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We love you dad: He had a PhD in useless knowledge

IF the measure of a man is the lives he has touched, then Tim Mulherin was the epitome of a great man.

In a fitting send-off in Mackay today, his sons Liam, Rory and Declan spoke of a man who lead by example and was not afraid to show deep affection for those he cared about.

His generosity and kind spirit was inevitable, having been born as the first of seven children to loving parents Leo and Helen Mulherin.

At age 12 when he was balancing school and sport with the local paper run and a job at Taylors Pharmacy, he saved all his pay cheques for months to spend his first earnings on an anniversary dinner at a restaurant for his parents.

His zest for life was nurtured in the early days playing in English St in South Mackay and his thirst for knowledge was constantly inspired through books and the people he met on life's journey.

"How can we fit the enormity of dad's story into a short summary?" middle son Liam Mulherin asked St Patrick's Church.

"The Mulherin household was happy and hardworking. It may sound like a cliche but while they lacked material wealth, they were rich in love and compassion for one another.

"For them everything revolved around family and nothing was more important than the relationships they fostered.

"Dad had a happy childhood. Hours were spent with the kids in English St playing rugby league and hockey.

"He was even an avid sailor, owning his own Laser.

"Neighbours were always included as family and it was with this sense of family and connection that dad approached all relationships throughout his life.

"A favourite pastime of the Mulherin kids and other willing participants from English St was to float down the stormwater drains that weave their way through South Mackay after a sudden downpour of rain, much to their mother's dismay."

 

Tim Mulherin with his wife Erin and sons Rory, Liam and Declan
Tim Mulherin with his wife Erin and sons Rory, Liam and Declan

The 100 people at the church, and hundreds more at the MECC, heard how Mr Mulherin, who died last week aged 63 after a battle with lung cancer, was a diligent student at Mackay Christian Brothers and remained close to his school friends.

He loved catching up with them and celebrating the major milestones in their lives.

 

Son Liam told the congregation his father took great joy in showing affection for people, "something he displayed throughout his whole life".

 

Tim Mulherin's sons spoke at their father's funeral service, which was live streamed to more than 300 people gathered at the MECC on Tuesday September 15 in Mackay. Picture: Zizi Averill
Tim Mulherin's sons spoke at their father's funeral service, which was live streamed to more than 300 people gathered at the MECC on Tuesday September 15 in Mackay. Picture: Zizi Averill

 

He said his father's early forays into labour forces also taught him the value of hard work and taking pride in your job.

Tim once contemplated becoming a priest before wanting to study agribusiness at Gatton.

While family finances stopped the latter dream coming true, he went on to leave a huge legacy in Queensland agribusiness through his public service.

More than 300 mourners gathered at the MECC to watch the live streamed State funeral service for Tim Mulherin on Tuesday September 15 in Mackay. Picture: Zizi Averill
More than 300 mourners gathered at the MECC to watch the live streamed State funeral service for Tim Mulherin on Tuesday September 15 in Mackay. Picture: Zizi Averill

He worked for or was involved in the Australian Services Union, Queensland Electricity Commission and later the Australian Labor Party as state organiser which his sons described as a "fitting role".

 

Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin's funeral. Picture: MECC livestream
Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin's funeral. Picture: MECC livestream

 

Liam said his dad's early political interactions led to lifelong friends with members of the legal fraternity.

"Over many years and many glasses of red wine, these lawyers helped dad develop his bush lawyer skills," he said.

"He believed in the democratic system and always said Australia definitely was a lucky country.

 

More than 300 mourners gathered at the MECC to watch the live streamed State funeral service for Tim Mulherin on Tuesday September 15 in Mackay. Picture: Zizi Averill
More than 300 mourners gathered at the MECC to watch the live streamed State funeral service for Tim Mulherin on Tuesday September 15 in Mackay. Picture: Zizi Averill

 

"Dad's long involvement in the party resulted in another band of lifelong friends who shared a passion of politics and contributions.

"During the 1990s he took leave from the Queensland Electricity Commission, not to go on holidays but to campaign for the party at various elections."

Rory, Tim's youngest son born in 2002, said it was on the 1993 Federal Election campaign trail that his dad met young court reporter Erin Smith at the Criterion Hotel in Rockhampton.

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"Mum spotted dad carrying drinks from the bar and her initial thoughts were 'he looks like a really nice man' and how right she was," Rory said.

"Things happened quickly with a deep and nurturing love developing between the two and despite geographic distance, their relationship remained strong."

