PNG educn in ’63: dichotomy & dilemma
Beyond the sunset, the memories survive

Sir Danny Leahy dies in Toowoomba

Pioneer PNG Highlands entrepreneur Sir Danny Leahy died in Toowoomba hospital surrounded by his family on Sunday.

Goroka Chamber of Commerce President Terry Shelley yesterday expressed sadness over Sir Danny's death, saying he was an avid believer in Goroka and the Eastern Highlands who pushed for better services for the people and had a firm belief in the coffee industry.

“Sir Danny was saddened later in life by the downturn in coffee production and continually advocated increased plantings through the school system,” Mr Shelley said. “He was a unique man. Although he was physically a powerful man, he would never be heard raising his voice in anger or resort to violence.

“In rugby league, he was totally dedicated to Goroka Lahanis, which won one competition under his sponsorship,” Mr Shelley said. “The people of Goroka, Eastern Highlands and PNG had been very fortunate to have Sir Danny live and work among them.”

The Managing director of Mendikwae Limited, Mathias Merimba, also expressed deep regret and sadness over the death of Sir Danny. “He was a true Eastern Highlander who made a significant impact in the economic, social, sports and spiritual developmentsin the province since the early days. He came to PNG as a young man and settled in Goroka and became a leading figure in business, sports, fighting against law and order.”

Mr Merimba said Sir Danny had lived and worked in the highlands for more than 50 years before he moved back to his birthplace in Toowoomba.

Sources: Murray Bladwell, PNG National, PNG Post Courier


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Andrew Runawery

Since 2020, the PNG SME Awards, an initiative of Strategic Communications Limited and the publisher of the PNG SME Magazine, has celebrated the success stories of Papua New Guinea’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

These awards recognize the hard work, excellence, and innovation within this vital sector of the economy.

This year, to provide context and honour PNG’s entrepreneurial history, the PNG Business Hall of Fame was established.

Notably, Michael and Jeanette Leahy from Bulolo were inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Sir Jacob Luke, a prominent Trucking Mogul, during the Prime Minister’s SME Breakfast on 28 June in Port Moresby.

As PNG approaches its 50th anniversary, there are plans to further recognise outstanding individuals such as Jim (from Goroka) and Kuta Dan.

Additionally, the induction of Sir Danny could also involve honouring Eddie Collins and Mike Bromley.

For those interested in contributing information or stories related to early European family settlers, you can reach out via email to [email protected]

A special acknowledgment goes to Chris Leahy from the Bululo tribe for providing valuable leads.

Vivienne Wilson

Nico - James Leahy was your father, the son of Fred and Di Leahy. They had a family of three girls and one boy, Matthew, who was the eldest.

Our family lived in Goroka for a time in the early 1970's, when their son Matthew was about 10 years old.

We met that Leahy family socially on numerous occasions. Wonderful memories.

If that Matthew was indeed your father, am I right in thinking that he tragically passed away at a young age in 2001?

I have often wondered what happened to Matthew.

Tim Stanton | Hawaii

So interesting to catch up again about my years in Goroka and my friendship with the Collins and Leahys - particularly Danny Leahy.

I was initially in Goroka for education - but eventually decided to buy a small bookshop.

But first I decided to turn to Danny for advice - thinking I was approaching a formidable mountain.

However, I was overwhelmed by his response to my questions about running a business in Papua New Guinea, and especially in Goroka.

Danny was very upfront, direct and honest. We became friends and I heard his many accounts of his life.

This left such a lasting impression of the life and times that he and others had lived through in the 1970's and 1980's.

Many of us who arrived from the United Kingdom in the initial group hired by then education minister Michael Somare brought with us our predjudices - I guess that could not be helped.

I we all could have known Danny and listened to him, we would have gained the most insightful picture of what PNG was all about.

Since those days, I have felt so lucky to have been able to have had a friendship with him and gained such important insights from him.

RIP, Danny

Ian Fisher

I played half back to Danny as five eight in 1963/64 A rugby teams at Nudgee Junior School & he was so far ahead of any other player, including the opposition teams.

His brother John played 2nd row in those same teams, which was interesting because they were not obviously twins.

Nico Leahy

I`m Nico James Leahy, son of Matthew Leahy. I'm 22 years old and have an older brother, Mischa, 27.

I and the rest of the Leahy family currently live around Brisbane and are doing OK. I feel humbled being part of a family that had such a reputation in PNG.

Peter Nukunts

I come from Nebilyer and from a tribe called Ulga. Joe Leahy, and now his son Jim Leahy. owns Kilima Plantation and the older Danny's Kogua Plantation is now managed by his younger son in Brian.

I heard Terry passed on in Moresby a few months ago after George of Oilmin few years ago. I think,we owe it to the Leahy family in pioneering business and their support in other things.

Mark Ernest Young | Ex Manager, Tigi Plantations

My services as a coffee planter were loaned by my boss John Collins of Tigi Plantations to his brother Eddie Collins and a young Sir Danny Leahy for a few months to improve Asaro Plantation on the outskirts of Goroka.

I shared the Asaro bungalow with John Leahy, younger brother of Danny. We had good times together at Goroka and John accompanied me to India.

I still keep in touch with Anne Collins, John Collins’ wife in Glenhaven NSW.

I would be grateful if anyone could give me the phone number of John Leahy in Goroka.

Also I would like the contact details of kiap Mr Wade and Shirley Wade of Mt Hagen if anyone knows.

Many thanks.

[email protected]

ph +91 9945161371 +91 8861427498 +91 9880383770

Robert Wilson

Sorry to hear about Sir Danny. My wife will be very sad to hear as she, and especially her father, the late Ruipo Okoroha from Komunive in Asaro, were very good friends.
Vale Sir Danny

Mathias Kin

Garry Roche, that is correct. Sir Danny is the nephew of the early explorer Danny Leahy, not the same person.

I met the great man in Kundiawa on one of his rugby league travels in Kundiawa in 1993 or 1994.

Looking at the steep white limestone ridges of Yongomugl, he asked a group of us from the Simbu Warriors team, "Yupla wokabout displa maunten pinis?" [Have you traversed these mountains?]

Nobody answered, so he continued, "Displa maunten na olgeta hap lo hia mi wokabaut pinis taim yu susu yet na bihain mi pilai rugby." [I trekked these mountains and this country when you were at your mother's breast and later I played rugby]

Later I heard from another rugby league great, Joe Gandi, that Danny was a no nonsense rugby league player. By comparison to an average PNGian, he was a mountain of a man but very easy to talk to. Many in Simbu miss him too. RIP.

Marty Mendosa

Thank you Kat Leahy for responding to my query about the Jim & Di Leahy family, formerly (many years ago) of Goroka.

So sorry to hear about Matthew. He couldn't have been much more than 40 when he passed? Was it illness or accident? RIP Matthew.

Kat Leahy

Marty - Jim (Fred) Leahy passed in March last year. Dianne lives in Brisbane. Matthew died in 2001 but the three girls are still alive and well.

Marty Mendosa

What became of Jim (Fred) Leahy, his wife Dianne and their children? The oldest two children were Matthew and Katie.
They lived outside Goroka but owned property in Sydney.
I'd be grateful to anyone who has any info about them. I used to know them socially many years ago but we lost touch. If he is still alive, Fred would be about 80 now and Dianne around 75.


Garry Roche

Yes, Marty, there are Leahys still in the Highlands. Last night I was chatting with Bernie Leahy in Madang, however his brother Brian and his sisters Margaret and Nancy are still in Hagen. His brother John is is Goroka and Terry is in POM.

His brother Dan Leahy (Young Dan) is in charge of Oilmin which was the company of the late George Leahy (another brother).

To avoid confusion it may be necessary to distinguish the older Danny Leahy (father of George and Bernie and Brian etc and of First Contact fame) from his nephew - Sir Danny Leahy of Goroka.

The older Dan lived at Kuta and Korgua outside Hagen. The younger Sir Dan lived in Goroka.

