Mount Mulligan - North Queensland
mount mulligan town and the mount

The remains of the Mount Mulligan townsite lay scattered at the base of an 18km long, 300 metre long sandstone cliff. Mount Mulligan itself juts imposingly from the craggy landscape and imparts an isolation and foreboding reminiscent of Hanging Rock.

Only 170km west of Cairns via Dimbula, getting to Mount Mulligan involves a few turns and driving on a bit of gravel but nothing too arduous. Visiting the area is possible as a casual day trip from Cairns.

The mountain was named by the Irish explorer, James Venture Mulligan, who had discovered gold at Hodgkinson River and explored and named the area in 1874.

Coal and not Gold

Gold was being mined extensively throughout North Queensland in these early years and the promise of easily won wealth brought hundreds of hopefuls to any new area. But it was black ore and not gold that established Mount Mulligan and the townsite developed around the mining of a coal seam.

Coal was discovered in 1907 and was actively mined from 1914 to 1957. The townsite prospered for a few years and boasted a railway station and a branch line from Dimbulah. Recreation was catered for in the form of two tennis courts, cricket pitches and a billiards hall while the two hotels serviced the needs of thirsty coal miners. Modern conveniences included electricity and a piped water system and a store, bakery and police station filled out the town streets.

The Beginning of the End

At one stage two mines operated from the area and the population swelled to about 350 residents but in 1921 a disaster occurred that signalled the beginning of the end for Mount Mulligan. On the nineteenth of September at 9.25am an explosion occurred within the mine that entombed nearly the whole workforce.

It is presumed that carbide lamps, used to see underground, ignited gases within the mine stopes and caused a massive cave in.

Matin O'Grady was the the first death, succumbing only hours after he was found in the mouth of the mine and in the days following, 74 bodies were removed from the mine. 12 were buried unidentified. They were the entire workforce. The explosion had been heard up to 20km away and it is still the third worst mining disaster in Australia.

The mine closed and then reopened the following year, eventually being acquired by the Queensland Government who propped it up and kept it producing until 1957. The town was abandoned and most of the building were demolished or relocated.

Mount Mulligan Today

Nowadays the surrounding area provides a treasure trove for relic seekers who enjoy poking around the rusted machinery and mine shafts. All that remains is the stack and the old hospital.

Lots of small towns briefly lived and died on the fortunes of the gold they did or didn't produce and remnants of places like Thornborough, Tyrconnell, Beaconsfield, Kingsborough, Woodville, Glen Mowbray, Stewart Town, Dagworth and many others can be seen throughout the region.

Prospecting and fossicking is still a local drawcard for visitors wanting to try their luck at a spot of panning or detecting while the Cairns 4WD Club make regular forays to look after some of the old graves.

The site rests on Mount Mulligan Station who offer farm stay accommodation and camping and can also rustle up a guided tour.

Aboriginal heritage is strongly preserved and the local KuKu Djungan people call the mount - 'Ngarrabullgan'. Evidence of human habitation dates back 40,000 years and the KuKu Djungan believe that this is the birthplace of the 'Rainbow Serpent'. Mount Mulligan hosts the two oldest known aboriginal sites in Queensland.

Read more about Australian Ghost Towns

This article is part of a project to record the history of ghost towns in Australia. If you can contribute any information about any of Australia's abandoned towns please use the 'CONTACTUS' link at the top of the page to send us an email.

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