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Matina Kasimatis

The Kasimatis Family-Grigorios Georgiou Kasimatis

Café proprietor, fish merchant, property and farm owner, born 6th January 1890 in Kythera Greece, eldest son of Georgios Grigoriou Kasimatis.
Gregory received only primary school education. At 14 ½ he was sent to Australia in 1905 by his father who had worked there from 1891-96. Gregory’s first job was as a kitchen hand at the Acropolis café, Sydney for 5/- per week. Nine months later he went to Queensland, then returned to Sydney in 1911 where he found work for 2 pounds a week.
In September 1914 Gregory travelled to Hobart on the “Paloona”, found it too quiet and would have left but Union steamship was closed for the weekend. He was to spend the next 59 years there until his death.
With Peter Galanis he purchased a fruit shop at 35 Elizabeth Street for 100 pounds and established a fish shop and a restaurant which became known as the Britannia Café. After fifteen months Galanis sold out and Gregory took in his brother Anthony who had been in Australia since 1911. In 1922 the third brother Basil also emigrated and joined the partnership until 1940.
Gregory and Anthony trading as Casimaty Bros. ventured into cray fishing before 1918, and pioneered the export of Tasmanian crayfish to Sydney. They were also pioneers of the scallop industry in Tasmania.
During Governor Sir James O’Grady’s term of office (1924-1930) Casimaty Bros. were granted Vice-regal patronage, and apparently this continued with a succession of later governors.
In the late 1920’s Gregory purchased osmiridium mined at Adamsfield Tasmania which at the time was rivalling the price of gold. In 1928 it reached 26 pounds per ounce. He sold it in London and then continued in Greece. He married a Kytherian girl Katina (Kathleen) nee Haros and returned with her to Tasmania.
In 1935 Gregory visited New Zealand to open crayfish markets and also investigate Danish seine fishing and on return commissioned the building of “The Nelson” and introduced seining to Australian waters. It took years to find a suitable captain until Victor Vanges took over and prospected it from Cape Eddiston to Strahan. The Casimatys exported 10000 boxes of flathead to Sydney but showed no profit as prices were low. They persevered and bought the “Margaret Twaits” in 1941 and converted it for trawling. By then fisheries board of inquiry was concentrating on the Casimaty’s involvement in the fishing industry but found little base for charges of monopoly and environmental damages.
Gregory and Anthony sent the boats to better markets in Sydney but they were commandeered for war service in New Guinea. Of all the Tasmanian boats sent there only the “Margaret Twaits” survived. Meanwhile Captain Vanges had been drowned at sea and the brothers lost heart in seining.
In early 1945 Gregory moved to challenge the constitutionality of a move by the Commonwealth government (under the national security relations) to compel him to purchase 18000 pounds of Comonwealth bonds before being allowed to buy a property at Cambridge Tasmania. This, declared his case, was an illegal attempt to tax and make forced loans contrary to the petition of right. The matter was settled out of court.
During the depression Gregory and Anthony gave away hundreds of free Christmas dinners. They instigated and initially funded the free milk scheme for school children. They donated 25 pounds per month to the Tasmanian Red Cross all through the war years and also supported International Red Cross. Gregory was awarded the Greek Red Cross (1950) and the Silver Cross of Phoenix (1950) from King Paul of Greece.
George and his three sons also donated land in Kythera for an old peoples home and a house in Athens to finance it. Consequently donations from Kytherians all over the world have supported the home which is named “Kasimateion” in the family’s honour.
Gregory was an active member of Hobart Rotary from 1936. His favourite charity was the Tasmanian Society for the care of Crippled children but he and Anthony supported countless others. Already the recognized leader of the Greek community Gregory became Foundation president of the Tasmanian Hellenic Association in 1953.
Gregory and his energetic wife, Katina, who introduced Greek cooking to Tasmania, were renowned for their hospitality. Katina and her sister, Adamantia, Anthony’s wife, made and sold thousands of Greek shortbread at stalls at the Town Hall alongside their husbands selling scallops, all for the war effort.
Katina supported the Elizabeth Street school Mothers club (life member), Rotary’s Inner wheel (life member), Save the children fund, World council of churches, Migrant Task Force and was a volunteer interpreter for many years.
Gregory had a great sense of humour, he was forever playing pranks on unsuspecting friends. Gregory retired from business in 1965. He was of Greek Orthodox religion.
He had arrived in Australia wearing his first pair of shoes and with half a crown in his pocket. He was often heard to say “If I lose everything I shall only lose half a crown. I can start again.”
Survived by his wife Katina, six children and eight grandchildren Gregory died at 83 and is buried at Cornelian Bay cemetery. Katina died in 1979 and is buried with her husband.

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