Alex Mullan 1936-2015

Alex Mullan passed away on Friday 23 January after a substantial battle with cancer. I was fortunate enough to know him from 1981 both as a professional colleague and a friend.

Alex came into psychology as a mature student after having worked in laboratories. This included working for a number of years in The Gallaher Tobacco Company in R & D. I think it would be true to say that they managed to smoke a good deal of what they produced over many years.

After completing his psychology degree he embarked on his training in Clinical Psychology. On qualifying as a Clinical Psychologist in 1983 he took up a post in Gransha Hospital and for the next seven years he was the entire clinical psychology service for a population of about 160,000 people. The next psychologist did not arrive until 1990. He continued to work in the Western Trust until he retired in 2004 at the age of 67. Never a man to take things lying down, at a time when many would have been only too glad to shed the burden of what was very hard work, he went ‘kicking and screaming’ and yelling ageism (with some justification) at the top of his voice. Even then he continued to work on in the Northern Trust, on temporary contracts, until he was nearly 70.

There is no doubt that Alex was a man of many parts! He had what could be described as an acerbic sense of humour, and anyone who had the pleasure of spending time with him socially enjoyed many a good laugh.

He had no interest in building empires and held no ambition to be a great leader. Indeed he possessed what many might regard as a healthy cynicism in relation to managers and organisations. In truth he was someone who did not like to be managed, and as such could be a thorn in the flesh of those who tried to get him to do things that he thought were unimportant. There were a good many unimportant things, according to Alex.

On the other hand, as a colleague and a client he was quite simply superb. He was extremely supportive to trainees and those less experienced than himself. Indeed he would have gone out of his way to help nurture and develop others.

His greatest strength lay in his work with and for clients. He had a burning desire to help the underdog, those with little or no voice, those who were emotionally and psychologically troubled… he invested his exceptional clinical skills in tirelessly trying to alleviate the pain experienced by his clients. Quite simply, in terms of his client work, Alex Mullan was forever going above and beyond the ‘call of duty’. What is more he went about this work in a very quiet and unassuming manner. Not only was he an outstanding clinician who cared passionately about his clients, but over the course of his career the numbers of people he helped were quite staggering.

 In short, he was a man who touched the lives of many people in a way that made a difference.

Professor Gerry Cunningham

C.Psychol., AFBPS

Consultant Clinical Psychologist & Systemic Psychotherapist


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