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Interesting Land Case Heard at Limerick Land Commission | Limerick Gazette Archives

Interesting Land Case Heard at Limerick Land Commission

In a noteworthy proceeding before the Honourable C. Fitzgerald, KC, an intriguing case unfolded at the Limerick Land Commission. Mr Ambrose Hall, the landlord, and Mr John C. Fitzgerald, both filed an appeal against the decision made by the Sub-Commissioners. The decision fixed the true value of the disputed lands at £550.

According to the details presented, the lands were leased in 1841 to the present tenant’s great-grandfather. Following the death of the tenant’s mother in 1900, the next-of-kin demanded a sale of the lands to obtain their rightful share. However, the landlord, asserting his legal rights of preemption, refused permission to sell.

During the hearing, Mr Ambrose Hall testified as the landlord and revealed that he had acquired the lands, along with others, in 1894 for £3,000. He emphasized visiting the property before the purchase and later found the dwelling-house and outbuildings severely dilapidated. Furthermore, he relied on a letter from the late tenant, John Dignan, which highlighted the subpar state of repair of the house. Additionally, Mr Hall claimed that valuable trees had been felled without his knowledge, although he had retained ownership rights to the trees.

Under cross-examination by Mr Phelps, BL, Mr Hall disclosed that approximately 30 trees were toppled in the previous year due to adverse weather conditions. He sold them to Mr Browne for a sum of £30, as the market value had decreased significantly due to a surplus of fallen timber. Mr Hall’s initial offer to the tenant was £145, representing a year’s rent and the specified value determined in 1883. Subsequently, he increased the offer to £300. Mr Hall was uncertain whether Mr Hastings, a solicitor, had offered him £300 in exchange for permission to sell the lands. He expressed difficulty in comprehending Mr Hastings’ intentions. Mr Hall clarified that he did not make a profit of 6 or 8 per cent on his land purchase and would be willing to sell the property to the opposing counsel at the same price.

Mr O’Malley, a surveyor, testified on behalf of the landlord, stating that it would require £170 to restore the buildings to a fair state of repair. However, during cross-examination, he acknowledged that this estimation encompassed expenses related to repainting and wallpapering.

Ms Slade, CK, presented her evidence as a witness for the tenant. She contended that the property’s poor condition was a result of substandard materials used initially and regular wear and tear over time. Ms Slade visited the house both before and after a storm in 1903 and asserted that the damage incurred was minimal or nonexistent. She believed that £2 would suffice to rectify any necessary repairs.

Under questioning by Mr Hall, Ms Slade disagreed with Mr O’Malley’s assessment, maintaining that her valuation considered the house’s reasonable upkeep, considering its age. She went on to assert that there was no better roof on any house in Clare.

Mr John Browne, an auctioneer, testified in support of the tenant, stating that he had known the late Mr John Dignan for many years. According to Mr Browne, Mr Dignan was an experienced farmer, and the house was well-maintained with a sound roof. If allowed, the tenant’s interest could have fetched £700 or £750 in a sale conducted in 1901.

During cross-examination, Mr Browne clarified that the land was not poorly treated and that Mr Dignan managed it appropriately. Mr Browne had only conducted a couple of small sales on behalf of Mr Dignan and Mr Fitzgerald. He was unable to estimate the current value of the property due to the landlord’s actions hindering the potential sale.

His Lordship concluded the proceedings by expressing his intention to consider the evidence presented by Mr Gill, the tenant’s valuer, on the following day. Both parties expressed a desire for the assessor to inspect the lands.

Mr J. P. Hall, a solicitor, appeared on behalf of the landlord, while Mr Phelps, BL (instructed by Mr S. Hastings), represented the tenant in this compelling land dispute.

Limerick Echo – Tuesday 18 October 1904