Levantine Heritage
The story of a community
Home | History of the community | Active Topics | Visiting the heritage | Registers | Economic analysis | Database | Newspaper archives | Links | Books | Levantine achievements
The Contributors
Rose Marie Caporal | Alessandro Pannuti | Ft Joe Buttigieg | Mary Lemma | Antoine ‘Toto’ Karakulak | Willie Buttigieg | Erika Lochner Hess | Maria Innes Filipuci | Catherine Filipuci | Harry Charnaud | Alfred A. Simes | Padre Stefano Negro | Giuseppe Herve Arcas | Filipu Faruggia | Mete Göktuğ | Graham Lee | Valerie Neild | Yolande Whittall | Robert Wilson | Osman Streater | Edward de Jongh | Daphne Manussis | Cynthia Hill | Chris Seaton | Andrew Mango | Robert C. Baker | Duncan Wallace QC | Dr Redvers ‘Red’ Cecil Warren | Nikolaos Karavias | Marianne Barker | Ümit Eser | Helen Lawrence | Alison Tubini Miner | Katherine Creon | Giovanni Scognamillo | Hakkı Sabancalı | Joyce Cully | Jeffrey Tucker | Yusuf Osman | Willem Daniels | Wendy Hilda James | Charles Blyth Holton | Andrew Malleson | Alex Baltazzi | Lorin Washburn | Tom Rees | Charlie Sarell | Müsemma Sabancıoğlu | Marie Anne Marandet | Hümeyra Birol Akkurt | Alain Giraud | Rev. Francis ‘Patrick’ Ashe | Fabio Tito | Pelin Böke | Antonio Cambi | Enrico Giustiniani | Chas Hill | Arthur ‘Mike’ Waring Roberts III | Angela Fry | Nadia Giraud | Roland Richichi | Joseph Murat | George Poulimenos | Bayne MacDougall | Mercia Mason-Fudim née Arcas | Eda Kaçar Özmutaf | Quentin Compton-Bishop | Elizabeth Knight | Charles F. Wilkinson | Antony Wynn | Anna Laysa Di Lernia | Pierino & Iolanda Braggiotti | Philip Mansel | Bernard d’Andria | Achilleas Chatziconstantinou | Enrichetta Micaleff | Enrico Aliotti Snr. | Patrick Grigsby | Anna Maria and Rinaldo Russo | Mehmet Yüce | Wallis Kidd | Jean-Pierre Giraud | Osman Öndeş | Jean François d’Andria | Betty McKernan | Frederick de Cramer | Emilio Levante | Jeanne Glennon LeComte | Jane Spooner | Richard Seivers | Frances Clegg
Descendant of the Serra and Buttigieg familes of Izmir
My cousin Willie Buttigieg is the British consul for Izmir and we share the ancestry of the Serras and Buttigiegs coming to Izmir from Malta in the nineteenth century. Bernado Buttigieg is both his great and his great great grandfather due to marriages between the families but is only my great great grandfather. Willie has told me in the past that although the Serras emigrated from Malta they, or their ancestors, had probably come from Corsica.

My grandparents Pavlina Buttigieg and Polycarp Serra were both educated at the Italian school with Greek being the language spoken in the home, this because both Pavlina’s and Pol’s mothers were Greek born in Smyrna. Although my mother spoke Greek at home she and her siblings wrote the language with the English alphabet. My grandmother knew the Greek alphabet and read to my mother from Greek books. My mother Antoinette Polycarpina Serra and her sisters Jeanne and Marie all went to the Ecole Française run by the Soeurs de Charité; I am not sure where her brother Tom went to school. My grandmother, Pavlina, who was born in 1894, was engaged at the age of thirteen. The marriage was agreed between her mother Antonia (nee Prelorenzo) and Pol’s mother Juanina (nee Vitale), and according to my mother, Antonia called Juanina auntie. Since Antonia’s mother was Serafina Vitale, Juanina was probably her sister. Pol was six years older than her.

My grandparents lived in Alsancak near the jetty in a street running parallel to the quayside called İlkbahar Sokak. They occupied the upper two floors of their house and had a flat roof covered with galvanised metal – in the summer water could be heated on the roof by the sun. The kitchen didn’t have an oven – meat and bread were taken to the nearby bakery. The floor below was rented by the Gladgia family.

