The Greek-Irish Society was founded in 1977 with the aim of developing social and cultural relations between the people of Ireland and Greece. It also serves as a focal point for Irish people living and working in Greece, as well as for people of all nationalities living in Greece who are interested in finding out more about Ireland and its people.
A series of events is held from September to June, including table quizzes, walks, lectures, taverna nights, a family Christmas lunch, a New Year’s pita cutting, an annual tour. The highlight of the society’s year is the annual St Patrick’s Day Ball, held on or around March 17 at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens.
The society publishes a monthly newsletter which contains not only information on the society’s activities but also details of events taking place in Athens and Greece of interest to our members.
The society is a non-profit making, non-sectarian, and non-political body. Anyone with an interest in Ireland is welcome to join. Membership runs from September to August each year and costs €20 for an individual and €25 for a family.
NAME OF STATE
The Irish Constitution provides that the name of the State is Eire, or in the English language, Ireland. Normal practice is to restrict the user of the name Eire to texts in the Irish language and to use Ireland in all English language texts, with corresponding translations for texts in other languages. The Republic of Ireland Act of 1948 provides for the description of the State as the Republic of Ireland but this provision has not changed the usage Ireland as the name of the state in the English language.
Τhe etymology of the name Eire is uncertain and various theories have been advanced.There is no doubt, however, that it is of considerable antiquity. It first appears as Ιέρνη (Ierne) in Greek geographical writings which may be based on sources as early as the fifth century B.C IN Ptolemy;s Map (ca. 150 A.D.) the name appears as Ιουερνίχ (Iouernia) some such form was transliterated into Latin as Iuverna. The standard Latin form, Hibernia, first appears in the works of Caesar, who seems to have confused it with the Latin word hibernus (wintry). Eriu, the Old Irish form of Eire, was current in the earliest Irish literature. The modern English word Ireland derives from the Irish word Eire with the addition of Germanic word land.
In Irish mythology, Eriu was one of three divine eponyms for Ireland, together with Banda and Fodla. The idea of Ireland as a heroine re-appears as a common motif in later literature in both Irish and English.
The national flag of Ireland is a tricolour of green, white and orange. The tricolour is rectangular in shape, the width being twice its depth. The three colours are of equal size, vertically disposed, and the green is displayed next to the staff.
The flag was first introduced by Thomas Francis Meagher during the revolutinary year of 1848 as an emblem of the Young Ireland movement, and it was often seen at meetings alonside the French tricolour.
The green represents the older Gaelic and Anglo-Norman element in the population,while the orange represents the Protestant plnter stock, supporters of William of Orange. The meaning of the white as well expressed by Meagher when he introduced the flag. ‘The white in the centre,’ he said ‘signifies a lasting truce between the ‘Orange’ and the ‘Green’ and I trust that beneath its folds the hands of the Irish Protestant and the Irish Catholic may be clasped in heroic brotherhood’
It was not until the Rising of 1916, when it was raised above the General Post Office in Dublin, that the tricolour came to be regarded as the national flag. It rapidly gained precedence over any which had existed before it, and its use as a national flag is enshrined in the Constitution of Ireland.
The heraldic harp is invariably used by the government, its agencies and its representatives at home and abroad. It is engaraved on the seal matrix of the office of President as well as on the reverse of the coinage of the state. It is also emblazoned on the distinctive flag of the President of Ireland-a gold harp with silver strings on an azure field.
The model for the artistic representation of the heraldic harp is the fourteenth century harp now preserved in the Museum of Trinity College, Dublin, popularly known as the Brian Boru harp.
The text of The Soldier’s Song (Amhran na bhFiann), consisting of three stanzas and a chorus, was written in 1907 by Peadar Kearney, who together with Patrick Heeney also composed the music. It was first published in the newspaper, Irish Freedom, in 1912. The chorus was formally adopted as the National Anthem in 1926, displacing the earlier Fenian anthem, God Save Ireland. A section of the National Anthem (consisting of the first four bars followed by the last five) is also the Presidential Salute.
Information supplied courtesy of the Embassy of Ireland, Athens. Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin.
