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Mulholland, Charles St John (1903–1984)

by D. F. Branagan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Charles St John Mulholland (1903-1984), geologist and public servant, was born on 12 July 1903 at Bathurst, New South Wales, elder child of English-born Charles Albert Mulholland, metallurgist, and his New South Wales-born wife Margaretta Elizabeth, née de Clouet. He was educated at St Stanislaus’ College, Bathurst, where he was known as ‘Tim’, and at the University of Sydney (B.Sc., 1924).

In 1925 Mulholland joined the geological survey branch of the Department of Mines, New South Wales, then directed by Ernest Clayton Andrews. His first work was on surveys of the Hunter Valley coalfields. The following year under E. J. Kenny he began to search for underground water in the Coonabarabran-Binnaway-Gunnedah region. In 1929-32 he assisted Kenny in a wide-ranging study of the geologically little-known West Darling region. During the Depression Mulholland helped prospectors around Bathurst and Hill End and recorded mineral deposits throughout the State. He married Mary Alexa Cruickshank, a clerk, on 2 June 1934 at St Michael’s Catholic Church, Lane Cove.

The success of Mulholland’s earlier work in proving the availability of potable and stock water supplies led to requests for surveys of other parts of western New South Wales. He undertook (1935-38) a similar assignment for the East Darling region. In 1942 he ascertained the availability of groundwater in the Botany Basin, in case of disruption by war of Sydney’s water supply. In 1937 he had reported on the geology of the Snowy Mountains and examined dam and tunnel sites at Jindabyne in 1941, work which foreshadowed the Snowy Mountains scheme developments. He also documented proposed dam sites at Glenbawn, Cranky Rock and Kiama. In the 1940s Mulholland, aided by E. O. Rayner, surveyed the gold and copper deposits in the central part of the Cobar mineral belt. He recognised the significance of a set of cross-cutting veins that controlled gold mineralisation.

In 1947 Mulholland succeeded Leo J. Jones as State government geologist. He oversaw an increase in the staff of the Geological Survey, which enabled a spate of major projects, including work for the Snowy Mountains scheme, production of a new geological map of the State and detailed mapping of the western coalfields for open-cut mines. In 1953, with Rayner, he carried out a survey of the potential uranium sources in the Broken Hill region, in association with an experimental airborne (helicopter) radiometric survey by the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources. He was appointed assistant under-secretary for mines in New South Wales in 1954 and, succeeding Kenny, served (1957-63) as under-secretary.

Mulholland was essentially a practical geologist, not particularly interested in theory, often referring to technical papers that were full of formulae as ‘ukulele music’. A member (albeit not very active) of the Royal Society of New South Wales, he published little apart from official reports. Tall, gangly, originally with russet hair and moustache, and somewhat self-deprecatory, he looked a typical country ‘Aussie’, but he possessed a shrewdness and capability that gained his colleagues’ respect. Away from work he was ‘a completely relaxed and funny man’, sometimes indulging in Charlie Chaplin impersonations. Predeceased by his wife (1972) but survived by their son and daughter, he died on 26 February 1984 at Longueville and was buried in the Catholic section of Northern Suburbs cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Annual Report of the Department of Mines, New South Wales, 1925-63
  • Mineral, Sept 1963, p 13
  • private information and personal knowledge.

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Citation details

D. F. Branagan, 'Mulholland, Charles St John (1903–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mulholland-charles-st-john-15029/text26225, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 24 May 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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