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Source: CricInfo, 6 March 2018
Johnny Mullagh (born Unaarrimin; 13 August 1841 – 14 August 1891) was a leading Victorian cricketer who led the famous 1868 Aboriginal cricket tour of England. He was a skillful all-rounder, being a right arm bowler and right-handed batsman.
Born Unaarrimin (he was given the name 'Mullagh' to identify him with his place of birth), a member of the Jardwadjali people, on Mullagh Station, about sixteen kilometres north of Harrow, Victoria, Mullagh learned to play cricket whilst working on Bringalbert station in the West Wimmera, and later on Pine Hills agricultural property. He was given the name "Black Johnny" to distinguish him from a "White Johnny".
Mullagh played 47 matches on the 1868 England tour, scoring 1698 runs at an average of around 20 on pitches that were often treacherous. He also bowled 1877 overs, 831 of which were maidens, and took 245 wickets at 10 apiece. If this wasn't enough, he would occasionally don wicket-keeping gloves, achieving four stumpings.
Nineteenth-century Australia witnessed severe discrimination against indigenous peoples. Many of those chosen to tour England were left to obscure futures and early deaths once the venture had concluded. One player, King Cole, died on the trip and of those who returned, seven spent time on a reserve, two vanished and the fate of two others is not clear from the surviving records.
"Few contemporary cricketers better merited the title of all-rounder", according to the historian D. J. Mulvaney. Mullagh's performances were impressive enough for him to join the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) as a professional for party of the 1869-70 season. His appointment was terminated shortly afterwards, reportedly because of a severe illness when he was on the verge of inter-colonial selection.
Mullagh was both an independent person and a passionate advocate of indigenous rights, refusing to dwell on state-controlled reserves. His political stance was revealed during a game at Apsley, when, as the players went to lunch, a white participant asked, "What about the nigger?" The captain replied, "Let him have his dinner in the kitchen; anything is good enough for the nigger." Mullagh refused to eat in the kitchen, and sat outside the hotel in protest.
Mullagh never appeared in inter-colonial cricket although he did represent Victoria against a touring England side in 1879, top scoring with 36 in the second innings. He was then 38 years old, and instead of going in first-wicket-down as he did for his club, batted at nine and 10.
Maintaining his independence and dignity to the end, Mullagh spent his last days living in a rabbitter's shack. He continued to play cricket until a few months before his death at Pine Hills Station in 1891, one day after his 50th birthday. The Hamilton Spectator described him in his obituary as "the [W.G.] Grace of aboriginal cricketers", while another writer referred to Mullagh as "Victoria's premier batsman".
A memorial was built to honour Mullagh in Harrow and a local indigenous tournament created to vie for the Johnny Mullagh Memorial Trophy.
In February 2012, the Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Jeanette Powell, announced Mullagh as one of the 20 inaugural inductees to the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll.
- List of Victoria first-class cricketers
- Twopenny – Aboriginal Australian who played for New South Wales against Victoria in 1870
- Jack Marsh – Aboriginal Australian who played for New South Wales from 1900 to 1902
- Albert Henry – Aboriginal Australian who played for Queensland from 1902 to 1905
- Eddie Gilbert – Aboriginal Australian who played for Queensland from 1930 to 1936
- Johnny Mullagh, CricInfo. Retrieved 2018-03-06.
- Mulvaney, D. J. (1974). Mullagh, Johnny (1841–1891). Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
- Whimpress, Bernard (1994). "JOHNNY MULLAGH: WESTERN DISTRICT HERO OR THE BLACK GRACE?". Aboriginal History. 18 (1/2): 95–102. JSTOR 24046091.
- Old 'un, "An Old Time Team of Darkies", Euroa Advertiser, 2 April 1897, p. 3.
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