Mount Mulligan Mine Disaster

While checking the John Oxley Library collection for content relating to mining disasters in Queensland, I was particularly interested in the accounts of the Mount Mulligan mine explosion in North Queensland on September 19, 1921.

A coal mine, reputed to be one of the safest mines of it’s time, Mount Mulligan was the site of Australia’s second worst mining disaster, with seventy-six men losing their lives in the underground explosion on that fateful day.

Mount Mulligan Mining Disaster

Sketch published in “The Worker” following the Mount Mulligan mining disaster, 1921
Negative number 200447, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

At the time, Methodist Missionary George Wesley Brown recorded a brief account in his personal diary on the day of the disaster.

September 19th “…visited the Public School [Chillagoe] about 11 o’clock…first heard of the terrible explosion at Mt Mulligan where 76 lives were lost, not one being saved from the mine unhurt & all eventually dying.”

He gives us a daily account of the sad events that took place in the small community during the next three days, before travelling to Mt Molloy for pastoral work. On the evening of Sunday, September 25, Missionary Brown speaks of ”…faith …kindly light “ and silent prayers for the sufferers of Mount Mulligan. His entry states “It was a solemn service, may it not be in vain!”

Returning to the district on Sept 28th, a small entry refers to the baptism of little 2 mth old, Elsie May, whose father, Robert Spiers died in the explosion. – Cemetery Records Online lists the names of the men who died as a result of the explosion.

Forty years later in 1961, the Queensland Department of Education published a two page account of the Mount Mulligan disaster in the Third term School Paper.

George Wesley Brown wrote,

“ Since that fateful day…so many world-convulsing events have happened that the memory of this, the second greatest mining disaster in Australian history, has somewhat dimmed in the public mind. At this time, however, it deeply stirred the hearts of all Australians, and the response to the appeal to aid the widows and orphans of the hapless miners was magnificent; a true indication of the instinctive generosity of the people when the call is adequate.”

Queensland Department of Education – School Paper (Grades 7. & 8. Third Term Vol. XXIX. No 2, 1961.)

Recent events documented in current Australian history remind us of the enduring human spirit and courage shown during times of natural or man-made disasters.  Human effort, bravery, and spirit continue to be demonstrated throughout Queensland communities in 2011, where history keeps repeating itself.

See our One Search catalogue for images and other collection items relating to the Mount Mulligan Mine disaster of 1921.

Anne Scheu

Library technician – Queensland Memory