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History > Oral History > Manolis Cassimatis The Ferry Skipper

6536: History > Oral History

submitted by Spyro Calocerinos on 12.02.2005

Manolis Cassimatis The Ferry Skipper

Manolis Cassimatis or Vouros ,was born in Keramouto Kythera and was the eldest of all his brothers and sisters. At a very young age (around 12 or 14 years old) he left Kythera. Very little is known of his early days in Australia, as he stopped communicating with his family very soon after his arrival. In the 50s his youngest brother Tony was sponsored to come to Australia by the late Mr. Nick Lourantos from West Wyalong NSW. Tony tried to find his brother Manolis without any success, and ended up in Temora NSW where he married my widowed sister Pipitsa.

Pipitsa and Tony renewed their search for Manolis and eventually heard from the Australian Armed Forces that he was in the army and had served in New Guinea , but couldn't provide much more information.
Everyone had assumed that Manolis was dead, possibly as a prisoner of war.

Around 1960, Mr. Nick Lourantos phoned Tony and told him that he had read a story in an Australian magazine about a Manuel Cassimatis who was the Skipper on a ferry which was the only public transport available for people living on a small island in the picturesque Hawkesbury River in NSW, on Dangar Island .
The Ferry was transporting people ,daily newspapers, bread, milk etc. to and from Brooklyn also on the Hawkesbury River.
Tony, phoned me in Sydney and told me the news about the story in the magazine. It is a very pleasant drive from Sydney, so, with my wife, we went to Brooklyn the day after I received the call.
We stopped at a small Milk Bar and asked the shopkeeper if he knew Manolis Cassimatis. He answered that "everyone in the area knew Manuel Cassimatis .
Before I had time to ask my next question, he said: "See this ferry just coming in? Well, Manuel is the skipper of that ferry"

We went on the wharf and waited for his passengers to disembark. After the Ferry was empty, a stocky man wearing a Captain's hat appeared.

I approached him and spoke to him in Greek "Eisai O Manolis Cassimatis?" Are you Manolis Cassimatis?
He kept walking and for a few seconds I thought he didn't understand Greek. Suddenly, with what could be described as an abrupt manner, he said in English: "Who wants him?" I realised that he felt uncomfortable talking in Greek and I replied in English.
"Were you born in Keramouto, Kythera or possibly Karvounades?
He stopped walking, looked over the water and with his eyes looking wet, I felt that he was imagining that Keramouto was just behind the hill. I was sure he pictured the house he was born, his family and friends he left on the island many years ago. There was silence that seemed like an eternity, and then slowly and looking like he was in a trance or dreaming repeated:
K e r a m o u t o, K y t h e r a,
K a r v o u n a d e s.
I realised, that he hadn't spoken Greek for many-many years.

Then,I knew, he was Tony's brother.
It was the right time to tell him (in English) that his younger brother is in Australia and he has been looking for him. I also told him that Tony was married to my sister. He looked happy, bewildered, excited and lost for words. Tears came down his face and, realising his embarassment, we started walking back towards the ferry. His little brother that he never met, was in Australia. He finally had a relative in this country.

After returning to Sydney, I phoned Tony with the news and Tony came to Sydney as soon as he could. We went to Brooklyn and Tony was also meeting the brother that he had never met.
They were very emotional few minutes.I left the two brothers by themselves. They had a lot of catching up to do.

The two brothers met often and phoned each other very often.

When Manolis retired, he moved to Port Maquarie NSW where he passed away.
Unfortunately, he never went back to Kythera and had not married. Tony is well and healthy, living on the Central Coast NSW.

P.S. I tried to find the photographs of the first meeting of the two brothers but so far I have not found them. I am still looking for them.
This story, was posted 12/2/05
Today May 28th 2008, Tony Cassimatis passed away peacefully. May he rest in peace.

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