The story of P Leahy Pty Ltd is as rich and rewarding as the suburb itself. In 1890 Irish born Patrick Leahy, affectionately known as ‘Paddy’ heard that large acreages of some of Sydney’s finest land were being subdivided and sold in the harbourside suburb known as Mosman. So impressed was Paddy by what he saw he opened a weekend sales office on Military Rd Mosman in an old weatherboard building which was later to become Mosman’s first telephone exchange catering for all 55 subscribers.
As land sales grew and the suburb expanded so did the business and Paddy Leahy would be ably assisted by his wife Ellen (nee Carroll). The family business as we know it was born and as momentum gathered pace Mosman separated from the Borough of St Leonards in 1893 and Richard Hayes Harnett became the first Mayor.
In a young suburb Paddy Leahy was a popular figure indeed. A tall, imposing man, he sported a heavily waxed moustache and became a commanding and highly respected citizen of the district. In 1904 he was elected Mayor for 4 consecutive terms until his death in 1909, aged 54 years. Almost the entire population of Mosman turned out for ‘Paddy’s’ funeral to bid their final farewells. After the 9am service at the Sacred Heart Church Cardinal St, the mourners set out in their horse drawn vehicles, passed closed shops (in honour of ‘Paddy’) heading for the Gore Hill cemetery at St Leonards. As a result of perfect timing, or perhaps genuine Irish luck, the cortege just happened to pass ‘The Oaks’ Hotel, Neutral Bay, as the publican declared the bar open around mid-morning. With their palates duly cleansed of dust from the long ride from Mosman to Neutral Bay, the mourners once again set out and finally arrived at Gore Hill late in the afternoon to complete the funeral arrangements.
Prior to his death, Paddy Leahy had purchased the building on the corner of Military Road and Avenue Road, Mosman which became his office virtually as it now stands today. Heritage listed as a magnificent example of Edwardian architecture, the workmanship on the cedar staircase alone is a tribute to the tradesmen of the early 1900s.
Ellen continued to carry on the business and would be assisted by her brother’s two sons, Sydney and Dalton Carroll. They had arrived from New Zealand and were cared for by Paddy and Ellen Leahy and they both joined the business. However, war intervened and Syd joined the Armed Forces serving throughout the 1914-18 war, reaching the rank of Captain, receiving the Military Medal and Cross. He was given a Civic welcome on his return to Mosman and re-joined the business of P Leahy Pty Ltd early in 1920 for several years before opening his own business in the City known as SH Carroll & Co. A staunch member of the New Guard movement of the 1930’s he was right beside Captain de Groot as he famously slashed the ribbon to open the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Ellen was responsible for the erection of many buildings throughout Mosman. The first of which was a cottage at the northern end of Balmoral Beach known as ‘Oriana’, where she resided for her lifetime. It still stands. She had originally purchased the land for 120 pounds to the high-water mark and at the time campers and artists were also attracted to this idyllic location.
Artists such as Roberts, Streeton, Ashton and even Robert Louis Stevenson would frequent this inspirational part of the world however, as neighbours their ‘joie de vivre’ was not always shared by all. As the artists moved on Ellen purchased their beachfront ‘camping grounds’ and would later build a block of flats that Mosman Council would later purchase and return the land to the public as open space. She possessed an Irish wit which she was never afraid to use if she thought success would result. Once, when showing a house with a magnificent view of Sydney harbour to an Anglican Bishop, she turned and said, “Your Grace, it’s just as well to catch a glimpse of Heaven while you can, isn’t it?” The Bishop twinkled – he took the house.
Apart from her many business activities, Ellen was better known for the tireless efforts she devoted to charities, in particular the Mosman Red Cross and the Mater Hospital at North Sydney. When she began work for the latter cause the hospital consisted of a tiny cottage in a large garden. She was awarded an MBE for her efforts and continued this charity work until 1940 when she died at the grand old age of 77 years.
Meanwhile the real estate business continued to flourish under Dalton (better known as Jack) Carroll’s guidance and like his uncle, he served two terms as an Alderman and was Mayor in 1934. Also one to enjoy the delights of Balmoral, Jack was a foundation member of the Balmoral Beach Club and became its first club captain. Jack also had a life long interest in the history of the Mosman and in 1955 wrote the history of the suburb and he is remembered by ‘Carroll’s Lookout’ at the foot of Edwards Bay Road, adjoining where he lived, named by Mosman Council in his honour. His legacy is evident in his historical papers, publications and photographs, featured largely at Mosman and Mitchell libraries as well as the historical mast of H.M.A.S Sydney erected at Bradley’s Head during his time as Mayor. Throughout his life, Jack was tirelessly assisted by his wife, Eileen, who herself spent considerable time supporting and furthering the cause of many charities. Eileen and Jack’s efforts, combined with that of Patrick and Ellen Leahy is recognized in the Leahy/Carroll Memorial erected at Mosman Square.
1945 welcomed the arrival of Jack’s son Bill Carroll into the practice after serving with the RAAF in WW11. Another generation was about to build upon the foundations set some 50 years before and it was a great time to enter the fold. The war years were over, the country began to grow and so did Mosman. The population topped 26,000, blocks of flats replaced manor homes and strata title ownership replaced company title ownership. The business flourished as rental management grew, strata management was something new and of course sales of residential units, land, houses, semis and terrace shops were brisk. As a qualified Valuer he specialised in resumptions and acquisitions and he was a masterful auctioneer in his own right. His favourite catchcry still rings in many a successful purchaser’s ears ‘…you wouldn’t miss it for $1000 dollars!’ A consummate property professional in every respect, he still found time to pursue his other great loves – family and yacht racing, competing in 6 Sydney to Hobart races, culminating in line honours in 1951 aboard ‘Margaret Rintoul’. A foundation charter member of the Mosman Rotary Club he was renowned for his kindness, generosity and spirit.
1986 welcomed the arrival of Bill’s son Rowan Carroll to the business and later daughters Edwina and Shane and daughter-in-law Alison would also join and more recently granddaughter Isabel. And so, today, the fourth generation continues the family tradition. Real Estate as they say is ‘in the blood’, and the company continues to be the oldest Real Estate Agency practice on the Lower North Shore – remaining in the same family ownership to this very day and unrestricted by any franchise boundaries.
The family continues to impart the same characteristics of reliability, honesty, integrity and trust which have stood the test of time and are synonymous with P Leahy Pty. Ltd. And of Mosman’s original 55 telephone subscribers? One remains to this very day…..