2015 marks two significant 180th anniversaries in Australian Hellenic history

first_imgTempe House was the venue selected by the Order of AHEPA NSW to celebrate Australia Day, and to honour Aikaterine Plessos Crummer, and the creators of the colonial-era Tempe House estate. This year marks two significant 180th anniversaries in Australian Hellenic history. On 27 September 1835, the Crummer family first set foot in Sydney. Aikaterine and her eldest daughter Amelia Helena became the first two Hellene women to migrate to the Antipodes. A few weeks later, a Scottish-born merchant named Alexander Spark Brodie held his first party at his new country estate south of Sydney, Tempe House. As Major James Henry Crummer was a newly-arrived British Army officer, it is quite likely that the Crummers were guests at Tempe House in its early years. Scottish-born Alexander Brodie Spark (1792-1856) inherited a substantial fortune upon the passing of his father in 1818. Soon afterwards, he set off on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, considered a rite of passage amongst the gentry of the day. His travels took him to the Vale of Tempe, a beautiful tree-lined pass winding ten kilometres along the River Pineios at the foot of Mount Olympus. At the north end of the pass lies Macedonia; at its southern end, Thessaly. Spark commissioned John Verge in 1833 “to design for him an Arcadian villa with strong resemblance to a Greek temple”. Spark’s choice of name for his country home was meant to evoke the landscape of its namesake: extensive gardens around a natural escarpment (named Mount Olympus), with buildings designed to enhance the view of the waterway. Tempe House’s gardens once included up to 50 differing varieties of grape vines, which also attracted horticultural awards. Spark passed away at Tempe House on 21 October 1856, aged 64 years. Like many of their contemporaries, Spark and Verge were part of the neoclassical movement, a revival of the styles and spirit of classic antiquity inspired directly from the classical period. Aikaterine Plessos Crummer spent the next seven decades in New South Wales, accompanying her husband to Newcastle, Maitland and Port Macquarie, returning to the Harbour City after his passing, and living in East Sydney until she passed away on 8 August 1907. The presenter, historian Dr Panayiotis Diamadis, wove together the stories of the Crummer family and the estate where the event was held. “This was the only venue at which to have such a celebration: in one of those forgotten corners of Hellenic Australia.” The presentation was held in the former reception room of the grand colonial house, overlooking the extensive lawns and gardens which have changed so little in the last 180 years. “AHEPA NSW embraces all aspects of Australian Hellenism,” emphasised Education Committee secretary, Harry Fandakis, in his welcome to the gathering. “Studying and celebrating the past we discover ourselves. This is why AHEPA NSW selected Tempe House as the venue for the Australia Day celebration.”Migration to AustraliaAlthough it is reported that there was a Greek aboard the First Fleet, and a sailor, George Pappas, who left his ship, married an Aboriginal woman and settled in Sydney in 1814, the first official record of Greek arrivals is of seven young sailors from Hydra in 1829. They were convicted by a British naval court in Malta for robbing a British ship in the Mediterranean. At the end of their sentence five of the seven were repatriated. The other two stayed, married and died in Australia. One, Andonis Manolis, was childless but the other, Ghikas Boulgaris, was survived by nine children and fifty grandchildren. The first Greek woman immigrant, Aikaterini Plessos, arrived in Australia in 1835 as the wife of an army officer, Major Crummer, posted to New South Wales. She died in Sydney in 1908, survived by two of her nine children and thirteen grandchildren. Neither the Boulgaris nor the Crummer descendants retained their connections with Greece. Other early arrivals were Greek sailors and refugees from Ottoman rule. The majority spent a short time in Australia before returning to Greece.More Greeks arrived in Australia in the 19th century during the gold rush. Some married non-Greeks, mostly Irish women, anglicised their names and stayed in Australia. Others returned to Greece or brought their families out to join them. By 1900, around 1,000 Greeks were living in Australia. Towards the end of the 19th century, formal Greek organisations were established in Sydney and Melbourne. The Orthodox Church was the central focus of the community and schools were organised to help preserve the language and culture.By 1916 the number of Greek settlers in Australia had increased to 2,200, with chain migration of families and relatives from various islands; Kythera to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, Kastellorizo to Western Australia and later Darwin, and Ithaca and Samos to Victoria. Life was not easy for the new arrivals, most of whom were men. They found work in the food trades, cafes, restaurants, fruit, fish and confectionery shops, and also in other small businesses and the fishing, sugar and lead smelting industries. Only four were in the professions; a doctor, an engineer and two priests. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img