James Venture Mulligan holds an important place in the history and development of the Cape York region and is widely credited with supporting and encouraging the exploitation of gold discoveries in the Palmer River region as well as elsewhere. The initial discovery of gold was made by the Cape York exploration party which was led by Frank Hann, however it was to be James Mulligan who explored beyond the site of these initial finds, locating good sources of gold on the Upper Palmer River and its tributaries.
Eventually, Mulligan returned to Georgetown from this exploratory journey with more than one hundred ounces of gold to show for his efforts. However, like Hann, Mulligan also warned of the prevailing harsh conditions, but this advice was largely ignored and the rush was soon underway. As a consequence, in 1874, more than a thousand miners found themselves virtually stranded on the Palmer River field with hundreds more marooned on foot travelling to the field, with Mulligan receiving unfair criticism for their unfortunate plight.
By 1875, Mulligan, again acting as a catalyst, was promoting the number of gold bearing reefs along the Palmer and was fore-shadowing the move from alluvial to deep reef mining. In 1876, Mulligan made further gold discoveries, this time on the Hodgkinson River, south of the Palmer. Although Mulligan stressed that this new field was mainly a deep reef field, another rush ensued. Many of these miners were ill equipped and soon found themselves in trouble, with many again unfairly blaming Mulligan, as having over stated the ease with which gold could be obtained. Changing direction somewhat and looking towards business, Mulligan opened the first store on the field. James Mulligan was also the first to find payable tin in Queensland and, in 1880, silver, both in the Herbert River area. Marrying in 1903, James Mulligan bought and operated the Mount Molloy Hotel.
This image shows James Mulligan later in his life.
Brian Randall – Specialist Librarian, State Library of Queensland.