When Neville Prescho bought his dream house on the remote island of Tory, little did he realise that the 150-year-old whitewashed cottage that mysteriously vanished would end up as the subject of a high-profile court battle.
After purchasing the Donegal home in the 1980s, the Co Down man ended up losing his beloved property, his marriage, his children, his career as a film-maker and suffered a breakdown.
And while it sounds like something you would read in the pages of a fictional book, Neville’s heartwrenching tale — a true account of one man’s battle for justice — has now been documented in a book that is attracting interest from around the globe.
The House That Disappeared on Tory Island may never have been published had it not been for a chance encounter on a ferry between Neville and Omagh journalist Anton McCabe, who penned the book that is available on internet giant Amazon and at Culturlann.
When Neville first caught a glimpse of Tory he fell in love with the “enchanted island” and the picturesque stone cottage.
Idyllic summers passed which saw Neville and his family enjoy life on Tory before moving to New Zealand — but he did not sell the cottage that held treasured memories.
So it was with a real sense of shock that Neville read a letter from Donegal County Council describing the house as being in a dangerous state following a fire. Bewildered he returned to investigate.
He recalled: “I was standing looking at the island and where my house should have been but it wasn't.
“Instead there was a different white building further back and I can say that shook me to my very bones.
“I could get no information from anyone on the island I spoke to. It was as if they all had collective amnesia.”
There was one man — not an islander but a frequent visitor who was able to give Neville information about his house. That was Anton McCabe.
“I don't know where I would have been or what I would have done without Anton McCabe,” explained Neville.
“He put me in touch with a solicitor who was excellent and after a long number of years we got the case to Letterkenny High Court where the judge awarded costs in my favour but this has taken a real toll on me.
“I am glad Anton has written the book and I expect that some day someone will want to do a film but while I may help them, I won't do it myself.”
Anton said: “I have witnessed the terrible toll this has taken on Neville, it has cost him so much, his marriage, his work and I see how it has impacted on his physical and mental health.
“It has been such a struggle for him to get people to take him seriously, even when he was being treated for a mental breakdown in New Zealand and he told the doctors about how he was a film- maker and how he had a house on Tory Island but it disappeared, they thought it was evidence that he was delusional.
“Thankfully he had a legal team that was so fired up about what had happened to him they were able to get the case to the High Court.”
Story so far
In 1993, Neville's solicitor contacted him in New Zealand to say a buyer was interested in his Tory Island house. When an offer was made of 1,000 punts, Neville rejected it. A month later, the house burned down.
When Neville returned to Tory he found, where his house had stood,a hotel car park, ring-fenced by boulders. No one was charged with arson. But he was awarded €46K by Letterkenny High Court in damages.