Faraway Greek fun in the third largest Greek city

It appears that the most fun is to be had in Melbourne these days. A report by Brent McCunn of some highlights of the recent Greek Week which included talks about Paddy and his Cretan links. Be like Brent; send in your thoughts and articles (no matter how obscure) to share with fellow Paddy enthusiasts in our community.

by Brent McCunn.

Further despatches from the Hellenic outpost of Melbourne-iniki!

What a week of Greek! I remind readers that Melbourne is the third largest Greek city! Our Grecian week started with the inaugural Rebetiko Music Festival at the Melbourne Recital Centre, a prestigious venue!

After recovery, Friday night offered a performance of Cretan music from the visiting Xylouris brothers from Crete. Saturday afternoon saw a lecture by Chris White at the Greek Culture Centre in Melbourne – the topic being, ‘The Resistance of Grete’ during WW2 and in particular the history of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Billy Moss and the SOE. Of particular interest to the audience were the unique collection of ‘then and now photographs’, collated, researched and photographed by Chris White and his brother.

At this point it is important to illustrate the global reach of the PLF Blog. As a result of this correspondent’s earlier post (to this blog), advertising the above lecture, Melbourne subscribers did indeed turn up!

Chris enthralled all with his unique collection of images and has been invited back to present again to a wider audience drawn together by the cultural centres head of lectures – watch this space! I, Brent McCunn then presented details related to the main books on the Subject – Ill Met by Moonlight and Abducting a General – and how to purchase copies.

We then attended the Messines Community’s Greek Independence dinner and dance (Once they found about the lecture it was compulsory for us to attend this event – how Greek!) – Messines is the region where Paddy and Joan’s house was located. Whilst at the Messiness dinner your correspondent spent quite a few minutes on Google maps, with locals, being shown the family village and its relationship to Kardamyli!

One for the road in Greece means an impromptu music session at a local Greek restaurant! Katerina Douka, a well known Rebetiko singer from Thessaloniki, who appeared at the Rebetiko festival with her band, was still in town and gathered some local musicians and presented an enthralling session of northern Greek music. Food, wine and beer flowed of course.

Chris’s lecture became a feature story (by Jim Clavens) in the local Greek newspaper which is published in both English and Greek. A main thrust was to seek out decedents of the villages featured in the Kreipe kidnap and SOE operations. They have been asked to make contact and add their histories.

Your Philhellene correspondent in Melbourne,

Brent (alpopolous) McCunn from Passport Travel.

The ANZAC Cretan theme continues in Melbourne in the month of April with a lecture by Professor Peter Monteath. Entry is free.

When: 19 April 2018 at 19:00
Where: The Ithacan Philanthropic Society, Level 2, 329 Elizabeth Street
Synopsis: In the Second World War many thousands of ANZAC’s were sent to mainland Greece and then Crete in the hope of preventing German invasion and occupation – but to no avail. After the Battle of Crete hundreds of ANZAC’s were stranded on the island and spent weeks, months and even years trying to get off it.

This presentation looks at the experiences of those ANZAC’s who found themselves trapped, but who also discovered the extraordinary hospitality of Cretans, who offered the ANZAC’s shelter even when they themselves were enduring great hardship and danger.

Beyond that, the presentation looks at the collaborative efforts made to evacuate these ‘stragglers’ from the island, and how those efforts evolved into a series of ‘special operations’ to resist a brutal German regime of occupation. The person who occupies the centre of attention here is the Tasmanian Tom Dunbabin, an important and influential figure in the resistance in Crete through to the last weeks of the war.

Peter Monteath was born in Brisbane and educated in Queensland and in Germany. He has taught previously at The University of Queensland, Griffith University, Deakin University, The University of Western Australia and The University of Adelaide. He has also been Adjunct Professor at The University of St. Louis Missouri and the Technical University of Berlin, where he was an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow. At Flinders University he is Professor of Modern European history. His research interests span modern European and Australian history. His latest book, Escape Artist: The Incredible Second World War of Johnny Peck (New South 2017), is about an Australian who spent time in Greece and Crete in World War II.



5 thoughts on “Faraway Greek fun in the third largest Greek city

  1. Helen

    No doubt about his wonderful constitution, but his last 2 years were battling the throat cancer.
    terrible cross. Yes, he was a man of his times, and very intelligent .. you think he would have known the consequences of smoking/drinking to excess .. there were many examples among his friends .. Andrew Devonshire for one. He so needed to be liked and loved.. his mom taking off for India shortly after his birth must have created a need .. especially since most of his love affairs were with women who were much older than he .. even Joan was 2 years his senior. He was reckless, too. his car crashes and sexual escapades .. probably was sterile, or he may have had many children .. he never got Joan pregnant,. she so wanted a child!. Yes,
    reading of his life and (examining our own) it is amazing that we make it to a grand old age at all!! Don’t get me wrong, he is very inspirational, and I love him dearly. He was very unique, and I also thank Joan for loving him and helping financially so they could enjoy doing all the things they did, and he had the time to write about them.

    Did you ever think if he lived his life today and used EMAIL??? And Instagram, Twitter, etc. It all would have been lost! No “John Murray’ publisher to put up with his constant delays and
    excuses! .

  2. lesleybw

    I hailed a taxi in Melbourne when I was there 18 months ago for a heritage conference. The driver was reading Classical Greek history while he waited for jobs. We started taking about Greece, food & History & where he came from in Greece 50 years ago & how bad Australian tomatoes are! When he found out I had travelled from England for the conference, he mentioned an Englishman who fought in the war & lived in Greece – I said “Patrick Leigh Fermor?” & he was delighted I knew about him. We had a great conversation including my smattering of Greek & he got a great tip. That taxi ride was so much fun!

    1. Brent McCunn

      What a wonderful yarn!! Yes, one can still find the occasional Greek origin taxi driver in Melbourne, a rare breed now! I am continually surprised as to how well known the name PLF is within the diaspora. It pops up all the time, across the generations.

  3. Helen

    After reading PLF’s letters, (“Dashing to the Post”) I wanted more of him! And I am now reading “Mani”. I love his descriptions of the ‘characters’ he meets: their dress; the way they prepare food and drink. He may go off on “tangents” (I skip the allusions to the Greek gods of myth) but when faced with the realities of life, I like him best. Patrick seems to want to impress too much on his learning .. he does not need to do that, and his books (not his letters!) could use some good editing, because there is so much delight there. I really can’t recommend his books because folks may not want to plow through history to get to the good stuff. What do you think? I would loved to have known the man .. wish he didn’t smoke and drink so much!

    1. proverbs6to10 Post author

      Well Helen, he gave up the fags at sixty and swam the Hellespont aged 70. He may have moderated the alcohol just a wee bit I suppose towards the end. He was of his time, and lived life to the full.


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