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submitted by Kytherian Biographies Project on 28.02.2012

Sir Nick Laurantus

(1890–1980)

by Jean Michaelides


Sir Nicholas (Nick) Laurantus (1890-1980), businessman and philanthropist, was born on 5 February 1890 on the island of Kythera, Greece, third of twelve children of Panayiotis Lourantos, contractor, and his wife Angeliki, née Marsellos. After seven years of schooling, Nicholas helped his father as an apprentice carpenter and blacksmith. Letters from relations overseas stimulated his desire to emigrate. When a cousin at Grenfell, New South Wales, offered to look after him, Nick and his younger brother George sailed for Australia in the Seidlich, reaching Sydney on 1 November 1908.

George remained there with friends. Nick began work in the Thermopylae Café at Grenfell for 7s. 6d. a week, with accommodation above the shop. He determined to learn English in three months and kept a dictionary beside his bed, constantly checking and memorizing new words. 'I knew I was in a good country', he later said, 'and I wanted to stay here'. By the time he was naturalized in 1911 he had Latinized the spelling of his surname to Laurantus. He was then a short, good-looking young man with alert brown eyes and an outgoing personality. Frugal and hardworking, by 1913 he had saved enough money to buy the café in partnership with an American relation and to establish Laurantus & Co. He sent for George, who was to be a partner in many of his later business ventures.

In 1914 Nicholas Laurantus acquired the lease of the Albion Hotel at Young. At St John's Anglican Church, Cowra, on 29 March 1920 he married Clare May Barker (d.1954), a 33-year-old housekeeper. Three hotels later, in 1921, he decided to try farming, and took his wife and baby daughter to a small wheat farm near Cowra. He chose a bad year and almost lost his money. In 1922 he moved to Narrandera where he acquired the lease of the open-air Globe Theatre, announcing his intention in the local newspaper 'to show before Narrandera audiences the best and latest productions in the way of moving pictures'. The Globe marked the start of a successful chain of cinemas across south-western New South Wales which he ran with the aid of George and other family members whom he brought from Kythera.

In 1938 Laurantus bought Windella station near Narrandera; he later acquired other properties, including Lake Midgeon station which reputedly had the largest shearing shed in New South Wales. In a few years he was very wealthy. One of his managers said of him, 'Nick was purely a financier but he did have this love of the land. His knowledge was such that he could look into the future and say, ''Wool's going to be good, so we'll grow sheep", or, at another time, ''Wheat's going to be good, so we'll farm country"'.

Laurantus went out of his way to advise young Greek immigrants and assist them financially. By breaking out of the café circuit and venturing into cinemas, hotels and grazing, and by being completely at ease in both Greek and Anglo-Australian society, he set an example for other Greeks: if they learned English, mixed with Australians and worked hard, they too could succeed. At the same time he felt that Greek immigrants should know and love their own language and culture. In 1968 he gave $100,000 to establish a chair of modern Greek at the University of Sydney. During the 1970s he donated about $450,000 to St Basil's Homes in Australia for aged people. Lourantos Village at Lakemba was named after him.

Appointed M.B.E. in 1977, Laurantus was overjoyed to be knighted in 1979 and described his investiture at Government House, Canberra, as the happiest day of his life. From 1968 he had lived in Sydney at the Masonic Club. A frail but stubborn old man, still fond of jokes and good company, Sir Nicholas died on 26 July 1980 at Greenacre and was buried in the Greek section of Botany cemetery. His only child Helen survived him.


Select Bibliography
■J. Michaelides, Portrait of Uncle Nick (Syd, 1987), and for bibliography
■To Yofiri, 3-4, 1978, p 16
■Narrandera Argus, 17 Oct 1922
■Sun (Sydney), 10 Sept 1968
■Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Sept 1968, 31 Dec 1976, 16 June 1979, 28 July 1980
■naturalisation file, A1/1 item 11/17987 (National Archives of Australia)
■private information.


Citation details

Michaelides, Jean, 'Laurantus, Sir Nicholas (Nick) (1890–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/laurantus-sir-nicholas-nick-10789/text19135, accessed 28 February 2012.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000


To purchase Portrait of Uncle Nick; a biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus MBE

Author: Jean Michaelides

When Published: 1987

Publisher: Sydney University Press

ISBN: 0 424 00121 7

Description: Hard back. 144 pages. Photographs. Index and Bibilography

Price: $20

Available: From the Kytherian World Heritage Fund

Credit Cards accepted over the phone, fax, or email!

To purchase by mail, make cheques payable to KAA – Kytherian World Heritage Fund, and post to:

The Treasurer
Kytherian World Heritage Fund
Rockdale Post Shop, PO Box 183
Rockdale NSW 2216
Australia.

Email, Kytherian Association of Australia

George C Poulos, Secretary & Public Relations Officer, Kytherian Association of Australia,
61 2 9388 8320

Email George Poulos

Angelo Notaras, Trustee, Kytherian World Heritage Fund,
Ph: 61 2 9810 0194 ext.711
Fax: 61 2 9810 6691

Email, Angelo Notaras

Photos > Diaspora Vintage Portraits/ People

submitted by George Poulos on 06.12.2012

Paul Calokerinos in the Canberra Cafe, Manilla, NSW, 17th April 2007.

Note the self grown and self prepared olives in the foreground, on the counter. Some are full, some halved. Paul sells them in large jars in the shop. They are both "horyutika" and beautiful tasting.

Paul has operated the Canberra Cafe for 53 years in a row. A Kytherian world record?!?!


On 16th April, 2007, after the Brisbane megaevent of the 15th April, George Poulos, Peter Prineas, Dr Archie Kalokerinos & Professor Manuel Aroney travelled by 2-car convoy to the North Western NSW town of Bingara. Bingara lies in the mid-north western region of New South Wales.

There we were treated like Royalty - as all Kytherians are when they arrive in Bingara, and "we" hit the front page of the Bingara Advocate on the Wednesday. View/download/save a copy of the Front page as a .pdf

Bingara Advocate Apr_24_01[1]EXACT.pdf

On the Tuesday 17th April, the "convoy" stopped in to visit fellow-Kytherians Pau (Petros) & Helen Kalokerinos in the Canberra Cafe, Manilla. Helen was originally a Petrochilos. Their children John and Mary, and Mary's husband, Joe, a Manilla local, were also present. The Calokerinos family derives from the town of Karvounathes on Kythera.

Paul set about and treated us with a fish meal fit for Royalty. 4 of the largest and most delicious Sole were served up, with good Kytherian potato chips and salad.

Whilst the meal was being prepared we saw a wonderful bench top olive seed remover in operation, on the adjoining table. Made from stainless steel, and "invented" in Manilla, it was the most ingenius olive seed remover that we had ever seen. Well worth patenting.

As we left we were supplied with many jars of home grown and home "cured" olives of the highest quality.

Thank you Paul & family for that wonderful Kytherian generosity.

It was one of those gestures which make involvement in kythera-family and Kytherian affairs generally, so rewarding and fulfilling for me.

Photos > Diaspora Vintage Portraits/ People

submitted by Jean Michaelides on 05.01.2007

Nicholas Laurantus as he appeared on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, 16th June, 1979.

In 1974, on the recommendation of the Archbishop, Nicholas Laurantus was made an Archon of the Greek Orthodox Church in recognition of his many gifts to his birthplace, Kythera, to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged, and to the University of Sydney. The ceremony took place in the Archdiocesan church at Redfern one Sunday evening. The Archbishop, officiating, placed the plain black robe over Nicholas’ bowed head as he stood in front of the congregation, then, when he knelt, invested him with the title of Archon. The church was full that evening, about 500 people being present to witness the ceremony, and after it was over many of them went to the front of the church to congratulate the new Archon, this being the highest honour the Greek Orthodox Church can bestow on the laity.

