Costas Markos, the secretary of the Greek Community of Melbourne, has just released the findings of new research, which brings to light facts about the first Greek immigrant in Australia.
This research seems to overturn previous data about the presence of Greeks in the country.
Until today, it was commonly accepted and documented that the first arrival of Greek settlers in Australia took place in 1829.
However it has now been discovered that the first Greek immigrant actually arrived in Australia in 1811 meaning that “the parochial history has to be rewritten now,” as Mr. Markos explained.
A group of seven Greek sailors, previously thought to have been the first Greeks in Australia, arrived in the country on August 7, 1829.
They were said to have been transported as convicts for ‘piracy’ and had been permanently exiled by the British authorities.
Historical research, however, proved that the true reason that they were convicted was because they had prevented the British from supplying weapons to the Ottomans, as the Greeks struggled against the Ottoman rule in the Mediterranean area.
The newly published data by Mr. Markos is said to provide accurate information, showing that the first Greek set foot in Australia in 1811 and his name was George Emanuel.
“It is proven with concrete data, not something vague,” stated Mr. Markos from Melbourne, in a recent interview.
After lengthy research and analysis of newspaper clippings and government certificates, the Greek Melbourne Community secretary discovered that Greek sailor George Emanuel arrived in Sydney, Australia at the beginning of the 19th century, and lived a “tragic life.”
“I first discovered the story of George Emanuel in a newspaper article which was published in 1938.
“The article reported on Emanuel’s marriage, because of his unique story,” Mr. Markos said.
“He married at the age of 99 and died two years later, in 1878 when he was 101 years old.
“Because of his adventurous life, the press commented on him a lot.”
Mr. Markos explained further, “Based on our understanding from the article, the reason George Emanuel got married on the threshold of 100 years old, was rather practical.”
“The sources we found state that he wanted to bequeath his property to the person who had taken care of him throughout the last years of his life so, at the time, marriage was the only solution.”
Another noteworthy fact about Emanuel’s life is that before his arrival in Australia, he fought in 1798 on the side of the Royal British Navy, under the leadership of Admiral Horatio Nelson, in the Battle of the Nile against the French army.
However, there is also a less “glorious” side to his past.
“We found that he was imprisoned twice, first in 1832 and then in 1860.
“The first time he stole three or four kilos of tobacco and was imprisoned for 12 months, and the second time he got into a fight in Australia, which landed him again in prison, this time for 36 months.”
What is also known about Emanuel and the Greek sailors that arrived in Australia almost two decades later, is that they taught the locals traditional Greek viticulture techniques and the production of wine.
In fact, the viticulturist and author James Busby, widely known as the “father of Australian wine”, refers to these Greek immigrants and their art of cultivating vine trees in his book The Handbook of Practical Viticulture, which was written in 1830.
The events surrounding the life of George Emmanuel has not been the sole focus of interest for the Greek Community of Melbourne and Mr. Markos.
In fact, Mr. Markos has been researching to find out more about the first Greeks in Australia for the last 18 years.
This year, however, is special being the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution and so Mr. Markos decided to publish all of his findings as a symbolic tribute.