Patrick and Ellen Leahy started their real estate business in Mosman in 1890 and it still exists today, in the same family, as P.Leahy Pty Ltd.
The story of the oldest business in Mosman comes alive with reminiscences from friends and family and over 200 images of early Mosman. Celebrate with P.Leahy Pty Ltd over 125 years of the bust and boom of Mosman real estate.
Cast (in order of appearance)
Shane and Melissa Carroll
Narrator: Shane Carroll
Rowan Carroll: He had a rollicking good time, no doubt. Paddy was very much a good-time Charlie…
Shane Carroll: He got the sales…
Viv May: In those days if you had the work, you kept the work.
Virginia Howard: I said oh well, you’ve just got to have the right agent, haven’t you.
Jennie Mackenzie: It’s amazing to think that from the 1890s the Mackenzies still are dealing with Leahys in Mosman.
Narrator: On October 3, 1877, Patrick Leahy arrived at Port Chalmers, New Zealand, onboard the ship ‘James Nicol Fleming’. By afternoon Patrick was on the train to Dunedin, a city that had become New Zealand’s largest since the recent goldrush of the 1860s.
Born in March 1855, the second son of Thomas Leahy and Catherine Shanahan, Patrick was one of six children. All but the two youngest emigrated from Ireland.
By 1881 Patrick had moved to Christchurch and was working as a clerk when he met and married Fanny Josephine Grey. Sadly, four years later, Fanny passed away, aged only 27. After her death Patrick moved back to Dunedin and, perhaps taking advantage of the aftermath of the goldrush, he became a jeweller and watchmaker. It was here he met his future wife, Ellen Carroll.
Ellen Jane Carroll was born in Melbourne in 1863, the eldest and only daughter of Mary Dalton and Thomas Carroll. Soon after Ellen’s birth the young family migrated to Dunedin and a younger brother, Dalton Thomas, known as Thomas, was born in 1865. Ellen Carroll was 27 and Patrick Leahy was 35 when they married at St Joseph’s Church, Dunedin, on 24 May 1890. It was not long after that they set sail from Auckland on the SS ‘Monowai’, arriving in Sydney on 3 August 1890.
In Sydney Patrick and Ellen Leahy lived in the inner-west and within a few years they were running their own real estate agency in Petersham. Patrick Leahy was reinventing himself again – farm labourer in Ireland, clerk, jeweller and watchmaker in New Zealand, and now Sydney real estate agent. Patrick and Ellen Leahy were about to discover Mosman, a Mosman that was being developed by fellow Irishman, Richard Hayes Harnett, and his son Richard Jnr, who would later become Mosman’s first Mayor. Mosman had a big future and the Leahys were going to be part of it.
It was 1890 and Patrick Leahy was one of the first to open a real estate office in Mosman. It was a small weatherboard building on Military Road, to which he travelled by horse and buggy from Petersham every weekend. A few years later this building became Mosman’s first telephone exchange.
Rowan Carroll: The story of the original office is almost as long as the business has been established. A little weatherboard office in a bushland clearing in Military Road was the first set up. It was Mosman’s first telephone exchange carrying all 52 subscribers, of which P.Leahy Real Estate was one. The weatherboard cottage existed for many, many years, in fact perhaps a century. It was moved from its original location on the streetfront of Military Road to the rear of what was Brunskills Pharmacy, which is still a pharmacy in Military Road, for many many years. The Rotary Club of Mosman stepped in and suggested that perhaps it should be shifted to Middle Head. Unfortunately when it was shifted to Middle Head a bushfire swept through and Paddy Leahy’s real estate office was swept away in the fire as well, and that was the end of what was the original weatherboard cottage and also the office of Patrick Leahy’s Real Estate office in Mosman.
Narrator: With the advent of the electric tram from North Sydney to Spit Junction in 1893 and its extension to Mosman Bay in 1897, houses were being built along the tram route and owners were subdividing their land. Speculative builders were buying up this land and houses and shops were being built. The newly arrived residents needed a reliable, trustworthy real estate agent – Patrick Leahy was your man.
