Australia’s female Greek settlement currently commences in 1835.
Katherine Crummer (née Aikaterini Georgia Plessos [Plessa/Plessas]) is currently the earliest confirmed Greek woman to settle permanently in Australia; a possible earlier Greek female presence – Maria Barvides who landed at Fremantle in 1830 – was fleeting. Katherine arrived not as a convict, but as a “free settler”.
In 1835, she accompanied her husband, Captain James Henry Crummer of the British Army’s 28th Regiment of Foot, to his unit’s new posting in New South Wales. Born in north-western Greece, she had met and married Crummer on Kalamos, which was part of the British-occupied Ionian islands. From 1836 to 1844, Crummer formally served as Justice of the Peace, Assistant Police Magistrate and Commander of the Iron Gang at Newcastle, north of Sydney. In 1849, he was appointed Police Magistrate at Maitland, just northwest of Newcastle, where he remained until 1858; the family then moved further north to Port Macquarie where Crummer again undertook the role of Police Magistrate.
Whilst Katherine may have accompanied her husband to “social functions held in the little township [Newcastle] in the early forties” (as pointed out by a descendant Bertha Emily Reeves), her personal experiences, observations and considerations of life in Newcastle and Maitland, unfortunately, remain unknown. Certainly, however, her social and economic status was in stark contrast to the handful of Greek arrivals – both convict and free – in colonial Australia before the 1850s.
Katherine and James had eleven children. Augusta Louisa, the seventh born of their children, married Eccleston Frederick Du Faur, who became Curator of the New South Wales Art Gallery. Their youngest son, Henry Samuel Walker, a surveyor, became an authority on early New South Wales pastoral holdings and in 1855, was appointed as the first librarian of the Sydney Philharmonic Society.
Katherine died in 1907 aged ninety-eight, surviving her husband by forty years; James was buried with full military honours at Port Macquarie. Katherine is buried at Waverley Cemetery in Sydney.
Katherine is buried with her youngest daughter Theresa Alexandra Crummer.
Born in 1899, Bertha Emily Reeves is the great-granddaughter of Katherine and James Crummer. As a member of the Women’s Pioneer Society of Australasia, Bertha keenly researched and wrote about her forebears in the Society’s publication, ‘Our Pioneer Ancestors’: “During the Turkish [Greek] War of Independence, Captain Crummer was stationed with his regiment in the Ionian Isles, where from 1822 to 1827 he was Commandant of the island of Cabanos [Kalamos]. It was here that romance touched his life. He wooed and won a beautiful Greek lady of high standing, named Katrina Plessos.” Bertha considers that her great-grandmother’s Greek origins are still noticeable in her family: “My grandson in Port Macquarie is a regular old Greek – he has curly hair.”
Photos: Effy Alexakis
Historical Research: Leonard Janiszewski
© In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives
ABOUT EFFY ALEXAKIS & LEONARD JANISZEWSKI
Since the early 1980s, Effy Alexakis, a photographer, along with historian researcher Leonard Janiszewski, have been travelling around Australia photographing and collecting stories. They have also photographed Greek-Australians in Greece and documented some amazing histories. The images and text provide personal, diverse and powerfully moving insights, about opportunities, hopes and challenges. Collectively, these stories provide personal perspectives of a diasporic Hellenic identity. Their archive encompasses photography, both historical and contemporary, taped interviews and literary materials.
They have published 3 books and numerous articles, and their projects are ongoing. The photographs have been widely exhibited throughout Australia and Greece.
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Greek City Times is proud to present a weekly historical snapshot
from the archives of the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek Australians’ national project
by photographer Effy Alexakis and historian Leonard Janiszewski.