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Mt Mulligan Coal Mine Disaster 1921

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Location: Atherton Tablelands, Queenslandmap
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Disasters Project | Mining | Australia | Mount Mulligan Mine Disaster 1921

Mount Mulligan Mine Disaster, 1921


Map Co-ordinates: -15° 50' 60.00" S and 144° 52' 1.20" E
GPS Coordinates: Lat: -15.8500, Long: 144.8670


Summary

The Mount Mulligan[1] mine west of Cairns had been open just six years when a series of explosions that could be heard 30 km away ripped through the coal mine on the morning of 19 September 1921. Seventy-three workers were killed outright, one died immediately after rescue, and the last a week later in hospital. There were no survivors. Dense black smoke billowed from the mine’s entrance and large pieces of equipment were strewn up to 40 metres away. A rescue effort begun within minutes lasted for five days, with hundreds of volunteers coming from far and wide. The last body was not recovered until 5 months later after the mine had reopened. The accident was particularly shocking because the mine was widely considered safe and had no previous indications of gas leaks.

The close-knit community of Mount Mulligan had a population of just 360, and every household in the town suffered a loss. Ironically, the townspeople had voted to establish a cemetery on the outskirts of town just two weeks before.

Details

Table 1: The Victims - Age, Marital Status, Occupation and Wife's Residence[2]

Name Age Marital status Occupation Wife Residence
Adams, Thomas 21 Single Contract miner FG 156844677
Adcock, Thomas 37 Married Shiftman miner Herberton
Beattie, James Maxwell 28 Married, 3 children Machineman England
Bell, Irving 24 Single Contract miner England
Bollen, Herbert 40 Married, unk Shiftman miner Broken Hill
Butcher, Frank Norman 29 Single Machineman FG 156845355
Butler, Donald 22 Single Contract miner FG 156845403
Camm, Thomas 55 Married Contract miner Toowoomba
Carhley/Cairney, John 29 Married Contract miner Broken Hill
Carson, James 41 Married Shiftman miner Wolfram, QLD
Casloff, Alaxs (Alic) 46 Married, 3 children Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Cole, William Charles 41 Single Winchman Wales
Conoplia, Peter 41 Married, 3 children Machineman Mount Mulligan
Cunningham, James S. - Married Contract miner N. Sydney
Doyle, Phillip (aka J.Long) 49 Single Contract miner FG 156852714
Drier, John A. 43 Married, 2 children Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Drier, John W. 17 Single Contract miner FG 156852895
Evans, T.J. (died 26/9) - Married, 1 child Mine Manager Windsor, VIC
Fisher, William A. 60 Married Contract miner Howard, QLD
Fitzpatrick, John 35 Married, 2 children Machineman On trip to England
Fogarty, John 30 Single Contract miner FG 156853772
Gielis, Francis V. 28 Single Wheeler (youth) FG 156853803
Grant, Francis "Frank" 37 Married Deputy Mount Mulligan
Hall, Albert 28 Married Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Harrison, Henry - Married, 2 children Contract miner England
Hawes, Cecil George 45 Widower, 2 children Contract miner
Union Secretary
FG 156854628
Hawes, Thomas 18 Single Wheeler FG 156854674
Henry, John 31 Married, 1 child Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Hutton, Edward D. J. 32 Married, 2 children Wheeler (youth) Mount Mulligan
Hutton, Thomas 37 Married, 2 children Contract miner Herberton
Hynes, Thomas S. 25 Married Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Jackson, Hugh 35 Married Contract miner Brisbane
James, George Doran 40 Married, 5 children Shiftman miner Mount Mulligan
James, George Robert 17 Single Wheeler FG 156855417
Joachimzik, Ludwig 31 Married Contract miner Abermain, NSW
Johnstone, William - Single Contract miner No MM FG-
Kiers, William - Married Contract miner Cessnock, NSW
Latimer, Francis - Single Wheeler (youth) No MM FG
Leary, Robert Ernest 24 Single Shiftman miner FG 156855711
Lewis, Oliver (J. Lawson) 26 Single Contract miner FG 156855764
Liversidge, Sydney - Single Shiftman miner FG 156855842
Lomax, Jack (Loman) 36 Married Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Loughrie, James 40 Single Contract miner FG 156855889
Mansfield, William H. 34 Single Contract miner FG 156855932
Marks, Percy - Single Wheeler (youth) No MM FG
Martin, Harold 31 Married, 4 children Contract miner Sydney
McColm, Samuel 41 Married, 7 children Contract miner Mount Mulligan
McCormack, Rowland 16 Single Wheeler (youth) FG 156864771
McIntyre, Duncan A. 32 Married Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Minogue, Paul - Single Shiftman miner FG 156864886
Morgan, Rupert E. 54 Married, 5 children Contract miner Chillagoe, QLD
Mounsey, George 46 Widower, 2 children Contract miner FG 156864989
Nixon, John 42 Married Contract miner Helensburgh, NSW
O'Boyle, James 31 Married, 1 child Contract miner Mount Mulligan
O’Grady, Martin - Single Wheeler No MM FG
O'Halloran, John 22 Married Contract miner Wonthaggi, VIC
Ostle, William (Ostlo) 23 Single Contract miner FG 156865210
Parkinson, Thomas E. 35 Married, 2 children Asst. Deputy Mount Mulligan
Pattison, Frederick 39 Married Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Pattison, Robert 32 Single Contract miner FG 156865383
Reay, James 27 Single Wheeler (youth) FG 156865499
Regan, John 58 Married Contract miner Broken Hill
Riseley, Ernest Wm Geo 31 Single Contract miner FG 156868937
Ruming, Nevill - Single Wheeler No MM FG
Seymour, Sydney 21 Single Contract miner FG 156869048
Smithson, William R. 41 Married, 5 children Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Spiers, Robert 29 Married, 1 child Contract miner Mount Mulligan
Stevens, William - Single Contract miner FG 156869174
Swift, William E. - Single Contract miner FG 156869202
Taylor, Thomas 30 Married, 3 children Machineman Mount Mulligan
Templeton, Robert - Single Contract miner FG 156869202
Thompson, Robert 34 Single Shiftman miner FG 156869411
Thompson, Wilfred 32 Single Contract miner FG 156869431
Turriff, George 50 Married Contract miner Wonthaggi, Vic
Wheeler, Thomas George
(aka Wheelan, Reginald)
30 Married Contract miner Beenak, Vic.