My grandfather ran a plumbing business and his weekend hobby was shooting wild boar. My mother remembers him buying a lamb each year the week before Easter. He would choose one of the ‘prettiest’ lambs and the girls would tie a ribbon round its horns and take it out to graze. At the end of the week the butcher arrived and the much petted lamb was dispatched for Sunday lunch. My grandfather had a small shop 5 minutes away from their home near the police station. He made tin baths and other metal items. He liked inventing useful items – he made my grandmother an ice-cream maker and a drink’s cooler and container to re-use the live coals from cooking [tandour?]. His shop was near his mother Antonia’s house. Amongst my grandfather’s shooting friends was the British consul. They went shooting on Sunday but first he went for early mass to bless the day. He owned a hunting dog but a one time my mother remembers a litter of 10 puppies. My grandfather trained them and docked their tails and then gave them away to his friends.

My mother loved school; going to Ecole Française run by the Soeurs de Charité from the age of 3 to 17, the school was run by nuns and her last teacher was Soeur Margarete. After she left, an English teacher based at the British consulate, gave 1 hour lessons in English two evenings a week to which she and her brother Tom went for about a year. Tom went to a school run by French priests until about 17 or 18, but she can’t remember the name. She would have liked to go to the American school and continue her studies but her father thought it too progressive and so she joined her sisters and cousin Rosa in the dressmaking business. She doesn’t know the full name of the American school but it was ‘mixed’ which is why her father said no, although if her brother had wanted to go there he would probably have been allowed but he wasn’t interested. He joined his father in the family business. He later had two sons, Leslie and Edwin. They emigrated to Australia in their teens and Tom and his wife Bertha (nee Haver) eventually joined them there.

My grandparents had been forced to leave Izmir in the Greco-Turkish War. They were British subjects and they went to Malta, either on the hospital ship Maine or the S.S. Bavarian. This was my grandparents’ only contact with Malta - Pol’s grandfather, Giovanni Serra, was born in Malta in 1806 and Pavlina’s great grandfather, Joseph Buttigieg, in 1816. The family were billeted in the Sergeants Mess, in Fort Ricasoli, Valetta. The fort guarded the entrance to the Grand Harbour and my grandmother hated the sound of the waves crashing on the cliffs. They came home as soon as possible even though my grandmother was expecting my mother. Their passage money, of £34, was loaned them by the British government. They were fortunate, both their house and shop were unharmed. My grandfather was determined not to leave Izmir again.

During the Second World War the family knew that as British subjects if Turkey was to side with Germany they would be interned. I am not sure at what point my British father Jack Parker came to Turkey from Egypt where he had been servicing tanks, but he was stationed at Afyon first where, as a qualified mechanic, his job was to service the lorries needed to transport building materials for an airstrip being built by the British. My father wasn’t in the RAF but REME (The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) – he had joined up 2/04/1940, he was originally a motor mechanic by trade. In 1943 he moved to Izmir where another airstrip was being built. Originally he rented a room at Pension Ciucci on the quayside but he then moved to Darağac renting rooms in a house belonging to John Serra, my mother’s uncle, which is how my parents met. Jack and his fellow soldiers Willy, Titch and Knobby (real names not known) wore civilian clothing and drove unmarked jeeps. By the time Jack moved on, this time to Egypt, he and my mother were engaged and she finally joined him in England in 1947, after his late war service stint in Belgium.

 Note: This piece of military history is dealt with partially in a published book, ‘Aegean Masquearade - A Royal Air Force Odyssey - Stanley J. Beavan - Brewin books - 1994’, and a segment is offered for reference here.

My mother’s courtship was very formal – my father would go to her house every Sunday for lunch. They didn’t go out alone together until after their engagement. Places my mother might have visited were the cinema with French and British films (with Turkish subtitles), to the beach at İnciraltı, Kültür [Culture] Park within Alsancak which had an open-air restaurant. Once Jack and his friends Willy and Titch borrowed a lorry and took all the Serra family on a picnic in the mountains. Tom took his gun and they shot birds, which my grandmother plucked and cleaned and roasted over a fire and served with rice.

