Monday, 5 October 2015


The island of Tasmania (formerly Van Dieman's Land) has been welcoming small numbers of people from Lithuania for almost 200 years, probably longer than any other part of Australia.  The earliest arrivals were often sailors: 

Stanislav STANKEVICH (Stasys Stankevičius would be the Lithuanian version of his name) from Vilnius was one of four sailors who absconded from the Russian ship Kreiser in 1823.  While the other three gave themselves up after negotiations, Stankevich remained at large (Elena Govor, Australia in the Russian Mirror; changing perceptions 1770-1919 (Miegunyah Press, 1997), p8).

Ernst ELSNOR who was recorded as a native of Lithuania (region unspecified) on shipping records arrived as a convict aboard the English ship John in 1833.  He had been a bookbinder in London before receiving a 7 year sentence for stealing two shirts (Luda Popenhagen, Australian Lithuanians, (UNSW Press, 2012), p15).

Frederick Robert SUPPLIES was a sailor born around 1834 in Memel, Prussia (now Klaipėda, Lithuania).  He married in Tasmania in 1855 and fathered four children but was drowned off New Zealand in 1863 while serving as second mate aboard the Hargraves (

Charles GRINING was also from Memel/Klaipeda and has possibly left the clearest legacy of all early Lithuanian migrants.  The following is courtesy of World Heritage Cruises ( which is located on the beautiful West Coast of Tasmania and operated by Charles Grining's descendents:

Charles Grining: 1837 (Memel) - 1922 (Strahan)
Source: (several public family trees)
Charles Grining was born in 1837 in Memel, Prussia (today known as ‘Klaipeda’, Lithuania). He ran away to sea at the age of 11, becoming a cabin boy. After many years at sea he arrived in Australia, finding work around the mining fields of Victoria where he married an Irish lass, Mary Minnock. Mary was born in Kings County, Ireland, in 1841, in an area known today as Offlay. They were married in Daylesford, Victoria, and raised eight children.
In 1872 the Grinings moved to Trial Harbour (then known as Remine) on Tasmania’s West Coast, where a ninth child was born.
Charles and his two eldest sons worked the Heemskirk mineral fields for about eight years, but on the night of February 26, 1887, their lives were changed forever. A massive bushfire swept through the town, destroying everything in its path and driving the residents down to the sea for protection. With the family home destroyed, Charles decided to move his family to the new settlement of Strahan.
After re-establishing in Strahan, Charles built one of the town’s early hotels and became a sea-farer once more, this time building boats to ply the waters of Macquarie Harbour. He is remembered as one of the more influential businessmen of the period.
Two of the Grining boys followed their father down to the sea – Charles jnr as a sailor and Harry as a boat builder who was to distinguish himself as a master of his craft, building, among other boats, many of the famous Gordon River punts used by the piners.

I found Charles' story particularly interesting because of a possible family connection: Tasmanian licencing records show that in 1898 Charles Grining was the proprietor of the Royal Exchange Hotel in Strahan while my wife's grandfather Felix Arthur Burns was the proprietor of the Ringville Hotel near Rosebery.  After a short while at Ringville Felix moved on to operate the Terminus Hotel at Mount Read for many years.  I think it is almost certain that Charles and Felix knew each other.

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