 

Rory Mulherin speaks at his father's funeral. Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin was farewelled in Mackay on Tuesday September 15, 2020.
Rory Mulherin speaks at his father's funeral. Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin was farewelled in Mackay on Tuesday September 15, 2020.

He said knowing the Mulherins was like being trapped in a crab pot.

"Once dad and the Mulherins knew you, your existence would occupy a permanent spot in their memory and they would go above and beyond to make sure you belonged," he said.

"Once you were in the crab pot, you couldn't get out even if you wanted to."

 

Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin’s State Funeral. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks with Erin Mulherin, Tim’s widow. Picture: Daryl Wright
Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin’s State Funeral. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks with Erin Mulherin, Tim’s widow. Picture: Daryl Wright

After a stint living in Brisbane, Tim and Erin returned to Mackay when he was elected as the state member.

"He was driven by a determination to make a difference and be of service," Rory said.

 

Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin's funeral.
Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin's funeral.

 

The Mulherins had all three children - Declan, Liam and Rory - while Tim was in office.

"Dad was meant for fatherhood and married life," Rory said.

"Every day he displayed for us his selfless compassion and loving nature.

"While he spent a lot of time away from home, he connected with us all every day and let us know we were loved."

Eldest son Declan said one of his father's proudest milestones was being appointed Primary Industries and Fisheries Minister.

"Dad was passionate about agriculture and regional and rural communities," he told the church.

 

Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin’s State Funeral. Picture: Daryl Wright
Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin’s State Funeral. Picture: Daryl Wright

 

"His ministerial responsibilities allowed him to live this passion.

"It also resulted in another branch of friendships across the political divide that have lasted well beyond his parliamentary career.

"He used his down-to-earth people skills and genuine desire for positive change to bring stakeholders together and make things happen.

"Everybody already knew dad was an intelligent man but it was during his time as a minister this sharp intellect really came to the fore.

"He was a big picture thinker and his love for history and his interest in local, state and national issues guided his decision making.

"Some say he had a PhD in useless information but often what had seemed to be to be useless became fruitful down the line," he said as he evoked much mirth from mourners.

 

Declan Mulherin speaks at his father's funeral. Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin was farewelled in Mackay on Tuesday September 15, 2020.
Declan Mulherin speaks at his father's funeral. Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin was farewelled in Mackay on Tuesday September 15, 2020.

Declan said everything was important to his dad, whether it was a local constituent issue or an issue that required a state or national response.

But he also took great pleasure in anything his sons took part in from fishing to hockey, soccer, golf and cricket - noting his dad's debut in the latter at age 55.

"In typical dad form, he was nervous for his debut in the father-son fourth grade competition," Declan said.

"The match was due to start at 1pm and dad needed to ensure he had a proper lunch to see him through the game.

"As we were running late to the game, it had to be a quarter-pounder burger from Macca's.

"The only issue with this is that most people would consume their burger while driving to the ground. Not dad.

"He made sure we got to the game safely and planned to eat the burger at the field.

"Unfortunately for dad we lost the toss and had to field first.

"This did not stop dad enjoying his burger as he walked onto the field towards first slip where he would field the whole game with his hands behind his back which many thought was an interesting tactic for a beginner fielding in a hot spot.

"But of course dad did not do this for him, he did this for us boys which is another example of how selfless he was."

 

Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin's funeral. Picture: MECC livestream
Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin's funeral. Picture: MECC livestream

 

When Tim retired from politics, he continued to fight for his community as the Mackay Hospital and Health Service board chairman and Harrup Park Country Club board deputy chair

"He loved both of these roles as they kept his marvellous brain ticking over and he had the opportunity to continue serving his community," Declan said.

"During retirement, his caring nature came to the fore when he pretty much became a full-time carer for his mother-in-law - our granny Rose.

"Family, friends and his connection to his Irish roots were a constant in dad's life (and) his numerous trips to Ireland gave him much joy.

"While he did a lot for Mackay and Queensland, we will remember him as a loving generous and intelligent man whose heart always had room for someone else.

 

Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin’s State Funeral. Erin Mulherin with her three sons. Photo: Daryl Wright
Former Mackay MP Tim Mulherin’s State Funeral. Erin Mulherin with her three sons. Photo: Daryl Wright

 

"He was a sounding board for our thoughts and he helped us to develop them but he never forced his own opinion on us.

"He loved his family and friends deeply and regularly contacted cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and friends to keep up with to date with what they were doing.

"We love you dad."