Br John Bede Mulligan

Br Mulligan will go down in the Indian Province as “Mr Cool,” quiet, unflappable, unhurried, and a master of the cryptic remark. Born in County Cavan, Ireland, Br Mulligan arrived in India in 1947, and was posted to Mt Abu in 1950.

At the time, St Mary's was in dire straits, dealing with a large exodus of Anglo-Indian students from the school after Independence. The school could barely support itself, and it was only the goodwill and credit offered by the local merchants and traders in town that kept it going. In 1972-74 he returned to Mt Abu, and made it a point to remind the younger Brothers of the kindness shown in past by the townsfolk — “they helped us through the bad times.”

Br Mulligan taught at St Joseph's Calcutta, St Mary's Dum Dum, St Edward's Simla, St Mary's Mt Abu, Regina Mundi Goa, and St Vincent's Asansol. He was a great community man — patient, caring and a gentle person. When Br Mulligan arrived back in Mt Abu as Principal, he was surprised how well the school was doing, and found that space was now the challenge.

However, his tenure was overshadowed by two unfortunate incidents. The first was the drowning of a student, Clifford Paes. Br Mulligan had the task of comforting and calming the disconsolate parents, having lost their only son!  He spent many hours consoling them, helping them to come to terms with the death. If he ever passed through Bombay, he would make it a point to visit the parents, a gesture well appreciated.

The second incident, of a quite different nature, involved the students of the senior class engaging in extreme behaviour, and then striking, as they felt they were not being treated fairly nor being given due respect. This culminated in the class's expulsion and re-admission under explicit terms of conduct. This naturally would have been a traumatic experience for all. Looking back, could it have been a blessing in disguise? A casual conversation with the students of that batch indicated that four of them obtained doctorates, with many becoming CEOs in the United States!

Br Mulligan's favourite mode of transport was on two wheels — he cycled to most places. However he was very accident prone, injuring himself quite often. On more than three occasions he was laid up in bed. While in Goa he moved to pillion riding on a motorbike. He was accident prone in this mode too, breaking his hands or legs.

A man of tremendous energy, he literally was totally spent. In his final  stages of teaching  he was principal of two schools, St Vincent's and St Patrick's Asansol. He was overseeing the administrative change at St Patrick's. In June 1997 he travelled to New Delhi — where the temperature hovered around the mid-forty mark. He exhausted himself further, chasing personal administrative work with the government departments. He decided to return to Asansol. The Brothers tried to prevent him from travelling due to the summer heat. He was determined, so back he went.

The next morning he was found collapsed on the steps of the Brothers' quarters at St Patrick's.


—Stephen de Silva (1972)