Jennie Mackenzie: My family, that’s the Mackenzie family, bought in Mosman in the 1890s. There were three shops. The part of Military Road this is is right near the corner of Raglan Street – the shop that people will recognise most is The Cheese Shop, which amazingly is still in the family after all this time. The other two have been sold, but The Cheese Shop remains a Mackenzie. My grandfather bought the shops when he was still living in the country, it definitely would have been an investment.
Narrator: By arriving in 1890 Patrick was ahead of the pack and it wasn’t until ten years later that he had some serious competition. Raywood, Toohey & Toohey, Stanton, Backhouse & Goyder, Griffiths & Co, Mackenzie & Son were all there in these boom years for Mosman, if not selling then renting.
Ted Pratten: Leahy’s specialised in management really, because they were good at it and they had a good rent roll and good tradesmen. That’s probably their biggest business today, but they’ll be around when a lot of those agents are not. They’ve probably seen a lot of agents come and go in Mosman while they’ve been there – well, I know they have.
Narrator: By 1897 he and Ellen moved permanently to Mosman and both became actively involved in the Mosman community. With his original weekend weatherboard office now a telephone exchange, Leahy’s Real Estate Agency was a little more established and the office had a more salubrious setting as part of the newly-built Post Office Buildings. Business was booming for Patrick Leahy – he was popular, he was gentlemanly, and he was making connections with enterprising men in the real estate world, namely land development partners and speculative builders, Smith and Cabban.
Virginia Howard: The Leahy family and my great-grandmother would both have been in Mosman at the same time. My great-grandmother moved here from Petersham in the 1890s to what is now 1 Mosman Street, into a house called ‘Kitoona’. I grew up just knowing that my grandparents and my mother knew the Leahys.
Shane Carroll: Just running a business without any technology. They probably didn’t have a telephone in the beginning. Everything by hand, everything hard-copy, it’s kind of hard to imagine.
Melissa Carroll: And it made it much more of a people business as well, so you really did make hard and fast relationships because everybody had to come in and pay their rent, you had to do the transactions face-to-face rather than online. So who you are was definitely more reflected in the business a lot more than today where it’s all about your website. That website didn’t exist; it was you, your personality, your ability, your charisma, your likeability that would have made the business.
Narrator: Like Smith and the Harnetts before him, it seemed only natural that Leahy too would follow in their footsteps as Mayoral developers on Mosman Council.
Virginia Howard: Agents and land developers were very much needed back then. You needed to subdivide and you needed to get as many houses as possible. But it’s a very different world now where you can get such enormous financial advantage if you’re an agent on Council. I mean, you hear of it but it’s certainly not a nice idea.
Viv May: The reason why the Mayors were developers, because they were opening up these communities and they were leaders of the communities. I have no doubt they substantially benefited from their roles and the same thing just wouldn’t be tolerated today. I would think that Patrick Leahy wasn’t the only developer or real estate agent who was a Mayor of a metropolitan council in Sydney, Melbourne, or anywhere else in Australia. It’s a different era, things have changed, there are a lot more ticks and balances and checks and balances and I think to a degree people are a lot more greedy in this world than they were in that world.
Narrator: Patrick Leahy was elected to Mosman Council in 1902 as an Alderman and by 1905, due to his popularity and great contribution to Mosman’s activities and civil affairs, he was elected Mayor. He would continue to be elected Mayor every year until his untimely death in 1909. Almost the entire population of Mosman turned up to his funeral at Sacred Heart Church, Mosman. The farewells continued as the mourners in horse-drawn vehicles passed by the shops on Military Road, all with their doors closed in honour of Patrick Leahy. Along the way a welcome mid-morning drink was offered by the publican at The Oaks Hotel at Neutral Bay and by late afternoon Patrick Leahy reached his final resting place at Gore Hill Cemetery at St Leonards.
Prior to his death Patrick had set up his office and residence on the corner of Military and Avenue Roads. This is the same building the family business continues in today, thanks largely to Patrick’s wife, Ellen, who would prove ready, willing and able to carry on the business after her husband’s sudden death in 1909. As great-niece Noreen Powell described her, she was the brains, she was the doer.