The members who signed the appeal for the founding of the society:
This Society was founded in 1977 and Registered under the Number. 167/81 decision of Polymeles Protodekion Athenon. In 30-1-1981
Pender Rhona & Kammenos Lakis
Back in 1977 I had been living in Greece for some years. I knew only one other Irish person here – my good friend Sandi Toomey – and I was feeling rather cut off from my roots. I felt sure that there must be other Irish people in Greece who, like myself, had integrated into Greek life but felt the need for an Irish dimension to this. With the arrival of Sean Ronan as the first Irish Ambassador I took the initiative to suggest to him that it would be a good idea to form some kind of association where Irish people and others interested in Ireland and things Irish could get together.Although the Embassy could not take an active part in this Ambassador Ronan helped me get in touch with people who he thought would be interested. Thus started the Greek Irish Society. Arter a few phone calls the first meeting was held in my home in Ampelokipi. The first person to cross the threshold was Peter O’Leary who I am happy to say, remains a member to this day. After this meeting the society gathered momentum. Through work, will, and good humour the Greek Irish Society finally became a state registered entity, helped on its way by the wonderful people who are all part of what it is today. They say any society is as strong as its members and based on the present evidence the future of the Greek Irish Society is assured as it continues to go from strength to strength.
Yiannis & Mary Gioulis
My late husband, Yiannis, and I joined the fledgling Society in the late seventies. Over the years we both served a number of terms on the Committee. Yiannis was elected President shortly after the Society was made official. In subsequent years, because of his love of and interest in Ireland, he was an active and committed member of the GIS. He designed our letter heading which shows a combination of the Greek Key design and an ancient Celtic design. He also designed the Society’s seal which shows, as well as the Irish harp, Athena’s owl, seated on an olive branch. Yiannis was always very happy mixing with people in the Society and we both enjoyed the cultural and social events together. I think he went out of his way to make people feel comfortable, especially newcomers. Very sadly, this much-loved husband, father and friend died in 1993 at the age of only forty-six. We all continue to miss him very much.
Teacher, singer, composer and poet comes from Galway, Ireland. He studied singing in London and Athens where he has given many recitals. In 1983 he won a place at the Montalvo Center for the Arts, Saratoga, California where he composed six settings of poems by W. B. Yeats and one from his own book of poems called “Tides of the Heart”. These he recorded in 1983 for R.T.E. (Irish Television and Radio).
Norman & Stella Power
Norman is a founding member of the Society and past President.He is the keeper of the Archives for the Society.Prior to his recent retirement, Norman was Vice President for Academic Affairs at the American College of Greece. Norman has taught courses in literature at the American College of Greece, The University of Athens, The British Council and at Smith College in the United States. He has also lectured for the Society.
Originally from Dublin, I came to Athens in the summer of 1977 to work at the Embassy of Ireland which had just been accredited to Greece. Working at the Embassy enabled me to get to know members of the Irish community who had settled here and who were anxious to get together socially.
In the beginning a small group of us used to meet for taverna evenings which quickly graduated to grand dinners and parties in one another’s homes. It was at such an event that we decided that we should form a society and organise not only social events but cultural and sports on a regular basis.
The hard-core members formed a committee and I was one of those and was a continuous committee member for 7 years running. We were a relatively small group of about 20 people in those days and I can remember some wonderful events like a weekend spent in Aghia Marina, Aegina when a boatload of us descended on the island and had a wonderful few days of song, fun and adventure. Other very enjoyable events I recall were a series of Irish play-readings performed by Society members which were very enlightening as to the latent talent that lay untapped!
Getting to grips with the legalities involved in the formation of the society meant a lot of hard work and lengthy regular committee meetings. Our committee meetings often turned into banquets and in particular I remember the warm and wonderful hospitality of Stella and Norman Power, Norman being President at the time. It took months to draw up the Constitution and have it registered but it was all worth it and we have come a long way since those days!!
Returning to myself; I married my husband,(Spyros Zotos) in the early ’80s. We had met up in London, where he was at college and I was working for the Irish Tourist Board. We have one daughter, Niki, who is in her 2nd year of studies at University College Dublin. I continue to work at the Embassy and am very much involved in Irish community activities. The Society has been a great help to new arrivals to find friends and make contacts when they come to Athens. For those of us who have been here for many years it has been a way of seeing one another regularly and thus deep friendships have formed between fellow members.
Robert & Penny Smith
Robert and Penny Smith came to Greece on March 17th 1969 for two years and are still here. They were involved in the founding the Greek Irish Society together with the first Irish Ambassador to Greece, Sean Ronan and other worthies some of whom we have sadly lost but many others still here and very active in the Society.
Robert’s career is in the Shipping business but his great love is old cars. This illness started as a child on a farm in Co Meath when he learned to drive a Fordson Major at the age of 6 and was given an old Armstrong Siddeley car by a friend of his father when he was 13 on condition that he did it up and gave it back whenever the owner wanted it.
He is now Vice President and President of the Technical Committee of PHILPA (Friends of Old Cars) the Greek Antique Car Club and spends too much of his time with this activity. Penny and Robert are lucky enough to be able to rally their old cars all over Greece and have done some events in other parts of Europe.