Some years earlier the Greek government had awarded Nicholas the medal of the ver Cross of the Phoenix the memorative Medal of National Regeneration. The Academy of Athens also awarded him a medal for his efforts to raise the prestige of the Greek community in Australia. Then in 1977 he was honoured by the New South Wales government with an MBE, a distinction which gave him a great deal of satisfaction. Two years later, in June 1979, at the age of eighty-nine, he was knighted.

The front page of the Sydney Morning Herald — the ‘Bible of Sydney’, as Nicholas called it — carried a large photo of the new Knight Bachelor, seated in front of his two cherished statuettes, both hands resting on the head of his walking-stick, as he beamed proudly at the camera. The newspaper made this its lead story, titling it - AN IMMIGRANT ADDS A
KNIGHTHOOD TO HIS TREASURES.

It would be an understatement to say that Nicholas was delighted at the knighthood. He was overjoyed, considering this the greatest of all honours, a priceless reward for a life of quiet achievement. The penniless Greek youth who had set out to prove himself in an alien environment had, one by one, carried off all the prizes. This latest and most-esteemed of all its trophies was the one usually reserved by an Anglo-Australian community to honour its own. His happiness was total.

One of the first to ring Sir Nicholas that Saturday morning in June was his journalist friend, Frances Shoolman. ‘Now it’s your turn to be on the front page of the Herald,’ she said, explaining that she had suggested to the newspaper that they might contact him. ‘You were so pleased when our Annette had her photo in the paper that Father John and I decided it would be nice if you were front-page news too.’ Knowing how much he admired the Herald, it was, they thought, the best present for him.

After that there were many other phone calls to his room, as well as a great many written messages of congratulation, and to each of them Nicholas wrote a separate reply in his firm, flowing hand.

If he was pro-British before his knighthood, he was doubly so the day after. Hilda Heatherington, congratulating him when he called at Lourantos Village, said, ‘Are you going to London for the investiture?’
‘I don’t think I could stand that long flight,’ he said regretfully.
‘Don’t you? But imagine what a marvellous occasion it would be.’ His eyes gleamed and he said eagerly, ‘Tell me about it. Tell me what happens.’ So Hilda described the investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace while Nicholas listened intently, his eyes shining. Seeing this, she said mischievously, ‘But you don’t want any part of that, do you? You’re not that sort of man.’

‘But I’d love to go,’ he said quickly, refuting her. ‘I really would. Wearing a top hat and one of those coats that trail down behind, and going to Buckingham Palace — oh yes, I’d really love to do that.’ She could see that the picture appealed to his imagination, but nothing more, and they went on talking about the Village.

His investiture took place at Government House, Canberra, on Wednesday 22 August. Nicholas invited three guests: his niece, Thalia Karras, holidaying then in Sydney, and the Kapetases. At first the gentle young priest was reluctant to accept, suggesting it might be better if Nicholas took someone else who was closer to him. ‘I have nobody else,’ said Nicholas firmly.
On the morning before the investiture he was very excited when Thalia called for him at the Masonic Club where they were to meet the Kapetases, who had offered to drive them to Canberra. Thalia hoped that the trip would not prove too much for him but said nothing as they got into the priest’s Holden and set off.
It was a clear, cold, typical mid-winter day and they enjoyed their drive through the countryside, commenting on its greenness and on the large flocks of dust-brown sheep grazing on the rich paddocks around Goulburn. Passing by Lake George, they noticed the shimmering expanse of water, for so many times, as Nicholas said, Lake George was more of a mudflat than a lake, but this was a good year and the lake was full.

It was afternoon when they arrived in Canberra, driving up to the Kythera Motel where Father John had booked rooms for them. Nicholas, tired by the excitement and the long drive, went to bed early, leaving the other three to explore the city. It was the opening night of a new session of the Federal parliament, so the long white building was ablaze with light. A group of protesters, overcoated against the chilly night, milled around the front entrance, chanting, so Father John drove on without stopping.

