submitted by Hugh Gilchrist on 16.09.2005
From, Afstraliotes Hellenes. Greeks in Australia. (ed) A Kapardis and A Tamis. River Seine Press. Melbourne. 1988. pp. 1-11
This article was first published in the September, 1984, issue of the Canberra Historical Journal. It is reprinted in Afstraliotes Hellenes, in the form in which it first appeared, by kind permission of the author and the Editor of the CHJ.
[*19th century Greek migration to Australia was extremely important for ploughing the field, into which the Kytherian seed would be planted. The Kytherian capacity to adapt rapidly to Australian conditions was enhanced by the Greek migration that preceded it.
Gilchrist's concluding remark - "....by the turn of the century, Greek consular representation had been established, the Greek church had found its feet, and the first permanent Greek social and religious organisations had taken root in Australia’s two largest cities, and the foundations had been laid for the great expansion of Greek immigration which was to follow in later decades".
- Australian Adminstrator.]
The contacts between Australia and Greece go back for more than 150 years, to the day when the first Greeks set foot on Australian soil. For many decades these contacts were episodic and of limited significance. The great watershed in Greek-Australian relations did not come until October 1940, when Greece stood alone and fought Mussolini’s invading army, and several months later, when the Australian Sixth Division landed in Greece to oppose Nazi invasion. Those events changed forever the Australian view of Greece and the Greek view of Australia. But the story of Greek-Australian relations goes back even before the nineteenth century.
It was a Greek, of course, named Ptolemy who first wrote about the existence of a great unknown continent to the south of India, although the idea of Antipodes - lands at the other end of the earth - is even older in Greek writings. Ptolemy, ignoring reports of the circumnavigation of Africa, imagined that south-east Asia and southern Africa joined up to make the Indian Ocean an enclosed sea; but his supposition was based simply on a feeling that a southern continent was necessary for the earth’s symmetry and balance, not on any reported sighting of land. As for the suggestion that the notion of a great southern continent originated in stories brought back from India by soldiers of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC, there seems to be no evidence to support it.
The Greco-Roman empire of Byzantium, although it lasted more than a thousand years, was generally too busy repelling invaders to encourage exploration of the southern oceans, and in any case was theologically disinclined to approve of such enterprises; and when the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 Greek maritime capability was virtually ended. But, although Greek ships rarely ventured beyond the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Greek sailors served in the vessels of other countries and thus ventured into ever y ocean. How close to Australia, then, did any Greek approach before the nineteenth century?
The answer seems to be in a voyage near Timor. In Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet of five ships which left Seville in 1519 there were at least six and possibly as many as ten Greeks. When Magellan himself was killed in a fight with local warriors on a beach near the Phillipines, a Greek named Nicholas of Nafplion was at his side; another, Matthias of Corfu, was later captured by troops of the Sultan of Brunei. But the remaining ship of Magellan’s fleet sailed down the west coast of Timor in 1522, unaware of the Australian coast not far to the east and, after an epic three-year voyage, got back to Spain. Of the 265 men who had set out on this first journey around the world, only eighteen returned, and four or five of them were Greeks.
Greek readers probably first became aware of Australia through a map of the world drawn by a Greek theological student at Padua in Italy in 1700. He was Chrysanthos Notaras, who later became the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Presumably he drew his information from the maps of Tasman and others. His map shows about two-thirds of the Australian coastline and is titled Nea Hollandiki Gi,or New Holland. He also gave it the subtitle,Gi Tis Omonoias - Land of Harmony, which he apparently derived from the name of Dirk Hartog’s ship Eendracht, which means “concord”, At any rate Chrysanthos drew his map seventy years before Captain Cook reached the east coast of Australia.
The first Greek book to mention Australia was also written at about the same time, by another Greek priest Meletios, who later became Archbishop of Athens. It was a geography book which he wrote at Lepanto (now called Nafpaktos) on the Gulf of Corinth between 1697 and 1700, when he was in hiding from the Turks, who suspected him of involvement in some insurgency plot. But New Holland got only a bare mention in it, under the heading “Unknown Lands”, at the very end of the book, just before a paragraph of speculation about the Earthly Paradise.
Little was published in Greek about Australia until the nineteenth century, and it was the Greeks living outside Greece - especially in Venice, Vienna and Leipsic - who came to know more about Australia than did the Greeks within Greece itself, where Turkish rule prevented the emergence of a Greek press. Greek geography books in schools in central Europe, however, began to include references to Australia; and one of these, printed in 1832, told the reader that the biggest river in New Holland was the Hawkesbury, and that a range of mountains had been discovered, but that “very little is known about the country and scarcely anything worthy of mention”. Well into the nineteenth century Greek readers continued to think of Australia as New Holland; to them the word “Australia” meant “The Lands of The South Seas” - something like Polynesia; and one writer in an Athenian magazine in 1856 told its readers that the platypus was “a native of Oceania”.
