Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

County surveyor for the West Riding of Co. Cork, 1834-1846. Edmund Leahy, a younger son of PATRICK LEAHY  PATRICK LEAHY and his wife, Margaret (née Cormack) was born circa 1814, probably in Co. Tipperary. He received his basic training as a land surveyor and engineer from his father, and he also claimed to have been a pupil and 'pet' of ALEXANDER NIMMO ALEXANDER NIMMO . In 1830, when he was about sixteen, he and his father and his elder brother DENIS LEAHY  DENIS LEAHY were brought to England by Nimmo to survey a proposed new line of railway from Liverpool to Leeds. From 1831 to 1834 they were engaged, among other enterprises, in preparing maps of the city of Waterford for Waterford Corporation. Edmund was also employed as a civil assistant on the Ordnance Survey in Co. Donegal from August 1833 until January 1834.

In May 1834 Edmund was appointed county surveyor for the West Riding of Co. Cork, at the same time as his father was appointed county surveyor of the East Riding. The fact that father and son between them controlled public works in the entire county and were also in private practice together - assisted by Denis Leahy and another brother, Matthew - gave ample scope for abuses of the system, which led to the dismissal of Patrick Leahy for fraud in March 1846. Edmund Leahy had already resigned his post in January 1846 after he had been refused leave of absence to pursue his extensive railway schemes for the south-west.(1) The only one of these schemes to materialize was the Cork & Bandon Railway Co. The Cork and Bandon line was authorized by Parliament in July 1845, and work started in September, but ten months later, in July 1846, Leahy was dismissed from his post of chief engineer for neglecting his duties while he pursued other railway schemes. In 1847 he sued the company for £8,000 in damages, and, after a long and expensive hearing in Dublin, was awarded £325 with six pence towards his considerable legal costs. Pettigrew & Oulton's Dublin Almanac for 1847 lists 'Mssrs. Leahy, engineers' at 28 Westmoreland Street, Dublin, but, after the court case ended in November 1847, Leahy, whose reputation as an engineer in Ireland had been irreparably damaged, moved to London. On 8 July 1848 he married Catherine King FitzGerald in London. The following January he set sail for the Cape of Good Hope with his new wife, his father, three 'Misses Leahy' and three 'Masters Leahy'.

Leahy's colourful later adventures, which took him from the Cape, to Greece, Turkey, Jamaica and finally to Colorado, are recounted by O'Donoghue. He ended his career as manager of the Finsbury Park Turkish Baths in London, and died, apparently accidentally, when he was run over by a train near the Edgware Road station of the Metropolitan Railway. He was buried in St Mary's Roman Catholic cemetery, Harrow Road.

ICEI:  founder member, 1835.(2)

Addresses: Work:(3) 20 South Mall, Cork, 1846; 28 Westmoreland Street, Dublin, 1847.
Home: Bruin Lodge, Cork, 1846.(4)



This entry is condensed from Brendan O'Donoghue's definitive account of the lives of Patrick Leahy and his sons, In Search of fame and fortune: the Leahy family of engineers 1780-1888 (Dublin: Geography Publications, 2006). A more condensed account of Edmund Leahy's life is in the same author's The Irish County Surveyors 1834-1944 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2007), 234-237.

(1) In the same month he was granted an English patent England for 'improvements in locomotive carrages, intended to be employed on ordinary roads' (Civil Engineer & Architect's Journal 9 (Feb, 1846), 64.
(2) Photocopy of transcript of minutes of first meeting of Engineers' Society of Ireland, 6 Aug 1835, in IAA, Jones File F73.
(3) Sarah Bendall, ed., Dictionary of Land Surveyors and Local Map-Makers of Great Britain and Ireland 1530-1850 (2nd edition, 1997), II, 309.
(4) Slater's Directory of Ireland (1846).

2 work entries listed in chronological order for LEAHY, EDMUND

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Date: 1838
Nature: Enlargement and improvement: 'Edmund Leahy, civil engineer. Matthew Parrett, Archt.'
Refs: Inscription on bridge

Date: 1845p
Nature: Viaduct 'on a novel construction' proposed by 'Mssrs. Leahy' consistingof 3 equal spans of 240 ft each with stone piers 'in the Doric style'; 'there is neither a mortice and tenon joint, or a spike or nail in the entire structure, nor will there be any necessity of centering for its erection'. First stone laid, 18(?) Dec 1845.
Refs: B 3, 26 Apr 1845, 201;  Cork Constitution, 25 Dec 1845 (information from Roger Herlihy, Cork, Jul 2011).