submitted by George Poulos on 18.06.2004
Hobart's early Greeks: Casimaty family and friends, Hobart, Tasmania, c. 1931.
This article first appeared in Neos Kosmos, Monday, 14-4-2003.
Greeks of the *'apple isle'. [*The State of Tasmania, Australia.]
Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski investigate Greek-Australian settlement and development in Tasmania, revealing in the process, that despite an emphasis towards food catering, a historical diversity of occupations is evident.
IN 1875, Trifon Kelestioglou, who was born at Tyrnavos, Greece, arrived in Tasmania. He was in his mid-twenties at the time. Adopting the name, George Nicholls, he soon commenced trading in Hobart as a licensed victualler. Kelestioglou (Nicholls), is currently the earliest Greek to be personally identified as having settled in Tasmania.
There were other early Greek arrivals, as between 1870 and 1890 six Greeks are recorded in census records, but most have remained unidentified. Only one other Greek prior to the start of the twentieth century has been personally identified - Athanasios Kaparatos [Jack (also known as John and 'Capa') Carpparatus]. His early cultural and linguistic isolation in Tasmania is suggested not only by the numerical absence of other Hellenes, but also by claims provided by later Greek arrivals who new him, that 'his English wasn't good at all' and 'his Greek wasn't good either.'
Athanasios Kaparatos, a sailor, arrived in Launceston in September, 1884. Obtaining employment on Launceston's waterfront he worked for the next thirty years as a wharf labourer, boatman and stevedore. During the first ten years he saved a number of individuals from drowning in the Tamar River. His efforts in this regard were so outstanding that he was awarded a medal in 1894 by the Royal Humane Society of Australasia. After retiring from the waterfront, Kaparatos opened the Continental Cafe in Launceston. Marrying three times, Athanasios had five children by his first marriage - two boys and three girls. In October 1947 Athanasios Kaparatos died. His age on burial records was given as 96, though according to his naturalisation certificate he was born on the island of Spetsai on 15 May, 1866, which would put his age at 81.
Eight individuals were revealed in Tasmania's census record of 1901 as having been born in Greece - five males and three females. Ten persons were recorded as 'Greek Catholics'. A decade later the total number of Greek born had dropped by two to six - four males and two females. 'Greek Catholics' had dramatically increased to forty-seven.
The 1916 'Secret Census' recorded seven Greek males - five in Hobart and two in Launceston. The five in Hobart were all associated with the Britannia Cafe in Elizabeth Street. They were: Dimitrios Flaskas, age 19, cafe assistant; Antonios Kasimatis, age 19, cafe assistant; Grigorios Kasimatis, age 26, cafe proprietor; Nikolaos Koletis, age 29, cook; and Kharalambos Tsitsilios, age 28, kitchenman. In Launceston, the two Hellenes were Athanasios Kaparatos, whose age was given as 60 and occupation as cafe proprietor, and Marinos Lucas (Lekatsas), a picture theatre proprietor aged 47. Kaparatos, the Kasimatis brothers, Flaskas, and Lucas, figure prominently in Tasmania's early Greek-Australian history.
Diversity of Greek Occupational Activities and Community Development
Grigorios Kasimatis (Gregory Casimaty) had been approached in the early 1910s by Panayiotis (Peter) Galanis, a fellow Kytherian, to become business partners in a fish shop in Hobart. After only fifteen months, Galanis sold his share to Gregory, who then took on a younger brother Antonios (Anthony) as a partner. Their shop, the Britannia Cafe, was fitted out with upstairs dining rooms and subsequently became Tasmania's first Greek-run restaurant. Not only did the business attract commercial success, but its status and popularity was such that during the 1920's, the Casimaty brothers were formally appointed as fishmongers to Sir James O'Grady, Tasmania's Governor; this appears to have been maintained by a number of O'Grady's successors.
At the same time, the Casimatys ventured into pioneering the Tasmanian crayfish industry - exporting as far afield as France - and introduced Danish seine trawling to the state. Around 1950, their crayfish business was exporting in excess of 300 tonnes of crayfish per year to Sydney and America. The development of Tasmania's scallop industry also received their attention, and with such a dominant marine focus in their business enterprises, an extension into boat-building proved too irresistible - Gregory had the Nelson, a fifty-foot trawler, constructed in Hobart during the mid-1930's.