The identity of the first Greek to set foot in Australia is shrouded in obscurity. In the first modern Greek book published in Australia, which appeared in 1916, the authors wrote; “It is easier to discover the North Pole than to discover the beginnings of Hellenism in Australia’; and nearly fifty years later a magazine in Salonika lamented that the ancedotes passed on by descendants in Australia were so vague and conflicting that, if an official history of the Greek settlers were ever written, it would probably state that the first Greek in Australia was either Alexander the Great or the eighteenth century guerilla leader Athanasios Diakos.
In modern Greek journalism there is a strange tale about a sailor from the island of Ydra, named Damianos Ghikas, who is said to have been captured by Algerian pirates and then recaptured by a British warship and taken to Gibraltar in 1802, and there - in the mistaken belief that he was an Algerian pirate - put on a convict ship bound for Sydney. The story goes that he worked for five years shearing sheep for a big landowner, from which condition he managed to redeem himself by writing messages to the chief magistrate on Ydra and stuffing them into bales of wool being exported to England. Eventually a London merchant sent the messages on to Ydra, and one day Ghikas was called in by order of the Governor of New South Wales and told that he could go back to Greece - which he did, arriving back a rich man with (according to the tale) 106 gold sovereigns saved from his convict wages.
An unlikely story? Yes, indeed - especially the gold pounds, and the wool being exported at such an early date. But one cannot dismiss it as simply an old sailor’s yarn, complete with Odyssean ingenuity in obtaining the means of his return. It seems to have echoes of~ what in reality happened some thirty years later when several Greeks convicted of piracy in the Mediterranean were pardoned and given money for their return to Greece. It may be that the Damianos Ghikas story was a tale put about by one of those later Greeks to explain his long absence from home - a sort of cover story which became a myth.
The real story of the first Greek settlers begins on a summer’s day in 1827 when a small ship manned by nine young Greek sailors from Ydra robbed a British ship bound for Malta
to Alexandria, but let it proceed otherwise unharmed. Two days later a suspicious British warship on anti-piracy patrol gave chase and captured the Greek vessel and took it to Malta, where the Greek crew were clapped in jail; and five months later they were tried by a British Court of Vice Admiralty.
This very odd Court was presided over by Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, lately victor in the great sea battle of Navarino and a man active in British efforts to stamp out piracy in the Mediterranean. The Court also included an improbable jury of three Englishmen, three Maltese, four Sicilians, a Frenchman and a Spaniard. The Greeks pleaded that, under international law they had been entitled to intercept and rob a vessel destined for a port occupied by Turkey, their enemy; but the prosecution pointed out that they had taken only articles of personal value and let others of military use proceed with the ship; and, after eighty-nine hours’ deliberation, the jury aquitted two and found the other seven guilty of piracy.
The Court sentenced the seven to death, but recommended four of them to mercy. However, being concerned about the validity of the laws and procedures followed in the case, especially regarding the conduct of jury trials in Malta, it sent all the papers to London for further study; and meanwhile the executions were suspended and the prisoners petitioned King George IV for mercy. It seems that WilliamHuski~on the Secretary for the Colonies and a known philhellene, was the main mover in having the sentences reduced to transportation to NSW - three for life, and four others for fourteen years; and so, along with 200 other convicts, the seven Greeks arrived in Port Jackson on 27th August 1829, the date which marks the beginning of Greek settlement in Australia.
Assigned as servants
In Sydney they were assigned to work as convict servants. Two went to William MacArthur, of Camden; one to Major Druitt, of Mount Druitt; another to Mr Hely, who later became superintendent of convicts; another to a Mr Macalister, of Argyle; another to the Colonial Secretary, Alexander Macleay; and the seventh to the Sydney Dock Yard. Little is recorded of their activities, but James Busby, in his manual on local wine-growing reported that William MacArthur had entrusted his Camden vineyard to “a native of the Ionian Islands”; and in 1831 Major Mitchell, the Colony’s Surveyor, wrote of walking through John Mac.&rthur’s garden at Parramatta and seeing “Greek pirates at work, training vines to trellices according to the manner of their country”.
After about six years one of the Greeks, Ghikas Boulgaris, was given a ticket of leave by the magistrates of the Bungonia district to live in the District of Murray - that is, the Oueanbeyan-Braidwood area - and in the next year two others were allowed to live free near Camden, and a fourth to stay in Sydney while in employment, but the three sentenced to transportation for life got no ticket of leave, and their servitude lasted more than eight years.
