submitted by Peter Makarthis on 06.02.2007
The Kytherians in Inverell
Kythera to Cafes Australia 1890 - 1940
Mr Elias Marsellos, Chairman Institute of Kytheraismos
Ladies and Gentlemen
To the members of the Institute - thank you for the invitation to make a presentation to this prestigious gathering of Kytherians.
‘Welcome, friend!’ he said. ‘You can tell us what has brought you here when you have had some food.’
These lines from Homer’s The Odyssey Book are included in the forward of a book I am writing of the pioneering Greeks of Inverell and District, and continues -
“ …with this, Telemachus (son of Odysseus) welcomed the goddess Athena to his father’s home.”
Since time immemorial, Greeks have been travellers, adventurers and entrepreneurs and have valued the notion of being good hosts.
Is it any wonder then, that Greeks have migrated to all corners of the globe and, particularly in the case of the early Greek settlers to Australia, made their start in their new country in the café business?
It has always been fascinating to ponder the words of Telemachus, ‘..what has brought you here.’ Inevitably there are always the simplistic answers regarding tough times in the “Mother Country” and the perception of opportunity in the “Lucky Country”.
But, I have always believed that the reasoning goes deeper than this.
The perception of opportunity does not automatically manifest itself in the psyche of the potential immigrant – not unless there is positive reinforcement from friends, family and acquaintances already established in the New Country”.
“What brought Papou here?” a question we ask ourselves.
“Yia Yia, what brought your Papou here?” ask our grandchildren.
Four years ago I embarked on a small project to write what my wife (Deanna) and I knew of her Kytherian parents and grandparents to preserve these memories for our Children and Grandchildren. The project soon gained momentum.
A box of aging newspaper clippings, photographs and personal papers of the Phacheas and Psaros Families, collected by ‘Beatty’ Psaros - Deanna’s mother - has proved to be a real life Pandora’s Box.
The key to what has unfolded came in the form of the death notice of Deanna’s grand uncle, Peter Phacheas at West Maitland in 1934 - mentioning his association with the establishment of S. Peter & Co at Inverell on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales.
Thus the odyssey began.
Extensive research in local libraries, National and State Archives, various interviews with local identities and descendants – supplemented by two journeys to Kythera have given me an insight into the lives of these extra-ordinary Greeks and the odyssey they have undertaken.
Come with me on a journey to the Inverell District and share the adventure of
Inverell – with its own links to mark Modern Greece in Australia – was in the
late 1890’s a rapidly developing town in a rich pastoral and mining district.
The town, established in 1853, is situated 500 km northwest of Sydney NSW
in the region known as the Northern Tablelands
A great deal has been documented about early Greek migration to Australia, however little has been recorded of the individuals and their lives.
The First Kytherians arriving 1899 in the Inverell District
established themselves in Inverell and rapidly networked their businesses into the surrounding towns of Tingha, Bingara, Bundarra, Warialda and Emmaville.
These original Kytherians made an outstanding contribution to the development of Australia and laid the foundation for many of the successful and well known families of Kytherian descent in Australia today.
The types of businesses these enterprising Greeks established in country towns such as Inverell included fruit shops, “Oyster Saloons” refreshment rooms and cafes.
A close look at the roots of almost all Kytherian descendents will find a foundation in early café culture.
Peter Phacheas, Peter Sourry and Theo Psaros are but a few of the many Kytherians who have laid this foundation.
The challenge of research makes the task almost impossible to give a complete account as one realizes the complex historical factors influencing the pioneering Greeks’ decision to remain in a land so far from home.
One can only hazard a guess at the feelings of dislocation from family, the lengthy time in making communications, the isolation in this vast land, the anxiety of events in their homeland and the difficulties with assimilation which many young men experienced.
Meanwhile, the continuing unrest on the Balkan Peninsular and Asia Minor made a future in Greece uncertain compared to the “Lucky Country” where successful business ventures were created and families were safe.,
Most have chosen to stay.
The first Greeks to arrive in the Inverell district were primarily miners.
They came from the goldfields of central New South Wales, however the local goldfields at Bingara, Glen Innes and Tenterfield were short lived and they soon moved on to Queensland and Western Australia.
