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Casimaty, Basil George (1903–1962)

by Anne Tucceri

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

This is a shared entry with:

CASIMATY BROTHERS: Gregory George  (1890-1972), Anthony George (1897-1977) and Basil George (1903-1962), fishermen, fishmongers and restaurateurs, were born on 6 January 1890, 15 March 1897 and 2 February 1903 at Kithira, Greece, sons of Georgios Grigoriou Kasimatis (d.1959), farmer, and his wife Stamatina, née Kastrisios. The brothers received an elementary education and, with their father's encouragement, emigrated separately to Australia.

Gregory left Greece in 1905. Arriving in Sydney, he washed dishes at the Acropolis Café for nine months, spent several years in the fruit trade in Queensland and in 1911 came back to Sydney. In 1914 he went to Hobart where, with Peter Galanis, he established the Britannia Café in Elizabeth Street; next year he took over the business in partnership with his brother Anthony. Casimaty Brothers initially leased, then bought the premises occupied by their café and by the fish shop which they had added. By 1918 they had expanded into cray-fishing, exporting their catch to Sydney, and they later pioneered the scallop industry in Tasmania. Appointed fishmongers to the governor Sir James O'Grady, the brothers expanded their partnership to include Basil.

In 1928 Gregory returned to Kithira, married Katina (Kathleen) Haros and brought her to Tasmania. He visited New Zealand in 1935 to open the firm's crayfish markets there. The Casimatys developed seine-fishing in Australian waters, commissioning the trawler, Nelson, and acquiring the Margaret Twaits. In 1941 the Tasmanian Fisheries Board of Enquiry investigated allegations of monopolizing and of environmental damage by Casimatys' fishermen, only to find the claims unproven. Anticipating better markets, the brothers sent the boats to Sydney, but became disillusioned when Victor Vanges, skipper of the Margaret Twaits, was drowned off Eden and the trawlers were commandeered for war service in New Guinea.

During the Depression the Casimatys had provided hundreds of Christmas dinners for the needy and promoted a free-milk scheme for schoolchildren. In World War II the family supported the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Red Cross Society; for his contribution to the international organization, Gregory was awarded the Red Cross medal of Greece (1946) and the Silver Cross of Phoenix (1950). In 1945 Gregory's case against the Federal government for attempting to tax and to raise loans under the national security regulations was settled out of court.

Hobart's Greek Orthodox Church of St George was built in Antill Street in 1957 on land provided by the Casimatys. The family also gave land on Kithira for an old people's home which was named Kasimateion in their honour. Among the first Greeks to settle in Tasmania, the Casimatys supported later immigrants from their homeland and fostered Greek-Australian relations.

Portly and 5 ft 6 ins (168 cm) tall, Gregory was known for his hospitality and for his practical jokes. He was an active member (from 1936) of the Rotary Club, Hobart, he supported the Tasmanian Society for the Care of Crippled Children and he was foundation president (1953) of the Greek Community of Hobart and Tasmania. Kathleen shared her husband's community involvement; a life member of Elizabeth Street State School Mothers' Club and of the Inner Wheel Club, she was a member of Task Force Action for Migrant Women and acted as a volunteer interpreter for many years. Ill health obliged Gregory to retire in 1965. Survived by his wife, two sons and four daughters, he died on 22 March 1972 at Sandy Bay and was buried with Greek Orthodox rites in Cornelian Bay cemetery.

Anthony sailed from Greece in 1912 and worked in Sydney cafés before joining Gregory in Hobart in 1915. Anthony returned to Greece in 1931 where, two years later, he married Adamantia (Manty) Haros, sister of Gregory's wife. Back in Hobart, he was a member of the Chamber of Commerce and often acted as spokesman for the retail fish industry. A life member of the Goulburn Street State School Mothers' Club, Manty was a volunteer medical interpreter for the Greek community for forty years. Immaculately dressed and with impeccable manners, Anthony was small and rather shy, yet he had boundless energy, enjoyed life and indulged a passion for hunting. After some fifty years in the fish shop, he retired in 1967. Survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters, he died on 14 March 1977 at Sandy Bay and was buried in the same cemetery as his brothers.

Basil joined his brothers in Hobart in 1923, but went back to Greece in 1929 to care for their ageing parents. While there, he married Panagiota (Nota) Tzoutzouris in 1935; they were to remain childless. The couple came to Tasmania in 1939. Basil soon left the partnership to open the California Fruit Co. in Hobart. During the 1940s he purchased Stockman, a property at Kempton, on which he ran cattle and sheep, while Nota managed the fruit business. Responsible for introducing Greek films to Tasmania, he was president of the Greek Community of Hobart and Tasmania (1958-60) and of the Olympia Soccer Club. Survived by his wife, he died of a coronary occlusion on 18 August 1962 at Sandy Bay and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • G. V. Brooks, 30 Years of Rotary in Hobart (Hob, 1955)
  • Fisheries Newsletter, 7, no 1, Feb 1948
  • Mercury (Hobart), 27 Dec 1930, 10 Dec 1935, 23 July, 24 Dec 1941, 20 Aug 1962, 23 Mar 1972
  • Casimaty family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Anne Tucceri, 'Casimaty, Basil George (1903–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/casimaty-basil-george-9979/text17139, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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