By William J. Furney
Since my father passed away, almost three years ago, I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to return home. Caught out by covid while temporarily abroad and facing the prospect of enduring weeks of mandatory isolation (imprisonment) at a government-approved hotel in Dublin, Ireland, should I return straight away, I was first stuck in Turkey, and then Spain. But a darker and more sinister and aggressive enemy was lying in wait.
Just over a decade earlier, I had given up my thriving life in Bali, the colourful Indonesian island my family had lived in after moving from the polluted capital, Jakarta, and where I had been running my own newspaper, The Bali Times.
It was with heavy reluctance that I left the tropical Hindu island I thought would be my home forever, but there were reasons that I could not ignore. My children had been taken from me, twice, and my elderly father had suffered a series of crippling health problems, the most recent of which, a heart attack, had put him in hospital (he had tried to recuperate by living with some daughters but, sadly, they couldn’t get on, so he ended back in his own place, alone). My children were in England, my father, a widower, in Ireland.
So there was a twin reason, and there was nothing to do but pack up everything I owned, sell everything I couldn’t bring with me — vehicles, furniture, kitchen appliances, including my stove — and go. My distraught departure, and my arrival in Indonesia some 14 years earlier, I detail in a memoir of my time in the country, Dream of Asia. I wrote it soon after I left Bali but for personal reasons have not yet published this account of my time there.
A decade after my move back to Ireland, I found myself locked out of my home.
I had renovated my father’s crumbling farmhouse so it was comfortable for him in his final years. None of my five sisters helped me, or had done anything to improve the dilapidated state of his home during the time I lived abroad. Yet as soon as I had put a new roof on the six-bedroom country house, rewired it and decorated most of the rooms, one of my sisters tried to claim rooms of her own, putting locks on two bedroom doors when I was away seeing my children.
I had been using one of those rooms as a home gym, and returned from a trip to find all my equipment thrown out and a lock on the door. The sister, who hadn’t lived at the property for decades and lived in a neighbouring county, refused to hand over the keys when my father asked, or to give a copy. Alarmingly, she left electrical equipment, including a dehumidifier, running in the locked room for days on end, when she was not around.
In my pandemic-forced absence, this sister had moved in, during the final months of my father’s life. She would go on to falsely claim she had permanently lived with my father and that she alone looked after him, in an avaricious attempt to swipe what my father had left to me: the property.
In the months and then years following my father’s passing, I had attempted to return home, only to meet resistance from the sister who was newly living in the former family home. By now, she had blocked my number, so immediate contact was no longer possible, and she was only communicating with me via a lawyer.
Finally, I, along with my legal team, which included a co-executor to my father’s clear-cut will (I am the other executor), informed my sister that I would be returning to my home, as was my legal right under my father’s last wishes. We provided a date and I turned up at the gates, with two of my lawyers.
The locks had been changed; the windows were either shuttered or covered in blankets, so no one could peer inside; and there seemed to be no one there. I didn’t try to force entry to my home; I just left, and would sort it out the proper, legal way, rather than cause a disturbance.
Several days later, the squatting sister complained to my lawyers that I had broken her new locks. I had not, and had witnesses — my attending lawyers — to prove it. I have five sisters and I don’t talk to any of them, because they have done little over the years except to harm me and my family.
One one occasion, one sister repeatedly physically assaulted my then-infant daughter and her mother, for no reason (she also repeatedly struck another sister, at the same event, the victim’s wedding reception). Years earlier, this violent sibling physically assaulted me as I slept, in another entirely unprovoked incident. Another sister helped to abduct my children. Other siblings have caused commotions and disturbances and have heaped verbal and other abuse on me. They are toxic people who have no idea how bad they are and I have finally cut them out of my life, for my own good.
There is one last thing to do, because they will not override their father’s wishes and take what is mine. And so now, as the new year dawns, I am back to claim my right.
- Title photograph shows my family home in Ireland in its early days.