You could say that I really struck it lucky when my parents chose my godfather.. Dad’s oldest brother was one of the gentlest and kindest men I have known. Harry Catsoulis was born 106 years ago today, on the 16th October, 1910, ‘under canvas’ at Whiporie, out from Casino, NSW. He was the eldest of eleven children of Theo Catsoulis and Chrisanthe (Coroneo), nine of whom survived to adulthood.
Peter Tscilas wrote in his book, Lismore Greeks, the following…
Casino has the distinction as the spot chosen by Harry Catsoulis, the son of Theo Harry and Chrysanthi (nee Coroneo), to pop into the world in 1910, probably making him the first Kytherian-Australian on the north coast. Theodore and Chrysanthi Catsoulis were dairy farmers somewhere along Camira Creek, Whiporie, down along the Grafton road.
I have written a little about his birth in Bush Symphony. The young family stayed on the land for a while before moving to Bellingen where his father, Theo, was to take over a cafe initially in partnership with his cousin, Michael Catsoulis. When Michael went to fight in the Balkan War, Theo took over the cafe, however the call of the land was too strong.
After several years, they then moved to Aberdeen, NSW, where they grew small crops. before moving to Urunga in 1927. The family now had nine children, with one still birth and one son passing as an infant of just 13 months. He rests in Scone Cemetery.
Harry, who was then 17, helped clear the land in Urunga and also helped his father to build the house.Together with his father and brothers, Harry farmed for almost 30 years.
Jimmy Kolangtis on horse, Harry behind plough at farm at Urunga © Kath Capsanis
In 1956, Harry, along with brother, Dave, moved to Brisbane where they operated the Oxley Hotel. This was still the original pub and they continued there for a while, when the ‘new’ pub was built. Several years later, suffering indifferent health, Harry retired.
My early memories of Uncle Harry centre around music. Nothing could cause more excitement than his old wind up gramaphone which had a large horn and played cylinders. He delighted entertaining the family back in those early years at my grandparent’s house as much as in the later ones.
Harry had a great love of family, and never missed a family gathering.
Siblings, Mary Walsh (nee Catsoulis) and Harry Me and my proud godfather
Both taken on my wedding day, 1969 © Crissouli
He also loved travel and spoke often of his favourite trip, that to Hawaii. From his very first holiday there, he fell in love with Hawaiian shirts and they were part of his wardrobe at many family gatherings.
He also loved his cars, from his early Anglia to his last one, a Cadillac, which still belongs to the family.
Though Uncle Harry never married, he was the very proud godfather of both my children as well as me. I can still see his shy smile when we asked him if he would do us the honour, first with our son, then with our daughter. He spoilt them as he had done me, not with a lot of things, but with just a few special items.
It was Uncle Harry who gave me my first watch when I was 13 years old. He also gave me my first ‘grown up’ necklace around the same age, though that was not without a small drama. He and Dad were always playing tricks on us, a Catsoulis trait. So it was with slightly more than a little hesitation that I refused to turn around and close my eyes when Dad said Uncle Harry had something for me. I’d been caught before, the last time was a frog down my back. They were both insistent, I was too, but in a negative way, however eventually they persuaded me… and then I felt so embarrassed, as my godfather placed a beautiful necklace around my neck. Even though it was too old for me at the time, I did appreciate it and felt very upset for not trusting them. That didn’t last long, Uncle Harry yelled ‘catch’ a little while later and I caught.. a slimy fish tail.
Harry was always adding to his stereo equipment and delighted in showing off his latest acquisition. My husband and he would spend hours talking about music, playing new records and going through whatever the latest ‘new’ thing was that was becoming available.
My godfather was a very kind and loving person, always a hard worker and always welcoming. In later years, his brother, Con, lived with him. You never left that place without armfuls of produce, often plants and flowers as well. Uncle Harry always loved red roses, and either he would share some of his with me, or I would take some of mine to him. When he died on the 18th November, 1989, I knew what I wanted to do.
After his funeral, I went back to the cemetery and covered his grave with red roses and rosepetals..it was the least I could do.
He rests in Mt. Gravatt Lawn Cemetery, along with his brother, Con, with whom he shared a home for many years. It is only fitting that they share their last resting place.
© Crissouli Oct 2016 photos and content
Postscript: I chose the title because it was an oft used saying within the family, somehow it just seemed the right choice. To my much loved godfather, Uncle Harry, you are never far from my thoughts… especially today, on what would have been your 106th birthday.