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Monday 16 July 2018

Father and son at war over vintage tractor collection told 'Life is too short'

A a minor argument over the maintenance of a hedge escalated. Stock image
A a minor argument over the maintenance of a hedge escalated. Stock image

Martin Evans

A feuding father and son, who fell out over their £100,000 collection of vintage tractors, have been urged to make up by a judge, who told them: "Life is just too short."

Thomas Lowther, 88, and his son Thomas Lowther Jr, 51, also known as Royston, ended up in court to resolve a financial disagreement after years of not speaking to one another.

The pair, who had previously been close, had built up an enviable collection of tractors including Massey Fergusons, Fordson Majors and David Browns.

They became the envy of vintage enthusiasts at steam fairs and agricultural rallies all over Britain.

But when a minor argument over the maintenance of a hedge escalated, they ended up at war with one another and began selling off the entire collection.

The pair, from Darlington, Co Durham, ended up in the town's County Court, this week to settle a dispute that arose over the 2013 sale of one of the tractors.

Following the hearing, at which Mr Lowther Jr, was ordered to pay £750 plus £604.28 costs, the judge urged the men to bury the hatchet.

He said: “Life is just too short for this sort of thing, it is terrible. This is a single child family and I hope despite everything, that a line can be drawn under it all as it has got out of hand.

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“I would like to think the situation is not completely irreparable, I am a born optimist and if it is at all possible for the parties to find some degree of closure from this, I would strongly suggest they do so."

Directly addressing the two men he continued: “Try not to let this define you, look at the positives and look at this as a way of moving on.

“Try to find some sort of reconciliation, that is a genuine expression of hope rather than an expectation but life is too short to let this ruin lives.”

Mr Lowther Snr offered his son the opportunity to shake his hand at the conclusion of the hearing, but he declined the offer, saying "never".

Speaking after the case the disappointed father expressed his sorrow at the feud.

He said: "We had a marvellous collection of tractors, between 70 and 80 of them, people would come in coach loads to visit them at the six acre property where they were stored and we both took pride in them, Royston and I.

"The fact that we fell out has caused some considerable sadness to me and I don't accept at all that I am the cause of it. Over the past few years he's caused me a great deal of worry and distress.

"That we ended up at court isn't something I would have imagined but that's where it all led to."

Mr Lowther said he had fallen in love with tractors as a small boy during the "dig for victory" campaign in the Second World War and had bought his first vintage machine in August 1975.

He said: "I bought it for £50 and exhibited at that year's Darlington show, that's where the collection began and it became the great pleasure of my life to build and maintain it.

"Royston was also very enthusiastic, he loved the vintage tractors and vehicles. It was something that we agreed on, our love of those vehicles but I'm afraid things went very badly wrong."

The tractors were kept on the younger Mr Lowther's property in the village of Whinney Hill, near Darlington and his father would visit the collection every day.

But a minor row with his son's wife, over a hedge at the property, led to them becoming bitterly estranged

Mr Lowther said: "He's tried to say I'm confused and that my memory is failing, but I remember everything in clear detail.

"The judge clearly wanted us to put things right between ourselves, his words were kind, but I think things have progressed too far for that now.

"He's my only son and that's a sad thing but I can see no other outcome."


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