Wednesday was cold, clear and sunny. Nicholas was very nervous and rather shaky, so the two women went into his room to help him dress. He had brought his best three-piece navy suit and a dark-blue tie splashed with paler blue, but he had refused to buy a new shirt for the event, muttering that this one was perfectly all right. When Thalia looked about the motel room for his socks, she could find only one. ‘Look under the pillow,’ said her uncle. Puzzled, she did so. Underneath the pillow was the other sock — and inside the sock, his wallet.

With a twinkle in his eyes, Nicholas explained to the two women that many years earlier, when he had been staying at a small country pub, he had put his wallet under the pillow before he went to sleep, as was his habit then, only on this occasion he had left the hotel immediately after breakfast without going back to his room. Later in the morning, when he remembered his wallet and returned to the hotel to collect it, he found that all the bed linen had been changed and there was no trace of the wallet. ‘After that experience,’ he said, ‘I devised this foolproof method of putting it in one of my socks, for there’s no way I can leave with only one sock on’. They laughed, watching him put on the other sock.
He was always a careful dresser. ‘How do I look? Do I look all right?’ he used to say before going out. This particular morning was no exception. ‘Uncle Nick, you look wonderful,’ the women assured him as they left the motel room together.

Father John dropped them at the front entrance to Government House, a white Victorian mansion with a green roof, set in extensive grounds, before parking the car and returning to join them in the crowded hall. Ushers led the visitors to their seats in a long blue and pink room with paintings and big bowls of mixed flowers. Those to be honoured sat apart at the rear.

The ceremony started at eleven o’clock. One by one, as names were called out, their owners went up to the Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, to receive their decoration, leaving immediately after by a side door. At eighty-nine, Nicholas was by far the oldest recipient there, but when his name was called he walked up unhesitatingly, leaning just slightly on his stick, stopped in front of Sir Zelman and knelt on the stool. The Governor-General tapped him lightly on the shoulder with his sword and placed the red ribbon of knighthood around his neck. Sir Nicholas then rose and left the room. ‘He made his exit in a most dignified manner,’ said his niece later. ‘He looked as though he was knighted every day.’ Watching him, full of pride for him, she felt the tears trickling slowly down her cheeks. ‘He looked so old and frail.’

After the ceremony, drinks were served on the lawns outside. Sir Nicholas, proudly wearing his ribbon with the gold medallion, introduced his guests to Sir Zelman and Lady Cowen who were circulating among their visitors in the garden. Then Father Kapetas went off to get the car, for they were expected at the Canberra Hellenic Club at two o’clock for a special luncheon hosted by the Greek Embassy in honour of the new knight.

That night the Governor-General gave a dinner party for the recipients of honours and their partners. As time drew near for his departure from the motel, Sir Nicholas became more and more anxious, watching the clock constantly. He looked well in his dinner suit and bow tie but his niece noticed, with a twinge of pity, that the black suit which he had had for so many years was now a little large on his small frame. Finally Father John drove him off, leaving him at the door of Government House with a promise to return after ten. However, when Father John returned, the function was still in progress, so he stayed in the car, shivering in the chill, damp air, until well after eleven o’clock.

When the guests emerged at last into the misty night, Sir Nicholas, despite his age and the long day, was on top of the world. It had been a splendid evening, he said in answer to the priest’s query, but now he was ready for bed. He added that he had had a most interesting chat with the Governor-General about the Greek course at Armidale. Sir Zelman had been Vice-Chancellor at the University of New England when modern Greek was introduced there in 1968, several years ahead of the University of Sydney. It had been most enlightening to compare the two courses, said Sir Nicholas, stifling a yawn as the Holden headed for the motel.

