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Haritos, Eustratios Georgiou (1888–1974)

by Helen J. Wilson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Eustratios Georgiou Haritos (1888-1974), salt producer and storekeeper, was born on 5 January 1888 at Mitilíni, on the Turkish-controlled island of Lesbos (Lésvos), son of George Haritos and his wife Despina, née Samios. As a young man Stratos worked the salt-pans on the Turkish coast. Fighting on the side of the Greeks in the first Balkan War, he was wounded in 1912 and hospitalized at Piraeus (Piraiévs). A plate was inserted in his head. When he recovered he made his way to Port Said, Egypt, where he was employed for a time as a powder-monkey.

In 1914 construction began on the Pine Creek to Katherine railway extension in the Northern Territory. Haritos somehow learned of the project and sailed to Darwin in the following year. Being a 'useful sort of carpenter', he obtained a job on the Fergusson River bridge. He later lumped coal on the Darwin wharfs and worked in a local restaurant. At the office of the registrar-general, Darwin, on 5 September 1917 he married 17-year-old Eleni (Ellen) Hermanis (d.1966); a Greek Orthodox service was subsequently performed.

About 1919 Haritos formed a partnership with John Sphakanakis, Dick Colivas and others to develop the salt-pans near Ludmilla (Racecourse) Creek. They sold salt to Vestey Bros' Meatworks, buffalo shooters, cattle-stations and butchers' shops. In 1931/32 their four acres (1.6 ha) of pans yielded 150 tons of salt, valued at £1200; by that time Darwin had virtually ceased to import salt. At Racecourse Creek the Haritos family also ran goats and fowls, and grew peanuts and watermelons.

Haritos prospered and by 1941 owned four blocks of land in the town. On one of them (corner of Daly and Cavenagh Streets) he had built a two-storey, fibro shop and residence. He then opened a grocery store which was to become something of an institution. After the Japanese bombed the town in February 1942, he joined his family who had been evacuated earlier. At Mullumbimby, New South Wales, he ran a banana plantation before returning to Darwin and reopening his store in January 1946. By then the Federal government had resumed all land in the town with the intention of establishing a new central business district. Haritos received £6100 as compensation for the acquisition of his properties (an amount was included for war damage and depreciation). When the government abandoned the plan in 1951, he was able to obtain leases on the site of the Daly Street store and another of his former holdings. A family home was completed at Fannie Bay in March that year.

Naturalized on 7 March 1924, Haritos never revisited Greece. He appreciated the security of life in his adopted country, picked up spoken English very quickly, and eventually learned to read and write the language. Despite an uncertain temper, he was highly respected and an important representative of Darwin's Greek community which grew in size and influence. He died on 25 September 1974 in Darwin and was buried in the general cemetery; his four sons and four daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Northern Territory, Annual Report, 1932, 1933
  • Northern Territory News, 27 Sept 1974
  • interview with J. Haritos (oral history collection, Northern Territory Archives)
  • F46, F1 1946/159 part 2, F1 1954/419, F649 S180 pt 2, A1/1 1929/10053, A3 19/1248, A3/1 NT21/4037 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Helen J. Wilson, 'Haritos, Eustratios Georgiou (1888–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/haritos-eustratios-georgiou-10427/text18483, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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