Nicolas Gengo was noted to have mined at Upper Bingara 1895, ‘George the Greek’ at Glen Innes 1880’s and ‘Alick the Greek ‘– at Bingara 1890’s. Myth and mystery surround these figures in the past who led a transitory life in search of elusive riches.
The Greeks showed little interest in tin mining in this area and confined themselves later as fruiterers and oyster saloon proprietors in the tin mining towns of Tingha and Emmaville.
The next wave of Greeks came as the railhead extended and they established their oyster saloons and fruit shops.
Peter Phacheas – age 39 -arrived at Inverell in 1899 following in the path of the Panarettos at Moree and the Coroneos at Glen Innes. Peter Sourry, Constantine Fardouly, Vassilios Gengos, Nicholas Treffily, Theo Psaros, and Kyriakos Baveas were the pioneers establishing a firm foundation for other Greeks to settle in the Inverell District.
Peter Phacheas the son of Emmanuel and Kalliope Φατσεας born 1860 Fatsadika, Kythera, is the first Greek to establish a business in Inverell.
He arrived from Smyrna at Sydney in 1889, worked with John Comino in the noted oyster saloon at 36 Oxford Street Sydney and is believed to have established the first country oyster saloon at Orange NSW in 1894.
He is located at Newtown - an inner Sydney suburb – in 1898 operating an
Peter Phacheas arrived at Inverell establishing the first oyster saloon in
September 1899. The premises in Otho Street opposite the Post Office, were in a prime location close to three banks, hotel, court house and council chambers.
Bold advertising appeared in the Inverell Times announcing the opening of S.Peter & Co - Sydney Oyster Saloon.
Peter Phacheas was an enterprising businessman and advertised “milk shakes made by machinery” in the Inverell Times Dec 1900.
This feat is well ahead of the Milk Bar revolution of the 1920’s and remarkable
because electricity was not generally available until 1910 at Inverell.
Peter Phacheas sold the business in 1901 to Spiro Panarettos of Moree and returned to Smyrna briefly before coming back to Australia with two of his brothers George (Deanna’s Papou) and John with some extended family. After a brief stay in Fremantle Western Australia, Peter was accompanied by his brother George and nephew Spiro to West Maitland in NSW.
George returned to Smyrna in 1903 married and returned to set up shop and settle at nearby Kurri Kurri.
Peter and Spiro moved to Goulburn and then to Gatton in Queensland c1910.
Spiro returned to Smyrna 1911 after the death of his father.
Peter sold his interest in the Gatton shop and continued in business at Brewarrina and Dubbo in western NSW until retiring at West Maitland.
Peter died at West Maitland 1934
Peter Sourry (Kotsifos) born in the village of Agia Anastasia, in 1884 – age 16 - came to Inverell in 1900. At the tender age of 16, Kotsifos arrived from Kythera the same year and after a short stay at Glen Innes joined S.Peter & Co in Inverell.
With the acquisition of S.Peter & Co by his Uncle Spiro Panarettos the S.Peter & Co enterprise expanded with the opening of another shop in Byron Street Inverell and establishing shops in the nearby tin mining town of Tingha and rural centre at Bundarra.
Spiro Panarettos sold his interest in S.Peter & Co to ‘Kotsifos’ and returned to Potamos c1907.
Peter Soury’s brothers joined in the operation of the shops until they moved to Armidale and Uralla.
Kotsifos went back to Greece in 1911, like many other young Greek men, who were patriotically drawn to the Balkans War. He returned 1914 with wife Marika having married in Potamos. He sold his interest to the Gengos Bros of Moree and the recently arrived Nicholas Trifelly. Peter moved on to Walcha and later into the movie theatre scene at Armidale.
Constantine Fardouly born 1872 at Potamos – age 33 - arrived in Australia 1905 was briefly at Gunnedah and Bingara, arriving in Inverell 1907. He moved onto manage the newly established S. Peter & Co branch at Tingha in 1908 and had commenced trading as Con Peter & Co when naturalized in 1910.
Sons Emmanual aged 17 and Harry – aged 11 - arrived in 1912 were later able to manage the Tingha enterprise when Constantine returned to Kythera 1916.