In the meantime the Government of newly independent Greece had made representations to Britain for the pardon and return of the Greeks. At first the Foreign Office in London could not find any record of the matter, but eventually, in 1836, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, said that Britain would repatriate the Greeks as far as England, if the Greek Government would meet the costs of their transport; and this was agreed. The Greeks were pardoned and offered passages to London, and the Secretary for the Colonies further directed that, since they were sailors and would probably prefer to work their passages, they would be offered, instead of their fares, a gratuity of 12 pounds each to buy clothes. Five of the Greeks opted to return, and in March 1837 four of them sailed for London, where the Greek Consul arranged to put them on a vessel bound for Corfu, after which we lose all trace of them. The fifth Greek sailed on a later ship which was wrecked
off the coast of Brazil and, although all aboard were saved, his later fate remains unknown.
Two of the Greeks, however, decided to stay in NSW, and became our first Greek settlers. One of them, Andonis Manolis, spent the rest of his life in the Camden and Picton districts as a gardener and vine-dresser. In 1843 he was married in Picton by an itinerant Catholic priest to a local girl, Elizabeth Gorey, of whom nothing else is known. Possibly they had a son named John, mentioned in Manolis’s death certificate as having probably died; but no other record of offspring has been found. Manolis bought an acre of land in Picton and in 1854 became the first Greek to be naturalised in Australia; and there he died in 1880, at the age of 80, and was buried in Picton cemetry, under a sandstone slab on which someone carved the lines; “In a strange land the stranger finds a grave, Far from his home beyond the rolling Wave”. All that remains of the land today, however, is a green sward with a brook running through it, and a tale handed down the years by neighbours that once, long ago, where the brook runs, there lived an old gardener.
Our other first Greek settler, Ghikas Boulgaris, became known as Jigger Bulgary, although in the records his name is spelt in at least thirty-three different ways. He became a shepherd, wandering around southern NSW, and in 1836, at the pioneer grazing property “Arnprior” which for long was owned by the Ryrie family and is located twelve miles north of Braidwood, he married an Irish girl, Mary Lyons. In the next twenty years they had five sons and five daughters, born in various places, such as “Arnprior”, Campbelltown, Cooma, Eden or Bega, and Ando, a few miles north of Bombala. They settled at Bukalong, near Bombala, where he bought a block of land of sixty-five acres on the Bombala river, and built a timber house there which remained standing until 1967.
In 1861 Jigger Bulgary was naturalised at Bombala and soon afterwards bought a block of 313 acres near Ando (was that name derived from his shipmate Andonis, one wonders?) on the Bombala-Nimmitabel road. But as a free selector of land within the great Bibbenluke estate Jigger fell foul of its strong-minded manager. Henry Tollemache Edwards, who went to great lengths to stop the estate from being broken up into small holdings. It seems that Jigger, employed at one time on the estate as a carrier, selected a sheep run in the middle of four surrounding blocks, and this infuriated Edwards who managed to buy up three of the surrounding blocks and eventually, in 1890, the Bulgary block from Jigger’s son, William. Nevertheless, Jigger lived on his Ando block for some years and built a slab timber house there which lasted until the 1930s, and some of the pines which he planted are still there today.
Towards the end of his life Jigger and Mary moved north to a sheep run named “Nimitybelle Station”, on the outskirts of Nimmitabel, and there he died in 1874 at the age of 67 and was buried in the local cemetry, where his wife followed him twenty-four years later. In his will he left “Nimitybelle” to his wife and sons, but there is no record of his title to it, and it is not even clear where precisely it was located. Most of his children lived out their lives in the Monaro - at Cooma, Bombala, Delegate or Nimmitabel, or nearer the coast at Bega or Wolumla or Pambula, although two moved to Bathurst. Of their fifty grandchildren some have been traced, and in Sydney there are two great-great-grandchildren carrying on the Bulgary name (as Bulgeries). But none of them were involved in the later Greek-Australian community; instead, as Silks, Connollys, Fields, Kellys, Wintles, Byrnes, Hearnes or Dunleavys, most of them were taken into the Irish-Australian heritage bequeathed to them by Mary Lyons from Cork. Only in the names of several grandchildren
- Demosthenes, Manolis, Demetrius, Ophelia and Xanthe - was any Hellenic connection carried on.
The story of Australia’s first Greek woman settler is a long and romantic one. Born Aikaterini Plessas, she arrived in Sydney in 1835 as Mrs Catherine Crummer, wife of an Irish army officer. She came from a village in north-western Greece and was the daughter of a prosperous merchant and his wife, Vasiliki. Unfortunately, Vasiliki was so devastatingly attractive that she was abducted by a Turkish Pasha named Moukhtar, a son of Ali Pasha, the Ottoman Sultan’s Govenor in Epeitos; and so, little Aikaterini grew up with her mother in a pasha’s harem near Ioannina, and by the time she was twelve Moukhtar already had designs on her as a future mistress. Her mother and Moukhtar agreed that she should be formally bethrothed to Moukhtar’s physician, a learned Greek named Ioannis Koletis. But after Ali Pasha’s unsuccessful revolt against the Sultan and his subsequent execution, along with Moukhtar’s, Dr Koletis broke off the engagement. Many years later, after Grece became independent, he became Prime Minister of Greece.
