Here’s Looking at You, Me Bucko!

I have been able to trace some of my maternal ancestors back to County Armagh in Northern Ireland.  They were salt of the earth Irish, with my Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Margaret Boyle, employed as a hedgerow teacher and my Great-Great Grandfather, Patrick Lennon, working as a flax dresser.  Other relatives in that Northern Irish family worked seasonally in Scotland in various distilleries (having, I’m sure, wee tastes now and again).

All of the above explains why I found the following story reported by Katherine Pearson of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law so fascinating.  Catherine “Kitty” Haughey died in 2004 living for the last two years of her life with her godson, Francis Tiernan, in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, my ancestors’ old stomping grounds.  Kitty was a childless widow but she accumulated some interesting assets including a property known as “Annie’s Cottage” and Larkin’s, an Irish family pub.  She also left a substantial amount of cash.

Two weeks before her death she executed a Will leaving the bulk of her estate to her godson, even though a prior Will had only left him 1,000 pounds.  Though Professor Pearson doesn’t explain quite how it was discovered, it turns out that the latest Will was forged by the godson and witnessed by a surveyor and a local doctor, both of whom later pled guilty to assisting in the forgery.

Godson Francis attempted to escape justice by fleeing to Southern Ireland and fighting extradition.  Even at trial he argued that his forgery may have been the wrong way to go about it, but he was only “carrying out the Old Lady’s true dyin’ wishes, don’t ya know”. He was convicted of forgery and sentenced to three years.

He should probably consider himself lucky, though, as an autopsy undertaken after Kitty’s body was exhumed proved she did in fact die of natural causes, else he might have had to face much more serious charges.   Oh the lengths one would go to gain control of an Irish Pub!

Many of my clients wonder why it’s necessary to probate a Will and wonder what the odds are of anyone coming forth to challenge a Will in the first place.  Well, now you know.  In many families there may be unscrupulous relatives like Godson Francis willing to take a chance that they can fool the rest of us and gain an inheritance by such nefarious means.  I know – it doesn’t happen often, but isn’t once enough?   And do you want to take a chance that your Irish Pub (or it’s equivalent) ends up in the wrong hands?