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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Monday, 26 May 2014

Diamantina -one of the first Greeks in Queensland

Her name means Diamond and by all accounts she was as bright as one. I am talking about Diamantina Bowen, nee Countess Roma, the wife of the first Governor of Brisbane. This is about her, not him. He was a bit of an unpleasant character, though learned, but she, well, she was quite delightful.
Everywhere I end up living I find the connections to my Greek Heritage and here is another. Diamantina was of Venetian extraction but was born and raised in Ithaki, (some say Zakynthos) where she met George Bowen who was the Political Secretary of the Ionian Islands which were  Colonies at the time.She belonged to a well established and aristocratic family and was brought up with privilege. 
They married and had a son, who died young, and a daughter, Adelaide (Nina).Soon after he was appointed by HMS government as the first Governor of the newly formed Queensland. The state that Queen Victoria had given her name to willingly and which most Queenslanders (who were almost Cookslanders) were secretly quite pleased about. 

She arrived at Queen's wharf on the 10th of December 1859 after an arduous sea journey and god knows what she must have thought  seeing the small and sparsely built shacks on the hills she could see in the distance.The whole of the state turned up to greet them, some 4000 people. A huge crowd in those days.

She set about being an excellent Governor's wife and there was not much that she didnt turn her hand to. She supervised the planting of the gardens of the new Government House, as well as the vegetable garden, she turned the sod for Queensland's first  railway, she founded a Lying-in Hospital for women, and an orphanage and even had time to organise some lively balls and produce three more children. The Bowens spent about eight years here in Queensland in beautiful Government house and then went on to several other postings before finally retiring back in the UK where she attended the Greek Orthodox Church in Moscow Road, a neighbourhood I know well. She died of pneumonia aged 59. Shockingly young for our times, and was buried in Kensall Rise in a family tomb. 

Before her departure from Queensland, 120 married women subscribed to give her a diamond necklace as a momento of "the admiration and regard which the English ladies of this colony feel for the "Lady of the Greek Isles" who has so gracefully presided over them." In a farewell address they declared "Eight years ago you came among us as a stranger and foreigner. You leave us having won the hearts of many and the goodwill of all. The poor, the destitute, the afflicted and the orphans have alike shared your sympathy.

Now I know why a town, a railway station, a river, a hospital, a medical institute and Ithaca Creek at the bottom of my road bear her name and her birthplace, and countless besides which I have yet to discover. As I join the dots of the history with these names I feel her contribution which was wide reaching and socially just to this very day. She was a bit of a special Greek off that boat but if she could see it all now she would be pleased at how this small and sleepy town has grown and matured based on so much of what was dear to her.

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