Grandmother evicted from farm by her son saves kangaroo

Family and friends of a grandmother forced out of her home of 57 years by her eldest son have packed up the last of her belongings – including a pet kangaroo.

Beverley Priestley, 78, had to be out of ‘Salt Glen’ in Carinda, 650 kilometres north-west of Sydney, by Friday night or pay her estranged son Duncan $1,000 for every extra day she was there, a court ruled this month.

Mrs Priestley has been too traumatised to return to the property since the High Court awarded her family’s $3million farm to Duncan, 55, after he contested his father’s will.

Beverley Priestley, pictured with her eldest son Duncan, who is now 55 and gave his elderly mother until just after Christmas to leave the family property

Chris Priestley (left) removes his mother's kangaroo from her home on Friday, with his sister Claire (right)

Chris Priestley (left) removes his mother’s kangaroo from her home on Friday, with his sister Claire (right)

Benny the kangaroo had to be moved from Beverley Priestley's property on Friday afternoon

Benny the kangaroo had to be moved from Beverley Priestley’s property on Friday afternoon

Beverley Priestley with a load of her belongings at her daughter Claire's home at Brewarrina

Beverley Priestley with a load of her belongings at her daughter Claire’s home at Brewarrina

Duncan’s sister Claire and brother Chris, who spent Christmas packing up their mother’s belongings, were on Friday rushing to clear the property before the deadline passed. 

‘Just the last of it really,’ Claire said. 

Mrs Priestley’s pet kangaroo Benny – rescued as a joey from a cattle grid during floods in 2012, was being loaded onto a Toyota LandCruiser to be taken to another farm.

‘Today’s our last day because it’s two weeks since the High Court ruling,’ said Claire of the December 29 deadline. ‘Nice timing.’ 

While Claire and Chris worked to pack up as much as they could before nightfall, their older brother had not been seen. 

Beverley and Gordon Priestley’s wedding photographs packed into the back of a vehicle

Beverley Priestley's children Claire and Chris spent all Friday packing up her belongings

Beverley Priestley’s children Claire and Chris spent all Friday packing up her belongings

Beverley Priestley's daughter Claire feeds Benny the kangaroo before he has to move home

Beverley Priestley’s daughter Claire feeds Benny the kangaroo before he has to move home

‘There’s a lot of history here,’ Claire said. ‘A massive amount of history.

‘We will be leaving things. We just can’t take everything.’ 

The Priestley matriarch has been staying at Claire’s home in Brewarrina, where Beverley was born, about an hour-and-a-half’s drive away.  

‘Mum hasn’t returned,’ Claire said. ‘She can’t face it. I think she’s in shock.’

‘We just can’t believe that Duncan has been given so much.’ 

On Thursday the Priestley siblings had 10 friends helping them clear the house. On Friday they had two helpers still working in the heat.

‘If we hadn’t had the community and friends to get in and help we wouldn’t have got out of here,’ Claire said. 

Duncan Priestley won the property after contesting his father’s will – claiming he quit his job to work on Salt Glen after he was promised the family farm.  

Mrs Priestley was left the Salt Glen property when her ex-husband died, but she has now been left homeless after the property was awarded to her son in an appeal

Mrs Priestley with her 'pet' kangaroo Benny - she is worried she won't find a home suitable for her beloved pet

Mrs Priestley with her ‘pet’ kangaroo Benny – she is worried she won’t find a home suitable for her beloved pet

Mrs Priestley, who first moved to the farm when she was just 21 to start a family, came up with $52,000 to appeal that decision in the High Court – but lost.

Chris, 53, and Claire, 48, sold what machinery they could to come up with the money for the appeal; Chris even parted with his Toyota LandCruiser.

Claire was with her mother when the appeal was thrown out earlier this month and she was told she had just two weeks to leave the property forever.

‘We went outside and just burst into tears,’ Claire said.

Mrs Priestley had to be out on December 29 or pay Duncan $1,000 per day she is still there.

The grandmother was so heartbroken by the final decision she decided not to go back to the property where she raised her three children.

‘She said “I can’t face it”,’ Claire said. 

Mrs Priestley briefly left the home when she divorced her husband in 2004 – moving to a house on the greater family property. She went back to the family home after her ex-husband’s death – and their reconciliation. 