After breakfast he wrote on his copy of the investiture programme, ‘The happiest day of my life. With me Father John, Mrs Kapetas and my niece, Thalia.’ Then he signed his name with a flourish: ‘Sir Nicholas Laurantus’. It was the first time he had written it. He looked thoughtfully at it for a moment, then, smiling broadly, showed it to the priest who was sitting next to him. ‘Doesn’t it look good!’ The other three agreed. Laurantus then looked around the table at them and smiled with deepest satisfaction, ‘Now — now I can die happy’.

On the way back to Sydney, Sir Nicholas felt hungry so they stopped at a café near Marulan for lunch. Thalia Karras recorded in her diary: ‘Uncle Nick had three plates of pea and ham soup and five slices of bread’.

The knighthood changed Nicholas’ life, filling him with a warm inner glow until he died. Not that he had pursued a knighthood, or even desired it, for he respected it too highly to feel that he, Nick Laurantus, should merit this tribute to excellence. But once he had grown accustomed to this thank-you from the country he loved, the knowledge that his efforts had been rewarded with an equal generosity brought him a deep, lasting satisfaction. He was a happy man.

Text - pages 124-130, Photograph - page 125; Jean Michaelides. Portrait of Uncle Nick. A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus MBE. Sydney University Press, Sydney. 1987.

Photos > Diaspora Vintage Portraits/ People

submitted by Jean Michaelides on 05.01.2007

Nicholas Laurantus, with a relative, Peter Aroney. 1978.

Page 119, Jean Michaelides. Portrait of Uncle Nick. A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus MBE. Sydney University Press, Sydney. 1987

Photos > Diaspora Vintage Portraits/ People

submitted by Jean Michaelides on 05.01.2007

Nicholas Laurantus. 1976

Photograph by David Moore.
7 Ridge Street
North Sydney NSW 2060

Opposite Title Page of

Jean Michaelides. Portrait of Uncle Nick. A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus MBE. Sydney University Press, Sydney. 1987

Photos > Diaspora Vintage Portraits/ People

submitted by Jean Michaelides on 22.12.2006

Nicholas Laurantus at his investiture, Government House, Canberra, 22 August 1979. Officiating is the Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen.

In 1974, on the recommendation of the Archbishop, Nicholas Laurantus was made an Archon of the Greek Orthodox Church in recognition of his many gifts to his birthplace, Kythera, to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged, and to the University of Sydney. The ceremony took place in the Archdiocesan church at Redfern one Sunday evening. The Archbishop, officiating, placed the plain black robe over Nicholas’ bowed head as he stood in front of the congregation, then, when he knelt, invested him with the title of Archon. The church was full that evening, about 500 people being present to witness the ceremony, and after it was over many of them went to the front of the church to congratulate the new Archon, this being the highest honour the Greek Orthodox Church can bestow on the laity.

Some years earlier the Greek government had awarded Nicholas the medal of the ver Cross of the Phoenix the memorative Medal of National Regeneration. The Academy of Athens also awarded him a medal for his efforts to raise the prestige of the Greek community in Australia. Then in 1977 he was honoured by the New South Wales government with an MBE, a distinction which gave him a great deal of satisfaction. Two years later, in June 1979, at the age of eighty-nine, he was knighted.

The front page of the Sydney Morning Herald — the ‘Bible of Sydney’, as Nicholas called it — carried a large photo of the new Knight Bachelor, seated in front of his two cherished statuettes, both hands resting on the head of his walking-stick, as he beamed proudly at the camera. The newspaper made this its lead story, titling it - AN IMMIGRANT ADDS A
KNIGHTHOOD TO HIS TREASURES.

It would be an understatement to say that Nicholas was delighted at the knighthood. He was overjoyed, considering this the greatest of all honours, a priceless reward for a life of quiet achievement. The penniless Greek youth who had set out to prove himself in an alien environment had, one by one, carried off all the prizes. This latest and most-esteemed of all its trophies was the one usually reserved by an Anglo-Australian community to honour its own. His happiness was total.

