Grandad cashed in pension hoping to buy back family's cattle
The grandfather of Ireland's fittest family has emerged as one of two mystery bidders for 500 cattle auctioned by the sheriff to pay off the family's debts.
George Kingston cashed in his pension to buy back some of the 1,000-strong prize-winning herd that was seized from his son's farm in Cork to repay debts to ACC Bank, the Sunday Independent has learned.
But the sale did not go through because the funds from Mr Kingston's pension won't reach his bank account until later this week.
The latest twist in the unhappy saga of the Kingston's family farm in Nohoval, near Kinsale, followed a statement issued on behalf of the sheriff which said that half of the animals would have to be put back on the market because two bidders failed to pay.
The Cork County Sheriff auctioned off the cattle in a forced sale on the Kingston's family farm on Tuesday while protesters, including the family's neighbours and their children's college friends, looked on.
The herd of more than 1,000 cows and calves belonged to Peter Kingston (51) who runs the well-known Craden Hill Farm that was founded by his father. ACC Loan Management obtained judgment against him for loans of almost €2.5m.
The bank appointed receivers to the 175-acre farm late last year.
Peter Kingston said last night: "George Kingston purchased animals for his grandson with his retirement fund. Unfortunately his funds won't be available until Wednesday or Thursday of this week. Last Friday, he got a solicitor's undertaking that the bill would be paid whenever the money came in.
"There are no ifs or ands about it - it takes five working days for that pension to become liquid," he said.
He said his father was deeply disappointed at the outcome. "He was hoping that at least he would keep a couple in the family anyway. The man is suffering from Parkinson's and he was keeping that money for his future care. In the name of fair play and decency, it would have been a fine thing to have my father buy a few cattle for my son, so he can keep on the family tradition," he said.
The auction of the Kingston's 1,000 strong herd - first disclosed in the Sunday Independent - attracted widespread publicity last week. The Kingstons are prominent in farming and the family came to national attention when they won the RTE television show, Ireland's Fittest Family.
Protest group, the New Land League, claimed the sheriff's actions "frustrated" the family's efforts to save their farm.
Jerry Beades, its spokesman and Seanad candidate, claimed that cattle and sheep haulage contractors would refuse to transport farm animals sold through forced sales, and called on the Seaman's Union to do the same.
In a statement last Friday, sales agent Denis Barrett, acting on behalf of the Cork County Sheriff, said: "A significant number of animals, many of which were expected to achieve the highest prices on the day, were bid upon by two parties who have failed to comply with the terms and conditions in relation to payment."
The animals will now be sold through an online tender process.
The identity of the second bidder is not known.