Largely due to the Mount Mulligan disaster, Queensland introduced the Coal Mining Act 1925[3] to better protect coal miners. This Act provides for:

  • appointment of Mines Inspectors who must have practical mining experience;
  • recording of mine deputy safety inspections in individual reports;
  • designation of specifically designed and “permitted” explosives and rules for their use;
  • use of safety lamps or electric camp lamps for lighting for individual miners and the banning of naked lights;
  • rules for the application of stone dust;
  • establishment of Mines Rescue Stations in all mining districts;
  • rules for airflow and the use of ventilation fans.

History

On the 19th of September 1921, a gas explosion at the Mount Mulligan coal mine, killed 75 fathers, husbands and sons.
Mount Mulligan, a large, flat topped, pink conglomerate massif similar in shape to Uluru (Ayers Rock), named by party of explorers led by James Venture Mulligan in 1874. The township, (near Mareeba, on the Atherton Tablelands) later gazetted in 1910, was named after it, now a ghost town with a cemetery and a chimney stack. At 9.25 am on the 19th of September 1921, an explosion at the MM Mine Disaster in North Queensland, suddenly became the worst mining disaster in Queensland and the second worst mining disaster in Australia. 75 husbands, fathers and sons were killed. The town did not have a cemetery, but land was quickly consecrated and made ready in the newly established cemetery, to lay to rest 69 victims of the disaster. Some were taken to Mareeba for burial.

