09 November 2017

‘Jewels in the crown’ at
today’s commencements
in Trinity College Dublin

With the Revd Danielle McCullagh and the Revd Jonathan McFarland in the Front Square in Trinity College Dublin after this afternoon’s commencement

Patrick Comerford

I was in Trinity College Dublin this afternoon for what I think may be my last role as an adjunct assistant professor, taking part in the Michaelmas term commencements at which 12 of my former students received their masters’ degrees.

Three of my former colleagues on the faculty of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute were with me in the Public Theatre in TCD as the degree of MTh was conferred on 12 former students.

The programme for today’s Michaelmas Commencements in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

There was particular joy in being present as the Revd Danielle McCullagh and the Revd Jonathan McFarland were conferred with their degrees, as I had supervised their research, and these were the final dissertations I had supervised.

Danielle’s topic was: ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: the Church of Ireland’s response to alcohol addiction and its role in recovery.’ Johnny’s dissertation asked: ‘What happens to faith for those who suffer depression in the context of the Church of Ireland?’

Both dissertations were labours of love for student and supervisor alike, with many late nights and early mornings at work, and long coffee breaks both in my study and in the dining room at CITI.

Johnny and I also shared many lengthy discussions about two Anglican deans, John Donne of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, and Gonville ffrench-Beytagh of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg, who became two of his historic case studies.

The other students who received their MTh degrees this afternoon were the Revd Lucy Burden, the Revd Nigel Cairns, the Revd Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the Revd Mark Gallagher, the Revd Rebecca Guildea, the Revd Geoff Hamilton, the Revd Rhys Jones, the Revd Stuart Moles, the Revd Chris St John and the Revd Ross Styles.

The restored organ in the Public Theatre in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

As we moved out in the academic procession, the restored organ was playing once again in the Public Theatre. The organ, housed in an historic 1684 case, is an important part of Trinity's and Ireland’s national heritage and was restored over the past year after suffering a sad state of decline for many years. In addition, the theatre has been painted and decorated and the portraits, including one of Queen Elizabeth I, have been cleaned.

The organ was virtually unplayable when the university plans to have it refurbished. Last year’s final summer commencement ceremony was the last time that organ was used until the commencements this week.

Apart from the organ case and façade pipes, some of which had to be taken down for safety reasons, the organ itself was of no historical value, as it was largely rebuilt mid-20th century.

The organ case, however, is one of the very few surviving organ cases made in the 17th century by Lancelot Pease. It has been retained, with a full refurbishment and redecoration. The original case was built by Lancelot Pease, who also built organs in Christ Church Cathedral and Saint Audeon’s Church in Dublin and Canterbury Cathedral.

A new two-manual organ, with an authentic 17th century stop-list, has been built by the specialist historic organ builders Goetz & Gwynn, and it is planned that it was installed in the refurbished case in the past few weeks.

Professor David Grayson, who chairs the Organ Committee, has described the new organ as ‘the jewel in the crown of the university’s musical portfolio, as well as a fine asset to the city and to the country’

Drawing on this image, I suppose I could say my students have become ‘the jewels in the crown of the Church of Ireland’s ministry portfolio, as well as fine assents to the church and to the country.’

With staff and students of CITI on the steps of the Chapel in Trinity College Dublin this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Why Romiosini means more
than simply being Greek

Reflections of Greece in Dublin last night ... Kostas Greek restaurant at 69 Dame Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Two of us had dinner last night in Kostas, a new Greek restaurant run by Adam Kritidis at 69 Dame Street, Dublin.

As winter begins to close in Ireland, it was a welcome distraction to be reminded of Greece in summer. There was Dakos and Imam, and Florina Peppers and Imam, tastes and sounds of being back in Greece once again.

But as the evening moved from eating to talking, the conversation moved from romance to reality, and the real consequences of the continuing economic crisis for Greeks who are bearing the burden of continuing austerity.

As I travelled back to the comfort of south Dublin, I was still emotionally upset. But the tenacity of Greeks, the will not only to survive but to stand up, came to mind in the words of Yiannis Ritsos’ poem, «Τη Ρωμιοσύνη μην την κλαις», published in Ποιήματα.1963-1972 (Κέδρος, Αθήνα 1989).

When Greeks use the word Romiosini, it means more than being Greek, yet it is impossible to describe in English the emotional dimensions of this word.

It conveys culture, resistance, place, tradition, dance, character, wilfulness, language, history, tradition, identity, dance and song.

It is the spirit stands up in the face of adversity, catastrophe, trauma and the tide and tempest of the world.

It is freedom and resistance, it is democracy and revolution, it is a way of being Greek but more than Greek.

And I turned again to listening to Maria Farantouri – who is 70 later this month – singing the interpretation of this poem by Mikis Theodorakis.

The original references are to resistance to the Ottoman Turks. But this became one of the songs that symbolised the resistance to the colonels’ junta, and today it sings of resistance to everyone who would try to deny the Greekness of Greeks.

Γιάννη Ρίτσου, «Τη Ρωμιοσύνη μην την κλαις»

Τη ρωμιοσύνη μην την κλαις
εκεί που πάει να σκύψει
με το σουγιά στο κόκκαλο
με το λουρί στο σβέρκο

Νά τη πετιέται απο ξαρχής
κι αντριεύει και θεριεύει
και καμακώνει το θεριό
με το καμάκι του ήλιου

This is a poor effort to translate this deeply moving and emotional poem and song:

Don’t dare cry for Greece
There where she is forced to stoop,
Stabbed by a knife in her back
Bent by a yoke on her neck.

Yet see her rise from the blow,
Grow with strength and with fury,
And see her strike back at the beast
With the harpoon of the sun.