Sunday 11 September 2005

Lebanese surnames! So many of them were actually Christian names - for example George, Joseph, Isaac, Barbara, Hannah, Peters, Johns etc. Like all ports of entry worldwide, the authorities anglicised some of the names, so Fakry became Farry (originally an Irish name) , Lakhoud became Lahood/La Hood, Munsoor became Mansoor and so on but you get my drift.

The first male child born in this country of Lebanese parents was Neve Isaac. His brother, Joe, was older but was born in Melbourne. The first female child born here was my mother, Rosie George. This created a lifelong bond between Neve and Rosie. It is a pity that nothing was done to celebrate this milestone during their lifetimes. Probably because, in those days we kept a very low profile, especially from 1900 - 1950. Thank God and the providence of our people, that so many of our young ones are in the professions. It affords us all a sense of self worfth and control over our lives. Very different from the bad old days when we were the butt of some very regrettable injustice at the hands of some Irish Catholics, themselves a much maligned group struggling for a foothold in this new land. Such people should have known better but history and present world events show that they seldom do. Even members of the clergy were, on occasions, guilty of less than scrupulous behaviour. When St Josephs Cathedral needed refurbishment, the Club donated ten thousand dollars on the understanding that it was the Community's share. This was ignored by the clergy, who went from house to house collecting further money in breach of the agreement! Then guess who they made responsible for overseeing the fund raising - three Lebanese men whose names I do not have to mention. Still, as they say, different days, different ways.

Maroon Reid was a schoolmate of Kallil Gibran and his brother, Moses because he was found among the Reids who lived opposite the Hannahs in Carroll St. The Hannah's house was built and occupied by a judge of the Supreme Court originally. and was considered a mansion in its day. They tell me that today, its a hostel for backpackers. During the Second World War Paul Hannah was called up for military service, but on the advice of his 'svengali ' brother, Ike, he decided to get out of town and live for a couple of years in Greymouth. He returned to Dunedin only when his mother, Christina, died and that's when the Police picked him up. The whole situation was a travesty because he was only one step away from 'Boot Hill" being classified 4F. He was forced to do three months jail. Naturally, he had three hundred Lebanese visitors every Sunday and enormously large amounts of soul food. I wouldn't mind doing a bit of time for a good feed of kubbee.

The best Lebanese food I ever tasted was at Strawberry Hills, a suburb of Sydney. It is just around the corner from St Marouns Church in Redfern. I was warned not to walk down there because it was full of tough guys who came from Becharre. When I told them where my father hailed from I was invited to every house, each with its mortar and pestle whacking away.

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