john mulligan
                                                                                                              The news 1991

In March of this year the Reefton community and the West Coast lost one of the most colourful and well-known personalities of contemporary times.

Jesse John Mulligan was born in Reefton in 1943, from a family with links to both gold and coal mining operations.
“Mully”,was singled out by his great enthusiasm for life and his dedication to the people and activities he became involved with. Blessed with a mass of curly red hair and an expansive smile, an impact was always made on those who met with him.
From an early age,’’Mully” began to develop into a person with a marked individuality. The challenge of growing up fostered within him special qualities of loyalty and leadership which were to come to the fore in his chosen career of coal mining.
Possessing a talent for quick-witted and to the point responses. Mully’s reactions often surprised those associating with him. 
One of the earlier surprises came to his parents in John’s thirteenth year, when they discovered that he had been wagging school to work at Charlie Chandler’s mill at Oweka. Not only  was he firmly established on the payroll, he was also Charlie’s top boy!
After leaving school legally at the age of 15, and after a short stint on a farm at  Culverden. John’s involvement with coal mining began in various underground operations around Reefton until the age of 20. He had a part-ownership in a mine at Boatmans.
Apart from a stint as a driller in the Manapouri Underground Power Project, and a memorable term in the Territorial Army Force, John was to work his years through with and within the Reefton and wider West Coast communities.
Forming the Mulken partnership with his brother-in-law,Mike Kennedy,mines were operated at Perseverance, Garvey Creek, Burkes Creek and the Ferndale area.
One notable old mine, re-developed by the pair ,was sold for a large sum to Coal and Energy, and event that would have seen many leave the district for so-called “greener pastures”.
But no so these miners!
Such was the liking for the industry and area, that the partnership re-invested much of the proceeds back into the re-development of further previously worked pits.
In an era when coal mining had to be handled with common-sense, John came into his own as a representative of the Coal Owners Association. Quickly gaining respect due to his genuine concern for the people involved , Mully would not easily tolerate the issuers of self -interested or foolish statements. If he believed in an ideal, he would fight for it, as many a short-term adversary discovered.
Logic and his own brand of West Coast eloquence, were his main weapons, often being used to persuade fellow employers to provide a just solution to matters of union concern.
Mully’s special loyalty to his own workmen came through on the many occasions when he personally helped them in times of need.
John was an active member of the Mines Rescue Brigade, having been in the organisation for 28 years. At the time of his death, he was the West Coast representative on the newly established New Zealand Mines Rescue Trust.
Mully was a special person to his family and the community.
Together  with his wife Janet, a warm and caring background was always provided for his young, growing up family.
John’s impact was widely felt in those organisations or committees he served on.
He was made a life member of the Reefton Jockey Club in 1990 following 31 years of dedicated and enthusiastic membership. much of it being served  in a variety of official positions.
He will be specially missed in the hospitality tent, where, in his role as Public Relations Officer, many friends were made for the Reefton meeting and the West Coast.
John was a member of the Inangahua District Schools 100 Jubilee Committee in 1978 where his input was at the normal full-hearted level.
On the West Coast Electrical Power Board, another energy-related industry was to benefit from his involvement. As Inangahua’s representative for 15 years, his presence was always felt at meetings when much of the Reefton District ‘s local colour influenced proceedings.
John had a great way with people. As a fund-raiser for organisations, he was at his best.
Keeping a note of potential donors, he would never allow them to forget any promises.
Many functions and events benefited from his efforts with hospitality always being to the fore if he was involved.
Mully leaves behind many good memories to his family, business associates, and his wide circle of friends that he gathered in life..