Duncan, pictured with his daughter Catherine, gave his mother until December 29 to vacate the property - every day after that will cost the elderly pensioner $1,000

Duncan, pictured with his daughter Catherine, gave his mother until December 29 to vacate the property – every day after that will cost the elderly pensioner $1,000

Mrs Priestley, pictured outside Salt Glen, ‘burst into tears’ after the High Court threw out her appeal in favour of the previous decision

Timeline of the Priestley family feud

1908 – Priestley family won Salt Glen in local ballot 

1961 – Beverley and Gordon Priestley were married and moved to Salt Glen

1962- Son Duncan was born

1964- Second son Christopher was born 

1965 – Daughter Claire was born

1986- Caramba bought for Duncan

1988 – Riverlands bought for Christopher 

2004 – Mr and Mrs Priestley divorce and children are split in their support

2004 – Mr Priestley changes his will to leave the property to Duncan

2007 – Mr Priestley reconciles with ex-wife and children, changes will to four equal parts

2012 – Mr Priestley changes will again leaving everything to his ex-wife

2012 – Mr Priestley dies  

2017 – Duncan Priestley wins appeal over estate and is awarded the family property Salt Glen by the court 

‘We have been left with the clothes on our back and some furniture,’ Claire said at the time of the court ruling.

Mrs Priestley ‘can barely walk’ because of the shock and continues to cry over the lost farm.

‘I just feel so terrible, I am in shock, I can’t bear to see the place again there are just too many memories there,’ she said. 

Mrs Priestley’s friends offered to put her possessions in their shearing shed but it was the fate of Benny the kangaroo that most concerned her. 

‘I just want a place that will have Benny – he won’t survive without me and we can’t go home,’ she said.  

‘I don’t think our family will ever recover from this – I just don’t know how I could ever speak to Duncan again.’ 

Mrs Priestley was just 21 when she married the only man she would ever love and moved to his farm in the tough, drought-prone country of NSW’s far north to start a family and build a life. 

The Priestley family’s tale reads like a Shakespearean tragedy of love lost and regained. Of family loyalties tested and – ultimately – tragedy.

The NSW Court of Appeal on June 27 reached its verdict in the long-running battle over Salt Glen, the 8,500-hectare cattle and crops property that has been in the Priestley family since 1908.

Brothers Chris, left, and Duncan, right, with their father Gordon Priestley, centre, on the family farm Salt Glen in happier times

Mrs Priestley’s daughter Claire, pictured here with Gordon Priestley, said she had been left devastated after the court ruled against her father’s final will

Duncan, was made the sole owner despite evidence it was against the dying wishes of the family’s pastoralist patriarch and her ex-husband, Gordon.

Mrs Priestley is upset the most recent appeal never made it to hearing as a decision was made on the previous hearing’s papers – as the judges decided the Court of Appeal’s verdict was correct. 

Duncan Priestley, who claims he is the only family member to have worked the farm as his father would have wanted, once vowed to kick his mother and siblings off the property because of the acrimonious family quarrel.

Duncan Priestley did not respond to Daily Mail Australia’s request to tell his side of the Salt Glen property dispute. 

The battle raged for years in the NSW Supreme Court and Family Court of Australia.  

Claire believes she and her brothers, Chris pictured, were given a great childhood

The 8,500 hectare property,  highlighted on this map with previous family titles, has been Mrs Priestley’s home for almost 60 years

The family troubles peaked in 2004 and ended in the couple splitting and the land being split between their children. In 2012 Gordon died and the dispute flared up again. 

Duncan Priestley took his mother, as executor of his father’s estate, to court for unpaid costs for years he spent working on Salt Glen, and a share in the property’s water licence after the property was left solely to Mrs Priestley.

Duncan claims his father told him in 1986: ‘One day all of this will all be yours’ – meaning he would pass ownership of the property to him exclusively, according to court documents.

Duncan says he quit his well-paid job as a surveyor and helped his father with jobs on the farm because he believed it would be given to him when his father died, and he would not have to share it with his mother, Chris or Claire. 

So when his father Gordon called him to his deathbed in February 2012 and told him the farm was to be shared and he was to ‘look after’ his family, he was furious. 

