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Ioannis Kasimatis, a very successful Canberra immigrant

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

Ioannis Kasimatis was the eldest of the nine children of Theodoros Kasimatis and Sofoula Samiou. He was born at 10am on 10 November 1903 in Kastrisianika, although he thought his birth date was 22 October. He was baptised on Agios Antonios church in Kastrisianika on 9 December of the same year.

He was relatively tall for a Kytherian at 5’ 9” with black hair, brown eyes, and a scar on his forehead.

It is confirmed he attended Potamos school in the years 1916, 1917, 1918 and 1920 and it could be assumed he also attended in 1919. Some of the subjects studied while at school include mathematics, religion, Greek, French, history, geography, calligraphy and iconography, physics, and natural history. His reports indicate he was an average student.

Like many Kytherians at the time, Ioannis wanted to emigrate to make a better life for himself and his family. He decided Australia was the place to go, so he set off on his journey in 1922.

His first stop was Egypt. He spent six weeks there. It is unclear if this was intentional or whether he had trouble securing a berth to Australia. Either way, while in Egypt the Greek Consul informed him he had to return to Greece to complete his military service that all males in Greece were required to do. Because of this, he was unable to obtain a Greek passport. He did not want to return to Greece and wanted to continue his journey to his new life in Australia. He interviewed with the Greek Consular Officer to find a way to proceed. Ioannis was offered the passport in the name of Peter Prineas (probably Panagiotis Prineas). This passport had previously been impounded to compel Peter Prineas to return to Greece so he could complete his military service. This document was just a random document and had no connection to Ioannis at all. Ioannis used this document to travel to Australia. It is ironic that a passport that was impounded to force its owner to complete their military service was then used by a stranger to avoid his.

Ioannis immigrated to Sydney, Australia, on 14 October 1922 onboard S.S. Ormonde. He was now known as Jack or John Cassidy. He spent the first three years living in Sydney before settling in Queanbeyan, New South Wales and Canberra, Australian Federal Capital Territory. Here he was a café proprietor in the Capital Café, Civic Centre in partnership with Theo Notaras.

Ormonde Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Not long after moving to the ACT, Jack was charged with shooting three protected birds and injuring another. As he was new to the ACT he was unaware that he needed to have a license to own a gun and was also unaware that he was not allowed to shoot birds. According to newspaper articles at the time, he was fined 40/- for having an unlicensed gun, £3 for capturing a protected bird and 20/- for killing protected birds, all with costs.

He applied for Australian naturalisation on 30 June 1930, taking the Oath of Allegiance on 15 June 1931. His naturalisation was granted on 29 June 1931.

Signature of John Cassidy from his naturalisation application documents NAA: A1, 1930/10831

John was one of the most successful Greeks in Canberra. His success came from cafes in partnership with other Kytherians.

The only information found after his naturalisation has come from newspaper articles and is quite disjointed. Below is a timeline of this information. This can show how difficult piecing a story together can be.

· In March 1934 John and Theo Notaras purchased Cabban’s store in Kingston and were to remodel it into an up-to-date refreshment room.

· John and Theo Notaras sold their business Southern Cross Café at Kingston to Harry Notaras in about 1934. They told Harry they would not carry on as restaurant keepers in Kingston for a period of five years. But despite this, John and Theo began trading as restaurant keepers in the Purity Inn in Kingston. The judge found that fair value of the business was £250 and fined them £550. They were also fined £150 for conducting the same business within five years.

· In October 1942 the Capitol Café was charged for selling Granny Smith apples for a penny more than the declared price. John and Theo were charging three apples for 1/- when the fixed price was 3d. In Feb 1943 they were fined £20 each.

· John with his brother Spero and brother-in-law Manuel Gerakiteys bought the Blue Moon Café in Civic in 1948.

· John, Spero and Manuel purchased six blocks in the Civic Centre facing Alinga Street. in 1953. John was granted a grocer’s licence on behalf of the partnership with his brother Spero and Emanuel Gerakiteys in December 1956. They were to trade as B.M.I Grocery in Civic Centre.

· The very successful partnership with Theo Notaras ended when Jack moved to Sydney in about 1957.

John died suddenly on 14 August 1979 at the age of 75 in Double Bay, Sydney and was buried three days later in Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park in Matraville, plot GL8 – General Candilli Lawn, position 0106.


Trove - National Library of Australia

National Archives of Australia

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,

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