Man claims widow told him he would get her farm
A man claims that he is entitled to a farm worth around €840,000 because he was told by its widowed owner that it would eventually be his when he agreed to leave school at the age of 15 and work it for her, the High Court has heard.
Séamus Brennan (58) claims that Catherine Lowry, who died in 2012, aged 85, intestate and without children, promised in 1973 to "treat him like a son" if he came and lived and worked on the 69-acre, mixed-use farm at Ballylinan, Co Laois.
He says he spent the next 39 years there on the strength of that promise, which he claims that Mrs Lowry repeated over the years.
However, Mrs Lowry's nephews, Patrick, Michael and Joseph Knowles, dispute his claim and have counter-claimed for possession of the farm and damages.
They say Mr Brennan bullied and harassed Mrs Lowry in an attempt to get her to make a will and that she was in fear of him.
On one occasion, he slapped her in the face when she refused to give him the keys of her car and he also threatened her with a bread knife, it is alleged.
She also went to solicitors on a number of occasions, including once when she was considering getting a barring order against him, but was told that the law at that time did not cover orders against farmhands, it is claimed.
Mr Brennan, who is single, denies those claims. As an alternative to the farm, he is seeking nearly €1m in remuneration for the 39 years that he worked there. He denies that in her last years of life he "hounded" her about making a will.
Mrs Lowry's relatives say that while she was willing to leave him something, she always wanted to leave the farm to her family. They say the widow was a strong woman who stood up to him.
It is claimed that all Mrs Lowry agreed to provide was bed and board and that Mr Brennan worked on his brother's farm as well as on the Lowry land.
He has rejected a claim that she 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 told the court 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 at the age of 46 and Mr Brennan claims that she asked his (Mr Brennan's) father for help. He said she pleaded with the father and for the boy to leave school and work for her, saying she would "look after him as my own son and treat him as a son and in due course leave me the farm".
He received pocket money on occasion from her, said Mr Brennan. Later, he got 20 sheep, which he was allowed graze on the Lowry farm and from which he derived a small income.
The case continues.