It was a good posting for my father. While he stayed in Alsancak he and his friends took their evening meals at the local taverna and enjoyed a beer. My dad didn’t smoke, but he gave his cigarette allowance to his friends. One day he told my mother that some British servicemen had gone into the building next door to the German consulate – they climbed up to the roof and managed to get across to the roof of the German consulate where they cheekily replaced the Nazi flag with a Union Jack.

My parents were married in 1948 and were devoted to each other until my father’s death in 2002. Her sister Maria also met an English man, Douglas Smith, during the war and married him so these war time romances both stood the test of time. Doug was also in the army – he worked at the British Embassy in Izmir. They were both anxious that their father would give approval as neither Jack or Douglas were Roman Catholics but I think my grandfather realised that there was a distinct lack of ‘suitable’ suitors and wisely gave permission.

The Serra family had a family vault. The vault wasn’t situated locally. They visited it once a year taking chrysanthemums (I believe they are the Italian flower of mourning).

My mother went to school with Yvonne Balladur, the late wife of contributor Al Simes, they were both born in the same year 1924. At the moment my mother can’t really remember many names – she remembers Gaston and Roger Balladur who lived near her school and whose father went shooting with her father. She also remembers Daisy and Ninon Micallef. They were Maltese and their father had a clothes shop. Their mother and Rosa’s mother (Rosa is my mother’s cousin, daughter of John Serra who owned the house where my father lodged) were sisters. She says all her parents’ friends also spoke Greek. My mother only learnt to speak Turkish at school.

I was more than a little surprised to discover that my family links with the Levant stretched back to the sixteenth century. My 11th great grandfather, on my father’s side of the family, was Sir Edward Osborne 1530 - 1592, a merchant and financial agent, trading in Spain, Portugal and the Baltic, and a Lord Mayor of London. He was one of the main people responsible for reviving the Levantine trade and co-founder of the Levant Company. Together with Richard Staper he paid for Joseph Clements to spend eighteen months in Constantinople forging links between Queen Elizabeth I and Murat III. As a result English merchants were given the right to trade in Ottoman lands from 1580. The following year Osborne, Staper and up to 10 other merchants were granted a patent for seven years. This gave them the sole right to trade with Turkey but in return for this monopoly they had to import and export enough goods to enable them to pay custom’s duties to the value of £500 yearly for six out of the seven years of their grant. It is said that the first returns of this trade gave a profit three times the initial outlay and lead to trade with Greece, Syria, Egypt, Persia and India. In 1584 Osborne headed a list of members who petitioned the Lord Treasurer to be ‘mean (mediator) unto her Majesty for the loan of ten thousand pounds weight of bullion for certain years for the better maintenance of their trade’. The company was finally incorporated as ‘Merchant of the Levant trading to Turkey and Venice’. Osborne was appointed first governor and held this post for life. The company’s main export was cloth and imports were spices, perfumes and currants.

 Notes: 1- Ms Cully visited Malta in 2009 and at the Archives was able to get copies of passport applications for some of her ancestors who were evacuated there from Smyrna in 1922. The applications proved to be a wonderful resource with photographs and links back to their original Maltese ancestry. She also the National Archives at Kew, London and files there comfirmed that both the British and Maltese governments regretted taking the refugees whose links were usually two or three generations back to Malta and who couldn’t speak the language. They were keen to repatriate them if not to Turkey, elsewhere as soon as possible. Ms Cully also found lists of refugees returning to Smyrna. They are incomplete - this is probably because they only include the families requiring financial assistance to return although I have a letter saying that my grandfather Polycarp Serra paid for his passage home but he is on the list - view list as a pdf:
In addition Ms Cully has compiled additional information for the later refugees which includes their claims against the Turkish government and a list of all the refugees still left in Malta in 1930 - there were 89 by the end of that year. Usually one of more members of the family had some medical condition.
2- Ms Cully has also done online research on the births, marriages and deaths of 19th century (period covered 1811-1900) Smyrna Levantines, compiling a sample of her findings in a pdf viewable here, with some obituaries (period covered 1854-1965), with a longer obituary for Sir Henry Woods Pasha here:
Also researched and created by Ms Cully is a worksheet of people who gave their birthplace as Smyrna on the 1851 – 1901 censuses - later version -, though this is not a complete record as for now it records Smyrna only, those people, a considerable number, who gave Turkey or Asia Minor as their birthplace, have been excluded.

to top of page submission date 2005-11