I meant to get this up last night in readiness for today but got distracted and didn’t realise it was the 19th until I filled in some papers today.
In the 80s I went to do an exploration job on the Hodgkinson River and on the way noticed a rather spectacular sheer sided flat top mountain. Thinking about it I decided it had to be Mt. Mulligan, named after James Venture Mulligan, one of our legendary miners, and prospectors, and our most underrated explorers.
It is also the site of Queenslands most deadly mine disaster on the 19th of September 1921, with 75 men killed in a massive coal dust explosion.
Coming round a curve a couple of old chimneys came into view as well as the remains of a town, mainly house stumps. This was indeed Mt. Mulligan.
Passing out the other side of town, up on the right beside the road was a small cemetery.
The mining/exploration industry, while large is still close knit. During the Beakensfield rescue of two miners who were trapped for a fortnight, some miners just hopped on planes and went to Tasmania to see if they could help. There is a strong bond, especially among those who work underground.
It was a touching feeling to walk around among all of those graves, all bearing the date, 19 September 1921. Some didn’t even have proper markers, some one had simply tapped the name and date on a piece of flattened galvanised iron and laid it there. I think that was the saddest part of all.
A great article on it is found on Atherton Tablelands & Beyond.
Mount Mulligan, 170 klms west of Cairns, via Mareeba/Dimbulah is an impressive landmark whose underlying coal deposits supported a small mining town from 1914 until 1958. On the 19th September 1921, a massive coal dust explosion in the Mount Mulligan mine killed all seventy-five or perhaps seventy-six men working underground. The disaster was the greatest Queensland has ever seen. The town was situated at the foot of the mountain, a flat-topped, red-brown cliff which rarely failed to attract comment from visitors.
Mount Mulligan was a distinctive town because it was concerned entirely with coal mining, which wasn’t conducted anywhere else in the North. It was considered to be the absolute dead end and therefore, never attracted incidental travellers or commerce. The mine was never profitable and spent much of its life in the shadow of financial ruin.
Mount Mulligan is chiefly remembered for the day seventy five miners died & the horror of that day, which left a deep impression on the entire community all those who assisted in the disaster. It has been noted that before this disaster, no deaths had occurred at Mount Mulligan and there was no cemetery. The ground was quickly consecrated and the burials held. Even today to visit that graveyard and read the headstones, is enough to make the devil weep.
It is also interesting to note that the day before, the game of cricket was called off, but in the cool of the evening, an impromptu party was held in the local hall and the town sung and danced until midnight. The single men had returned to the hotels still in high spirits and some had pillow fights. It was to be their send off. If only they knew. ………..
The explosion at Mount Mulligan was clearly heard in Kingborough, twenty kilometres from the coalmine.
The response to it was the instinctive one, with the women and surviving men of the town forgetting everything else and converging on the point where the ropeway entered the mountain face. The first runners met a dazed and coal-blackened man stumbling down the ropeway from the mine.
George Morrison was employed by Chillagoe Limited as a blacksmith and tool sharpener. He occupied a small wooden hut a few paces from the mine entrance where he maintained picks and other tools for the men working below. Nearly unscathed but badly shocked, Morrison had almost no recollection of the explosion when questioned by the Royal Commissioners a fortnight later. ……..