submitted by Peter Vanges on 09.05.2006
The First Kytherian Immigrant to Australia.
The ‘First Kytherian’ Question
First Published in The Greek Australian Vema, April 2006. pages 10/28 and 11/29.
Peter Vanges is author of Kythera. A History.
Kythera. A History. Details.
He was a long standing Committeeman of the then Kytherian Brotherhood of Australia, (11 years), serving 6 of those years as President.
Kytherian Association of Australia
When in 1916, the book “I Zoi en Afstralia” was printed in Greek, in Sydney, the name and only a few details about Emmanuel Kritharis were mentioned on page 293, that included the wrong year of his death, a reference of his being in Australia since 1854 and some information of his very substantial donation to the Greek war effort. No other details were reported that could assist us in our original research in order to establish, with certainty, who was the first Kytherian to arrive in Australia. We must remember that this book was published only three years after Kritharis’ death and therefore this information is the result of first hand knowledge.
In 1957 Ioannis Kasimatis published in Greece, his book, on the history of Kythera, mentions on p. 192 that “In the year 1850 (the first Kytherian to immigrate to Australia) was Emmanuel Kritharis.” The above information agrees with the reference in the book “I Zoi en Afstralia” as the first alludes to his arrival in Australia, while the second to his departure from the island of Kythera. Unfortunately no proof or any documents were presented to confirm this claim. Strangely and without any justification in the previous few lines, Kasimatis mentions that “some decades ago the first Kytherian to immigrate to Australia... was Athanasios Kominos”. Once again no other details or even the year of Kominos’ arrival is given in support of this claim. Official records, however, tell us that Athanasios Cominos ( Kominos) arrived in Sydney in 1873, almost twenty years after Emmanuel Kritharis.
Later in 1992, Hugh Gilchrist (Australians and Greeks, Vol. 1, p. 209) mentions... “another Kythirian family was that of Kritharis. Emmanuel Kritharis, reputed to have arrived in 1854, was a solitary man who is said to have died in Sydney in 1912 after making a large donation to the Greek war effort”. Emmanuel Kritharis’ incorrect date of death is given but other names of the Kritharis family who came to Australia are mentioned, giving us a full picture of the migration of this clan.
In my book “Kythera a History” published in 1993 the same very limited information is given on page 253 about Emmanuel Kritharis. The claim of his being the first to arrive in Australia was brief but with a more definite tone, in full knowledge that further information was needed. Since then I have undertaken the task to find fresh information that would permit me to proclaim with surety, that Emmanuel Kritharis was the first Kytherian to have arrived in Australia.
The name of Jack Melitas is mentioned on page 44, in the book “A Shop Full of Dreams”, as the pioneer of Kytherian migration. As no documented evidence is put forward this claim was disregarded and I continued with my research. The first Kytherian to arrive in Australia by the name Melitas is mentioned on page 206 of the book “I Zoi en Afstralia” as Demitrios Panagiotou Melitas who arrived in Sydney in 1903 at the young age of seventeen years old.
The Kytherian newspaper, “Kythiraiki Idea” in its publication of February 2003 under the title “Kytherians of the Diaspora ” mentions... “Some, claim that the first Kytherian immigrant to Australia was Emm. Kritharis who went there in 1850, the relevant bibliography however converge with the view that the first Kytherian ... was Athanasios Kominos who in 1875 at the age of 29 years arrived in that distant continent.”. Claims made in this article are completely unsupported and my research proves otherwise as no bibliography that we know has produced evidence to support this claim. It is regretful that “Kythiraiki Idea” even published a photo of Athanasios Kominos with the caption:.. “the first Kytherian immigrant to Australia”, when we know that he was not.
These are all the known “bibliographies” in reference to the question of the first Kytherian to arrive in Australia. The insistence of a number of commentators and reporters in ignoring the name of Emmanuel Kritharis in favour of that of Athanasios Kominos, who as mentioned, arrived in Australia in 1873, presented to me the challenge to attempt, once and forall, to uncover undisputed evidence to support my original claim that Emmanuel Kritharis arrived in Australia in 1854 and therefore he was the first Kytherian to arrive in Australia.