By 1941 the Casimatys were operating two trawlers - the Nelson and the Margaret Thwaites - and had hired two Greek brothers Victor and Theo Vanges to operate the vessels. Unfortunately in August 1942, Victor Vanges was lost overboard and this, according to Gregory, 'made me lose all heart I had in seining.'
During the 1950's Gregory Casimaty became Foundation President of the Greek community in Hobart. He and his brothers Anthony and Basil donated land for the Greek Orthodox Church which was named St George. The Foundation stone of the church was laid in March 1957. It has been estimated that approximately forty Greek families assisted financially with its construction.
Dimitrios (Jim) Flaskas (Khristoforos was his original family name) worked in the Britannia Cafe for three years before returning to Kythera. Ten years later, during the mid 1920's, he re-migrated back to Tasmania with his wife, Efstratia (a Smyrna refugee), and established a successful business, the North Hobart Fish Supply, as well as undertaking a prominent part in the development of Tasmania's Greek community.
In the early 1940's a Cretan, John Harris (Harkiolakis), purchased the Clover Leaf Cafe in Hobart. He changed the name to Reno Cafe and introduced 'European cooking.' Harris was one of a number of Greeks who became involved in Tasmania's food catering trade during either the 1930's or 1940's.
However, Greek settlers were not just cafe and fish shop owners. Marinos Lucas (Lekatsas) arrived in Hobart in 1907. He quickly became involved in entertainment, operating theatre halls and managing the Grand Tivoli Vaudeville Company. He also became involved in cinema and the making of a film. In 1911 Marinos succeeded in building a theatre of his own design in Brisbane Street, Launceston. With a capacity audience of almost 1,900, the Princess Theatre was referred to in the Daily Telegraph newspaper at the time, as 'the only theatre in Tasmania with such up-to-date appliances, and which are equal to any in other states'. In 1913 Lucas went to Melbourne where he stayed for approximately the next three years. After his return to Launceston he built another theatre, The Majestic, which opened in 1917. 'The architecture is Grecian,' commented the Daily Telegraph, 'and at the top one can see glimpses of the ancient Pantheon style.' The paper concluded that 'the Majestic Theatre is undoubtedly one of the most modern in Australia.'
During the 1920's a Greek in Hobart named George Henry (Haritos) is said to have taken up a keen interest in photography and film-making.
In 1930, an enterprising young Greek, George Haros, left Kythera and journeyed to Tasmania. He worked in the Britannia Cafe until 1936 and then opened the Green Gate Sundae Shop. In 1939 he started to pursue the idea of manufacturing an invention which he had been developing for some time: the Haros Boiler. It was essentially utilised before the broad introduction of espresso machines to provide steaming hot water for tea and coffee. By the mid-1990's some 13,000 are said to have been sold around Australia and overseas, an outstanding achievement which has elevated Haros' invention to the status of a locally produced cafe icon. During the 1950's, George became the Foundation Treasurer of the Greek Community in Hobart. From 1966 to 1980 he served as Honorary Vice-Consul for Greece in Tasmania's capital.
One of Tasmania's Chief Justices, Sir John Morris, was the son of a Greek named Morias from Poros.
During the 1950's and early 1960's numerous Greeks arrived in Tasmania as a result of Australia's new immigration policy of 1947 and the consequent signing in 1952 of a major immigration agreement with Greece. Many of these new Greek arrivals worked on the Hydro-Electric Scheme at Tarraleah, Poatina, Wayatinah, and Bronte Park. At Bronte Park, it is claimed that 'more than 600 Greeks' were there during the years 1956 and 1957. Some Greeks limited their work on the Scheme to seasonal employment - returning to Tasmania from Mildura, Victoria, at the close of the grape picking season; many found the climate too cold to endure all year.
Spiros Raftopoulos, who was born in Corfu, continued his working association with the Scheme until his retirement in the late 1980's. Raftopoulos reached the position of photogrammetrist (an aerial surveyor) with the Hydro-Electric Commission. Not all Greeks who worked on Tasmania's Hydro-Electric Scheme remained in Australia. A number, like Yeoryios Karayioryis, returned to Greece.