Rowan Carroll: On Paddy’s death Ellen was left in charge of the business. Ellen was a most industrious, forthright, clever, sincere woman who knew exactly what she was doing when it came to real estate.
Shane Carroll: Running a business as a single woman in 1909 is just extraordinary – women had only had the vote from 1902, so this was really something, and just the way she then went on to be a property developer, buying the best land to put her own house on at Balmoral Beach was a pretty smart move.
Narrator: Apart from running the real estate business and buying up land herself, Ellen was responsible for the erection of many buildings in Mosman. These buildings included five shops at Spit Junction and at Mosman Junction three shops from 175 to 179 Avenue Road. Ellen Leahy also owned land at the northern end of Balmoral. The Balmoral Beach Club, established in 1914, was built on her land and further north in the 1920s she built her home, ‘Oriana’, which still stands today.
Shane Carroll: She’s just a story of doing things really against the social and economic odds.
Melissa Carroll: She had it innately, she was innately a businesswoman. She took Mosman Council for a ride a few times about that property next to the Beach Club that had no building on it and they wanted to buy it from her for a ridiculous amount and she wouldn’t sell. So instead she built this block of flats there, this liver brick, horrible, right on the beach, horrific thing, and then sold it back to them years later for ten times more than what they were asking previously. So she kind of took it back to them, which is, you’ve got to have a personality to do that and be able to try again and succeed. Amazing and capable, but I think she was quite tough.
Rowan Carroll: She bought and sold many properties throughout Mosman. She built them, she sold them, she redeveloped them, she did everything. Her era of ownership of the business and guidance of the business was perhaps the foundation proper.
Narrator: Not only was Ellen Leahy business-minded, she was also community-minded. She was active in the Balmoral Beach Club’s affairs from its earliest days and elected the first Ladies President when women were admitted to the club in 1920. Her continued involvement in the club saw her become the first woman to be named a Balmoral Beach Club Life Member in 1927. In 1930 she was honoured with an MBE for her charitable work, including having been on the Executive of the Red Cross for 15 years.
Shane Carroll: She was just on a mission to really contribute, not just to the community and not just to business, but just the whole package – the way she looked after the community, she looked after the family. She was not afraid of progress. I wish I could have met her.
Narrator: Ellen Leahy, a successful businesswoman, community-minded and charity worker also cared for her brother’s two boys from the late 1890s. The eldest boy, Dalton Carroll, known as Jack, was born in New Zealand in 1886 and came to live with Ellen and Patrick when he was ten years old. Younger brother, Sydney Hubert, known as Sid, was born in Sydney in 1891 and he too was cared for by his aunt and uncle from an early age.
Shane Carroll: She did an enormous amount of work for charity, raising huge amounts of money. We all know that ladies’ committees and ladies’ clubs were very strong in that time, but she really made some things happen. As Melissa said, negotiating with Council to develop property, negotiating all of those things, and then the maternal side – obviously I have to look after these two boys because that’s going to give them the best opportunity, I have to look after the business to be able to hand that on – she just brought everything into the picture. I’d be surprised if there were many like her at that time.
Narrator: Jack went to school at Fort Street High and on leaving school joined P.Leahy’s in 1902 and at the same time started work as an apprentice carpenter.
Rowan Carroll: Jack Carroll’s job in the morning was to walk along Balmoral Beach to the paddock, also on the beach, to fetch the horses and drive up Raglan Street and park them in the stables at the rear of the office. His day would start early, he’d round the horses up on the corner of Raglan Street and The Esplanade and the evening was similar, so he would return the horses down Raglan Street, let them loose in the paddock, having done a full day’s work from dawn till dusk.
Narrator: After Patrick Leahy died in 1909, Jack was needed more than ever in the agency to assist the newly-widowed Ellen Leahy. She was insistent when the First World War broke out that Jack not join up as she needed him in the office. With his younger brother Sid and many of his friends going off to war, he was resentful of the power Ellen Leahy exercised over him.
