Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Palmos, Angelos (1903–1976)

by Angelo Loukakis

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

Angelos Palmos (1903-1976), forester, was born on 25 May 1903 on the island of Levkados (Levkás), Greece, son of Petros Palmos, ship's captain, and his wife Stamata, née Manzaph. Angelos was married locally. A middle-ranking officer in the Royal Greek Navy, he claimed that he had become a wanted man after killing a senior officer in a pistol-duel. Assisted by fellow officers who had sided with him, he boarded a vessel bound for South Africa, Australia and Japan. When it reached Geelong, Victoria, in 1922, he jumped ship. In his application (1950) for Australian citizenship, however, he stated that he had disembarked from the Commissare Ramel in Melbourne in 1929. His wife had died in 1926 in Greece.

Able to speak only Greek and French, Palmos was helped by an Indo-Chinese storekeeper who directed him to some Greeks living in the city. With their help he leased a fruit shop in Sydney Road, Brunswick. At the Presbyterian Church, Brunswick, on 9 December 1933 he married Irene May Fitzpatrick, a 20-year-old saleswoman who worked for him. They were ostracized by family and friends who disapproved of the marriage. Irene taught him English and they opened a new shop in Sydney Road. Following a brief period of relative prosperity, the business was looted and their savings of three years were lost. In 1938 they moved to South Yarra.

During World War II the Directorate of Manpower sent Palmos to the tiny bush town of Noojee, Gippsland. He lived with his wife and four children in a tin hut, with an earthen floor, open fire and hessian-covered windows. His job was to supply wood to the army. After the war ended, he remained at Noojee and worked as a labourer, first for the Victorian Railways and then for the Department of State Forests. Realizing that little was being done to regenerate the forests, he began to propagate thousands of seedlings each year. He planted one million seedlings (mountain ash and pine) in south-east Victoria and was known as the 'Million Tree Man'. This physically demanding undertaking required him to live in tents or huts, and to walk long distances to and from his home. On 27 July 1951 he was naturalized.

Irene raised the children in primitive conditions. Strong-minded and ambitious, she strove to educate herself by taking correspondence courses, and by borrowing books from travelling salesmen and truck drivers who passed through Noojee. A founder of the Neerim and District Progress Association, she helped to preserve the trestle railway-bridges, and to prevent the felling of the area's remaining old trees and the banking of the La Trobe River. In her view, some trees were 'for chopping, others for beauty, others to hold the soil, others for continuing the natural forest'.

The Palmos family left Noojee about 1957. Irene and Angelos were later divorced. From 1975 he lived with his son Paul at Seaford. Survived by his two sons and two daughters, he died on 3 June 1976 at Prahran and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Loukakis, 'Angelo & Irene Palmos', in S. Baldwin (ed), Unsung Heroes & Heroines of Australia (Melb, 1988)
  • D. Hunt, Noojee and Neerim (Melb, 1989)
  • naturalisation file, A443/1, item 1951/15/1468 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Angelo Loukakis, 'Palmos, Angelos (1903–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/palmos-angelos-11334/text20241, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 25 November 2017.

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

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017

Life Summary [details]

Birth

25 May 1903
Levkás, Greece

Death

3 June 1976
Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation