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Jeannette Leahy, matriarch of Zenag, dies in Sydney


JEANETTE LEAHY, widow of the renowned Papua New Guinea explorer, Mick Leahy (1901-79) died this afternoon in Sydney, to where she had only recently retired, at the age of 90.

Jeanette, then 19, married the much older explorer and gold prospector, Mick Leahy, then 39, at St John's Church, Darlinghurst in Sydney, on 5 March 1940.

Jeannette Gwendolin Best, originally from North Queensland, was an alumna of Sydney Church of England Girls' Grammar School.

At the wedding, equally famed explorer Jim Taylor was best man and Margaret Dovey (later Whitlam) was bridesmaid.

The Leahy brothers had found their own El Dorado at Kuta in the Western Highlands and Mick was already a man of means.

He and Jeanette had five children who went into professions and business.  According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Mick could not acknowledge three mixed-race sons at Mount Hagen, who came under the patronage of his brother Danny and thrived.

After World War II, Jeanette and Mick built up the Zenag Farm business, a major chicken and beef supplier in PNG, situated at Mumeng, halfway along the road between Bulolo and Lae.

Apart from the war years Jeanette lived in the Morobe Province since 1939 until coming to Sydney earlier this year.

Thanks to John Pasquarelli for notifying PNG Attitude of this sad event


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Phillip S Glanville

Peter, it was not that "Mick could never bring himself to recognise his PNG sons." Jeanette would never allow Mick to do so.

Why do you think that Jeanette demanded that they move from the New Guinea highlands to Zenag.

Were you at the early morning 'line', on Zenag? Several times I witnessed one of Mick's 'other' children arrive at Zenag with a piglet for masta Mick. Mick would chase them away, knowing Jeanette was watching.

I learnt a lot from masta Mick!

Leonard Price

Richard, good to see you are still active in PNG. I remember your mother as an elegant lady and my father Joe Price also thought the world of her and we were always welcomed at zenag if we stopped while going to Lae from Bulolo.

Your mother's death leaves PNG and Australia at yet more loss of the great pioneer ladies of the time who built both countries but do not always get the accolades given to men.

PNG was no walk up start for European females in those days and your mother as I recall stood out as a leader.

I have been in Canada as you probably knew since the sixties but still miss PNG. We were blessed just to be able to live there. I get to Australia every other year for 3-4 months and still have the family house in Ipswich and a bit of a farm in Helidon so I keep busy.

Say hello to Tim and send me an email if you have time, I always love to hear anything PNG.

Please accept my heartfelt sympathy at the loss of your mother, Jeanette, a wonderful and beautiful lady.

Robin Mead

Whatever else, the fact is that someone has just died, a lady who was respected and loved by many who knew her.

In such context, both specifically and generally, the use of coarse language is gratuitous.

Phil Fitzpatrick

And yet his brother Danny was completely different. As were lots of others, Jim Taylor to mention one.

I think Mick might have been a bit of an aberration rather than the norm.

I'm waiting for one of the Leahy clan to make prime minister.

Peter Kranz

Well a sad day, and a memory of important milestones in PNG history.

It's somewhat telling that Mick could never bring himself to recognise his PNG sons.

This was a sign of the times.

Sad but true.

But hopefully this is an emotion of a past age - after all, look at the current PNG prime minister.

I don't want to speak ill of the dead, but it is interesting that these early white PNG explorers felt themselves to be free of western morality when dealing with PNG women, but never acknowledged the consequences.

Babies happen if you pus-pus local women.

If this occurred today what would be the result?

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