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Freeleagus, Christy Kosmas (1889–1957)

by Alex Freeleagus

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Christy Kosmas Freeleagus (1889-1957), businessman and honorary consul, was born Christos Frilingos on 16 November 1889 at Frilinganika on the island of Kythera, Greece, one of twelve children of Kosmas Frilingos, farmer, and his wife Irene, née Panagitapolou. He was educated at Potamos College on Kythera. As that island lacked opportunity, inspired by stories of sailors returning from Australian goldfields, with his elder brother Peter he left for Sydney rather than the usual goal, America; they arrived in October 1901. He stayed there until 1903 attending Fort Street Public School.

When he joined Peter in Brisbane, they first established a small restaurant, then added the Paris Café in Queen Street and later, the lager Astoria Café, a Brisbane landmark in Edward Street. The remaining eight brothers arrived over the next decade and in 1911 the family established Fresh Food and Ice Co. Ltd. Until his death Freeleagus remained managing director of what became one of the State's biggest wholesale and retail food chains; it provided the first employment over the years for hundreds of Greek migrants.

Freeleagus believed that Australia and Brisbane had a future and was determined to share it and to encourage fellow migrants to share it also. He read widely and, in spite of long working hours, took part in competitive sport, particularly swimming and lawn bowls; he represented Queensland at lawn bowls. Although an enthusiast for Australia, he desired passionately to make his Greek heritage better known and respected among Australians. On the recommendation of his friend Lockhard H. Spence, who retired 1919 as first honorary consul for Greece in Queensland, Freeleagus was then appointed consul-general, the first of that rank any country had appointed to Queensland. In 1925 the post was reduced to a Queensland consulate. He was dean of the consular corps in 1954-57.

Freeleagus sailed for Europe in January 1921 and served in the Greek army during the Greek-Turkish war. In Greece he urged migration to Australia, and on 22 May 1922 delivered a lecture on Australia to the Athens Literary Society; the National Library of Greece holds a copy. While visiting London, he met Venezilos and sought assistance for Greek migration from the high commissioner Sir Joseph Cook. Passing through Melbourne in January 1923, he met Ariadne Kokonis, daughter of a Greek refugee from Smyrna who had settled in Melbourne after the Greek-Turkish war. They were married in January 1925 and had three children.

Encouraged by Freeleagus, the first Greek communities in Queensland outside Brisbane were formed at Biloela and Home Hill in the 1920s and 1930s. When royal commissioner T. A. Ferry attacked the behaviour of Greeks in the north in 1925, Freeleagus defended them in the Sydney press. During World War II and particularly after the Italian attack on Greece he led patriotic fund appeals, culminating in the highly successful Greek Day on 19 November 1941. That year he was awarded the silver cross of George I, the gold cross came in 1951. An appeal for victims of the 1953 earthquake in western Greece raised the largest amount sent from Australia.

A high-ranking Freemason and a member of various choral societies, Freeleagus was a founding member of the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland and a leader of the Chamber of Commerce. A founder of the first Greek Association, he was prominent in the religious and political life of the community. He died of a heart attack on 16 May 1957 and was buried in Toowong cemetery after a large funeral.

Select Bibliography

  • Queensland and Queenslanders (Brisb, 1936)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Jan 1921, 27 Jan 1923, 19 June 1925
  • Queenslander, 22 Jan 1921, 24 Jan 1929, 4 Apr 1935
  • Brisbane Courier, 26 Nov 1921, 5 Jan 1925
  • Daily Standard, 5 Jan 1925
  • M. P. Tsounis, Greek Communities in Australia (Ph.D. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1971).

Citation details

Alex Freeleagus, 'Freeleagus, Christy Kosmas (1889–1957)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/freeleagus-christy-kosmas-6243/text10747, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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