Founding Members

  • Yiannis Gioulis
  • Robert Smith
  • Mary Camarias
  • Tom Raftery
  • Nickolas Lambrinides
  • Mary Gioulis
  • Maureen Brown
  • John Daly
  • Margaret Daly
  • Pender Kamenos
  • Michalakis Kamenos
  • Jimmy Camarias
  • Penny Smith
  • Norman Power
  • Stella Power
  • Peter O’Leary
  • Barbara McConnell
  • Thanos Politis
  • Eamon Delaney

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.

 

Peter O’Leary

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.

 

Barbara McConnell-Zotou

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.


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