Melissa Carroll: Two boys, you would expect, they’ve gone to live with their aunt and uncle, brought up by them, there’s a certain amount of onus they would feel, and I imagine in that era they would have told them about that. So it was really one of you can go, one of you has to stay, someone has to take the business and roll with it when I’m gone – it’s going to be you. You can feel that iron fist in that. I think even Noreen says that Jack did whatever she said, and obviously Sid didn’t, so it was a clear path as to who was going to go and who was going to stay.
Noreen Powell: Sid went to war and Dad wanted to go, but Ellen Leahy wouldn’t let him. She said no, you have to stay here. Her husband was dead then – you have to help me run the estate agency, you’re not allowed to go – and Dad always resented that in a way. But she had him under her thumb and he just did what she said. She said you’re not going to war and he felt awful about it, as you can imagine. So Sid went to war and came back and couldn’t stand it and went to live in the eastern suburbs to get away from it all.
Narrator: Sydney Hubert Carroll served in the First World War, rising to the rank of Captain and receiving the Military Cross. His stint at Leahy’s was rather short-lived. He did stay in the real estate world and set up his own business, S.H.Carroll & Co., in the city and the eastern suburbs. Tragically, in May 1942, he died at the age of just 50 when his car collided with two trams on New South Head Road at Rose Bay.
Melissa Carroll: Sid comes back from the First World War, goes to work in the family biz, which his brother has been working in, but, according to Noreen, just can’t handle Ellen, she’s just too tough. So he goes off to the eastern suburbs, opens up his own real estate. Someone as tough as that, who can get through World War I, can’t handle a woman like this and has to move away – you start to get a real essence of what she was like.
Narrator: From Jack’s early days in his uncle’s office he became interested in Mosman’s history and P.Leahy’s was the perfect place to feed his passion. This was the beginning of a lifetime of collecting and preserving Mosman’s past. It was not only for himself and Leahy’s, but for the Mosman community and beyond. Like his uncle, Patrick Leahy, Jack served on Mosman Council at a time when he was also the foundation Captain of the newly-established Balmoral Beach Club. Later, he came back to the Council and served from 1932 to 1937, including a term as Mayor in 1934.
In May 1924 Jack married Eileen Cansdell, who had grown up in 61 Bradleys Head Road, Mosman. She met Jack while working at the Commonwealth Bank across the road from P.Leahy’s and together they had three children – William, Patrick and daughter Noreen. Like Ellen, Eileen was a great charity worker.
Helen Tennant: Eileen, yes, I knew her very well. She played bridge for the Far West. The boys, Bill and Pat, used to say, ‘Oh Mama is at the wild west party this afternoon’. She was a delightful lady, she really was, she was so gracious. She did a lot of charity work – a very good woman.
Ellen passed away in 1940 and in 1945 Jack was joined at Leahy’s by his son Bill. William Dalton Carroll, known as Bill, was born at his mother’s family home, 61 Bradleys Head Road, on 23 August 1925, the eldest son of Jack and Eileen. Growing up, Bill and his younger brother Pat were inseparable – sailing, rugby, schooling, camping and Balmoral Beach were their life. After their school years Pat went into the building trade and Bill, after training as a navigator with the Air Force during the Second World War, joined the family real estate business. His father, Jack, was keen for him to join Leahy’s, but his mother Eileen was not so happy about the decision.
Shane Carroll: The expectation was that Dad would take over the business regardless of what other ideas he might have, and I think there were other ideas, like going to university and studying engineering. But that was the era, you hand over the business and you look after the legacy.
Rowan Carroll: So Bill’s position, when he took over the business, was interesting. He combined the new facets of real estate, which weren’t previously a feature perhaps of the early days of real estate. He became a managing agent, collecting rents, he became a strata managing agent looking after blocks of flats, he became a valuer of real estate and well-renowned as an excellent valuer, specialising in acquisitions and resumptions of land for Council and for the DMR at the time. He was also an auctioneer, a bookkeeper – in those days he was one and all and did it beautifully.
Ted Pratten: He did his own auctions. Of course any prospective buyer is nervous and just wants to get on with it and Bill is just about ready to get on with it and he says, “But just before I go I’ll give you a bit of history about the street and the area”, and he would start on how the street was named and who it was named after and any other points of interest around, but of course the people who were waiting to bid were getting more and more nervous, but he was completely oblivious to that, and then he’d get on with it. But he was effective as any other auctioneer.
