Ronan, John and Sheila Murray sitting at one of their bespoke benches.

Made in Mayo, the buddy bench is a must for schools

A MULTI-coloured ‘buddy-bench’ for schools is one of the many products being produced by Murray’s Recycled Plastic from Glenisland, outside Castlebar, writes Tom Gillespie.

John and Shelia Murray got into the maintenance-free garden furniture business in 2001, diversifying from the garden landscaping they had been involved with for many years.

Shelia explained how the ‘buddy-bench’ works: “When a child is upset at school they can sit at the ‘buddy-bench’. Their classmates will know they are upset and someone can come and sit beside them and include them in their group. We have also started doing coloured benches.

We do benches with name plates of children for schools. If a sixth class, say of 30 kids, are leaving and they want to give something to the school they can buy a bench between them and we can put their signatures on it.”

John Murray added: “The buddy bench has been a huge success for us. Now we hope to approach different football clubs to do their seating in their club colours.

Our customers were looking for long-lasting and maintenance-free products for their gardens. We first used recycled plastic garden edging and the recycled plastic tongue and groove board for raised beds.

Our clients were very happy and we now have designed, created and installed many elegant and functional structures throughout Ireland. We have gained a wealth of experience and expertise from working with recycled plastic.

We enjoy new challenges and love what we do with the added bonus of using recycled plastic which is stylish and elegant and blends well into any urban and a rural setting. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service and have established a positive working relationship in both the private and public sectors.”

John, who had been a caretaker at Davitt College, Castlebar, added: “Recycled plastic is an ideal material for fencing, because recycled plastic does not rot like timber or rust like metal. Unlike fencing made from other materials, you will never need to paint or preserve recycled plastic fencing.”

The Murrays construct a wide variety of products - benches of all shapes, story time chairs, balancing beams, bridges, playschool furniture, flower boxes, bollards, decking, balconies, picket fencing, post and rail fencing, all shapes of gates, waymarker posts, foot bridges, information boards, litter bins and raised beds.

Some advantages of their products include them being maintenance-free, very durable, splinter-free, wear-resistant, non-rotting and environmentally friendly.

Shelia explained how they got into the recycled plastic business: “We were a landscaping company working predominately in Connaught and every customer that John went to was looking for maintenance-free products.

People were looking for decking and garden furniture. At the time John was doing stone patios. We could not believe it when we came across a product that was maintenance-free and would last a lifetime and looks very well.

We were doing the landscaping around Abbey Breaffy Nursing Home and they were looking for wheelchair accessible raised beds and they were going to use sleepers.

John told them if they used sleepers there would be a smell off them and they would get filthy dirty. He told them he had come across this product of recycled plastic. Then we started doing garden edging, later the garden furniture, and it slowly developed from that.

All the furniture is made here. I come from a nursing background and if you look at all of the benches, they are all wheelchair accessible and are easy to access for older people.

We started in 2001 doing private houses and now we sell a huge amount into schools and hospitals.

Our first school was Snugboro National School where we made a semi-circular bench for an outdoor classroom area.”

Shelia continued: “We sell a lot of benches into parks and hotels and we make them to suit whatever shape they want.

We make planters. We do a tongue and groove board that is approved by the Department of Agriculture for stables. Horses can kick and wallop it and it does not break.

Our material comes from Belgium. They are a very good company where everything is tested and is 100%.”

John added: “We would not have got to where we are without good customers. Our best advertisement is word of mouth.

When I deliver goods I also put them together on site. After doing a job in one school I got a call from a Murray woman, who had been a teacher in the school. She was doing renovations on the house and she said she had someone in a wheelchair and asked would we make a table and chairs and make sure the table was high enough as the husband had a remote controlled wheelchair.

We did not know then who we were dealing with. When I delivered it she asked me to go in and get the husband’s wheelchair and when I opened the door who was shouting out to me but the late Colm Murray of RTÉ! They were absolutely delighted with the product.”

Shelia runs the office and John is on the road making deliveries, while their son Ronan works in the yard with up to seven other workers, depending on the season.

John continued: “We provide a complete range of services, from design through to installation. We sell to both to the private and public sector in urban and rural settings throughout Ireland.”


Murray Recycled Plastic are located at Claggan, Glenisland, Castlebar, and can be contacted on (094) 9022639 or (087) 2448622.


*Do you have a story to tell about your business? If so, Tom Gillespie would be delighted to hear from you. Get in touch at (087) 9680780 or