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Names of Victims List

Cemetery Records
Legend:
b. = born
d. = died
HS = has headstone
Adams, Thomas, b. 1900, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Adcock, Thomas, b. 1884, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Beattie, James Maxwell, b. 1893, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Bell, Irving, b. 1897, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Bolen, Herbert, b. 1881, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Butcher, Frank Norman, b. 1892, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Butler, Donald, b. 1899, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Camm, Thomas, b. 1866, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Carhley/Cairney, John, b. 1892, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Carson, James, b. 1880, d. 19/09/1921, age: 41yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, erected by his Loving Daughters, HS
Casloff, Alaxs, b. 1875, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion. Born Russia Erected by his loving Wife & Children, HS
Cole, William C., d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Conoplia, Peter, b. 1880, d. 19/09/1921, age: 36yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion. My Dear Husband & Our Father, HS
Cunningham, James S., b. 1882, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Doyle, Phillip, b. 1872, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Drier, John A., b. 1879, d. 19/09/1921, age: 43yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion My Dear husband & Our Father, buried with Son John W. Drier, HS
Drier, John W., b. 1904, d. 19/09/1921, age: 17yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion My Dear Son & Our Brother, buried with Father John A. Drier, HS
Fisher, William A., b. 1861, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Fitzpatrick, John, b. 1886, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Fogarty, John, b. 1891, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Geilis, Francis V., b. 1893, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Grant, Francis "Frank", b. 1883, d. 19/09/1921, age: 37yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, erected by his Loving Wife Mary, HS
Hall, Albert, b. 1893, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Harris, Elizabeth J., b. 1896, d. 19/06/1928, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Harrison, Henry, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Henry, John, b. 1890, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Hoare, Cecil G., see Hawes, Cecil George b. 1876, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Hoare, Thomas G. N., see Hawes, Thomas G.N. b. 1903, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Hutton, Edward D. J., b. 1889, d. 19/09/1921, age: 32yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion. Our Dear husbands Erected by Their Loving Wives & Mother, buried Family Plot, Thomas Hutton, Edward Hutton, James O'Boyle (Mt Mulligan Disaster) & David Thomas Hutton. , HS
Hutton, Thomas, b. 1885, d. 19/09/1921, age: 37yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion. Our Dear husbands Erected by Their Loving Wives & Mother, buried Family Plot, Thomas Hutton, Edward Hutton, James O'Boyle (Mt Mulligan Disaster) & David Thomas Hutton. , HS
Hynes, Thomas S., b. 1896, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Jackson, Hugh, b. 1889, d. 19/09/1921, age: 35yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, erected by the Masonic Bretheren, HS
James, George Doran, b. 1891, d. 19/09/1921, age: 40yr, My Darling Husband & Son. killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, erected by their Loving Wife, Mother & Family, buried with his Son George Robert James, HS
James, George Robert, b. 1904, d. 19/09/1921, age: 17yr, My Darling Husband & Son. killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, erected by their Loving Wife, Mother & Family, buried with his Father George Doran James, HS
Joachmzik, Ludwig, b. 1890, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Leary, Robert Ernest, b. Abt. 1897, d. 19/09/1921, age: 24yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, HS
Lewis, Oliver, b. 1895, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Liversidge, Sydney, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Loman, Jack, b. 1885, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Loughrie, James, b. 1881, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Mansfield, William H., b. 1887, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Martin, Harrold, b. 1890, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Mccolm, Samuel, b. 1878, d. 19/09/1921, age: 41yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, erected by his Loving Wife Mary & Family, HS
Mccormack, Rowland, b. 1905, d. 19/09/1921, age: 16yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, HS
Mcintyre, Duncan A., b. 1889, d. 19/09/1921, age: 32yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, erected by his loving Wife, HS
Minogue, Paul, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Morgan, Rupert E., b. 1867, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Mounsey, George, b. 15/09/1875, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, buried in one of the unmarked Graves. Born Melbourne, Son of William & Annie, Husband of Christine Shears, Father of Annie, Agnes, Christina, George, Hilda, Charles, Lily, Leslie, Mary & Grace. Dedicated by Heather (Mounsey) Bird, Daughter of Leslie, Plaque
Noxan, John, b. 1879, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
O'Boyle, James, b. 1890, d. 19/09/1921, age: 31yr, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion. Our Dear husbands Erected by Their Loving Wives & Mother, buried Family Plot, Thomas Hutton, Edward Hutton, James O'Boyle (Mt Mulligan Disaster) & David Thomas Hutton, HS
O'Halloran, John, b. 1899, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, HS
Ostle, William, b. 1898, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Parkinson, Thomas E., b. 1886, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Pattison, Frederick, b. 1882, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Pattison, Robert, b. 1889, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Quill, Cornelius J., b. 1881, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Reay, James, b. 1894, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Regan, John, b. 1863, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Riseley, Ernest, b. 1890, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Seymour, Syney, b. 1900, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Smithson, William Robert, b. 1880, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, HS
Spiers, Robert, b. 1892, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Stevens, William, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Swift, William E., d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Taylor, Thomas, b. 1891, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion, erected by his Loving Wife and Sons, HS
Templeton, Robert, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Thompson, Robert, b. 1887, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Thompson, Wilfred, b. 1889, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
George Turriff b. 1871, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion
Whelan/Wheeler, Reginald, b. 1891, d. 19/09/1921, killed in Mount Mulligan Explosion

Sources

  1. Named for James Venture Mulligan.
  2. Compiled from names on the MEU Monument and statements tendered to the Royal Commission by the Chillagoe Ltd. Accountant, Constable R. McClintock (including lists of dependents), and Union Secretary G. Hawes' Cavil List.
  3. Coal Mining Act 1925, Queensland Government, Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel, Reprint No. 1B (not an authorised copy), reprinted as in force on 27 June 1997 (includes amendments up to Act No. 75 of 1996).




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FYI, I am working on a table of victims for this disaster. I have found 4 official versions of the 75 victims and a number of unofficial ones, including FindAGrave (70 only, but what are missing are some of the young single wheelers). All good information, but they disagree in places. I am thinking the Mines and Energy Union's tally on their 75th Anniversary monument (https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/disaster/industrial/display/92091-%22the-day-the-devil-wept%22) may be the best source pending further analysis. 18/6/2023

Addition: Problems noted: (1) all official records name George Hawes ( Secretary of Mount Mulligan Branch of the Coal Miners' Union) and Thomas Hawes, but FindAGraves FG 156854628 and FG 156854674 record Hoare (not on any official record) as their surname; (2) Cornelius J. Quill, 40, contract miner, FG 156865426, is NOT on any official record as a victim, and not named in Royal Commission. 19/6/2023 Problem 1 solved: FindAGraves FG 156854628 and FG 156854674 requested to change surname from "Hoare" to "Hawes". Problem 2 solved: per Epitaph visible on Billion Graves and FG, Cornelius J. Quill buried in Mount Morgan Cemetery died on died Sept 1925 aged 44 years. FG correction submitted.19/6/2023

posted by Ray Sarlin
edited by Ray Sarlin