To my surprise, the new information collected, revealed much more than was ever known before about Emmanuel Kritharis, that proves beyond reasonable doubt, he was the pioneer of Kytherian immigration to Australia. Written evidence of the exact date of his arrival in Australia has not been found. Yet, the new information uncovered further strengthens the claim, that Emmanuel Kritharis had arrived in Australia in 1854 and therefore he was the first to reach this new continent down under.
Emmanuel Kritharis, according to his death certificate Number 2366, died on Sunday the 9th March 1913, aged 81, therefore he was born in Kythera in 1832. At a very young age, hunger and uncertainty, forced young Emmanuel to leave the island in search of a better life, not unlike so many others, who also made it to the shores of the new continent. After a long wait for the opportunity of a better life he boarded a vessel destined for the unknown continent of Australia. According to Ioannis Kasimatis, Kritharis left the island in the year 1850 and as mentioned in the book “ I Zoi en Afstralia” he arrived here in 1854.
The years between 1850-1854, were in most probability, spent in search of employment, or working anywhere he could, before the decision was made to seek his fortune in Australia, as rumors were running wild about discoveries of gold in N.S.W. and Victoria (1851). After a long, difficult and perilous voyage of many months he found himself possibly in the goldfields where young Emmanuel, soon, made his fortune. We know that as early as 1852, as many as thirty sailors had found their way to the goldfields of Australia. It is unfortunate that the records do not provide us with names or other details, so most of them will remain anonymous until further new information comes to hand.
For reasons unknown to us Kritharis moved to Mortdale N.S.W. in 1861 where he lived for the remainder of his life. We know, from a letter written on the 14th April 1902 to his brother Menas on the island, that Emmanuel Kritharis lived in the area of Mortdale, in George Street, not far from Sydney in a house called “Athena Cottage”. We learn also the astonishing information that the Kytherian member of Parliament, Kaloutzis, had volunteered his services to recommend Emmanuel Kritharis for the position of Ambassador in Sydney, if he (Emmanuel) was interested. Kritharis expresses his complete surprise because “neither Mr. Kaloutzis or any other M.P. had the power to appoint ambassadors”. Emmanuel further comments that “Mr. Kaloutzis as a person in politics and a member of Parliament should have known that “there was an appointed person in the position for the past twenty years”. He concludes by saying that such a position offers no salary and is only a honorary one and that he “would have never accepted such a post as ever since he had understood the world he had never sought neither name nor power or glory”. “I consider all that as vanity” he adds. In the same letter, as a post script, he informs his brother that “ in two weeks there will be an announcement of peace and that the King will be crowned on the 26th of June1903”. The letter is clearly written with steady handwriting and very strongly expressed ideas revealing that he not only was well educated but he also kept up with the news in Australia as well as Europe.
It is possible that, before settling in Mortdale, Emmanuel Kritharis had lived for a short time else where in Australia. Due to the distance between Hurstville and Sydney, he had little contact with other members of the Greek Community and although well known, every one called him “the monk”.  He never married, and was never naturalized. His occupation remains a mystery and his name does not appear on any other government or municipal records. Was he perhaps another deserter afraid of someone or something? Or he felt secure in his wealth and stayed well away of other people keeping in touch only with a few relatives in Greece, enjoying life in the house called “Athena Cottage”, where he lived with his close friends Spyro and Mary? We know that Spyro Bennett was a native of Greece  and that his wife Mary was the Executrix and Trustee of Emmanuel’s Will, what we don’t know is, who Spyro really was, and what was the connection with Emmanuel?
On the 7th of March 1913 Emmanuel Kritharis must had felt that the end of his life was near and signed his Will. With this Will he instructed that “all personal estate to be converted into money and to pay the proceeds together with all monies ready or otherwise to the Consul for Greece acting in the City of Sydney aforesaid to be applied by him in the Relief of the wounded Greeks and in the carrying on of the present War in which Greece is now engaged such Greeks as aforesaid to have received their wounds in such war...”. We know that his donation was in the vicinity of over thirty thousand (30.000) franks. It was the very first donation to this cause and a very substantial one. Unfortunately details have been lost with no official record of this substantial donation neither in Australia nor in Greece being verified.