Met Lord Byron
Aikaterini therefore did not marry a future Greek Prime Minister. Instead she went to live with an uncle at Mesolonghi, at the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth where, in her uncle’s house she met and spoke with the poet Lord Byron, shortly before his death from malaria while helping Greek insurgents against the Turks. Soon afterwards she escaped from Turkish-blockaded Mesolonghi and found refuge on the island of Kalamos, where a British army detachment was stationed as part of the British occupation of the Ionian Islands. Kalamos was largely a refugee camp for Greek women and children from fighting on the mainland of Greece. Its commandant was Captain James Henry Crummer, a veteran of Waterloo and many other battles against Napoleon; lamed by gunshot wounds in a leg he had been several times decorated for bravery. At Government House on Kalamos, when he was 30 and she 16, they were married.
When Crummer’s unit - the 28th Regiment of Foot - was posted to NSW after a spell in Ireland, Catherine and their three children accompanied him. He was promoted to major, retired from the army, and spent twenty years as Chief Magistrate in Newcastle; but he suffered financial reverses and became rather sick and infirm, and spent his later years as a magistrate at Port Macquarie, where he died in 1867, probably the last survivor in Australia of the Battle of Waterloo. By that time Catherine had borne eleven children, of whom five had died. She moved to Sydney and lived in a house near Kings Cross. She was 98 when she died there in 1907 and was buried in Waverley cemetry, survived by a large number of grandchildren, most of whom are scattered in NSW. At the time of her death she was almost certainly the last surviving person to have had a word with the poet Byron.
One other Greek woman in nineteenth century Australia merits mention: the Countess Diamantina Roma, wife of Queensland’s first Govenor, Sir George Bowen. Bowen had earlier served as president of the University of the Ionian Islands and as secretary to the British administration in Corfu, where he had been married to Diamantina in the Palace of St Michael and St George. A classical scholar who spoke modern Greek fluently, he had travelled on horseback from Constantinople to the Corfu Channel and had written several books on contemporary Greece, and his despatches from Brisbane to the Government in London were full of comparisons between Greek and Australian scenes. His connection with Greece is commemorated in the Brisbane suburb of Ithaca, the subject of one of his books.
Diamantina Roma, born on the island of Zakynthos, was a member of a distinguished Veneto-Greek family which traced its origins back through Crete and Venice to thirteenth century Rome. Among her ancestors were many notable Venetians, and her near relatives included Greek statesmen, generals and writers and members of European royal families. Three of her children were born in Brisbane, and her energetic work there in organising local charitable institutions earned for her warm popular affection. Later after several years in New Zealand, Bowen became Govenor of Victoria, so that, in all, Diamantina spent thirteen years in Australia. When the Bowens finally departed Australia in 1879 the poet Marcus Clarke wrote an elegant ode of farewell to her, which was sung at an immense banquet in Melbourne’s Town Hall.
A woman of self-discipline, compassion and devotion to duty rather than one of boldness, imagination or gaiety, Diamantina was a keen gardener, a collector of Chippendale furniture and a talented hostess, and her children adored her. Unfortunately, her letters from Australia.preserved for ninety years in the Roma family villa on Zakyntho~ were destroyed as a resut of the Ionian Islands earthquakes in 1953. She was only 59 when she died in 1893 in London and although one of her daughters married a Queensland grazier, Allan Campbell, her later descendants had little contact with Australia and not much more with Greece. Her name, of course, is widely commemorated: in the Diamantina Orphanage, the Diamantina Home for Incurables, the Lady Bowen Hospital, the Diamantina River and Diamantina Shire, Roma Street and Lady Bowen Park and the town of Roma; in the Diamantina Falls in Victoria and in Diamantina street in Canberra. and the early ~lver~ass frigate HMAS Diamantina has carried on her name by discovering a deep ocean cleft off Western Australia - the Diamantina Trench.
Bowen was one of three early colonial Governers to provide links between Australia and Greece. The others were Sir John Franklin and Sir John Young. The latter was Britain’s Lord High Commissioner in the Ionian Islands and a witness at Bowen’s wedding there to Diamantina; he once admitted to a gathering in Sydney that he would rather charge the flank of Napolean’s Imperial guard at Waterloo than be hissed by an Ionian mob or be abused by an Ionian newspaper. Franklin’s experience of Greece had been happier; he had been decorated by King Otho for Naval services to Greece, and had helped prevent a guerrilla attack on Patras in 1832; and Jane, his second wife, had travelled widely in Greece and learned a little Greek. The block of land near Athens which she bought as a possible refuge in the event of a social revolution in England was transferred - not very effectively - to Christ’s College in Tasmania when she left Hobart in 1843, and seems to have been later used as a vineyard, although its precise location remains uncertain. Eventually the College sold it in 1881 for 68 pounds.
