Mullin, (Thomas) Hugh (1914–2006), presbyterian minister and historian, was born 22 September 1914 at Irish Green Street, Limavady, Co. Londonderry, second son in a family of four boys of John Barbour Mullin and his wife Effie (née Black). Both his parents were teachers. Hugh was educated in Limavady at Main Street primary school and Limavady Academy, and at Foyle College, Derry. He gained outstanding results in senior certificate examinations and was awarded an exhibition to study at QUB, where he graduated BA in 1934. Having decided to become a presbyterian minister, he then proceeded to Assembly's College to study theology. He was placed first in his class in each of his first two years and twice won the Getty award; he also won the Coey scholarship twice, in his second year and in his last year, when he took the Smiley gold medal for oratory.
Before graduating BD in 1940, Mullin served as an assistant minister in Glengormley, a new congregation founded in 1935, and on 17 March 1938 he was ordained minister in the very much older congregation of Convoy, Co. Donegal; its first known presbyterian minister, John Crookshanks (qv), was ordained about 1657. Mullin was only 23 years old, but he adapted easily to the rhythms of traditional rural life, and as he visited and ministered to congregational members, developed an interest in their history. The community in Donegal, and also in Ballyrashane (situated between Co. Antrim and Co. Londonderry), where Mullin was installed as minister on 29 July 1948, retained a knowledge of generations of family relationships which he found fascinating, and his notes of conversations with old people provided information for a series of books on local history and genealogy.
His first book, The kirk and parish of Ballyrashane, appeared in 1957; his wife Julia was co-author. In 1960, he published The kirk and lands of Convoy since the Scottish settlement. In The Ulster Clans: O'Mullan, O'Kane and O'Mellan (1966) he acknowledged the unpleasant complexities of shared history, and dealt in scholarly detail with a period not much studied even by academic historians at that time. (The Reverend James Edward Mullan, listed as a co-author, who provided some background research, was born in 1901 in Tartlaghan, Co. Tyrone, and became a missionary in South Africa, where he established over twenty multi-racial pentecostal 'Assemblies of God'. He was prominent in evangelistic religion in South Africa until his death in 1987.) The Ulster clans book was re-printed in 1984.
In Families of Ballyrashane (1969) Mullin used detailed genealogical reconstructions to shed light on the social and economic conditions of a typical farming area; in Aghadowey: a parish and its linen industry he provided important analysis of proto-industrialisation as well as denominational history. His three books on the history of Coleraine, published in 1976, 1977 and 1979, covered the town's development from medieval to modern times. He also wrote Limavady and the Roe valley (1983), Ulster's historic city: Derry Londonderry (1986), and a pamphlet, Reformation heritage (n.d.). Mullin and his wife Julia (who published six volumes of history under her own name) wrote Roots in Ulster soil: a family history (1968), which dealt with their own families, suggesting that genealogical knowledge can underpin the identity of individuals as well as the community life within which individuals participate.
The Mullins' research skills and understanding of Ulster life and history, combined with their ability to deal with, remember and reproduce large amounts of data, without the assistance of computers and photocopiers, produced books which became classics of local history and local genealogy. Their books have been sought after by people from the areas they studied, but also have wider significance. Hugh Mullin's clear and graceful style of writing, as well as his knowledge of denominational and social history, produced books which set the standard for local historical writing in Ulster, and he was a pioneer in using the complex manuscript material held in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin to elucidate family connections and to analyse social changes at the micro-level.
Mullin and his wife taught adult evening classes for some years, in courses organised by both QUB and what was then known as the New University of Ulster. After retirement in 1978 from a ministry of forty years, he was still much in demand as a speaker and preacher at special events. Throughout his career he had been highly regarded as an understanding and loving pastor, and he was also active in the affairs of the denomination; he was convenor of church extension in the presbytery of Coleraine. With his support, new congregations were founded at Burnside, Hazelbank and Ballysally, as Coleraine's population grew in the 1960s and 1970s. He served on the general assembly's inter-church relations board, and published a number of pamphlets and articles on church unity. For over forty years, from 1958 to 1999, he was a trustee of the general assembly of the presbyterian church, providing financial advice as a member of the executive committee of his church (1980–99).
In 1974, the United Theological Faculty of Ireland recognised his work in church extension and his historical work by conferring on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity; in July 1982, equally acknowledging his importance in history and local studies, the New University of Ulster at Coleraine awarded him an honorary MA.
Hugh Mullin and Julia Elizabeth Forsythe married in Drumachose presbyterian church on 26 June 1946; they had both grown up in that congregation. They had a daughter and two sons. Mullin and his wife travelled widely, continuing during his long retirement to visit very distant places including the Peace Park at Nagasaki in Japan, Afghanistan, and Tierra del Fuego in South America.
Hugh Mullin died in Coleraine's Causeway Hospital on 1 September 2006, aged 91. His papers were deposited in Coleraine Library; their copious information is of lasting use to family historians.