Melissa Carroll: You needed somebody to take down the bids, so you’d just sit up there and he’d ask where you were up to, what was the last bid, in case he lost track. So you’d sit up on stage at Mosman Town Hall with your pen and paper and try and keep up with the thousands as the bids would go up and every now and then he’d have to come and check and whether you were right or not, at ten, wasn’t really in my mind. It was just about watching this auction go on in the Town Hall and the projector with all the slides in it that would come in sideways or upside-down or not at all, just blank, like a big white wall. It was just ridiculous. And every auction that he’d start he would have to tell an Irish joke first. I think it was an unspoken tradition that he’d get up there and it was just a chance to do a little Dave Allen and tell an Irish joke – but he wasn’t too good at it. But they were so bad they got that B-grade laugh.
Shane Carroll: He got the sales.
Melissa Carroll: Yes – but that’s the way things were, it wasn’t hugely professional. It was just a job that needed to be done, so whether a ten year old did it, took the bids or whether the slides were upside-down didn’t really matter, as long as the job got done. And yes he did he sold plenty of houses that way.
Shane Carroll: Personal charisma goes a long way.
Edwina Carroll: His auction style was very natural and people liked coming to his auctions. He had a bit of a local following I suppose.
Graham English: You always deal with the people you know, you don’t deal with strangers. Dad was always saying that Jack was a solid man and Bill was good, so that’s why we always stayed with Bill, and Bill sold the house in Park Avenue for us and Dad bought the unit in Stanton Road off him. He sold the property at 700 for us and got the record price for that era.
Edwina Carroll: He’d rattle off three or four auctions in one morning, get them all sold, bang the hammer down, then get out of the office and drive down to the boat to get to the start line for the yacht race.
Graham English: Bill Carroll took my place to go to Hobart because he was a navigator. I went around to pick Bill up and he came out and yelled to Rowan, ‘Tell Mum I’ll be home on Sunday’ – this was Friday afternoon – and picked his little bag up from behind the geraniums as we walked out! At his funeral they said he was a bit of a larrikin, they knew the Carroll boys down at Balmoral.
Narrator: Bill proved to be a natural salesman at Leahy’s and successfully combined business with a commitment to the Mosman community and helping others.
Ted Pratten: His advice on certain properties that he thought were reasonably priced, cheap at the time, that were in a favourable position and that would be good value in the future, and every time I go past the newsagency in Mosman Junction, that was one of them, right in the centre of the Junction, which he’d pointed out, he said it’s the best site in Mosman and it was for sale at a reasonable price, probably 1965 or somewhere around there – and I didn’t buy it. Had I taken his advice and bought around here it would have been much different because apart from the fact that you’re getting an income from it, the end-game was much greater. I should have stayed in my own backyard.
Edwina Carroll: Dad’s style of selling was very natural. He was a born salesman I think, because he had a very broad grin and smile and that seemed to please a lot of people. One of my main observations when I started was seeing people walk into the office in rage – something had happened in the strata building, a pipe had burst and the plumber hadn’t come quickly enough, so they’d come in with fire coming out of their ears to Dad, saying ‘Fix it, Mr Carroll, get the plumber straightaway!’, and Dad would pacify the person, get the plumber there, arrange what had to be done, and they’d always walk out smiling and shaking his hand.
Viv May: He was nature’s gentleman, a really nice guy, smoked like a chimney, loved a beer.
Jennie Mackenzie: I used to go and sit at Bill’s desk and chat everything out and see what to do and get his good advice, and of course that continues.
Graham English: We always found him good, and Bill always explained to me things he had to do properly and also things that were going on in the area and information he gave me – even when my father was dying, he was like a father to me.
Viv May: He was very, very well-known in the community, I think a very generous man too.
Edwina Carroll: In the old days he’d pretty much hire anybody that he thought would need a job and if there was a spare seat, and if there wasn’t a spare seat he’d find one.
