VILLAGERS are reeling after English-based landlords staked claim to property that the original owners left almost a century ago.
Several locals in Rosses Point, Co Sligo, received a solicitor's letter telling them they had 28 days to hand over property to people they had never met.
The letters come from shareholders of the original owners of the property ground rent, the Middleton Estate, most of whose family departed Ireland up to 90 years ago.
In the 1970s, locals traced Middleton family members across the globe, and reached a deal where many bought their ground rent for sums of around IR£100.
But some did not clinch agreement, leaving uncertainty over the ground on which their homes was built, which is in one of the most valuable locations in the north-west.
Meanwhile, Devon-based vicar, the Reverend Guy Chave-Cox, and his wife Heather, who claims descent from the Middleton family, have been checking land in Rosses Point.
It includes a seaside home where the Yeats brothers, poet WB and painter Jack, holidayed with their Middleton cousins in the now-dilapidated Elsinore Lodge.
The lodge was originally built in the early 19th century by pirate captain John Black.
A number of homeowners received solicitors' letters in July, one of which has been seen by the Irish Independent, with the 28-day notice from shareholders of the Middleton estate.
It claimed the homeowner was "wrongfully in possession" of Middleton Estate property. It threatened proceedings without further notice if the property wasn't surrendered. That means, with the 28-day notice, proceedings against some householders could start today.
Mr Chave-Cox and his wife, on holiday from Barnstaple until September, were in Rosses Point on Saturday.
Mrs Chave-Cox said it was possible several villagers who did not sort out title to their land might have a mistaken belief that they owned their own ground rent.
When asked if legal proceedings were a prospect, Mrs Chave-Cox said: "We are looking to sort out the facts of any situation." She refused to say how many people were approached, adding: "It's none of your business."
Mr Chave-Cox pointed out that he was a vicar.
"Vicars are honest and clear about things," he said. "All we want is what's right and fair and (to) sort things out. Presumably that means people buying up the ground rent."
One local businessman said: "People are quite concerned where this is all going to lead. I know of one woman who actually cried when she received a letter claiming somebody else owns her property."
Solicitor Joe Carter, who represents a number of people who received legal letters, said the issue was resolved to most people's satisfaction in the 1970s, and it is at least 35 years since anybody paid ground rent.
"Nobody knows who these people are who have arrived on the peninsula. They are trying to lay some claim to the ground rents that were unresolved."