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History > Archive/Research > Nicholas and Mottee Bubonic Plague 1900

History > Archive/Research

submitted by Peter Makarthis on 10.02.2020

Nicholas and Mottee Bubonic Plague 1900

 Nicholas and Mottee Bubonic Plague 1900

Two Greeks, George Nicholas and Peter Motis(Mottee) contracted the bubonic plague while working in oyster saloons during the outbreak of 1900 in Sydney.

Until recently, the outbreak of the plague in Sydney was not generally known, with the publication of a register of those who contracted the deadly disease. Three hundred and three persons are recorded as having contracted the plague with one hundred and three failing to recover.

George Nicholas, a Greek working in Woodward’s Oyster Bar and Grill, conducted by Denis Kouvaras at 122 King Street, Sydney died several days after contracting the plague. Peter Mottee, worked at Nicholas Comino’s Athens Café and Oyster Saloon at 104 King Street, survived after being quarantined.

George Nicholas, contracted the plague on 31st March presented himself to Sydney Hospital on 1st April 1900, where he was notified by Dr. McLelland and diagnosed by the Staff Medical Officer, Dr. Barker with the symptoms of the plague and put into quarantine at Spring Bay lazaretto on the same day. His condition worsened and died at 3:20am on 6th April 1900 and buried in the quarantine station cemetery on the same day. Details of George Nicholas are sketchy other than he was 40years of age, his father George and mother Amelia. Place of birth in Greece and arrival in Australia are at present unknown.

Records of the burial of George Nicholas are noted in The North Head Quarantine (Spring Bay) Burial Register - plot 70.

Peter Motis – Peter Constantine Mottee – age 16, who resided in a room at the rear of the Athens Café at 104 King Street, contracted the plague on 28th April 1900. His case was reported to Dr. Jamieson and notified to the Senior Medical Officer Dr. Gardiner on 29th April with Peter being admitted to the Spring Bay Quarantine Station on that day. During the week following his admission to the lazarreto at Spring Bay his condition was reported as “Motis was becoming conscious but wildly delirious.”

Peter Mottee recovered from the plague and was released from quarantine on 1st August 1900 after 63 days at the lazaretto in Spring Bay.

Peter Constantine Mottee (Motis) died at Kempsey NSW on 4th May 1942 after an illness which could have contributed to his passing at the early age of 57 years. He is buried in West Kempsey Cemetery. Obituaries in the Macleay Argus and Macleay Chronicle, acknowledge a full and respected life.

Additional Notes

Motis/Mottee – ‘Motis,’ in both versions of Life in Australia, 1916 (Greek) and 2009 (English translation), NSW State Records re plague 1900 and 1900 newspapers. ‘Mottee’ has been the Australian spelling since establishing their business at Warren NSW in 1917.

Spring Bay, Sydney – Now called North Head Quarantine Station. Est 1837 to quarantine incoming passengers and crew of vessels with cholera, plague etc. entering Sydney Cove.

Lazaretto – Quarantine hospital.


Researched and written

Peter C. McCarthy(Makarthis), 11 Feb 2020, Delungra NSW

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