Manuel Kulukundis (1898-1988) and Minas Rethymnis were cousins, both from the island of Kasos near Karpathos in the southern Dodecanese islands, and had grown up together on Kasos and gone to school together. Their fathers suggested that they should move to London after the end of World War I and try their luck in the epicentre of world shipping. After stepping ashore at Dover from the Calais ferry in March 1920, they shared an apartment in Southampton Row near Russell Square in Bloomsbury and set up their firm as Rethymnis & Kulukundis with a shared capital of £150 on 21st July 1921 at 15 Great St. Helens off St. Mary Axe. They became so famous in the world of shipping as shipbrokers, ship’s agents and shipowners that they were known throughout the world of shipping as simply ‘R & K’ of London, with Rethymnis & Kulukundis Ltd. incorporated as a limited company on 22nd March 1922.
They had both grown up with fathers and grandfathers who owned and commanded tramps sailing the world for charters carrying many types of cargo, trading mainly in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Capt. Elias Kulukundis (1858-1926) had sailed from Kasos in 1898 on a part owned handsome three masted 900 tonne barque named Anastasia with a cargo of tiles for Russia, but was forced to put into Syros in the Cyclades for refuge as there was bitter fighting in the Aegean between Crete and Turkey. Eleni Kulukundis, his wife and daughter of Manuel Mavroleon from the Peloponnese region of Greece, and two of their sons were also on board during this voyage that was cut short by war. They were to have six sons in George Elias, Basil, Nicholas, Manuel born in November 1898, John and Michael.
While Capt. Elias Kulukundis was at sea commanding his ship, his son Manuel Kulukundis was able to look through his father’s papers at home including the Lloyd’s of London circulars and charter parties and became very familiar at an early age in how to run a shipping business. School holidays were spent on his father’s ships sailing to many ports including Constantinople and up the Danube and in the Black Sea. He had a great love of ships and his ambition was to sail on tramps at first and then become a shipowner.
Capt. Elias Kulukundis owned a tramp called Lily in 1917, which loaded a cargo in Egypt but was torpedoed off Port Said, fortunately all of the crew were rescued by a ship owned by Michael Lemos, a friend who had previously sailed as Mate on one of the Kulukundis tramps. The history of the Lemos clan from the small island of Oinoussai off the eastern shore of Chios has been given in an earlier article in this magazine. Manuel Kulukundis served in the Greek Navy during World War I and kept in touch with his cousin and school friend of Minas Rethymnis.
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