The stream of Greek settlement in Australia began to flow in 1851. In contrast with the first Greek migration to America, which was a collective enterprise, it was the sum of action by individual adventurers. Possibly a few Greeks stepped ashore in earlier decades, because Britain’s occupation of the Ionian Islands had led to the employment of some Greek sailors on English merchant ships. But from those years the name of only one Greek has come down to us. Australia’s first voluntary Greek settler, he was known as John Peters, an illiterate young sailor, probably from Samos, when he landed in Sydney about 1838. In St John’s Anglican church at Parramatta in 1841 he married a 14-year-old Dublin girl. Sarah McCue, and during the next twenty-five years she bore him nine sons and six daughters, all of whom were given English or Irish names. The family moved to the Braid-wood district, possibly to join a gold rush, and in 1861 he was a shepherd there, and later worked on the property named “Bedervale”. He may have farmed for a time, but later was
earning a precarious living fossicking for gold at nearby Little River. After Sarah’s death he moved back to Sydney and reared his children in Surry Hills, where he died in 1887 at the age of 80. Among his descendants, whose number approaches a hundred, were a dwarf, several albinos and some talented musicians.
Dreams of wealth
The real flow of migration, however, began when a few Greek sailors and fishermen serving on British ships or eking out a bare living in the Ionian and Aegean islands and the ports of southern mainland Greece heard of the gold discoveries in NSW and Victoria and decided to chance their luck in the Antipodes, four or five months’ sailing distance away. None of them to be sure, contemplated settling in Australia; their dream was to amass wealth and return to the homeland; and this remained the dream of most of them until well into the twentieth century.
For lack of adequate records we are unlikely ever to have a precise account of the numbers or names of these early Greeks, some of whom deserted their ships in Sydney or Melbourne to Join the gold rushes. The first officially recorded was Nicholas Emellen, a teenager from somewhere near Athens who landed in Melbourne in 1851 and made for the Bendigo diggings, where he married a 17-year-old Irish girl. He was a labourer at Port Melbourne when he died forty yeas later, survived by three children. Another claimant to be a first arrival is Andreas Lekatsas, of Ithaca, whose descendants say he jumped ship in Melbourne in 1851 and made for Ballarat. Upon his return to Ithaca nineteen years later his tales of prosperity inspired his nephews to go out and start shops and cafes in Melbourne, which Lhey did with notable success, under the name of Lucas. A third claimant is George Doicos, of Athens, said by descendants to have reached Melbourne in 1851 and later moved to the diggings in NSW.
It was at the historic goldfield towns of Hill End and Tambaroora, near Bathurst, that the first small group of Greeks settled together. A dozen or more Greek gold-miners built shanties there, in what was called Greektown, in the 1860s, and married Australian or English or Irish girls and produced about sixty children, before the field petered out and the Greeks, along with almost everyone else, departed.
There are difficulties in identifying early Greek settlers, because most of them were illiterate, even in Greek, and wanderers with no fixed abode. They also tended to change their names, because the Australian colonists could not comprehend long and unfamiliar Greek names, and this usually resulted in their shortening a name and making it sound more English, or taking an entirely English name instead. Thus Lekatsas becomes Lucas, Lalel~s becomes Lawler, Servetopoulos becomes Service, and Sikiotis becomes Scott - to take a few examples. Mavrokefalos becomes Black, and Argyropoulos becomes Fisher. Numbers are also hard to estimate, because the records of birthplace do not always indicate ethnic origin; Greeks born in the Turkish-ruled provinces of Greece, such as Crete, Epeiros, Macedonia and Thrace, or in Asia Minor, Cyprus, or Egypt would probably not have been recorded as “born in Greece”. Records of religious belief, moreover, do not give a clear picture of the number of Greek Orthodox Church adherents in Australia until well into the twentieth century. The best guess that we can hazard is that the colonies may have had as many as 200 Greeks in the 1850s; 300 to 400 in the 1860s; 400 to 500 in the 1870s; 500 to 600 in the 1880s; and nearly 1000 towards the end of the century.
Most of them settled in NSW and Victoria, especially on the goldfields, although there was a big exodus of Greeks from Victoria in the 1870s. Oddly enough, although the overwhelming majority of Greeks in Australia were single men, we find mention in the 1871 Victorian census of at least nineteen Greek women, mostly at the gold-diggings; we do not know the name of a single Greek woman in Australia (except Mrs Crummer ) until about
1895. In South Australia, the first Greeks came about 1860, but they stayed in the ports and remained rather few. In Tasmania, a few came in the 1860s and were never more than a handful. In Queensland, they arrived about 1860 and grew steadily in number and spread into the outback. In Western Australia, several arrived in the 1870s, but none is known by name before Athanasios Avgoustis’s arival at Broome in 1889 from the island of Kastellorizo.