One of the first to ring Sir Nicholas that Saturday morning in June was his journalist friend, Frances Shoolman. ‘Now it’s your turn to be on the front page of the Herald,’ she said, explaining that she had suggested to the newspaper that they might contact him. ‘You were so pleased when our Annette had her photo in the paper that Father John and I decided it would be nice if you were front-page news too.’ Knowing how much he admired the Herald, it was, they thought, the best present for him.

After that there were many other phone calls to his room, as well as a great many written messages of congratulation, and to each of them Nicholas wrote a separate reply in his firm, flowing hand.

If he was pro-British before his knighthood, he was doubly so the day after. Hilda Heatherington, congratulating him when he called at Lourantos Village, said, ‘Are you going to London for the investiture?’
‘I don’t think I could stand that long flight,’ he said regretfully.
‘Don’t you? But imagine what a marvellous occasion it would be.’ His eyes gleamed and he said eagerly, ‘Tell me about it. Tell me what happens.’ So Hilda described the investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace while Nicholas listened intently, his eyes shining. Seeing this, she said mischievously, ‘But you don’t want any part of that, do you? You’re not that sort of man.’

‘But I’d love to go,’ he said quickly, refuting her. ‘I really would. Wearing a top hat and one of those coats that trail down behind, and going to Buckingham Palace — oh yes, I’d really love to do that.’ She could see that the picture appealed to his imagination, but nothing more, and they went on talking about the Village.

His investiture took place at Government House, Canberra, on Wednesday 22 August. Nicholas invited three guests: his niece, Thalia Karras, holidaying then in Sydney, and the Kapetases. At first the gentle young priest was reluctant to accept, suggesting it might be better if Nicholas took someone else who was closer to him. ‘I have nobody else,’ said Nicholas firmly.
On the morning before the investiture he was very excited when Thalia called for him at the Masonic Club where they were to meet the Kapetases, who had offered to drive them to Canberra. Thalia hoped that the trip would not prove too much for him but said nothing as they got into the priest’s Holden and set off.
It was a clear, cold, typical mid-winter day and they enjoyed their drive through the countryside, commenting on its greenness and on the large flocks of dust-brown sheep grazing on the rich paddocks around Goulburn. Passing by Lake George, they noticed the shimmering expanse of water, for so many times, as Nicholas said, Lake George was more of a mudflat than a lake, but this was a good year and the lake was full.

It was afternoon when they arrived in Canberra, driving up to the Kythera Motel where Father John had booked rooms for them. Nicholas, tired by the excitement and the long drive, went to bed early, leaving the other three to explore the city. It was the opening night of a new session of the Federal parliament, so the long white building was ablaze with light. A group of protesters, overcoated against the chilly night, milled around the front entrance, chanting, so Father John drove on without stopping.

Wednesday was cold, clear and sunny. Nicholas was very nervous and rather shaky, so the two women went into his room to help him dress. He had brought his best three-piece navy suit and a dark-blue tie splashed with paler blue, but he had refused to buy a new shirt for the event, muttering that this one was perfectly all right. When Thalia looked about the motel room for his socks, she could find only one. ‘Look under the pillow,’ said her uncle. Puzzled, she did so. Underneath the pillow was the other sock — and inside the sock, his wallet.

With a twinkle in his eyes, Nicholas explained to the two women that many years earlier, when he had been staying at a small country pub, he had put his wallet under the pillow before he went to sleep, as was his habit then, only on this occasion he had left the hotel immediately after breakfast without going back to his room. Later in the morning, when he remembered his wallet and returned to the hotel to collect it, he found that all the bed linen had been changed and there was no trace of the wallet. ‘After that experience,’ he said, ‘I devised this foolproof method of putting it in one of my socks, for there’s no way I can leave with only one sock on’. They laughed, watching him put on the other sock.
He was always a careful dresser. ‘How do I look? Do I look all right?’ he used to say before going out. This particular morning was no exception. ‘Uncle Nick, you look wonderful,’ the women assured him as they left the motel room together.