While other Greeks who arrived after 1950 primarily found employment in cafes, milk bars, light industry, mining and sea related industries, one, Peter Antypas from Kefalonia, established a piggery near Legana in 1962. By the late 1970's Peter had some 700 pigs.
In 1969, Dimitrios Trambas entered the engineering manufacturing field in Tasmania. His Quoiba (Devonport area) based business, Doric Engineering, was by the late 1980's, constructing various engineered items ranging from shipping containers through to a velodrome in Launceston. According to Trambas 'when you come from another country you see opportunities here [in Australia] that those born here can't.'
During the 1970's, a Hellene who had been born in Alexandria, Egypt, Con Kerr, 'was the only one [Greek] in [the] silk textile' trade in Hobart. Marion Semmens (nee Papastavrou) who was born near Limassol in Cyprus, established - together with her American husband Mark - Marion's Vineyard near Devoit in 1980. The vineyard commenced producing in a record three years and it has been claimed that its location 'provides an ideal micro-climate for vines to produce some of the greatest wines we have seen yet in Australia.'
During 1980, Nick and Diamanto (nee Patounias) Papas ventured into onion distribution. Based in Devonport, by the late 1980's their 'onion factory' had grown into one of the largest onion exporting enterprises globally, exporting to Europe, Japan and south-east Asia.
Quite a number of Greeks became fruit sellers. These included Michael Giomataris, and Jimmy (Ananias) Tsinoglou.
Post-war Greek settlement in Tasmania also witnessed further developments in regard to Greek community activity, together with the emergence of Hellenic cultural influences upon the broader Australian arts scene. Around the very late 1950's the Hellenic Youth Club and the Olympic Soccer Club were both formed in Hobart. During the 1960's, the Greek Orthodox Youth Association was founded in the city, and in 1968 the Greek Orthodox Community of Launceston was formed.
In 1990 composer Constantine Koukias founded the Hobart-based experimental music theatre troupe, IHOS Opera; ihos is the Greek word for sound. A graduate of the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music, Koukias' productions during the 1990's - which attempt to redefine theatre conventions on all levels - attracted solid and enthusiastic national acclaim. Bringing together a wide eclectic range of musical influences - Greek, Australian, traditional, contemporary, religious and secular - Koukias claims that 'it wasn't until I started putting the Greek element into my work that I started to feel I had actually developed as a composer.'
It has been estimated that conservatively there are over 1,500 families of Greek background in Tasmania today. Moreover, Tasmania's Greeks have entered all levels of the society's occupational and vocational pursuits - they are animal and agricultural farmers, cafe proprietors, artists and writers, sports men and women, business professionals, miners, industrial workers, government administrators, teachers and politicians. Those who have achieved political office include: Ananias 'Jimmy' Tsinoglou, who held the office of Mayor of Launceston from 1987 to 1990 (he was first elected to Council in 1978); Gabriel Haros, who was elected to Parliament in Hobart in 1980, serving until 1985; Theo Casimaty, who held the position of Warden/Mayor of Sorell Council from 1986 to 1994 (he first served on the Council in 1966); and Steve Kons, who held the position of Mayor of Burnie between 1996 and 1999 (he first served on Council in 1994).
In 1994 the inaugural ESTIA Greek Festival of Hobart was held. It has since become an annual event, and the largest, and the most successful, ethno-specific festival in Tasmania.
H. Gilchrist; M. P. Tsounis; G. Haros; Casimaty families; H. Kalis; A. Tucceri; M. Mottee; S. Grubb; J. Harris; P. Antypas; D. Trambas; M. and M. Semmens; C. Kerr; N. and D. Papas; Y. Karayioryis; S. Raftopoulos; A. Avromakis; Z. and M. Panaretos; M. Giomataris; J. Tsinoglou; C. Koukias; Daily Telegraph; The Australian; ESTIA Greek Festival of Hobart Board; and the Greek-Australians: In Their Own Image National Project Archives, Macquarie University, Sydney.
All the historical and contemporary images used in this article form part of the aforementioned archives.
The photographs and text of this article are copyright - Effy Alexakis and Leonard Janiszewski - and cannot be reproduced without permission. If readers have any stories or photographs which can assist the authors with their research into Tasmania's Greek history, please contact them at: (02) 9850 6886; e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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