Sitting in auction rooms when I was a child, listening to his banter and the way he dealt with people. Just the day-to-day – it never left him though – people would find him at home. He was always on the telephone at home dealing with problems.
Viv May: I first met Bill Carroll in March 1970 when I started at the Council all those years ago. Obviously things were very different to what they are today in local government. But Bill was the Council’s valuer and he used to come in and have access to the rate books – I have no doubt that he was also getting information for his own private practice as well, but good luck to him – as I said, things were different in those days. But he helped the Council with the purchase of all of the carparks. He was trying to extinguish easements for the Council and get dedications of land, and in that time, in the late 60s, early 70s, there was a lot of development going on in Mosman, residential two and three storey blocks, and Bill used to help the Council get those bits of land off the respective developers for as little as possible. I think Bill Carroll would have saved this community hundreds, if not millions, of dollars over the years. In those days, if you had the work you kept the work.
Narrator: He was a founding member of the Rotary Club of Mosman and the first meeting was held in his office at P.Leahy Real Estate in 1961.
Virginia Howard: I met Bill Carroll in 1969 when I joined Mosman Rotaract which had just been formed and he was a big part of the next few months as we got organised and had our charter night in February 1970. I can just see him now, a very handsome man and very intelligent, beautiful manners, and always very courteously interested in anything you had to say.
Viv May: Bill Carroll worked for Rotary. He’d be around selling raffle tickets to the staff, just wandering through the office as if he owned it.
Narrator: Having Bill in the office allowed Jack more time to collect more material on early Mosman. It seemed only natural that Jack would become the Council’s honorary historian in 1949, and in 1953 he founded the Mosman Historical Society. The photographs and records he collected formed The Carroll Collection, which is now in Mosman Library and online, a lasting record of Mosman’s early history and Jack Carroll’s service to the community.
Around this time Helen Tennant joined P.Leahy’s and remained with the business for 36 years. She called Jack ‘Pa’ and had a close relationship with the Carroll family, a relationship that continues to this day.
Helen Tennant: Jack Carroll said to me, “Don’t call me Mr Carroll, call me Pa, everybody calls me Pa.” He said, “If ever you need a job just come and see me and I’ll have one for you.” So I went in – “Yes, sure Helen, you can start on Monday” or something – and that’s how I started and that was in 1957, and 38 years later I retired from Leahy’s. I did everything in writing and typing. I did the receipts in writing, but by the time I left I could actually do that on a computer. There were two big ledger books, that’s where all the rentals were – all the properties, the owners and the tenants and the amount they paid every week.
Shane Carroll: I can definitely remember coming into the office as a young child. The tram stop was just outside the office and I remember getting on the tram and paying tuppence. I loved the wall telephone with the speaker, and the beautiful big oak counter with all these great books that weighed a ton, all meticulous, every entry of every rental was in fountain-pen. The office was full of smoke, they all smoked. It was a very busy place, people coming in and out and chatting and paying their rent – it was busy, busy, busy. There were lots of things to go in envelopes obviously, this was before the world of email, so everything was hand-written and put in an envelope and stamped or hand-delivered, because I think Dad was doing a bit of cost-cutting. We’d do the run in the morning and deliver all the invoices.
Edwina Carroll: My first memories of coming into the office as a child was first of all the smell. It always had a particular smell, it was all the timber in the office, there was lots of panelling and sun, because it faced east, so it had this particular smell about it. We were always being dropped into the office in the school holidays or after school or in between times when Mum and Dad were busy or they had to put us somewhere, so we grew up on the office floor.
Narrator: In 1966 Carroll’s Lookout at the foot of Edwards Bay Road was officially opened and dedicated to Dalton ‘Jack’ Carroll in recognition of his service to the community of Mosman.
Jack passed away in 1970, leaving behind a fine collection of early records of Mosman, and of course, thanks to Jack, the family tradition of Leahy’s continued to flourish. In 1986 Bill’s son Rowan joined the business. Rowan and Bill worked alongside each other as a team. While Rowan was bringing Leahy’s into the computer age Bill was the front man, keeping up the contacts.
