Saturday 24 February 2018

Spinsters who played stock market leave $3.9m to charity

Anne Lucey

TWO spinster sisters who emigrated from a Kerry farm in the 1940s to the US have left $3.9m (€3.15m) to animal charities.

Now solicitors are trying to contact relatives of the women before they hand over the fortune to the chosen recipients.

Mary Teresa Hayes, a nurse from Coolkeragh, Listowel; and her sister Nora, a lady's companion to some of New York's leading matriarchs were both in their 80s when they died in New York.

Solicitors are now trying to finalise a list of relatives of the sisters.But the search will not lead to any pot of gold -- it is simply to comply with probate law in the US, Listowel solicitor Louis McDonough said yesterday.

Mr McDonough added he felt it unlikely the will would be challenged.

The women lived in the prestigious museum district on East 84th Street, a stone's throw from Lexington Avenue and Central Park.

As well as the apartment, the sisters' fortune consisted of stocks and cash.

According to family sources in Listowel, it was largely amassed on the stock exchange which Nora had learned to play. The fortune would have been much larger if it were not for the global financial crisis, the sources said.

The sisters, who were sharp-witted and frugal throughout their lives, were members of a family of six, one of whom died young and three of whom -- Kitty, Danny and Tom -- remained at home on the decent sized farm, four miles from Listowel. However, none of the family married or had children.

The farm has been sold but the original house, a two-storey building, remains although it is unused.

Nora died in 1998 and Mary Teresa, who inherited her sister's estate, died in September 2006, according to one relative.

Mr McDonough, who met the sisters during their visits to north Kerry, said both women were reserved, dignified and ladylike.

He is in contact with a New York firm of solicitors who have asked him to submit a list of relatives so probate can be granted and the estate wound up.

Around 30 relatives have come forward already. Other names associated with Hayes are Collins and Moran, the maternal names of the Hayes family's mother and grandmother.

The Eircom phonebook has 100 Listowel-based numbers with the name Hayes.

Mr McDonough said he was appealing to anyone with links to the two sisters to come forward. "We put in the advertisement a week ago and we have had quite a few responses.

"I haven't counted them but there has been at least 30 from all over, manly from Listowel and Kerry, but we have also had responses from the UK.

"We are getting more responses so word must have spread through the family," he said.

Mr McDonough said that individuals in Kerry had received small bequests and gifts but the bulk of the cash and stocks was going to animal charities including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) charity, he confirmed.

PETA is involved in vigorous campaigns against the fur trade and other animal rights issues.

Animal Haven and the American Anti-Vivisection Society have also been included in the will.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Mr McDonough at 068 21091 or e-mail

Irish Independent

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