Man who inherited farm in disputed will case denies altercation with landowner

Witness agreed he would have been disappointed if his uncle had not left farm to him

 Richard Cooper Jr pictured at the Four Courts for the High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Richard Cooper Jr pictured at the Four Courts for the High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A man who was left a farm by his uncle in a will which other family members dispute has denied he was ever in a physical altercation with his uncle before his death.

Richard Cooper junior (40) told the High Court that claims he had put his uncle, bachelor Michael Buckley, “to the ground” were untrue and that “never happened”.

While he and his uncle sometimes had arguments about the way things were done on the farm, they always made up and had a generally good relationship, he said.

He rejected claims by his cousin Bobby Buckley whom, the court was told, will say Michael Buckley told him (Bobby) about the alleged altercation.

He also denied he was involved in a later conversation about it when he, Richard, was allegedly shaking and saying “I don’t know how to handle that man (Michael)”.

Mr Cooper was giving evidence on the third day of an action brought against him by four of Mr Buckley’s siblings, Joseph, William and Elizabeth Buckley and Teresa Doyle.

They claim the will was made under undue influence when their brother was not well enough to make it because he was dying from cancer days after major surgery.

Mr Cooper, who works in tractor and machinery sales, denies the claims and says he never discussed with Michael about who he would leave his 54 acre farm to.

He spent his first seven years living on his uncle’s farm and much of his life working with his uncle, he said.

He agreed he would have been disappointed if his uncle had not left the farm to him.

Mr Buckley died on March 20th 2011, aged 76, and had no children.

Mr Cooper said his uncle sold him a site on the farm at Caim, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, where he built a home and where he now lives with his wife and two children.

While he worked as a seasonal contractor to other farms in the area, he said he continued to work with his uncle on his farm and, from October 2010, when Michael first got sick, was doing almost everything around the farm.

Under cross examination by Michael Counihan SC, for the four siblings, he said the only arguments he ever had with his uncle were verbal. He denied Michael had called him “a cur”.

He disagreed he, his mother Sheila and his father Dick Cooper had pressed Michael to give him (Richard) the place when he was still alive.

The only time there was mention of what would happen with the farm was when Michael was in hospital, he said.

Michael had said he “will sort this place out when I get home” (from hospital) but he never went home, he said.

He said he was not aware Michael had said “the Coopers will never get the place” and disagreed his father Dick and Michael did not get on.

Michael’s sister Sheila Cooper (Richard’s mother), told the court her late brother was very private and “his own man”.

The day after Michael had an operation on March 10th, 2011, he had asked her who her solicitor was because he wanted to put his affairs in order, she said. She went to the home of local solicitor John Mernagh that night who went the next day to the hospital to take his will but decided Michael was too ill to do so.

She and her husband decided to ring another local firm John A Sinnott, who had also acted for Michael previously, and a solicitor with that firm successfully took the will a few days later when Michael had improved, the court heard.

Under cross examination, Ms Cooper disagreed she “put it into his (Michael’s) head” to make a will because she thought it was the right thing to do but at a time when he was psychologically unfit to make such a decision. She said she did it because she was asked to by Michael.

The case resumes on Tuesday.