Father John dropped them at the front entrance to Government House, a white Victorian mansion with a green roof, set in extensive grounds, before parking the car and returning to join them in the crowded hall. Ushers led the visitors to their seats in a long blue and pink room with paintings and big bowls of mixed flowers. Those to be honoured sat apart at the rear.

The ceremony started at eleven o’clock. One by one, as names were called out, their owners went up to the Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, to receive their decoration, leaving immediately after by a side door. At eighty-nine, Nicholas was by far the oldest recipient there, but when his name was called he walked up unhesitatingly, leaning just slightly on his stick, stopped in front of Sir Zelman and knelt on the stool. The Governor-General tapped him lightly on the shoulder with his sword and placed the red ribbon of knighthood around his neck. Sir Nicholas then rose and left the room. ‘He made his exit in a most dignified manner,’ said his niece later. ‘He looked as though he was knighted every day.’ Watching him, full of pride for him, she felt the tears trickling slowly down her cheeks. ‘He looked so old and frail.’

After the ceremony, drinks were served on the lawns outside. Sir Nicholas, proudly wearing his ribbon with the gold medallion, introduced his guests to Sir Zelman and Lady Cowen who were circulating among their visitors in the garden. Then Father Kapetas went off to get the car, for they were expected at the Canberra Hellenic Club at two o’clock for a special luncheon hosted by the Greek Embassy in honour of the new knight.

That night the Governor-General gave a dinner party for the recipients of honours and their partners. As time drew near for his departure from the motel, Sir Nicholas became more and more anxious, watching the clock constantly. He looked well in his dinner suit and bow tie but his niece noticed, with a twinge of pity, that the black suit which he had had for so many years was now a little large on his small frame. Finally Father John drove him off, leaving him at the door of Government House with a promise to return after ten. However, when Father John returned, the function was still in progress, so he stayed in the car, shivering in the chill, damp air, until well after eleven o’clock.

When the guests emerged at last into the misty night, Sir Nicholas, despite his age and the long day, was on top of the world. It had been a splendid evening, he said in answer to the priest’s query, but now he was ready for bed. He added that he had had a most interesting chat with the Governor-General about the Greek course at Armidale. Sir Zelman had been Vice-Chancellor at the University of New England when modern Greek was introduced there in 1968, several years ahead of the University of Sydney. It had been most enlightening to compare the two courses, said Sir Nicholas, stifling a yawn as the Holden headed for the motel.

After breakfast he wrote on his copy of the investiture programme, ‘The happiest day of my life. With me Father John, Mrs Kapetas and my niece, Thalia.’ Then he signed his name with a flourish: ‘Sir Nicholas Laurantus’. It was the first time he had written it. He looked thoughtfully at it for a moment, then, smiling broadly, showed it to the priest who was sitting next to him. ‘Doesn’t it look good!’ The other three agreed. Laurantus then looked around the table at them and smiled with deepest satisfaction, ‘Now — now I can die happy’.

On the way back to Sydney, Sir Nicholas felt hungry so they stopped at a café near Marulan for lunch. Thalia Karras recorded in her diary: ‘Uncle Nick had three plates of pea and ham soup and five slices of bread’.

The knighthood changed Nicholas’ life, filling him with a warm inner glow until he died. Not that he had pursued a knighthood, or even desired it, for he respected it too highly to feel that he, Nick Laurantus, should merit this tribute to excellence. But once he had grown accustomed to this thank-you from the country he loved, the knowledge that his efforts had been rewarded with an equal generosity brought him a deep, lasting satisfaction. He was a happy man.

Page 124-130, Jean Michaelides. Portrait of Uncle Nick. A Biography of Sir Nicholas Laurantus MBE. Sydney University Press, Sydney. 1987.

