This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Starring Mullagh

The 'Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll' is coming to the Horsham Library.
The Honour Roll recognises the many and varied contributions of Aboriginal people to the identity of Victoria.
One of the first Honour Roll inductees was a Wotjobaluk man - Johnny Mullagh (Unaarrimin), his athletic feats made him one of Australia's first international cricketing stars.
Johnny Mullagh was born in 1841 on Mullagh Pastoral Station (between present day Wombelano and Harrow). He worked on both Mullagh and Pine Hills stations as a shearer and as a groom. But it was as a member of the all-Aboriginal Cricket team for which he has been remembered.
A station cricket match at Mt Talbot
Station owners and workers played cricket against neighbouring stations. Thomas Hamilton of Bringalbert started teaching the rudiments of cricket to the Aborigines on the Station in 1864, likewise Edgars on Pine Hills. The Haymans of Lake Wallace formed a cricket club including Aboriginals. In 1865, station cricket was so popular a match was organised between the Europeans and Aborigines. Played near the Bringalbert woolshed, the Aboriginals out scored the Europeans.

Johnny Mullagh and other station Aborigines formed an All-Aboriginal team, coached in Edenhope by Thomas Wentworth Wills (of Australian football fame, the Wills family held Lexington, La Rose & Mokepille stations) and managed by William Hayman.
Englishman Charles Lawrence organised a tour of England for the team in 1868. Led by Mullagh, who batted, bowled and kept wicket, they beat English teams of vastly more experience. 
The team also provided displays of traditional skills - boomerang & spear throwing, and shield parrying. They also successfully participated in ball throwing and running backwards events.
A photograph of Johnny Mullagh, the original hung in the Harrow Hall for many years until it was burnt down in the 1970s.
Mullagh's headstone, Harrow Cemetery
When the team returned to Australia, Mullagh played for the Victorian state side, and the Melbourne Cricket Club for a season, before returning to play for Harrow until his death in 1891. His bat and stumps were buried with him on the crest of the Harrow Cemetery hill.
Rising above racial taunts, Mullagh deliberately hit a catch rather than play in the face of discrimination. He is still remembered in Harrow with a stone memorial, the annual cricket match, and the Cricket Centre named after him.

The Aboriginal Honour Roll will be launched in the Horsham Library on 4th June at 11am, and will be on display in the Library until the 11th.

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