Sided with Britain
Most of the Greeks were islanders - but not only from Kythira and Ithaca, as is believed by some people. They came from at least twenty-three Aegean and Ionian islands, and a much smaller number from the Peloponnisos and other places. The chain migration from Ithaca and Kythira did not become significant until the 1890s, when the Greeks began to move into shop-keeping and to bring out their relatives as shop assistants and kitchen hands. The fact that so many came from the islands, however, became politically important later, because the islands were traditionally republican, in contrast with the royalist Greeks in the Peloponnisos; and therefore, in the First World War, Australia’s Greeks, almost to a man, sided with Venizelos and Britain, not with the pro-German King Constantine.
Most of the early Greek settlers led lives of hardship in raw mining camps scattered over great distances through the remote and strange Australian bush. Far from their native villages, their families and their Church, strangers to Anglo-Celtic customs, handicapped by language difficulties and rarely able to communicate with their kin or even with each other, they were almost overwhelmed by homesickness for Greece. That so many endured it for so long is attributable to the distance and difficulty and cost of the return journey and the poverty and uncertainties of life in Greece itself.
Few of them became distinguishe~ although some individuals made their mark, such as Michael Manousou, who had a hotel in Bodalla as early as 1865 and became a wealthy grazier near Mudgee; the Kominos family, who pioneered the oyster-farming industry in NSW, and Athanasios Avgoustis and George Falangas, who pioneered it in Western Australia; Dr Spyridion Candiottis, the first Greek medical practitioner in Australia, who arrived in Melbourne in 1853 and achieved notoriety in lawsuits at Clermont in Queensland; Evgenios Genatas, who served for two years in outback Queensland in the Native Mounted Police; Leonidas Koledas, whose bitterly-contested mining claim was finally debated in the Queensland Parliament in 1884; the Lekatsas family, alias Lucas, who pioneered high-class restaurants in Melbourne; and Athanasios Kaparatos, awarded the Royal Humane Society’s medal for saving on various occasions ten people from drowning in the Tamar River at Launceston.
The picture would not be complete without some mention of Australians in Greece. The first of these was not a person but a plant: the eucalyptus tree, imported into Greece about 1861 by the Professor of Botany at the University of Athens, Theodore Orfanidis, and possibly by a few other people around that time. He probably got his seeds from a nursery in Paris, although a later lot was sent to him from Algeria. He succeeded - after some initial failures - in raising specimens of the Tasmanian blue gum in the Public Arboretum in Athens. A few years later the eucalyptus became a source of controversy in Greece. Eucalyptus oil was touted by the pharmacists as a cure for malaria, and the eucalyptus was hailed not only as the solution to the firewood shortage, but as the tree which would rapidly drain Greece’s malarial swamps. So extravagant did the claims become that in 1873 Orfanidis denounced them in a long satirical article about a new Greek fever, “Eucalyptomania”. More eucalyptus seeds, however, were imported about twenty years later by the Greek Government and distributed to many enquirers, and the results can be seen today in the eucalypts along the railway lines betweeen Corinth, Nafplion and Patras.
The first Australian tourist in Greece seems to have been the eccentric Melbourne notary and globe-trotter James Hingston, who filled no less than forty-five columns of the Melbourne Argus in 1887 with an account of his travels in Greece and Turkey in that year, offering a light-hearted but generally sympathetic commentary on Greece before the age of the motor car. He was followed by Justice William Windeyer, of the NSW Supreme Court, a classical scholar who later became Sydney University’s Chancellor. Unfortunately, the only record of the judge’s visit is in some banal verses by two young Oxford graduates to whom he gave a lift in his carriage, driving from Athens to Marathon.
In 1889 arrived the first Australian resident in Greece, a young Melbourne engineer named Vernon Delves-Broughton, who worked for twelve years in the British Lake Copair Company on the enormous fifty-year project of draining the marshes of Lake Kopair in Thessaly and turning them into productive agricultural land. Resident near Thebes in primitive and lonely conditions and suffering from malaria, he later moved to Athens and married the daughter of a Greek mathematics teacher, before retiring in England.
The first visitor to leave an enduring impression as an Australian in the minds of the Greek people was Edwin Flack, the young Melbourne accountant who took a quiet Easter vacation from London to run in the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896. He won the 800-metre and l500-metre footraces and was leading in the marathon 3 km from the finish when he collapsed, and a Greek went on to win it. Immen~y popular with the Greek public and entertained by the Greek royal family, Flack is still remembered as a name today by sportsmen in Greece.
