Ben Mulligan fondly remembers his father, Dun Laoghaire Dragon sailor John Muilligan, who died in February.
Dad and his family narrowly escaped from the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942 being evacuated by ship to Australia. They were later miraculously reunited with his father in 1945. Maybe gave Dad a realisation of realise how precious life is and that it is there to be lived. Perhaps, that early voyage also gave him a taste for things marine.
The family found shelter as evacuees in Sydney, Australia during the war and lived close to the sea in an area that would become more famous as Bondi Beach. This may have later influenced his decision to stretch his resources and buy a house in Sandycove close to the Forty Foot, a location which we all loved. Again, it was close to the sea and all that it brings.
Returning to Ireland after the war with his family, Dad attended Blackrock College with his brother Teddy and was a keen sportsman and won a JCT Rugby medal. He also learnt how to sail. He later studied Civil Engineering at UCD where he rowed, played rugby and sailed.
In 1963, having worked for the Design Consultancy, Ove Arup firm for 3 years, his training as a Civil Engineer and his love of the sea came together when he obtained a position of Site Engineer with the firm Christiani & Nielsen who had been selected to build the Kish Lighthouse for the Commissioners of the Irish Lights. This was a complex engineering project and involved the building of a floating concrete caisson to house a second caisson in the shelter of Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The project required Dad’s full attention and many complex engineering decisions were made after trial and error on site. Despite a number of setbacks including sinking of the first caisson, the new Lighthouse was successfully towed into position and was commissioned in late 1965 and is thankfully there still to remind us of him and the men involved in building it and keep us from going aground or worse.
In 2015, at an talk given by the Irish Lights to mark the Fiftieth anniversary of it’s commissioning Dad was very happy to be informed that the Engineer’s Report had deemed the Concrete to be in excellent condition. He said they had spent a long time on the concrete mix correct. Typically, despite achieving this significant engineering project at the grand old age of 27, he did not refer to it the Kish that much except to refer amusing facts, for example, how they almost forgot to allow for the waste pipe coming from the Lighthouse Keepers living quarters!
It was shortly before he started working on the Kish that he made an excellent decision when he met and married our Mum, Angela and the first Mulligan Mary-Jane arrived. They provided a very happy and stable home for all of us.
As a younger man, Dad sailed on a number of dinghies including Mermaids, Fireflies, Finns and later 505s By the 1970s, he was a keen Dragon sailor, initially on “Yam” with Harry Boyd and Johnny Hooper amongst others. His love of sailing Dragons and the camaraderie of the class was a big feature in his life. He sailed from the National Yacht Club and later the Royal Irish. He had great affection for both Clubs.
In the 1970s, he also bought a Wag which he did a great deal of work on. All the children who were old enough were co-opted into sanding duties. Consternation ensued when the reconditioned Wag was put onto a mooring and promptly sank! However, the planks swelled and it eventually floated.
However, it was Dragon sailing that Dad was really interested in. He sailed with Michael Cotter and Bob Gordon on “Wolfhound” and “Tarasque” . The competed in a number of Gold Cups including one in Travemunde. He then linked up with Rory McDonagh, John Simmington and David McGloughlin; they were joined by Cormac McAlinden on “Koala”, finally he bought “Rainbow” and sailed with Michael Blaney and others. He particularly enjoyed his trips away to Cork, Belfast and to the European destinations. Dad was a good helm and crew and got some good results over the years. He had a very good knowledge of tuning the boats. He is also remembered as Commodore of the Lucky Shift Club (Denis Bergin, Tim Pearson, Declan Hayes, Paddy Halpenny at al. were also in this exclusive group). The name was based on their combined abilities to go the opposite direction from the bulk of the fleet. He was also an active in the notorious Crews Union. His spell as Class Captain will be remembered for Dad providing not one but two Bands for the Championship party.
As his Dragon sailing days came to an end, Dad sailed regularly in the DBSC (an organisation he had great regard for) with Michael Blaney on his 31.7 “ After U”. H also became more interested in voyaging to other locations. He went on a TransAtlantic with Fred Espey. This particular trip seemed to take a very long time, so long in fact that Mum started worrying about his whereabouts, suddenly they arrived in Castletownsend and we were informed that they had stopped in the Azores “and decided to stay for a few weeks”. Later, he went on several trips with Michael and Paddy Blaney including a memorable trip from Ireland to Iceland and back(which included 2 weeks trekking in Iceland) , he also attended Antigua Week in 2006 with Michael Blaney, Michael Cotter and others where the boat won 3 out of 7 races. He also managed an ARC race somewhere along the way. His last trip was in Dec 2015, when he sailed in the Caribbean with Rachel, Suzie, Prof O’Connell and their children.
In later years, he very much enjoyed playing golf in Killiney Golf Club where he met a new set of friends and thoroughly enjoyed his time. However, he was always keen to know what was going on in the racing world and regularly checked in to see on how we were doing. He even came to two Flying Fifteen Worlds in New Zealand and France as unofficial team manager. He also loved seeing his grandchildren and kept up his swimming in the Forty Foot. He also embarked on his final building project his new house in Sandycove.
Throughout all the years, along with his sailing, Dad worked hard in providing his family with the financial means to live and have all the great holidays and boats and life that we enjoyed. In his working life, He wore many hats in Engineering as a Civil and Building Contractor, Design Engineer, and finally a recruiter. I had the privilege of working with him for a number of years. Besides being very tolerant of me, I was always struck by how well he could understand what a client needed, but most of all his human touch. I recall a young Engineer we were interviewing telling Dad that he “only had a pass degree”, “That’s ok” Dad replied - “so have I.”
The family are very grateful to all those who offered their condolences and the many who attended Dad’s Memorial mass last Thursday in Glasthule.
Throughout his life, Dad was a man of great, quiet faith and this was with him to the end. He will be greatly missed by us all as a kind, loving and considerate father who added a great deal of fun to all our lives.
Go n-eirigh an Bothair leat.