Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Oz town called Mulligan after Ulster venturer

The life of an Ulsterman who struck gold and helped establish the mining community Down Under will this weekend be celebrated - 100 years after his death.

James 'Venture' Mulligan, originally from Drumgooland, near Rathfriland, Co Down, emigrated to Australia in 1859, but died on August 24, 1907 after a bar brawl.

But his achievements as a prospector and adventurer have led to a town and highway named in his honour.

He was largely responsible for the opening of most of the far north Queensland mineral fields.

And - 100 years after his death - he will be commemorated with a Centenary Tour organised by Loretta Sullivan, the great, great, great-niece of Mulligan's brother, George Mulligan in Australia.

Running until August 28, all descendants of the Mulligan family have been invited "to experience the history of the region Mr Mulligan was instrumental in creating".

Ms Sullivan has been tirelessly working on the project, which started as a small get together with other interested parties, but has grown into a full five day tour, incorporating many different activities and towns in the region where Mulligan lived or found throughout his adventurous life.

"Once I started looking into Uncle Venture's life and his discoveries, I have found so many other descendants that are also interested or had information on the family's history. The event has really just grown from there," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

In 1873, Mulligan discovered gold in an area called the Palmer River, and, on August 24 of that year, he reported his find.

The Palmer area was soon overrun by more than 30,000 prospectors, and Mulligan continued to search elsewhere.

He led another five prospecting parties between 1874 and 1876. His travels took him in 1874 to an area west of Cairns in Queensland which was developed into a mining town and was later named Mount Mulligan.

Author and historian Mike Rimmer, who researched the life of Mulligan in his book Up The Palmerston: A history of the Cairns Hinterland , described him as " something of a George Best figure".

"He was flamboyant, unconventional, charismatic, colourful, not interested in material possesions and having a nomadic lifestyle," he said.

"The fact that he died as a result of a pub brawl tends to reinforce this."

Mr Rimmer said: "He roamed from place to place, but after discovering two goldfields he had a bit of money for the first time in his life.

" He could now settle down and he did. He dabbled in a few mining ventures and bought a store.

"For two years he was a respectable businessman and was heavily involved in civic affairs.

"But in 1879 his was declared bankrupt. The fact that Mulligan died in a pub brawl appeals to many Australians - after all, this is the nation that hero worships Ned Kelly."

To discover more, email Michael Rimmer at: mikerimmer43@hotmail.com.

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