A photograph of the Priestley sons helping their father in the yard – Claire said the whole family pitched in with farm work – not just her eldest brother

Mr and Mrs Priestley in happier times, pictured with middle child Chris

In an affidavit tendered to court, Duncan Priestley revealed a heated argument he had with his father after finding out the property would be shared.

‘We have already paid them out once,’ Duncan said to his dying father.

‘I’ve kicked them off (the land) once and I’ll kick them off again,’ he said.

‘No you wouldn’t,’ Gordon said.

But his son was adamant: ‘Bloody oath I will.’ 

‘You look after them,’ the dying father said.

 ‘Bulls**t,’ Duncan replied, and left.

Gordon and Beverley Priestley divorced in 2004 after the heat of the family feud became too much. Mrs Priestley had sided against her husband and son Duncan and with her two younger children which ultimately ended her marriage.  

As part of the settlement, the greater Salt Glen lands were split into three.

Duncan supported his father throughout the proceedings, paying his legal fees and other expenses.  

Chris Priestley sold this LandCruiser to help with his mother Beverley’s ongoing legal battle

Mrs Priestley doesn’t think she will be able to mend her relationship with her eldest son Duncan, pictured

Mrs Priestley was living in the home with Chris and Claire – until July when Claire moved out

Claire, Chris and their mother took on the family irrigation lands (which have since been lost to the bank) while Duncan and his father ran Salt Glen and the adjoining property, Caramba.   

Claire told Daily Mail Australia Caramba was bought for Duncan in the early 1980s when he was 18 and May Glen in Gilgandra was bought for him around 2000.

‘The farm was divided. Chris and I got the good irrigation country but had to take on the family debt, which was $2.3million, and Duncan and dad ran the rest,’ Claire said.

‘That’s when dad changed his will and told Duncan he would get Salt Glen.’

‘He was in dad’s ear all the time telling him how we were doing everything wrong,’ Claire said.

Gordon went to his lawyer’s office to have the irrigation lands signed over to Chris and to give Duncan full control of Caramba, according to court papers.

Claire and her father, pictured here long after the family feud of 2004 was forgotten by most members of the family

Family patriarch Gordon Priestley pictured in the cattle yards before his death

Mr and Mrs Priestley are to be buried together – after reconciling and admitting their love for each other before Gordon’s death

Claire Priestley standing in front of the property where she grew up

The lawyer, Roger Butler, phoned Duncan to let him know the changes had been made. That conversation was tendered in an affidavit to the court.

‘Duncan, it’s Roger Butler here. Your father and I have just settled all the land transactions and transferred the rest of Caramba to you. He has also changed his will so that everything goes to you. Apart from the land swap with Christopher, everything is wrapped up.’

Gordon and Beverly Priestley remained friendly after their divorce, and by 2007 he had reconciled with Claire, Chris and his ex-wife. He then changed his will into four even parts.

But he didn’t tell Duncan.

Mrs Priestley said that before her ex-husband died he asked her if she would be buried with him as husband and wife.

‘He is the only man I ever loved,’ Mrs Priestley said. 

Mr Priestley, pictured, wanted to leave a will with four equal shares, but after his youngest two children ran into problems with the bank it was decided it should go to Beverley

The grandmother, pictured here in yellow, had to fly in to her ex-husband’s funeral when the lands around Salt Glen flooded in 2012

Beverley Priestley pictured with a family friend next to a helicopter before Gordon’s funeral

Gordon Priestley’s coffin was placed on the tray of a Toyota LandCruiser because of flooding

‘When he asked me if I would be with him I said yes, so they dug his hole deep enough for me to go in there too. 

She doesn’t think she will ever be able to ‘fix things’ with her eldest son. 

 ‘After all this it is too late to reconcile with Duncan. For years I have tried. I have called him on his birthday and other things but he doesn’t pick up the phone. 

The ruling that has landed Duncan Priestley with the $3million property came after he appealed an earlier court decision that Beverley should pay him $293,071.98, plus interest, for back pay and a share in the family water licence.

‘I just don’t understand how one judge can find he is owed $300,000 and then in an appeal he is given the farm which is worth millions,’ Claire said.

‘Or how the judges can overlook mum who has lived here for most of her life and will have nowhere to go.’  

The Priestly family’s former irrigation lands in north-western NSW pictured in 2012

Beverley Priestley (pictured far right) does not want to be left homeless at 78 years of age