After Flack came our first two official visitors. One was William Cattell Grasby, an eminent horticulturalist and some time Principal of Roseworthy Agricultural College in South Australia. Sent to Greece in 1896 by that Colony’s Government as an honorary trade commissioner to study the vine industry, he discovered the Greeks’ technique for making the currant vine produce more fruit (by cincturing or near-ringbarking it). His Tasmanian bride, Hannah, accompanied him on what became their honeymoon, and was probably the first Australian woman to visit Greece.
The other official was William Eugene Finucane, who, although born in Corfu, had made Queensland his home. A pioneer lands officer in the Gulf country, an agricultural innovator (he built the first olive-press in Queensland) and a patron of the arts, he persuaded the Queensland Government to send him on a Mediterranean tour as an honorary trade envoy to gather and send home to Queensland useful fruits and vegetables and the techniques of their cultivation, which he did in 1897. Unfortunately ,the fine collection of Aboriginal artefacts which he gave to a museum in Athens has long since vanished.
Grasby and Finucane not only used their talents for Australia’s commercial benefit, but published lengthy and critical accounts of their impressions of modern Greece. And this prompts the question whether trade between Greece and Australia was ever significant. The answer is that, although until 1890 there was almost no direct trade, there was, almost from the beginning of European settlement, a large importation of Greek currants and raisins via England, which imported vast quantities from the Ionian Islands and the Gulf of Corinth (currants, as Mrs Bowen observes is a corruption of Corinth), and re-exported them to Australia. Except for a large and unexplained importation of these products into Australia in 1867, direct trade began in 1890 when the brothers Maniakis - Mark in Sydney and Alexander in Melbourne - emigrants from Zakynthos, began importing them. There ensued a lively debate in the Press between the Maniakises, who declared that Australia could never produce quality currants and raisins in competition with the low-wage Greek imported product, and the horticulturalist Grasby, aided by the South Australian vigneron Thomas Hardy, who argued the contrary. In the end, although the Maniakis brothers succeeded in having the customs duty of dried fruit imports reduced, and even though imports of them increased rapidly until 1900, rising Australian production overtook demand, and within another decade the Australian market for Greek currants and raisins disappeared forever. As for Australian exports to Greece, a spasmodic effort to export cattle and a few other products during the 1890s came to nothing, largely for lack of a direct shipping connection.
Trade promotion was probably a factor which inspired the appointment of the first consuls of Greece in Australia, although the initiatives in this seem to have come from Greeks in Australia, not from Athens. The first incumbent was Robert Curtain, a real estate agent, appointed honorary consul in Melbourne in 1888. Except for four years in the 1890s, when the post was held by Arthur Were of the prestigious stockbroking firm of J .B. Were, Curtain remained consul for twenty-one years. In NSW, however, Greece’s first consular representative was a well-educated Greek storekeeper at Parkes, who had failed to find his fortune on the goldfields. He was Angelos Pholeros, an emigrant from Srnyrna, who persuaded the Greek Government to appoint him honorary vice-consul at Parkes in 1891. But the Greeks in Sydney vehemently objected to the consulate being located 200 miles inland, and lobbied for Pholerc~ replacement. He seems to have staved off the criticism by acquiring an office in Sydney, but in 1897, after his marriage to a Parkes girl had broken up, he returned to his native Smyrna, taking his children with him. One of them, Frank, later distinguished himself in aiding Greek refugees to escape from the massacres in Smyrna in 1922; other descendants are living in Sydney today.
Pholeros’s successor was the Sydney importer Mark Maniakis, who was a popular and effective consul until his retirement in 1904. He had married an Australian girl, Lilian McKee, and when she accompanied him to Athens on his retirement she became the first Australian woman to settle in Greece. Maniakis also inspired the first major article on Australian life in the Greek Press, through his interview in the Athenian daily Akropolis in 1900, in which he reported on the emptiness of Australia’s cities after dark, the uppishness of Sydney servant girls, and the absurdity of South Australia’s women being given the right to vote.
As the nineteenth century drew to its close the Greeks in Australia ceased to be gold miners and seafarers and waterfront workers and became cafe owners and shopkeepers and oyster farmers, and settled down and married and had children, forsaking their previous nomadic life. A few more Greek girls emigrated to aid in this process, and thus began the movement to establish Greek communal organisations and social structures more permanent than occasional gatherings in Greek coffee shops. A principal reason for establishing such bodies was their desire for a priest who would conduct services of the Greek Orthodox Church: baptism, marriage and rites of burial. Greek law required that marriages between Greeks be performed by such a priest; hence, a Greek and his bride had either to return to Greece to be married or be wed according to some other ceremony, with the risks of family ostracism, desertion, illegitemacy or disinheritance which might ensue from non-recognition in Greece of the validity of such a marriage. The help which the Greeks in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne received from individual Anglican clergymen, who lent them church halls for worship, was gratefully appreciated, but it did not meet their needs.