Emmanuel Kritharis died only two days after he had signed his Will, on Sunday the 9th of March 1913.  The cause of his death was a) valvular decease and b) pulmonary congestion, as certified by his doctor, James Mc Leod, who last saw him a day earlier on the 8th of March 1913. The burial service was conducted by Rev. Seraphim Phokas. The certificate of his death and burial was signed by John Comino (Kominos) and Spyro Bennett. A notation in the death certificate informs us that he had lived in N.S.W. for fifty-two (52) years. His grave stands as clear indication of a person that lived an honorable life and died a very dignified death.
His death was announced in the local paper “Propeller” on Friday 14th of March 1913 as follows: “Mr ( George) Kritharis Emmanuel of Mortdale, died on Sunday last, Aged (80). The remains of the deceased were interred in the Greek portion of Sutherland Cemetery on Monday, a large number of fellow-countrymen and friends being present at the graveside”.
The burial ground of Emmanuel Kritharis stayed undisturbed in Woronora General Cemetery for eleven years to the day until his friend Spyro Bennett died on Thursday 13th of March 1924 and was buried there in the same grave. Spyros name was never inscribed there, nor did any one ever corrected the mistakes that the engraver made on the original monument. Spyro Bennett as mentioned, was a native of Greece and the husband of Mary Bennett, the Executrix and Trustee of Emmanuel’s Will but more importantly a very close friend and I suspect a trusted partner for very many years.
An agreement  signed on the 25th of June 1913 between the Executrix of Kritharis’Will, Mary Bennett and his cousin George who lived at Katoomba N.S.W., before the Consul General for Greece, reveals that Spyro and Mary Bennett were to inherit properties and goods in Australia and George, all the property on the island Kythera. Details of the Will, were officially transferred to the registry of Potamos, Kythera, on 21 August 1913.  This however is another story.
From the facts presented above we now know that:
Emmanuel Kritharis was born on Kythera in 1832. 2, 3
He died on the 9th March 1913 at the age of eighty one ( 81) in Mortdale, N.S.W. 1, 2, 3
He was buried at Woronora Cemetery on Monday 10th March, grave no. 406. 1, 3, 12
Lived in N.S.W. for 52 years as a “Gentleman of independent means”. 2
Kritharis’ real estate was divided in to three equal parts. 7
Made a donation of over 30.000 franks to the war effort in Greece. 6, 9
Was never married and never became naturalized. 1, 2
He owned no business in Australia. 1, 4
If we allow one or two years until means of transportation was found and accept that he left Kythera at the approximate age of twenty, Emmanuel George Kritharis arrived here in 1854 , a proposition that permits us to claim that he was the first Kytherian to reach Australia.
Sources and bibliography:
1. State Government records.
2. Death Certificate No. 2366/1241.
3. Records of Woronora General Cemetery.
4. Valuer General’s of N.S.W. records.
5. Hand written letter by Emmanuel Kritharis to his brother Menas, 14 April 1902.
6. Kritharis’ Will written and signed the 7 March 1913.
7. Agreement between Mary Bennett and George Kritharis signed 25 June 1913.
8. Transfer of details of Kritharis’Will to the Registry of Potamos, Kythera 21 August 1913.
9. “I Zoi en Afstralia” Sydney 1916.
10. “Australians and Greeks” Vol. I. Hugh Gilchrist. 1997.
11. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Directory 1993.
12. “Propeller” Hurstville’s local newspaper 1913
12. “Kythiraiki Idea” Jan- Feb. 2003.
13. Sydney Press 1840- 1914.
14. “A Shop Full of Dreams” Sydney 1993.
submitted by Peter Makarthis on 19.06.2007
421:See entry SS Great Britain and Emmanuel Kritharis
Inverell NSW Australia
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