by Rodney Hammett

Lorry owned by J. Meloy Ltd Carriers laden with wool bales at wharf, 1935 (source: City of Sydney Archives)

Max Solling in Grandeur and Grit1 explained that ‘The occupation of carrier provided employment for many in Glebe, but in the final two decades of the 19th century, the number of independent proprietors of one and two horse carts with Glebe addresses shrank from 63 in 1880 to 55 in 1891, and 34 by 1901.’ This is the first in an occasional series about the families behind the carrier-names.

Daniel Meloy (1829-1901) was the first of this Irish protestant family from County Antrim, Northern Ireland, to arrive in Sydney. He was the husband of Mary and father of John (b.1854), Alexander (b.1857), Robert (b.1858), Ellen (b.1862) and Rose (b.1863). The date of Daniel’s arrival has not yet been determined but he was the contact in the immigration documents for Mary and the children when the ship Jerusalem arrived in Sydney on Monday 22 June 1874. Daniel’s address was in Castlereagh St, working as a carter at 45 years of age.

As the eldest son, John would have felt obliged to become the main breadwinner, but he must have had business acumen, too, and a love of horses to establish a successful carrier business. John Meloy became one of the earliest members of the Sydney Carrier’s Association when it was formed in 1880, later being one of the foundation members of the Master Carrier’s Association when it was created in 1901.

No doubt John’s business was a family enterprise that included Daniel and brothers Alexander and Robert. Sisters Ellen and Rose would never see the firm’s success as they died in 1884 and 1886 respectively, both single in their early 20s. Robert also died young, aged 27 in 1885. His mother Mary died in February 1886 at the family residence, Alma House, in Trafalgar St, Annandale.

Amidst this family tragedy Alexander married Eliza Jane Ferris in 1884 and they had two daughters and three sons. The family eventually lived at 76 Taylor St, Annandale which they purchased in May 1904.2 John, at the age of 33, married Florence Eva Coulter in Glebe on 24 August 1887. The eldest of 12 children of Edward and Martha, Florence, born 1867, was a native of Sydney. Her father was from Northern Ireland and her mother from Sydney. Edward Coulter, who was a ‘produce merchant’ and, in 1890 was living in Bay St, Glebe, just down from Broadway. Later in retirement the family moved to 39 Watkin St, Newtown where he died in 1907, aged 66.

We know from when John was fined £2 for non-attendance as a juror in 1893, that at that time he and Florence were living at Leichhardt.3

In the early 1890s John leased a yard for his horses and wagons at Howard St, off George St (west), Ultimo eventually purchasing it in August 1899 for £100.4 The site was described as ‘… a depth of 126ft on one side and 131ft on the other, extending to Blackwattle Creek, on which is erected a range of iron stabling.’5

Blackwattle Creek in the title deeds was described as an open sewer. This was a degraded part of Sydney prone to outbreak of disease, even the plague. The then Municipal Council of Sydney in 1906 resumed the land between current Broadway, Bay St and Wattle St down to Wentworth Park, including John’s property, to demolish the substandard houses and provide proper sanitary conditions with sewers and stormwater drainage. The redevelopment included some of the brick warehouse buildings we see there today.

Photos of the squalid conditions in 1906 can be found in the City of Sydney archives (Demolition Books) one of which from the Grace Brothers tower looking towards Ultimo shows the site of John Meloy’s yard (red outline). The approximate location today would be 16-20 Blackwattle Lane.

This left John in 1906 without a yard. He found temporary facilities in Sydney and Ultimo, but he needed a new site for the expanding business, located close enough to customers in the city and the wharves and large enough for livery stables and a yard.

He looked to Glebe for a yard then in August 1910 purchased a lot on the corner of Lombard St and Palmerston Ave from Henry Thomas Smith and the Permanent Asset & Investment Company6 eventually, by 1916, securing the site shown in the 1939 Glebe map.7

Lynwood (sometimes spelt Linwood), a 1850s house featured in The Glebe Society’s Villas publication, was within this site and became the home for John’s manager James McLaughlin and family. Granddaughter Jean Ross (nee Meagher) recalled after visiting Glebe in 1991 how she and her sisters as children enjoyed playing in the old mansion.8

Sands Directory records show that the McLaughlin family lived in Lynwood from 1915 until James died in April 1932, aged 67. He too was from County Antrim, Northern Ireland and as John’s right-hand man obviously had the same life and business values.

With James managing the day-to-day business of the firm, John and Florence were able to enjoy a more leisurely lifestyle, in keeping with their move to Wahroonga in 1906 where they purchased a 2½ acre lot.9 Six years later, after selling the Wahroonga property, they purchased a number of lots close to Leura involving themselves in the local community and the Presbyterian church.

Soon after their arrival in Leura, in June 1912, John and Florence took delivery of a ‘grey torpedo’ Cadillac car.10  The Blue Mountains did not offer everything John wanted in life so in 1922 he and Florence purchased Durham Park (see aerial photo), a property of almost 30 acres on the Old Northern Rd, Castle Hill. Here John could indulge himself with open space and horses, even registering a stock brand in 1927.11

At the age of 76, on 4 May 1930, John died at Denham Park leaving a modest estate of £6,423, many of their property assets being in Florence’s name. He was remembered for his successful carrying business, being a horse-breeder, his successes at the Royal Easter Show, his association with the Presbyterian church, and membership of the Masonic Lodge Antiquity.12

He and Florence were not able to have children but did have a foster daughter.13

Florence married again in 1933 to Findlay E Munro, a retired master builder/architect and Glebe alderman 1917-19 whose first wife had died in 1928. They both lived at Durham Park.

Findlay died in January 1939 and Florence in September 1940. She left an estate valued at £21,663 which was distributed to a number of charities, family members and friends, including her foster-daughter.14

J Meloy Limited was the registered company name from 1910. The firm decided in July 1920 to be wound up voluntarily with a view to reconstruction under the same name15, trading then as J Meloy Limited (In Liquidation) until 1923 when there was a meeting by the Liquidator ‘…showing the manner in which the winding-up has been conducted and the property of the Company disposed of.’16 Nevertheless the firm continued operating in Glebe through to the late 1980s, changing its mode of operations in line with its customers’ needs.

An advertisement for White trucks and buses proudly listed its major Australian customers in February 1930, including J Meloy Limited having 5 trucks.17

Meloy’s on Ferry Rd in 1992 (photo: Rodney Hammett)