Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lucas, Antony John Jereos (1862–1946)

by A. E. Lucas

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Antony John Jereos Lucas (1862-1946), Greek community leader, philanthropist and restaurateur, was born Antonios Ioannis Gerasimos Lekatsas on 18 October 1862 at Exoghi, Ithaca, Greece, second child of Ioannis Lekatsas, priest, and his wife Magdalene, née Palmos. At 17 Lucas left the poverty of the island to work in Patras, later served in the Greek army for two years and returned to Exoghi where he met an uncle who had gone to the Australian goldfields and returned with glowing accounts. Lucas sailed with two cousins, arriving in Melbourne in 1886.

On 28 February 1893 Lucas married Margaret Wilson (d.1942), head of the fur department of Foy & Gibson. A thrifty, shrewd businesswoman, she and Lucas opened the Town Hall Café in Swanston Street, Melbourne, in 1894. It occupied two floors, accommodated 650 diners and employed a mostly Greek workforce of 70. The family lived on the top floor, later moving to Queen's Road, to Toorak and finally in 1928 to the Mornington Peninsula. Encouraged by the success of the Town Hall Café, Lucas opened two more restaurants. One, the Paris Café, a two-storey building in Collins Street remodelled at a cost of £6000, accommodated 350 diners and employed a staff of 30 under a French chef. The other restaurant, on the site of the present Hotel Australia in Collins Street, was the Vienna Café, later the Café Australia, which Lucas had renovated by Walter Burley Griffin. Inspired by commercial and architectural success Lucas again commissioned Griffin to design the Capitol Building, in association with Melbourne architects Peck and Kemper, and to redesign the house and landscape the gardens of his home, Yamala, at Frankston.

One of the founders of the Greek Orthodox community in Melbourne in 1897, Lucas was many times its president. He was Greek consul-general for Australia in 1921-25 and consul in Melbourne in 1931-46. Under his guidance the Melbourne Greek community became the most influential in Australia. President of the Ulysses Philanthropic Society of Melbourne, during World War II he arranged a scheme by which Melbourne's Greeks donated a day's pay to the Greek war effort, and himself donated £10,000 to a fund which he organized for Greek and British child war-victims. From 1931 annually on his birthday he donated 100 guineas to the Lord Mayor's Hospital Appeal. He visited Greece in 1921, 1930, 1933 and 1937 and established a hospital for poor people on Ithaca. In 1939 in recognition of services to Greece and Australia he was the first Australian-Greek recipient of the Golden Cross of Taxiarchon, an order initiated by King George I of Greece. In October 1944 a special service to commemorate his birthday and the coincident liberation of Athens was conducted in the Greek Orthodox Church in Victoria Parade.

Lucas inspired the central character, Yianni, in Jean Campbell's novel, Greek Key Pattern (1935). A successful businessman, public benefactor and worker for Greek welfare, he possessed integrity and indomitable will. Compassionate and devoted to children he appreciated church music, gardens and architecture. In later life he was director of several companies. Once said to be the richest Greek in Australia, he died in Sydney on 10 August 1946, leaving an estate valued for probate at nearly £134,000. He was buried with Greek Orthodox rites in Melbourne general cemetery; his six daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 3 (Melb, 1905)
  • E. C. Rowland, Frankston Portraits (Melb, priv print, 1979)
  • Punch (Melbourne), 14 Nov 1912
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 21 Feb 1939, 14 Aug 1946
  • Age (Melbourne), 12 Aug 1946
  • M. Tsounis, Greek Communities in Australia (Ph.D. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1971)
  • Lucas family archive (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

A. E. Lucas, 'Lucas, Antony John Jereos (1862–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lucas-antony-john-jereos-7255/text12571, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 20 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Lekatsas, Antonios Ioannis Gerasismos
Birth

18 October 1862
Exoghi, Ithaca, Greece

Death

10 August 1946
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation