Fibreglass headstone invented in Co Clare a first for Europe

Fibreglass headstone invented in Co Clare a first for Europe

Fibreglass headstone invented in Co Clare a first for Europe
Fibreglass headstone invented in Co Clare a first for Europe

Co Clare company New Age Memorials founder Barry Spearman has come up with a new product concept – fiberglass headstones – which he says is a first in Western Europe.

“These fibreglass headstones offer many advantages over traditional stone headstones: they are maintenance free, as unlike stone, they are not porous and thus discourage the growth of algae and other discolourants.

“They are strong but light and can be installed immediately. In fact they can be installed by anyone without special tools, and uniquely, they can be repaired if vandalised or damaged. All of this means major savings for the consumer.”

The idea came about two years when Spearman was trying to clean some family headstones. “I was quoted €250 for sandblasting and re-lettering which I thought was excessive. Then I bought various stone cleaning chemicals and none of them worked well enough.

“Up to that time , I had not thought about the ongoing costs involved in maintaining headstones and it was only when I mentioned it to other people I discovered that a whole industry of cleaning headstones had come into existence. I thought there must be a modern material, with similar properties to stone, but without the drawbacks, that could be used just as efficiently.”

‘Eureka’ moment on the lake

He says he had a ‘Eureka’ moment while out on Lough Derg mulling the problem over. He had bought his boat 30 years previously secondhand and it had been sitting in the water most of that time, having endured all weathers.

“Every few months, a bit of surface mould might grow where rain has lodged, but this is easily brushed off. This boat, like 90pc of all modern boats, is made from marine grade fibreglass.  I had found my headstone material.”

The next step was to design a prototype and get boat builders to make it, as they were the only people with the expertise needed.
Spearman got final-year marketing students in the Kemmy Business School in the University of Limerick did a three-month feasibility study, involving a survey of undertakers in Connaught and Munster. It found that 90pc thought it was a great idea and there was a market for it.

Spearman set up the company in May 2012, and for the past year has been working with a few companies trying to perfect moulds, finishes, designs and the manufacturing process.

“I discovered that a design for a fibreglass headstone was patented in 1973 in the US. This patent has now lapsed and the design was totally different from mine.

“Now that the product has been perfected I hope to sell directly to the public in order to keep the purchase costs down. This would not happen if sold through undertakers. I have just begun to advertise in the local papers and free sheets and also by putting posters up in shops and so on.

“I’m trying to bring an innovative product into an extremely conservative and traditional market sector. I will bring the cost of a funeral down for the ordinary customer if I can get them out of the clutches of the undertaker/sculptor cartels. This has the potential to be huge because it is so unique, but it will take time to get the message out there.”