Constantine’s return to Australia was delayed by the circumstances of World War 1 and on his return sold the business to Kyriakos Baveas in 1923. Constantine Fardouly returned to Kythera in 1924
Emmanual moved to Queensland and Harry later continued in the café scene at Inverell with the Alhambra Café until 1935 and then established the Regent Café. Harry’s family continued to operate the traditional Greek café until closing in 2001.
Theodore Panagiotis Aroney b Cerigo 1881 - age 22 - arrived in Sydney 1903 and came immediately to Inverell working at S.Peter & Co. He established a refreshment room with Constantinos Venardos in the tin mining town of Emmaville in 1906 and was joined by Nicholas Kalokerinos in 1909
Dimitrius ‘Jim’ Marcellos – b. Kouravanthes 1899 - age 15 - arrived Australia 1914 spent 15 months in Tamworth until arriving in Bingara 1916 moved to Charleville QLD handing the business onto the Alfieris Bros (Theo, Jim and Con) from Potamos in 1921.
Kyriakos Baveas (born 1880) from Potamos age 28 arrived in Sydney 1908 and spent two years with S.Peter & Co Inverell until moving to Narrabri 1910. He returned to Greece for the Balkans and Great wars. He returned to Australia 1923 with his eldest son John (Jack) and bought refreshment rooms from Constantine Fardouly. Kyriakos returned to Potamos c1932 leaving the business in the care of son Jack.
The Gengos brothers, Leonidas(arr 1902), Evangelos(arr 1906) and Vassilios(arr 1908), sons of George and Archondoula Gengos of Potamos are entwined in a complex association with S.Peter& Co at Inverell and Moree as employees and partners, from their arrival until they exited the partnership in 1921.Leonidas to Bathurst, Evangelos to Sydney and Vassilios to Moree.
The complex partnership also involved Peter Sourry, Nicholas Aroney(Moree), Nicholas Trifelly(Inverell) and Theo Psaros(Inverell)
Comino (Kominos) George Charles (Karavas) born1885 –age 29 - arr Sydney 1914 from Egypt and spent two years with Crithary relatives at Glen Innes until buying a refreshment room in Warialda in 1916. This began a family network spreading through Warialda, Delungra and Inverell from 1916 to 1953.
George and Georgina Comino arrived at Warialda 1916.They sold the business to Georgina’s brother Peter Crithary and moved to Goulburn 1923.
Zantis (Zantiotis) – Sarantos George – (Sid) b.1895 Karavas Cerigo –age 13- arr Sydney NSW Aug 1908 he spent time in Sydney (2 years), Grafton (3 years), Parkes ( 8 years), Returned to Greece and served in Greek army with war against Turks 1919
Married Kalomira Crithary at Karavas and returned to Australia c1923 to Peak Hill. Bought IXL Café Delungra 1924, Returned to Greece early 1930’s and after a short stay returned again to Australia (1933) entered into partnership with brothers Jim and Jack at Warialda. Bought the Australia Café at Inverell 1941 in partnership with brother Harry. Sold out shop 1953 and family moved to Sydney, Canberra and Goulburn.
Theo Psaros born 1898 Milopotamos – age 14 - arrived in Australia in the care of his Uncle John Andronicus 1912. The son of Dimitrius and Panayiotitsa Psaros of Skoulandrianika/Milopotamos. Theo worked in oyster saloons in Cessnock, Queanbeyan and Sydney before joining the vast number of young Greeks on the Queensland cane fields. He arrived in Inverell with Theo Stratigos 1919 buying Nicholas Trifelly share of S.Peter & Co.
Theo’s brother Peter arrived in Inverell 1921 and joined the partnership.
The Psaros brothers continued a partnership with S.Peter & Co including the IXL Refreshment Room until 1936 and continuing as the Monterey Café until their retirement in 1969.
Theo Psaros married ‘Beatty’ Kalliope Phacheas in Sydney November 1927- the niece of Peter Phacheas the first Greek businessman in Inverell.
Theo and ‘Beatty’ Psaros lived all of their married life in Inverell.
Beatty Psaros was proactive in the Inverell community and proudly promoted her Hellenic Heritage at every opportunity. .
Beatty Psaros died at Inverell 1978
Theo Psaros died at Inverell 1981 – Theo never returned to his island home.
