A FATHER and his only son embroiled in a legal battle over a prized collection of vintage tractors have been told by a judge that “life is just too short”.
Thomas Lowther, 88, and Thomas Royston Lowther, 51, once took pride in travelling the country to show up to 80 machines from a bygone era of British agriculture. The collection of Massey Fergusons, Fordson Majors, Internationals and David Browns toured by the pair were the envy of vintage enthusiasts at steam fairs and agricultural rallies all over Britain.
This changed after an apparent disagreement about a hedge and allegations the son had sold off a tractor without giving his father all the proceeds.
Darlington county court was told that when Mr Lowther Sr retired from running a driving school he paid £480,000 into a property in the nearby village of Whinney Hill for his son — with the proviso that a building be erected to house his tractors. His plan had been to avoid inheritance tax and give a home for the collection, worth about £100,000, the court was told. A £55,000 outbuilding was built and Mr Lowther Sr was free to visit as he pleased. After the dispute about maintenance of a hedge, Mr Lowther Jr changed the locks.
The vintage collection was sold off by the son with proceeds going to the father, but in 2013 one tractor sale caused an argument that brought the two before Judge Michael Coulthard.
Mr Lowther Jr was ordered to pay £750 plus £604.28 costs and fees to his father after the judge decided there was not enough evidence to suggest his father got full payment from his son for an International B2275 tractor.
The judge said: “Life is just too short for this sort of thing, it is terrible. This is a single-child family and I hope despite everything, that a line can be drawn under it all as it has got out of hand.”
Mr Lowther Sr offered his son a handshake afterwards. Mr Lowther Jr, a design engineer with the hydraulic motor and pump manufacturer Rotary Power in South Tyneside, said “never”.
This article first appeared in The Times