Photos > Diaspora Vintage Portraits/ People

submitted by George Poulos on 14.12.2004

Xenophon Stathis with his wife Patricia (nee, Fleming), Wagga Wagga, NSW, 1989.

Xenophon was born in Karvounathes, Kythera, in 1914. He came out to Australia in 1928 as part of a group of nine young Kytherian boys sent to work in Greek cafes.

[You can see a photograph of Xenophon with five of the other young boys on their embarkation from Kythera on kythera-family by searching under Xenofon on the internal search engine. The entry etitled A journey for a better Life was submitted by a son of one of the "boy men", Arthur Sklavos.]

Immediately after arriving in Sydney he journeyed by rail to Wagga Wagga, and commenced work at the Popular Cafe. Its proprietors were Spiros and Stamatina Psaltis.

'I had a tag on my coat here (pointing to his chest) - "Put him out at Wagga"...I was a very luck boy, I come to a place, I never knew a soul...they took me in as their own son...they didn't have any family themselves...I was with them from the day I come to Wagga till they died, except nearly six years when I was in the army. That's the only time I was away from them...I went to enlist...in the hope to see my parents.

Unfortunately, I wasn't naturalised at that time. It was 1939...Not long after that it was in the newspaper that I was naturalised ....So a fortnight later I was conscripted...That bit of paper, naturalisation...it never changed me...I took it (not being accepted for army service without first being naturalised) a bit hard because I was still the same person...(I went) to the islands in the Pacific...was at New Guinea...I came back to Australia on the hospital boat...I finished up (as a) sergeant.'

Xenophon was discharged on 26 June, 1946. He then returned to Wagga Wagga and took over the Popular Cafe from the Psaltis's.

Ten years later Xenophon married Patricia whom he describes as a 'third-generation Australian'. The ceremony was conducted by a Greek priest who was brought in from Sydney for the occasion in Wagga Wagga's local Anglican church. The couple have two sons, Peter and Spiros.

In 1968, Xenophon sold the cafe business. His only trip back to Greece was in 1986. 'I went with my wife and Spiros...You know, I did like to go and see me sisters. But apart from that, I didn't like it - because the home I was born, there's nothing there'.

Reflecting on being a Greek-Australian Xenophon recalls: 'Australian fella (said to me once)..."Doný worry boy" he says, "You're one of us now". He says, "We accept you as one of us". Well that hurts, doesn't it. He says "We accept you as one of us". Well what the hell am I? In other words he still looks at me as wog, doesn't he? Well that hurts'.

From, Images of Home, p. 156-157.

*There are about 33 other Kytherian images and entries in the book, Images of Home.

Author's:Effy Alexakis & Leonard Janiszewski

When Published:1995
Publisher:Hale & Iremonger Publishers
Available:Hale & Iremonger Publishers, 02 9565 1955
Description:285x210mm, 160 pages.

Available from:

Hale & Iremonger
PO Box 205,
Alexandria, NSW. 2015.

Ph: 02 9656 2955
Fax: 02 9550 2012

Eml: frontdesk@haleiremonger.com

Website: www.haleiremonger.com

Documentary photographer Effy Alexakis and social historian Leonard Janiszewski have been researching their history and contemporary presence since 1982, and have made many field trips throughout both Australia and Greece, painstakingly piecing together what has become a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Effy Alexakis:

"The idea for this project began in Greece in 1985 whilst I was staying with the parents of family friends in the village of Mitata, on the island of Kythera. Although I had already noticed many deserted homes throughout Greece, it wasn't until I saw a whole street of deserted homes and ventured inside them that I realised that many of the people had left their homes with the intention of returning. Letters, photographs and other personal documents had been left behind. Like pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle, these items provided small clues about the life within these homes. Australia's migration history is to be found in these homes. Unfortunately, through time, much is being lost."

For a digital archive of photographs, see, also,

http://www.austhistmuseum.mq.edu.au/greek/intro.htm

For other entries about Effy and Leonard, search internally, under Alexakis or Janiszewski.