Marty Mendosa

Are there any Leahys still living in the Highlands? I often wonder what became of Jim (Fred) Leahy and his wife Dianne and family - real characters! They had a coffee plantation outside Goroka, overlooking the Asaro River.

Karen Donald

I lived in Mt Hagen in the early 80's and spent some time with Bernie Leahy. Can anyone tell me what happened to him and a contact address. I know he moved from Hagen to the coast.

Mike Richardson

I was a lay missionary for the Catholic Church in the early 1960s and Danny Leahy's property was bordering on the mission site where I was building a Church - think the area was called Ulga.

I enjoyed a few beers and yarns with him over a period. His son used to drive me into Mt Hagen when I was selected to play league for the local rep team.

Danny was losing his sight, if I remember, due to the semi- starvation diet they were on during the war years when he fled the Japanese. A man with an interesting history.

Laurinda Lacey

I spent my early years in the 1950's in Goroka and remember my mum and dad speaking fondly of Danny Leahy. Men like Danny, his brother Jim, Jim Taylor, the Collins and my dad Tom Lacey along with their wives were truly brave, adventurous and amazing people. The harmony in which we lived is gone. We can only hope the contribution such men made will never be forgotten. We can't stop progress and with the guidance of men such as Danny a positive legacy is left behind.

Len Price

when i think of danny leahy i remember a great rugby league player,, a gentleman, and businessman.most of all though i remember his quiet humility and dignity.i am deeply sorry to hear of his the way , idont remember anyone snickering at danny drinking rum and orange which was not a fashionable drink at the the way paddy you would have made ist xv at nudgee if you had stayed on.signed len price formerly bulolo and now canada for the last 45 years. i hope some of those floggings goroka gave bulolo has made me a better man. one can only hope.all the best to dannys family [email protected].

Reginald Renagi

Sir Danny Leahy was a legend and an icon in the Eastern Highlands region of PNG. He gave over 50 years of his young and adult life helping develop the Eastern Highlands.

Apart from this he helped a lot towards many community initiatives and developed sporting codes, especially rugby League. His passion was the Goroka Lahanis rugby league club.

Thank you Sir Danny for your love of PNG and the Leahy family for the contribution you have all made to the development of PNG. May Sir Danny rest in eternal peace.

Frank Earley

Dan was a gentleman. Loved to stop and talk over the fence and did so just two weeks before his passing.

He oozed compassion for the afflicted from his own experience and had an admirable sense of fair play. A pleasure to have known and admired him.

John Duggan

When I was in PNG in the 1980's, as a relatively young man, I met Dan Leahy and Brian Heagney, as well as quite a few of the "pioneers" from the early days of European involvement in PNG. While marvelling at the beauty of the country and the richness of the local culture, I could not help but be impressed and amazed by the determination, guts and courage that it must have taken to do what they did. One can argue about the long term benefit, or otherwise, of external interference in established communities but this is an inevitable feature of human development. Indeed, the more one learns about supposedly innocent tribal cultures, the uglier the picture appears.

One way or the other, these were great and courageous men

Murray Bladwell

The obituary of Sir Daniel (Danny) Leahy in today’s Brisbane Courie-Mail brings back a lot of fond memories of Goroka, Bena Bena and the Eastern Highlands generally. It also gives an important slice of history on early developments in the highlands and the contribution of the pioneering Leahy family.

All the building materials for the Chuave school library [where Murray was head teacher for some years] were donated by Collins and Leahy following a personal approach to Danny. The materials were delivered by one of their trucks on its way from Goroka to Mt Hagen. One of the many good deeds by entrepreneurs like Collins and Leahy and Brian Heagney who contributed so much to community development in PNG.

Colin Huggins

I never met the man, but the Leahys were somewhat of a dynasty in PNG - endeavouring to assist and promote.

And there were many others like the Leahys who opened up areas, brought work and enterprise to the locals. I could go on but I won't.

I wonder what some of those obstructionists in the PNGAA did?

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