Fr Jim Mulligan was born in the village of Ederney in County Fermanagh in 1946. Although professing a great love for his native country, like many Irishmen of his generation he paid Ireland the compliment of leaving it.
He qualified as a teacher in his early 20s, but, with the restlessness that characterises his fellow Irishmen, he found it difficult to settle down and for a number of years travelled the world working, among other occupations, as a mining worker in Clinton Creek near the old Dawson City in the Yukon and as a construction worker in New Zealand (where he discovered he had a head for heights – and hence the charity abseil challenge).
Back in London he worked in journalism where his work was published in, among other publications, the Times and the New Statesman.
He settled down to teaching and worked for a number of years as an English teacher but the call to the priesthood, which he had wrestled with for many years, eventually won out. After his studies at the Pontifical Beda College in Rome he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor at St Patrick’s parish in Wapping in east London on July 16 2005. Still restless, he keeps busy on his meagre time off from his work as chaplain to a group of the major hospitals in London with writing. He is also a keen amateur sculptor. He has recently written the successful book Medjugorje: What’s Happening? and is currently working on a bust of the Irish writer Samuel Beckett.
Of the abseil challenge he says: “This really is no big deal and will be easily accomplished through the laws of gravity, which apply even to Catholic priests.
“I say it’s no big deal because if I were terrified of heights it might be. I’m not, so it’s not in the least brave. I worked at heights when, as a young man, I worked in the construction industry. And as I speak my mind flashes back to some of the projects I worked on in the early 1970s: I worked as a metal worker in New Zealand on the construction of the Kenneth Maidment Theatre in the Auckland University complex in Auckland, and on some of the 1970-built Auckland skyscrapers. I still remember those beautiful views out over the city to Waio Takai Bay.
“On the subject of courage: the real courage is that displayed by the manner in which patients in hospital face illness, and by the way in which they are cared for by the medical teams. Since becoming a hospital chaplain nurses, in particular, have become my heroes.
“When the prospect of this charity abseil came up I jumped at the idea. Imperial College Healthcare Charity does terrific work in a wide range of areas including the provision of research grants and assistance with funding for projects within the hospitals’ chaplaincy service.”