GREEK AUSTRALIANS IN THEIR OWN IMAGE: The Descendants of 19th century arrivals– PART 1

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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.

Greeks have been migrating to, and settling in Australia, since the very early 19th century. The descendants of these early settlers offer personal perspectives into generational notions of Australian identity, diasporic Hellenic identity, and cultural hybridity. Here we present Part 1 of a 3 part series featuring descendants of 19th century Greek arrivals.


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Doreen McTaggart (née Field) on her rural property. Bees Creek, NT, 1996 (Photo by Effy Alexakis)

Doreen McTaggart

Born in Yass, New South Wales, during 1932 – the third of five children – Doreen’s parents were Amy Doreen Bulgaries and John Joseph Field.  Doreen is a great-granddaughter of Ghikas Boulgaris (Jekeir Bulgeires) – Boulgaris is recognised as one of Australia’s earliest Greek settlers, having arrived as convict in 1829 (one of seven Greek seamen convicted of ‘piracy’ and transported to Australia – eventually, what remained of sentences was remitted, with five leaving for Greece and two, Boulgaris and Andonis Manolis deciding to remain).  Doreen’s mother, Amy, was the daughter of James Manolis Bulgaries who was Ghikas Boulgaris’ fifth son; Ghikas had married Mary A. Lyons – originally from Cork in Ireland – in 1836, and the union produced five sons and five daughters.

Doreen and her husband, Jack, moved to the Northern Territory in 1971.

“Ghikas Boulgaris is my great-grandfather... I’ve always been really proud of it... recently at a speech night I was asked to speak about myself... I like to consider myself an ordinary Australian... So I spoke about great-grandfather [Ghikas Boulgaris] and the Irish part of our family... and how pleased I was that they, no matter what they had to suffer, had all settled in Australia... I think the diversity of our multicultural society is what is making Australia such a great country... I think that what has come through from both sides of the family to which I was born to – my mother’s side and my father’s side – was one of hard work, family, the right to express your views and the right to express your religious views.”

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Grave of Ghikas Boulgaris. Old Cemetery, Nimmitabel, NSW, 1985 (Photo by Effy Alexakis)
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Ellen Rose Purcell (née North) Adelaide, SA, 1989   (Photo by Effy Alexakis)

Ellen Rose Purcell

George North (Georgios Tramountanas), South Australia’s earliest confirmed Greek settler, was Ellen’s great-grandfather.  George, who is recorded as having been born in Athens, arrived at Port Adelaide in 1842 – allegedly with his brother Theodore, who left for Western Australia.  Soon afterwards George changed his name to ‘North’ (his Greek surname means, ‘north wind’).  In 1858 he married Lydia Vosper, who had been born in England.  Eventually becoming a well-respected grazier on the Eyre Peninsula, George died in 1911, survived by Lydia and two sons, George Henry North and Hero Clair North.  Ellen’s grandfather was Hero, who in 1885 had married Rose (Rosina) Boylan.  Alexander Clair North, Ellen’s father, was born the following year.  Ellen was born in 1914.

“I was always told that my great-grandfather was Greek... My father used to sing a Greek song and say the alphabet, he [great-grandfather] taught him that... Hero [grandfather] used to dance... with the white handkerchiefs... it must have been Greek dancing... The whole family are very musical.  It must have come from the Greek bit when you think of it... Hero’s people were very musical... it didn’t come from the Boylans, because the Boylans haven’t got music in them... I was always interested [in my family’s origins]... my background has fascinated me.  It’s quit a mixed background – English, Greek and Irish... [yet] we always got a few digs: ‘Beautiful children but pity they’re Greeks’.”



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George North (Georgios Tramountanas) and his wife Lydia (née Vosper). Port Lincoln, SA, c.1858. This is possibly the earliest photo of a Greek in Australia. (Photo courtesy Purcell family, from the ‘In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians’ National Project Archives)



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Mavis Deards, Newcastle, NSW, 1986 (Photo by Effy Alexakis)

Mavis Deards

“The idea of a Greek background spurred me to do family research... great-grandfather Dennis Keys was the point that started it all.  My father was a bigoted Anglican... if you had anything to do with those ‘greasy dagos’, or anything to do with the Greeks, it was clammed up fast.”

Mavis’ great-grandfather, Dionysios Corkuchakeys  (Korkoutsakis) anglicised his name to Dennis Keys. Born in Corfu, his arrival date is unknown, but in 1857 he married Annie Stubbs at Tarnagulla, Victoria.  They had eight daughters and one son – only the latter, Nicholas, was registered.  Dennis appears to have been one of a handful of Greek gold miners who were partners in Tarnagulla’s famed Corfu Reef.  He died in 1881 – his age given as fifty-six – and was buried in Melbourne Cemetery.

Mavis commenced to inject herself into her local Greek community in an effort to regain an ancestral cultural legacy that she had previously been denied.  Her newly found pride was apparently being well nourished.


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Nicholas Keys with fellow miners and young boys Bendigo, Vic., c.1885–1890 Nicholas (standing fourth from right) worked with his father, Dennis Keys (Dionysios Corkuchakeys  [Korkoutsakis]), at this mine site.  (Photo courtesy M. Deards)


Photos:  Effy Alexakis
Historical Research: Leonard Janiszewski

© In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians National Project Archives


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 in Greece.

VISIT THEIR LATEST PROJECT:  Greek Cafés & Milk Bars of Australia | Facebook

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor