on the farm. It’s probably the first place I can remember. I can remember a very fine day and my mother and father out footing turf.
Where it is now is all green land, but it was all bogland then. I thought it was a pleasant place and it’s probably in the middle of the land.
I was figuring, after I had died, I wouldn’t want cattle walking all over me. I thought then I should plant the land and turn it into a public park.
I got in touch with Cllr Gerry Murray and I applied for planning permission to be buried privately on my own land.
I applied to the council. That would be over five years ago now. Eventually they came back and turned it down. We appealed to An Bord Pleanála. An Bord Pleanála came back after a while and granted it. I’m the third person to be granted permission to be buried privately on their own land.
Then I was wondering, who would look after it after I did pass on? And so I left it to Mayo County Council. Western Forestry Co-op planted the land with native trees.
I’m quite happy with my situation now. You see, if I sold the land in the first place, what would I do with the money? I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it at this time of my life, anyway. I couldn’t drink it, smoke it or whatever else.
There was no point in selling it, so I thought, get somebody to look after it. I’m able to watch the trees grow each year. If somebody bought it, they’d probably sell sites and that would maybe annoy me, seeing they were messing with it.
My dog, Van Gough, died last year. He’s buried beside the grave. If I had a dog, I would probably do more walking. I still cycle, I enjoy it. I’d cycle to Swinford or Charlestown. It’s a seven mile round trip to either of those.
I stopped farming about three or four years ago, I sold the last of the cows and that was it then. I miss it because you were organised. You had to get up at a certain time every day and you had to check the cattle.
Then in the spring time it used to be very busy because cows were calving. I have a feeling that was the best time of the year for me. I was more organised in the spring, because you had to keep watching. Calving could go wrong.
I saw lots of changes over the years I was farming. I’d say there are bigger changes coming now.
One time you were encouraged and you would get grants to increase your herd: “One more cow, one more sow, one more acre under the plough.” That’s gone the other way now and you’ll probably get grants to reduce your herd. It’s an awful change and it’s not encouraging for a small farmer.
I would say it’s a very hard time to be farming because of the cost of fertiliser and the cost of baling. In my last years farming, my biggest financial problem was to pay for the bales and pay for the fertiliser. When you had sold your weanlings, you wouldn’t have much left out of that. Then you got a grant, but you wouldn’t live off it.
Martin Neary Woodland Park
The Martin Neary Woodland Park project was initiated in 2018 and it was completed in 2019. It was officially opened in recent months. Of Martin’s 40 acres, 37 are planted with native trees. Facilities put in include walking paths, car parking, signs, information boards and picnic benches.