Over 150 other Greeks are known to have been associated with the Inverell District. Their interests were not only contained to the café scene but extended to movie theatres, hotels, tobacco growing and sapphire mining.
The network of their business establishments proved to be no less complex than the families that co existed on Kythera, the island from which they came and now several generations along it is little wonder that Australia is often referred as Megali(Big) Kythera.
The Kytherians who established businesses in Inverell and District form a major proportion of the Greeks in this region.
When businesses were established the owners sponsored relatives to work in these enterprises, many were further assisted financially into their own businesses. During the inter war period 1920 to 1939 a significant number of women relatives were also sponsored, many in a matched role to establish a traditional family.
The most notable is John Andronicos of Moree and Theo Psaros of Inverell.
John Andronicos of Avlemonas sponsored two of his daughters in 1922 and arranged a double wedding for them in Sydney 1923. John repeated the process when he sponsored another two daughters with a subsequent double wedding at Moree 1934.
Theo Psaros of Inverell was responsible for sponsoring three sisters and arranging their marriages before, marrying in 1927.
During the inter war period the Greeks consolidated their establishment in the district expanding, developing their businesses and assimilating into the broader community.
Cultural identity was maintained and the Greeks continued to preserve their
customs. Regular gatherings of Greeks continued to adhere to the customs of their Greek Orthodoxy celebrating the broad spectrum of family life. Visits by Greek priests to conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals were not uncommon and were respected by the local clergy allowing them to conduct religious ceremonies in their churches – usually Church of England.
Many Kytherians have returned to their island in the ensuing years however some were not so fortunate and may be remembered thus:-
A noble life, but written not
In any book of fame;
Among the list of noted ones
None ever heard his name.
For only his own household knew
The victories he had won;
And none but they could testify
How well his work was done.’
These lines from The Land of the Budgeriga by E.McDonnell in 1936 would not be out of place on the graves of the pioneering Greeks who died alone and far from their place of birth.
The graves of some venturesome Greeks are located in the local cemeteries, the mounds have settled with time and the weathered gravestones are often surrounded by weeds.
The passing of these Greeks usually occurred during their working life and they are often interred singularly.
Some are buried in unmarked graves and the only record of their final resting place is located in council records and local historical societies. Obituaries may be located in archival or Greek language newspapers papers.
Peter Emmanuel Phacheas (Fatseas) of Fatsadika is buried in West Maitland cemetery. This grave was unmarked however a comprehensive survey was made of the cemetery and the site located. An obituary appeared in the Greek Herald of September 1934.
John Nicholas Andronicus of Avlemonas is buried in Moree Cemetery. John who left Kythera in 1914, was operating the Monterey Café at East Moree when he died 1936.
Vassilios Gengos of Potamos is also buried nearby at Moree Cemetery and the death of his son Flight Lt Bill Gengos is noted on his headstone. Bill was reported “Missing In Action” at Torbruk 1942, his remains were never recovered. Kalliope Gengos, the distraught wife of Vassilios and mother of Bill moved to Sydney and is buried at Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park.
Lone graves at Bingara Cemetery include Philip Feros of Mitata d 1940 and Jim Melonas of Aroniadika d1943.
Nicholas Peter Comino of Dourianika died at Warialda 1968 and is buried in Armidale cemetery. His wife Georgia died in Brisbane 2004 and is buried at Dourianika Kythera
Irene Stratigos nee Psarou d 1978 and is buried in Botany Cemetery. Her husband Nikolas returned to Greece and is buried at Piso Pigadi on Kythera.
The descendents of the pioneering Kytherians in the café scene were encouraged to achieve a high level of education and seek careers in professions.
To this end the Café scene is no longer the domain of the Greeks and their once popular cafes are all but a fading memory.
The research of this complex web of family with business in the Greek community has been a fascinating process of which I have only touched the tip of the iceberg. I hope that this odyssey will serve to encourage a younger generation to investigate their own roots and preserve a significant heritage.
Preserve the letters and photographs
Record the stories and memories.
In closing. I thank my many Kytherians friends for their support in this project. My thanks also extend to Mayor Johnston and the citizens of Inverell for their continued acknowledgement and encouragement.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me and now, I cast you adrift on your own journey.
Author Peter McCarthy (Σκουλανδρισ)
Presented to 2nd International Symposium of Kytheraismos
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