Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Melloy, Robert Sydney (Bob) (1897–1995)

by Neville Buch

This article was published online in 2019

Robert Sydney Melloy (1897–1995), real-estate agent, auctioneer, and memoirist, was born on 29 December 1897 at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, second of six children of English-born Charles Frederick Melloy, marine engineer, and his Queensland-born wife Ada Louisa, née Crampton. Melloy senior supervised the coaling of ships in the port of Brisbane and served as secretary of the local branch of the Federated Seamen’s Union of Australasia. Educated at Kangaroo Point State School and part time at the Central Technical College, Bob worked as a telegram boy, storeman, and assistant to a mechanical engineer and gunsmith.

On 6 January 1916 Melloy enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He stood five feet four inches (163 cm) tall and weighed 120 pounds (54 kg). His familiarity with firearms gained him the appointment of armourer staff sergeant in the 42nd Battalion, with which he served on the Western Front from November. Following the Armistice in November 1918, he engaged in larrikin adventures in Europe and in England, where he was granted leave to study draughtsmanship and mechanical engineering. Repatriated in November 1919, he was discharged from the AIF in Brisbane on 2 October 1920.

For about three years, Melloy farmed near Woombye, north of Brisbane, growing bananas, sugar cane, and vegetables. In his mid-twenties, he was appointed secretary of the Southern Queensland Fruitgrowers’ Society Ltd, based at Nambour. The organisation sold farming requisites and received fruit for consignment to markets. On 27 December 1924 at Clayfield, Brisbane, he married, in a Catholic ceremony, Violet Marianne Heindorff (d. 1948), whose family were well-known retailers of musical instruments and jewellery in Brisbane. In 1927 he took over Arthur Martin’s Nambour auctioneering and real-estate business, trading as R. S. Melloy. Moving to Brisbane in 1932, he relocated his firm (later incorporated as R. S. Melloy Pty Ltd) to premises in Queen Street.

The exigencies of World War II strengthened Melloy’s career and his position in the Queensland business community. On 25 March 1942 he was commissioned as a lieutenant, Citizen Military Forces, and appointed to the full-time position of hirings officer at headquarters, Northern Command, responsible for requisitioning property for military use. By August he had found accommodation in Brisbane for the separate headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur and General Sir Thomas Blamey. Thereafter, he spent most of his time at Townsville as deputy assistant director of hirings (in the rank of captain and, from December 1944, temporary major), heading a large team of realtors and office administrators who organised the rental of approximately four thousand properties in North Queensland. His army service ended in Brisbane on 5 June 1946.

Melloy was a prominent member (from 1934) of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ), serving on its board of management (1934–74) and becoming a life member (1966). As president between 1946 and 1949, he announced that the REIQ would seek to be involved in deciding whom the State government licensed as real-estate agents. In addition, he called for a quick end to wartime controls on land sales and urged the Federal government rapidly to vacate its requisitioned offices to make way for peacetime commerce. Federal cabinet appointed him in 1950 to a committee that identified office space, owned or rented by the Commonwealth in Queensland, which could be released to meet the urgent requirements of private enterprise. From 1956 to 1959 he presided over the Real Estate and Stock Institute of Australia. In this role, he visited equivalent institutes in other countries, with the aims of promoting Australia abroad and bringing home ideas that would lift the standing of his profession.

In the early postwar years, Melloy had become a leading auctioneer in south-east Queensland. He sold surplus government equipment until 1977 and private land until his retirement in 1981. Although insisting on professionalism and ethical conduct by agents, he was nevertheless prepared to match deceptive behaviour with subterfuge when he considered it justified. For example, whenever he detected a buyers’ ring combining to keep prices low at auction, he would take bids from ‘a fly on the wall’ (Melloy 1993, 285) to break up the ring and protect the vendor’s interests.

Throughout his life, Melloy helped war veterans and their families. He was the employment committee representative (1938) of the Legacy Club of Brisbane and, as REIQ president, had been able to find accommodation for the organisation after World War II. A keen golfer when young, he was later a member (1941) and president (1953) of the Booroodabin Bowls Club, Newstead. On 6 May 1967 at St Colomb’s Anglican Church, Clayfield, he married twenty-three-year-old Diane Hunter, an REIQ secretary. In 1976 the couple moved to Southport. They collaborated in writing Time Will Tell: Memoirs of a Kangaroo Point Kid (1993). As well as giving a full account of his life and work, it reveals the sense of place he felt when living at Kangaroo Point, in the Nambour-Woombye district, and at Townsville. At commemorations of the significant anniversaries in 1990 of the three raisings (1915, 1940, and 1965) of the 42nd Battalion, and of the 75th anniversary of the Armistice in 1993, he was one of a handful of living members of the original battalion. He died on 23 January 1995 at Southport and was cremated. His wife survived him, as did the two daughters and one of the three sons of his first marriage.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Arnison, Peter. ‘Intrepid Digger Shaped by Defining Experience of Conflict.’ Australian, 21 March 1995, 16
  • Melloy, Robert Sydney, as told to Diane Melloy. Time Will Tell: Memoirs of a Kangaroo Point Kid. Bowen Hills, Qld: Boolarong Publications, 1993
  • National Archives of Australia. B884, Q140965

Additional Resources

Citation details

Neville Buch, 'Melloy, Robert Sydney (Bob) (1897–1995)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/melloy-robert-sydney-bob-25515/text33860, published online 2019, accessed online 14 October 2019.

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