Mount Molloy is a rural town of about 280 people 50 km north-west of Cairns. It was named after Pat Molloy who discovered copper there, beside Rifle Creek, in 1885.
The copper was mined intermittently until the early 1900s when John Moffat of Irvinebank incorporated Mount Molloy into his mining and metals empire. Moffat built a smelter in 1904, and for a while the locality went by the names of Smelter Town or simply Molloy. A primary school was opened in 1906, reaching an enrolment of 75 pupils in 1908. At about that time 250 people were employed at the smelter and in the mines. A private railway (1908) was built to carry copper to Biboohra on the Cairns-Mareeba railway line. Rather late in the piece a town was surveyed in 1914. The post office directory for 1912 recorded the National, Mount Molloy and Smelter Hotels, and three stores including a branch of Jack and Newell, all at 'Molloy'. There were also a hospital and a school of arts.
Falling copper prices in 1907 unsettled the mining-town's economy, but the granting of timber concessions (1908) and dairying blocks ensured the continuation of the town. (In 1909 the mines and the smelter were formally closed.) By 1920 it is estimated that 40 people worked at the sawmill, along with teamsters for hauling the logs. Mount Molloy also had a small butter factory in the mid-1920s. Apparently sawmilling caused fewer accidents than mining, as Mount Molloy's hospital was transferred to Mount Carbine in 1918.
The sawmill was burnt down in 1963 and the railway closed the following year. Mount Molloy's mining history is marked by the Pat Molloy memorial cairn in the main street and the grave of James Venture Mulligan in the Mount Molloy cemetery. Mulligan, probably north Queensland's foremost prospector and explorer, died in the Mount Molloy hospital in 1907. His gravestone, 'erected by a few old friends', is listed on the Queensland heritage register.
Mount Molloy's census populations have been:
Agnes (Pearly) Little, Days gone by, Mareeba, Pinevale Publications, 1992
Ruth Kerr, John Moffat of Irvinebank: a biography of a regional entrepreneur, St Lucia, J.D. and R.S. Kerr, 2000