Rowan Carroll: My years started in 1986, so 2016 marks 30 years in the business. So 1986 was certainly a boomtime, coming into a boom period – 1987, 88, 89 were great years in real estate. Perhaps that was fortuitous and perhaps that encouraged me to stick around a bit longer. But at the same time as there was boom there was also bust. I think we probably all recall Black Tuesday in 1987 when the stockmarket crashed and I remember having auctions on the following Saturday, which were all warming up to a wonderful experience of gangbuster prices, but of course everything fell flat. There was not a bidder in sight, the streets were vacant, it was a desert, nothing happened.
Bill’s sense of teaching was learn by yourself, make mistakes, and if you do make mistakes you have to get out of them yourself. One house was being eagerly pursued by three potential purchasers. Bill of course could never say no and he said yes to all three potential purchasers. That was fine, except that was a Friday and on Saturday he was leaving for Russia. On the Monday they all approached the office saying that I had sorted it out. With three potential purchasers to sort out and Bill in Russia I knew nothing of what was going on, and a month later he returned from Russia none the wiser.
Narrator: In 1989 Rowan’s younger sister, Edwina, commenced her real estate career at Leahy’s.
Edwina Carroll: Dad was really busy and he kept intimating that I should go and help him because he was really busy and could do with an extra pair of hands at an open-for-inspection or an auction or in the office or anything. Then one day, a Saturday, I just remember standing in the office and he said ‘hold this’ or ‘come with me’ and that was the beginning. That was about June 1989, just the end of the boom, so it was still busy but it wasn’t as frantic. We learnt from his style of dealing with people. A lot of it is not worry about the small stuff, just let them have their rant or what they want to say, say yes, nod and smile and then just deal with it if you have to.
Rowan Carroll: We were one of the first computerised offices. We took it on with gusto. It was a magnificent and most wonderful thing to do. It streamlined the office. Helen, who was to be with the firm for 38-40-odd years, accepted it, not willingly, but realised that was the way forward. So the computer age dawned. Around the late 1990s-2000 we created a website and at the time realised the potential the internet could really have, and to this day of course it is the most valuable selling tool in any real estate office throughout the world.
Edwina Carroll: We’ve kept up with technology and I think that’s very, very important today. The way real estate has grown it’s very much marketing is the priority and we’ve had to keep up with that to stay afloat really in this competitive world of real estate.
Narrator: Rowan gradually took over the management of the agency from Bill, who continued at Leahy’s until the early 2000s, and Rowan’s wife, Alison, joined in 2007. Bill passed away in 2009.
Edwina Carroll: So we have a property portfolio, thanks to Dad, still, and some of them are the same clients and we’re just dealing with the next generation now. They’ll sell a property and hopefully we get that back to rent and sell it again. So a lot of the investment portfolio we still manage many years later.
My role today in the office – we always say anything and everything, because we do rentals and sales. We do a little bit of our own handyman jobs, often taking off the high-heeled shoes and attending to somebody’s maintenance that they might require.
Narrator: Bill’s eldest daughter Shane and more recently Rowan & Alison’s daughter Isobel, representing the fifth generation, are the weekend reinforcements when needed. The family speculates Leahy’s is the fourth-oldest family-founded, family-owned and family-run real estate business in Australia.
Edwina Carroll: We are the same, and that’s what most people like, most clients like when they ring up Leahy’s Real Estate – same number for the last hundred-odd years – they will get a Carroll and usually, because it’s an open office, we all know what’s happening. Definitely there’s a lot of family pride in the business because it’s our name.
Narrator: With over 125 years of continuous operation, Leahy’s has contributed not only to the real estate world, but to the Mosman community. The business and the building is part of Mosman’s rich heritage and the Carroll family are firmly in control of the future of the real estate agency that Patrick Leahy established so long ago.
Viv May: Leahy’s in Mosman is a tradition and I think it’s a tradition that will live for many, many years.
Jennie Mackenzie: It’s amazing that as I was treated when I was young and first inherited the properties, I’m still treated almost like family.
Virginia Howard: I think it does look old-fashioned, but the values that they have are old-fashioned in terms of reliability and honesty and just being decent people.