Get off my land!

A BITTER Rhins land dispute is heading for the Court of Session in Edinburgh amid claims of intimidation, violence and a denied inheritance.

Police were called out to pensioner Helen Rodger's chalet on the shorefront at Ardwell village, near Stranraer late in the evening on Saturday November 12th after Mrs Rodger, her son Alan, and daughter Carol were confronted, according to Mrs Rodger, by a mob of 11 men.

The chalet is number one of six at Ardwell Chalets, which Mrs Rodger claims are on land belonging to her because she is the illegitimate daughter of the late Sir Edward Orde MacTaggart Stewart, the Baronet of Southwick and Blairderry.

In 1948 Sir Edward ordered in his will that Ardwell Estates be left to his sons and daughters.

Mrs Rodger, who moved into the chalet around three weeks ago says she is the only remaining child of the late baronet.

She told the Gazette: "In 1957, my mother and I were kicked out of our home when Lady Stewart discovered who I was. Now it's happening again."

She maintains that since she occupied the chalet, periodically with her daughter and son, a campaign of intimidation has been waged to get her out.

Fireworks had been launched at the wooden chalet's windows from the beach, her car tyres had been let down, tractors and diggers were driven right up to the chalet's walls, and ropes and signs had been taken down, she told the Gazette.

In the Saturday night incident, Mrs Rodger claims two of the gang of eleven tried to lift her daughter up and physically remove her from the premises.

Days after her arrival on Ardwell Estate, trustees Mrs Faith Agnes Devourgilla Brewis, Mrs Marion Theresa Brewis and Francis Roger MacTaggart Brewis, who all live at Ardwell House applied to evict Mrs Rodger 'and/or persons acting on her behalf'.

The grounds for eviction were laid out in a statement of claim by the trustees placed before sheriff Mhairi McTaggart last Friday.

The claim included assertions that Mrs Rodger had made 'forcible and unlawful entry' into six chalets, that continued occupation would have 'an adverse effect on the value of the chalets' and that the Rodgers had damaged them during their stay.

All the claim's statements were vehemently contested by Alan Rodger in court.

Mr Rodger claimed an amicable meeting had taken place, only two days before the court case, in the Ardwell chalet between Mr Francis Brewis, himself, his sister Carol and Mrs Helen Rodger, at which, he maintained, Mr Brewis had said the inheritance issue could be easily resolved.

For the Ardwell trustees, Derek Layburn, of Rankin and Aitken denied Mr Rodger's claims that Mr Brewis had told the Rodgers that the matter would be sorted out without acrimony.

He said: "Mr Brewis is on a walking holiday in Patagonia and has been for some time. I know nothing of any discussions between him and Mr Rodger."

Sheriff McTaggart ruled that the dispute was too complex for the sheriff court, and allowed Mrs Rodger leave to remain in the chalet if she so wished pending a resolution of the case in Edinburgh, which is likely to involve the central question of who are the rightful trustees to the estate.

Despite the sheriff's interim ruling, Mrs Rodger is too afraid to return to Ardwell meantime, and instead will head back home to Brunston Castle, near Dailly in Ayrshire.

She said: "I can finally go home. No more fireworks or knocks on the door."

Her son Alan said his mother had even gone as far as offering to go for DNA tests, but this had been rejected by the trustees.

He said: "We have offered DNA tests on a number of occasions, but they say they don't want it. What does that tell you?

"My mother has always had a key for this chalet as it is her land, she has every right to be here.

"They think we've smashed up the place or something. There's not a mark on the place as anyone can see.

"It (the claim) says they have asked my mum to leave on many occasions. That is not true - they have tried to frighten her out instead."

Mr Rodgers added: "We put up ropes to cordon off mum's area and a private sign to make it clear where she was staying. But they were all ripped down one night. This is all in the police report. The police have been great during all this, they have been really helpful."

A spokesperson for Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary said: "We are aware of a civil case in respect of part of Ardwell Estate. At this time police are not conducting any enquiries into this case."

Through their solicitors Rankin and Aitken, the Brewis family declined to comment further at this stage.