The Greek Orthodox Church had not been an active missionary body outside the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor, and it was only after insistent pleadings by Australian Greeks that their requests for a priest were answered. (Although a young priest named Christopher Arsenios, from Cosfu, had appeared in Clermont in Queensland in 1868, his presence there was fleeting and unexplained.) In 1895 several of Melbourne’s Greeks wrote to the Greek Orthodox Patriach of Jerusalem, asking him to send out a priest and forwarding 35 pounds for his fare, and guaranteeing his stipend. It was to Jerusalem, not to Athens or Constantinople, that they appealed, because they wanted a priest who could conduct services in Arabic as well as in Greek, for the sake of the small community of Christian Lebanese and Syrian Orthodox people in Melbourne, with whom they had joined forces. But the Patriarch did not reply. In the following year several Sydney Greeks began fund raising to acquire land and build on it a Greek Orthodox Church; and in 1897 the Greeks of Melbourne followed suit. The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne was formally constituted in August 1897, and the Greek Orthodox Community in Sydney in May 1898, although in Sydney there may have been some less formal prior organisation, records of which are lost.
At all events, the Patriarch in Jerusalem responded after some delay, and sent out the Reverend Serafeim Fokas to Sydney and the Reverend Athanasios Kantopoulos to Melbourne; and, as a result of energetic fund raising and donations from the Greeks in those cities, Ayia Sofia Church, Holy Trinity, was consecrated in 1898, followed by the Evangehismos Church in Melbourne in 1901.
Thus, by the turn of the century, Greek consular representation had been established, the Greek church had found its feet, and the first permanent Greek social and religious organisations had taken root in Australia’s two largest cities, and the foundations had been laid for the great expansion of Greek immigration which was to follow in later decades.
Space limits allow only minimal reference to sources.
• Magellan’s Greeks: see, e.g., Navarrete, Coleccion de Viajes (Madrid, 1839-59, Vol. 4).
• Early texts: Chrysanthos, Introduction to Geography and Spherics (Paris, 1716), Meletios, Old and New Geography (Venice, 1728), Pandora (Athens, 1856, Vol. 8).
• Pirates: see footnotes to article, “Australia’s First Greeks’, Canberra Historical Journal, March 1977, also Acting Govenor’s despatch 3 January, 1838 (in HRA); Nicholson, Shipping Arrivals and Departures, 1837, p.165 (AONSW); Sydney Gazette 28 December 1837.
• First settlers: marriage certificate Manolis (under Manlass). RGNSW 92/1592; death certificate Boulgaris (under Bulgario), 843/4480, and his will. 4 March 1873, probated 20 April 1875; letter 14 January 1863 in H.T. Edwards letterbook (National Library).
• Catherine Crummer: K.A. Diamantis, article in Ipeirotiki Estia, 1955, p.1078 (Gennadios Library Athens); E. Lea-Scarlett, article in ADB Vol. 1, p.204, on Crummer.
• Bowens: Thirty Years of Colonial Government. ed. Stanley Lane-Poole (London, 1889) and Queensland Women’s Historical Association records, Brisbane.
• Franklins: article, “The Mysterious Affair of Lady Franklin’s Thirty Plethra”, Canberra Historical Journal, March 1983.
• John Peters: papers of Mrs Joan Clarke, Sydney.
• Hill End: Harry Hodge, The Hill End Story, Vol. 2 (second edition, Sydney, 1974).
• Eucalyptus: Orfanidis, Geoponica (Athens, 1872, 1873).
• Travellers: Melbourne Argus, December 1887-March 1888; family papers (Windeyer, Delves-Broughton); South Australian Register, 2 and 9 February 1898 (William Grasby); The Queenslander,
November 1899 ff, and letter to Chief Secretary, 23 September 1895 (Finucane).
• Trade: colonial import statistics; South Australian Royal Commission into interstate tariffs, 1890; Grasby, article in Garden and Field, March 1899 (Adelaide); Maniakis, letter, May 1899, in The Australasian.
• Consuls: faniily papers (Pholeros, Curtain, Maniakis), Greek Foreign Ministry archives (ditto); Akropolis, 22 and 23 March 1900.
• Church and Communities: M.P. Tsounis, PhD thesis, University of Adelaide, 1974: 1 Zoi en Afstralia (Sydney, 1916) by John D. Comino and others; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book, 1974; Eighty Years (Greek Orthodox Community of Mebourne, 1977).
Saint Catherine ( Still Consecrated )
Interviewed during his visit to Australia, 2013.
August 17, 2010
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