25 March 2021

The 33 Irish men and women
who had key roles in creating
the modern Greek state

Sir Richard Church’s monument on his grave in the First Cemetery in Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the Greek War of Independence on 25 March 1821.

As part of the events in Ireland to mark this bicentenary, I am being interviewed later this evening (7:30) by the President of Hellenic Community of Ireland, Styliani (Stella) Xenopoulou, for a live-streatmed community programme on Facebook.

In my research, I have identified over 30 key Irish figures who had roles in Greece during the Greek War of Independence and the consolidation of the modern Greek State.

Not all 33 of these figures were involved in the struggle for Greek independence. But each one of them played an important role in Greek military, political, economic, cultural and social life in the 19th and early 20th century.

Some of this research has been published as papers in books and in journals, and I have published some of it on this blog. The names of Irish Philhellenes are in bold; there is a hyperlink in names to postings available on this blog.

1, (Captain) Edward Blaquiere (died 1832), persuaded Byron to join the Greek struggle.

2, James David Bourchier (1850-1920), Irish journalist and political activist, who was active in the union of Crete with the modern Greek state; he died in Sofia.

3, Sir Richard Church (1784-1873), commander-in-chief of the Greek army, life senator.

4, (Captain) Francis T Castle, Irish sea captain and Philhellene.

5, Edward Curling, worked for Napier on Kephallonia from 1828 to 1831, later lived in Newcastlewest, Co Limerick.

6, (Captain) Gibbon FitzGibbon (1802-1837), gunnery officer and lieutenant on the Karteria; lived on in Greece after the war of independence, and along with Sir Richard Church was one of only seven Philhellenes still living in the new kingdom when Otho arrived in Athens as king in 1833.

7, Sir George FitzMaurice (1827-1889), 6th Earl of Orkney and Viscount Kirkwall, spent four years as a civil servant in the Ionian Islands in the 1850s, left an extensive account of life there prior to reunion with Greece; decorated by the King of Greece as a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Saviour.

8, Kathleen Ford … she had an affair with Nikos Kazantzakis during Crete’s struggle to be incorporated in the Greek state.

9, George Nugent Grenville, Lord Nugent (1788-1862), Philhellene, Governor of the Ionian Islands (1832-1835).

10, (Commodore) Gawin William Rowan Hamilton (1783-1834), British naval officer who was placed on trial for acting in Greece’s interests in the War of Independence.

11, Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1903), poet in Japan, born into a Waterford family on the island of Lefkhada. Descended from the Ven Daniel Hearn (1693-1766), Archdeacon of Cashel, but his mother was Greek and he was baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church as Patricio Lafcadio Tessima Carlos Hearn.

12, Charles Horatio Kennedy (1810-1862), visited Kephalonia to support his brother’s role in Greek politics.

13, (Dr) James Kennedy, army doctor who supported Sir Charles Napier and befriended Byron.

14, (Captain) John Pitt Kennedy (1796-1879), Sir Charles Napier’s engineer on Kephalonia and Ithaka.

15, (Sir) Edward FitzGerald Law (1846-1908), reformed the Greek economy and helped the insurgents in Crete.

16, Sir Edmund Lyons (1790-1858), later Lord Lyons, of Irish descent, British ambassador in Athens at the end of the War of Independence (1834-1849).

17, (Sir) Charles James Napier (1782-1853), used his official position in Kephalonia to assist the independence struggle, and hoped to become commander of the Greek army.

18, Henry Edward Napier, came to Greece to support his brother, Sir Charles Napier.

19, (Count) Laval Nugent (1777-1862), Irish Philhellene, offered the command of the Greek army, which he declined.

20, (Captain) Charles O’Fallon, aide-de-camp to Sir Richard Church.

21, James Ryan: among the Irish Philhellenes counted by Woodhouse, although he is sometimes listed among the ‘British volunteers.’

22, (Lieutenant) William Scanlan (died 1827), first mate on the Karteria and lieutenant on the Soter, killed in a naval battle in the Gulf of Patras.

23, Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe (1780-1855), 6th Viscount Strangford, British Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Sublime Porte (1820-1824).

24, William Bennet Stevenson (ca 1787-post 1830), secretary to Cochrane, commander of the Greek navy.

25, (Sir) James Emerson Tennent (1804-1869), Belfast-born Philhellene.

26, Robert James Tennent (1803–1880), Belfast-born Philhellene.

27, (Captain) George Thomas, born in Bath but regarded himself as Irish; commanded the Soter.

28, John Augustus Toole (1792-1829), member of Napier’s staff on Kephalonia and supporter of Kapodistrias.

29, Eliza-Dorothea Tuite, Countess Solomos.

30, Arthur Gower Winter (died 1824), fought at Messolongi, Salona, and in later went to Athens, where he died by suicide.

31, Sir Thomas Wyse (1791-1862) from Waterford, British Ambassador in Athens, buried as a Philhellene.

32, William Charles Bonaparte Wyse (1826-1892), born in Waterford, once suggested as King of Greece.

33, Sir John Young, later Lord Lisgar (1807-1876), Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands (1855-1859).

Sir Richard Church’s former house in the Plaka, beneath the slopes of the Acropolis in Athens … now covered in graffiti (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


Vassilis Kapetanyannis said...

Dearest friend.
We are really thankful for the Irish contribution to the birth of our nation.
Eternally grateful.
Mutual respect and friendship between our nations.
We must look forward to a better future for our people.,
This is not a wishful thinking. It is a real possibility based on our potential our history and culture.
God bless you all.
Greetings from Athens
Hope to meet again sooner rather than later.
With love

Πάνος - Σωκράτης said...

Dear Mr. Comerford
As a Greek living in Ireland , I would like to thank you for your contribution on the topic of Irish Philhellenism during the Greek War of Independence. I am also very grateful to all the Philhellenes (Irish or from other countries) who helped us in various ways to gain our freedom and independence at the beginning of 19th century. May their memory be eternal. Panagiotis-Sokratis Loumakis