Laois man claims widow promised farm to him 43 years ago

Séamus Brennan claims Catherine Lowry agreed to leave him farm worth €840,000


A man has claimed he is entitled to a farm worth €840,000 because he was told it would eventually be his after he agreed to leave school in 1973 and work on it.

In High Court proceedings, Séamus Brennan, a single man aged 58, claims Catherine Lowry, who was childless and intestate when she died aged 85 in 2012, promised to “treat him like a son” if he came and lived and worked on the 69-acre mixed-use farm at Ballylinan, Co Laois 43 years ago.

He says he spent the next 39 years there on the strength of that promise which, he claims, was repeated over the years.

Ms Lowry’s nephews – Patrick, Michael and Joseph Knowles – deny his claims and have counter-claimed for possession of the farm. They are also claiming damages arising from the alleged state of the farm.

They also allege Mr Brennan bullied and harassed Ms Lowry to try to get her to make a will and she was in fear of him. On one occasion, Mr Brennan slapped her in the face when she refused to give him the keys of her car and also threatened her with a bread knife, it is claimed.

Ms Lowry was considering seeking a barring order against him, but was told the law at that time did not cover orders against farmhands, it is also claimed.

Mr Brennan denies their claims.

As an alternative to the farm, he is seeking nearly €1 million remuneration for the 39 years he worked there.

The relatives say, while willing to leave Mr Brennan something, Ms Lowry always wanted to leave the farm to her family and she was a strong woman who stood up to him.

It is claimed Ms Lowry only agreed to provide bed and board, and Mr Brennan also worked on his brother’s farm as well as the Lowry land.

Mr Lowry disagreed with claims Ms Lowry was in fear of him and had to give him money every night to go to the pub because otherwise he would be “like a bull”.

Mr Brennan said he was one of a family of 12 children whose father had a 150-acre farm, part of which was close to Mrs Lowry’s farm.

She was widowed aged 46 and pleaded with his father and himself to leave school and work for her, because she couldn’t manage without him, he said. She had said she would look after him as if he was her own son and in due course leave him the farm, he added.

He said he left Carlow Tech and worked and managed the farm over the years and received pocket money on occasion from Ms Lowry. He later got 20 sheep for himself which he was allowed graze on the Lowry farm and from which he derived a small income.

She disapproved of him bringing women to the house and offered him a site to build on, but he never had the savings to be able to do that, he said.

Apart from his sheep, €156 weekly farmer’s dole which he started getting after Ms Lowry died, along with a couple of thousand in savings, he had nothing else.

Under cross-examination by Peter Bland SC, for the nephews, he agreed Ms Lowry was an “honest god-fearing woman” when she was alive. He found out after she died she was not honest, he said.

He disagreed Ms Lowry never promised him the farm or would have had no problem getting a farmhand in 1973 because it was a time in rural Ireland when the alternative for most in his position would be emigration.

Mr Brennan disagreed with a suggestion his own lack of enterprise or ambition lead to his staying on the farm for nearly 40 years.

He also denied he only came up with the alleged promise of the farm after he found out Ms Lowry had no will.

The case continues.