10 January 2010

Kytherans in Armidale

James Belshaw has posted on his New England, Australia blog a couple of posts on the Greeks in Australia, with some recollections of the Greek cafes in our school and university days in Armidale (1950s and 60s) – see Newcastle, Niagara and the Greeks in Australia and Belshaw's World - Armidale’s Greek community, which latter first appeared as a column in The Armidale Express on 2 December 2009.

Among the leaders of that cafe culture that provided meeting places for literally generations of secondary and tertiary students, in a town in which education was one of the key drivers of the local economy, the Comino family with its IXL Cafe in Beardy Street must take pride of place. Nick’s cafe, founded between the wars by Nick Feros, was another important drop-in centre. Comino’s and Nick’s were part of the fabric of Armidale life – without them it would have been a different place, and our lives would have been different.

The first Comino foothold in Armidale was established in 1903 when the Cordatos brothers, 22-year-old Kyriakos and 21-year-old Anthony, built an establishment on behalf of Comino and Panaretto, next to the New England Hotel.  The Feros brothers were there from the early 1920s, and the Tzannes brothers were there by the late 1930s. In the heyday of Armidale’s Greek community in the 1950s and 60s there were about 300 residents, predominantly of Kytheran descent.

Knowing that the Cominos were originally from Kythera I decided to do a little research on the web and came up with a gem of a site – Kythera Family Net, which contains posts in English covering the Kytheran diaspora worldwide. As Kytherans were the start of the migration chain from Greece to Sydney, and at the start of World War II still constituted 22% of the Greek community in Australia, it is a rich source of the history of a community that has contributed so much to who we are today.

For people who are interested in the New England region it is especially rich, because in the mid-20th century Kytherans constituted 75% of the Greek population of Northern New South Wales. For those interested in Armidale and district I would recommend this post by Peter Tsicalas.

For those interested in some more general background on Kytheran migration to Australia, Peter Tsicalis’s Settlement in Australia is a good place to start.

For the Australian Dictionary of Biography’s entry on the man who started it all, Athannasio Comino (1844?-1987), see here.

No comments: