Sam Hanna Bell Samuel Beckett John Hewitt Bernard (Barney) Hughes James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker William Carleton Rosamond Praegar

James "Venture" Mulligan (1837 - 1907):
Explorer and prospector

James 'Venture' Mulligan

James Mulligan was one of the most significant explorers of North Australia, leading some nine major expeditions, during which he discovered some of the greatest goldfields in the region and charted the region thoroughly.

He was born in Drumgoodland, County Down, son of farmer; his middle name was a nom de guerre he gave himself. On 25 February 1860, at the age of 23 emigrated to Australia, arriving at Melbourne on June 10. After failing to gain a place on the Burke and Wills expedition he on moved to Armidale, Queensland, where he worked as a butcher, but soon tired of this, and tried to become a prospector. To this end, he set himself to learning skills from bushmen, and in Queensland he joined the rushes to Gympie in 1867, Gilberton in 1871 and the Etheridge in 1873. At first he had little success, but the expedition he led with six men, setting off in June 1873, to the Etheridge fields, which by the end of August had yielded 102 ounces of gold. This was part of the theretofore greatest goldrush in Queensland, with prospectors, undaunted by torrential rains, violently hostile Aborigines, sicknesses such as typhoid and dysentery, and hunger, pressing on to the Palmer field. For his recovery of gold from there he was paid £1000 by the government.

Mulligan suggested that a port by established at the Endeavour River, where he arrived just one day before a steamer came with 100 diggers, government officials, horses, drays stores and other equipment needed for the construction of the port, named Cooktown. Meanwhile, in 1874 Mulligan headed south-east where he would discover three rivers, which were named the St George, McLeod, Hodgkinson, and Mount Mulligan.

In April 1875, he set off another government-aided expedition in a mixed party of prospectors, surveyors and an aboriginal guide. The party came upon deposits of tin on the Wild River; eventually the town of Haberton was founded near the site. In October the same year, he accepted more financial assistance from the government towards the south-east. Mulligan and his party disappeared for five months, but turned up having discovered another goldfield, this time on the Hodgkinson River. Though this was smaller, it would be the last goldfield he would discover; however, he extensively charted northern Queensland, and did discover Silver valley.

Mulligan was widely respected for his bush skills and religious principles, and his careful but determined leadership enhanced his repute among miners. He became a justice of the peace in 1894. In Brisbane on 5 November 1903 he was married by an Anglican minister to the 47-year-old widow Fanny Maria Buls, née Rolls. On 23 August 1907 in a place called Bibhoora he was fatally injured in trying to protect a woman against a drunkard and died next day in the hospital at Mount Molloy.

Mulligan enjoyed exploration as much as prospecting and was never secretive about his finds. His entertaining diaries, were regularly in the Queenslander, and republished in 1875 as A Guide to the Palmer River and Normanby Goldfields. His name is commemorated by Mount Mulligan, a mining town in northern Queensland; a plaque at Mareeba and the Mulligan Highway, a new state highway in Queensland, Australia which runs for approximately 270 km between Mareeba and Cooktown.

Born: 13 February 1837
Died: 24 August 1907
Richard Froggatt

Wesley McCann

Biographical archive, Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, County Tyrone; Australian Dictionary of Biography