GREEK AUSTRALIANS IN THEIR OWN IMAGE: George North- The First Greek Settler

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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.


The National Archives of Australia has indicated that as “the first Greek to migrate to South Australia in 1842, Georgios Tramountanas showed true pioneering spirit when he moved to the sparsely-populated Eyre Peninsula in the late 1850s”.

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George North (Georgios Tramountanas) and his wife Lydia (née Vosper) Port Lincoln, SA, c. 1858 (This photograph is currently recognised as the earliest of a Greek in Australia. Photo courtesy Purcell family)


Arriving at Port Adelaide in 1842 – allegedly with his brother Theodore who is said to have left almost immediately for Western Australia – George is recorded as having been born in Athens; though his forebears were arguably from the north-eastern Aegean island of Lemnos. Soon afterwards, he changed his name to ‘North’ (his Greek name means ‘north wind’). At the time of his marriage to Lydia in 1858, he is documented as a seaman, but is said to have worked, soon after his arrival, in the manufacture of wines and brandy at John Peake’s winery and distillery at Clarendon, south of Adelaide.

As a seaman, he apparently was the first mate aboard the coastal steamer ‘Admella’. He then turned his attention to pastoral pursuits, eventually becoming a well-respected wheat farmer and grazier (sheep and cattle) on the Eyre Peninsula. George applied to become a ‘Naturalised British Subject’ in 1878. In the late 1880s, he was amongst a delegation of pastoralists who met with the South Australian Government to voice particular grievances and concerns. George died in 1911 at his property Newland Grange, near Colton, on the Peninsula’s west coast. He was survived by Lydia and their two sons, George and Hero. Lydia passed away two years later – both she and her husband are buried in Colton’s Old Catholic Cemetery.

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Ellen Rose Purcell (née North) with her daughter Wendy. Adelaide, SA, 1989 (Photo by Effy Alexakis).

George North was Ellen’s great-grandfather. Her grandfather was Hero North.

Ellen recalls that despite the socio-economic standing of the North family, racial equity and acceptance was often denied and openly voiced through derogatory sentiments: “Beautiful children, but pity they’re Greeks”. The severe xenophobic, racial outlook of ‘White Australia’ was well established within Australian society even before its official formalisation by the Federal government’s Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 – its legacy persisted well into the twentieth century. Fortunately, both Ellen and Wendy have proudly reclaimed their Greek forebear as an integral part of how they identify themselves as an Australians.


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