Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

MULLEN, Eileen Carrig

MULLEN, Eileen and MULLEN, Jean

Eileen Mullen (left) and Jean Mullen


Eileen and Jean were the two daughters of parents William Patrick Mullen and Julia Ann Carrig, both born in Port Augusta, South Australia, on 13 October 1902 and 5 July 1907, respectively.

Their father was the proprietor of the Port Augusta Hotel; he was also a local councillor, and a prominent member of the Roman Catholic Church and the Hibernian Society. Their grandfather was John Carrig, a pioneer who settled in Port Augusta in 1866. In December 1906 their father William transferred to the Flinders Hotel but died in August 1907 at the age of thirty-three.

Mrs Mullen took over the license and built a reputation throughout the region for her high standard of catering, before moving to Unley and becoming involved with church work until her death in 1934. Eileen, Jean and Brian were living with their mother and stepfather at the time of her death; they were a close knit family. Their stepfather Walter Young died in 1939.

Eileen, Jean, her brothers Kevin and Brian all attended St. Josephs Catholic School at Port Augusta. When the family moved to Adelaide the girls attended St. Aloysius College for girls and the boys attended Christian Brothers College Adelaide. As the children left school they followed in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents, becoming involved with committees of various Catholic churches; in the case of the girls they were mainly social committees that organised the various balls and other activities they all attended and which were often written up in the social columns of the local Adelaide newspapers.

Eileen and Jean’s brothers both attended university where they became involved with the various social activities on offer and often included their sisters in these social events. Neither Eileen nor Jean ever married, although Jean did become engaged to John Thornton McCarthy in 1935, but the marriage never eventuated.

Eileen and Jean were great travellers, often travelling interstate or overseas by ship. On their last holiday they spent seven months touring England, Scotland and Paris and on their return they spent time with their eldest brother Kevin and his wife and child, before returning to work.

After leaving school Eileen went to work for the telephone exchange, and remained with the Postmasters-General (PMG), working in various exchanges in Adelaide and Melbourne, before volunteering to come to Darwin. In May 1941 Eileen Mullen and Freda Stasinowsky, both senior telephone operators, were chosen because of their experience to take charge of the newly upgraded Darwin exchange.

They flew out 10 May 1941 on a Guinea Airways Hudson, the flight from Adelaide to Darwin taking 13 hours. Both of them had worked for the telephone exchange since leaving school, Eileen working in Adelaide and Melbourne exchanges, Freda in both Adelaide and country South Australia exchanges, including Port Augusta. Jean Mullen visited her sister in August 1941 and, despite the growing risk from Japan, decided to stay on.

The Overland Telegraph Mess contained a library and a billiard room, where the sisters and Freda 'Stazzo' would go for recreation. Eileen and Jean had been living in the Victoria Hotel in Smith Street but had been transferred that morning to No. 2 residence, a stone cottage built in 1880 on The Esplanade; they moved in with Freda Stasinowsky.

Soon after she began duty on 19 February 1942, Jean Mullen answered a call into the main switchboard and recognised the voice of Dennis Connors, who had been sharing a table at the Victoria with them.

"What’s the right time please, Jean?" Connors asked.

"Oh, is that you Dinny?" she said. "It’s right on nine-forty. By the way, we won’t be seeing you for lunch. Eileen and I have moved into our new home."

"I’ll send you a couple of chickens as a house-warming present", Connors said.

"Thanks, Dinny. You do that, then come and help us eat them".

(From Australia under attack p. 88.)

Twenty minutes later she and her sister were dead.

When the air raid siren sounded the Post Office staff took shelter in the trenches that had been dug around the complex. The trench in which the Mullens sheltered received a direct hit, killing all the occupants.

Their two brothers regularly put "In Memoriam" notices in the Adelaide newspapers on the anniversary of their deaths.

Eileen and Jean were buried in a temporary grave at Kahlin Beach; they were then re-buried at the Berrimah War Cemetery, and their final resting place is side by side in the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

Mullen Park, Mullen Gardens and Mullen Place in the Darwin suburb of Alawa are all named after Eileen and Jean Mullen. Eileen and Jean also each have a street in Alawa named in their honour.

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