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Raptis, Athanasios George (Arthur) (1904–1986)

by Kevin Jones

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Athanasios George ('Arthur') Raptis (1904-1986), commercial fisherman and businessman, was born in 1904 at Raptay, a village on the Greek island of Évvoia (Euboea), eldest of four children of George and Maria Raptis.  Educated at the village school, at the age of 12 Athanasios began working for a local fisherman as his father had gone to 'seek his fortune' in Brazil.  Within a year Athanasios had bought a boat and was selling his own catch.

Euboea offered few opportunities.  Raptis served for three years in the Hellenic Army and, inspired by a cousin’s stories of life in Australia, migrated in 1929.  His father helped him financially.  He went first to Streaky Bay on South Australia’s west coast, where he worked eighty hours a week clearing scrub for £1.  Moving along the coast to Beards Bay, he bought a 22-ft (6.7-m) fishing boat.  He remembered often catching two hundred dozen whiting in three days; he claimed that he was paid only 15 shillings for the fish, which were transported by the coastal steamer Minnipa from Port Lincoln to Adelaide and then to Melbourne by train.

Raptis lived in tents during those first years in Australia.  Once established, he built a house at Thevenard; he was naturalised on 23 July 1936.  On 3 September that year at the Waterside Workers’ Hall, Thevenard, he married Anna Vlachos, who came from Greece as a proxy bride.  They had four sons and a daughter.  Known also as 'Arthur' or 'Tom', he moved the family to Adelaide in 1954 and opened a fish-and-chip shop on South Road, Black Forest.  Mrs Raptis and the eldest son, George, ran the business; Raptis worked at Chrysler Australia Ltd’s factory during the day and in the shop at night.  The younger children worked in the shop on Friday and Saturday nights.  No one was paid and all profit was put into building the business.  Deciding to enter the wholesale fish market, in 1955 Raptis began buying extra fish supplies to sell around Adelaide and interstate.  A year later he employed staff to run the shop and resumed commercial fishing at Thevenard.

The business that he established, A. Raptis & Sons Pty Ltd, soon grew into an integrated fishing, wholesaling and retailing business.  It set up processing plants in South Australia and Queensland in the 1960s and sold abalone to Japan and South-East Asia.  In 1971 it began fishing northern Australian as well as South Australian waters.  By 1976 it was exporting prawns, lobster, abalone and shark fins worth $6 million to ten countries.  In 1983 the firm owned and operated twenty-four prawn boats in the Gulf of Carpentaria and a $5 million processing plant at Bowden, Adelaide; exports included 3.5 million kg of prawns, worth more than $35 million.  A. Raptis & Sons won export awards in 1971, 1976, 1983 and 1988.  Survived by his wife and their five children, Raptis died on 21 July 1986 in Adelaide and was buried with Greek Orthodox rites in Centennial Park cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 28 November 1976, p 1
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 3 December 1983, p 12
  • D4880, Greek-Raptis Athanosious (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information

Citation details

Kevin Jones, 'Raptis, Athanasios George (Arthur) (1904–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/raptis-athanasios-george-arthur-14288/text25353, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 26 March 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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