Mick Meaney monument to go up in North Cork for world record 61 days buried alive

A monument is to be constructed in a north Cork town to honour a Tipperary man who set a world record after being buried alive for 61 days.

Mick Meaney monument to go up in North Cork for world record 61 days buried alive

Many celebrities of the time jostled to have their picture taken with Mick Meaney when he emerged from the coffin which was buried in a yard in London.

They included the legendary actress Diana Dors, considered in the 1960s as the British Marilyn Munroe.

Meaney, who was born in Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, completed the feat in 1968 in front of the world’s media, trouncing the previous record of 45 days set by American Digger O’Dell.

Another American emerged to challenge Meaney’s attempt on the world record. On the same day Meaney went into a 7ft-deep grave in Kilburn, Texan country singer Bill White was also buried underground in the US.

White emerged after 55 days and although Meaney was told he was the victor, he remained buried for another six days, emerging on April 22, 1968.

Meaney, described as being tough as nails, wanted to be a world famous boxer and many who knew him said he might have achieved that if he hadn’t lost the tips of some fingers in a building site accident.

His hero was the US heavyweight legend Joe Louis who, on hearing that Meaney was being buried alive, reached out to make contact with him.

In Meaney’s preparation for the challenge, he performed workouts in an oversized coffin in the Admiral Lord Nelson pub. He fed himself on a diet of mainly steak and cigarettes.

Following a workplace accident in which he was buried alive a few years previous, he knew he could train his mind to be still and not panic.

On February 21, 1968, Meaney was lowered into the ground, beneath 7ft of soil while famed Cobh tenor and boxer Jack Doyle sang some tunes.

At the time, the BBC organised a live satellite link-up between England and the US to organise a joint interview between Meaney and White.

Meaney’s son David recalled: “It was like a boxing weigh-in.

“It was on Sunday, before Songs of Praise. It was pretty hot.

“The newsreader had to say, ‘I do apologise for that’ — there was some effing and blinding going on.”

Meaney, however, did not tell wife Alice about his plans to be buried alive — she only found out through the radio.

Mick Meaney: The camera was lowered down the same pipe that was used to supply him with food and liquid.
Mick Meaney: The camera was lowered down the same pipe that was used to supply him with food and liquid.

Their daughter Mary said: “He probably knew the answer would be no. She just took it in her stride.”

Meanwhile, once inside the oversized coffin, the then 33-year-old Meany had a daily routine.

He would wake at 7am and do a series of exercises. Newspapers and breakfast were passed down through a pipe. Invariably Meaney would be reading stories about his exploits daily.

Mick Meaney, the 33-year-old Irishman from Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, is pictured in his oversized coffin wearing pyjamas.
Mick Meaney, the 33-year-old Irishman from Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, is pictured in his oversized coffin wearing pyjamas.

He had one pipe for food and another for ventilation. The toilet took the form of a hatch on the base of the coffin which opened onto bags of lime.

The House of Commons even debated his exploits, with some MPs expressing concern for his safety and asking if he should be immediately dug up.

Each day a stream of well-wishers, including celebrities, queued to talk to Meaney through the ventilation pipe.

Mick Meaney is interviewed by reporters following his exhumation after being buried in the coffin.
Mick Meaney is interviewed by reporters following his exhumation after being buried in the coffin.

He had been promised a pot of money and a world tour if he broke the record. Unfortunately, neither materialised. He died on February 17, 2003, in Mitchelstown.

His adopted town in Cork now plans to honour him.

Cork County Council’s local municipal district council members decided unanimously to support a call from Meaney’s family to commemorate him.

Mick Meaney is examined by a doctor at the Admiral Nelson pub in London, after 61 days spent underground.
Mick Meaney is examined by a doctor at the Admiral Nelson pub in London, after 61 days spent underground.

Cllr Frank O’Flynn said it was fitting for the local authority to fund some kind of monument to acknowledge Meaney’s feat as, in latter years, he was an employee of the county council.

“He’s an absolute legend in Mitchelstown,” Cllr Kay Dawson pointed out.

Municipal district officer Pauline Moriarty said: “It’s not every town that can say they buried a person alive.”

Mick Meaney spent 61 days underground to break a record. He survived largely on a diet of steak and cigarettes.
Mick Meaney spent 61 days underground to break a record. He survived largely on a diet of steak and cigarettes.

Ms Moriarty said her staff would now examine options for the type of memorial which would be erected and where it should be located.

Ms Moriarty said she would report to councillors in due course.

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