Few people have contributed more to the understanding of the history of the north coast of the province of Ulster than Julia Mullin and her husband (Rev. Dr. T. H. Hugh Mullin).
They were pioneers in recording and researching local history, acquiring an unrivalled historical knowledge of the town of Coleraine and much of the surrounding area.
Research was done in the “hard” way before the availability of computers and the World Wide Web. They spoke to and recorded family remembrances, searched through graveyards and parish records and travelled frequently to access information in The Registry of Deeds in Dublin, the Public Record Offices in Belfast and Dublin, the Presbyterian Historical Society etc
Their lasting legacy is a total of 17 historical books.
Dr Mullin’s books include extensive histories of Coleraine, Convoy, Ballyrashane, Limavady and Derry/Londonderry.
Julia, herself, has left a valuable legacy of church histories including The Kirk of Ballywillan, The Presbytery of Coleraine, New Row, The History of New Row Presbyterian Church, Coleraine, The Presbytery of Limavady, A History of Dunluce Presbyterian Church.
Her book “The Causeway Coast” has becone a much read and studied text of the North Coast, where are asks us to travel with her on a journey, that she herself enjoyed - a journey back through time to visit the Giant’s Causeway, the wreck of the Girona and the history of many North Coast districts and towns, including Portrush, Bushmills and Ballycastle.
Julia and her husband Hugh have left their descendants an invaluable family history in their joint book “Roots in Ulster Soil”. In their words “family history takes on for us the fascination of a jigsaw puzzle, and we have patiently tried to fit together pieces of tradition and recorded fact to form a coherent picture”.
Julia enjoyed a long, interesting and active life. She was born on 4th August 1924 in Drumagosker, near Limavady; the only child of Samuel Hunter Forsythe, solicitor, and Sheila Henderson of Edinburgh.
She enjoyed a comfortable upbringing, attending the Sir Henry Tyler School, Limavady, and was one of the first generation to attend the new Limavady Grammar School, where she was head girl in her Senior year.
When she was 15 years old, was was declared and pupils were issued with gas masks and had to carry out emergency drills. As head girl, she recalled that one of her fist jobs was to put sticky tape over all the school windows. She lived near Aghanloo airport where the young pilots were being trained to fly and she often worried that they did not have the experience to land safely in stormy weather.
At school she was a keen and very competitive tennis player and was academically able, so enrolled at Queen’s University, Belfast, even though at that time it was not very common for girls to attend university. She studied many subjects, including Hisgtory of Art and her favourite subject, History.
When Julia attended her first university history lecture there was a surprise for her.
The lecturer started by asking the “lady students” to move to the back rows of the lecture students and the “gentlemen students” to sit in the front rows!
Despite this she later graduated with a BA degree and remarkably retained her love of history.
Shortly after this, on 26th June 1946, Julia married Rev TH Mullin, who was then minister of Convoy, Co. Donegal.
They had both grown up in Limavady and both families attended Drumachose Presbyterian Church in the town. Shortly afterwards Mr Mullin accepted a call to Ballyrashane Presbyterian Church and was installed there on 29th July 1948, where they were to remain for the rest of his active ministry, until his retirement from the church in September 1978.
On moving to Ballyrashane in 1948, life now changed for Julia. Not only was she a great support to Hugh in his work in the congregation, but she was an excellent home maker, lookign after three children and helping Hugh with the upkeep of the extensive gardens. There was harvesting, cooking and often preserving the fresh fruit and vegetables, and yet in the evening she still had the energy to knit and sew for the family, to embroider tray cloths and sew tapestries.
Julia and Hugh were constant companions; they shared very many interests together - the church, reading, walking, gardening, travelling and an interest in people and their history.
On Friday afternoons for 20 years, Julia worked on a voluntary basis in the Citizens Advice Bureau in Coleraine where she gave clients financial advice. Many people must have been very appreciative of her financial acumen as she sorted out their budgeting, debt repayments and their income tax returns. She knew her facts and used them effectively.
When the children left home, Julia and Hugh found the time to travel together, daring to venture far afield to see many of the world’s most remote wonders, both natural and manmade - entering Afghanistan by the desolate Khyber Pass; viewing the forbidden Tibetan Plateau from China when that country was still truly communist and almost devoid of tourists; visiting the Rose City of Petra in the heart of the Jordanian desert; watching the midnight sun at the Norwegian North Cape, and sailed on to Murmansk in the old Soviet Union; walking into the penguin rockeries in Ushuala and with the tortoises in the Galapagos.
They brought back these insights and memories to share with the people of the Coleraine area in multiple lectures and slide-shows.
After her husband’s death in September 2006, Julia still travelled on her own, often visiting Houston, Texas, to spend time with her family there. She also enjoyed family Christmas in Ballymoney with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
She was very proud of her family and happ that both the girls and the boys were able to reach out and achieve their full potential.
Following a short illness, Julia passed away peacefully in the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine on 1st February 2016 at the age of 91.
She is survived by her three children, Katherine, Peter and David; by her grandchildren, Joanne, Alan, Helen, Vivian, Tony, Owen and Julie; and by her great grandchildren, Ethan, Emma,Connor and Finley.
Fellow historian, Alex Blair, wrote: “Mrs Mullin was known for the thoroughness of her historical research. She exhausted very source available before she was satisfied she had the full story. Then she put it together, in her own special style, into a compelling narrative, which soon came to be recognised as the definitive work on the subject. She enjoyed the research - it was a labour of love - and the joy was gthe finished book and the appreciation of a wide readership.
“Her work was always authoritative and completely reliable - she would never have tolerated anything else. She gave prestige and standing to local history in the days of its infancy as an academic study and deserves the respect and esteem of those who dared to follow her”.