Words spoken in the Classical Museum of University College Dublin to mark the retirement of Dr Patrick Cronin from the Directorship of the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens, on 9 December 2002.
When Dr Morris and the Managing Committee invited me to speak today, I accepted at once and with delight. The opportunity to praise a fine scholar who is also a magnanimous human being was eagerly seized, the more so because he and I have been friends for three decades, ever since we met in Belfast to discuss his doctoral work. Before recalling some of his many directorial achievements, let me draw your attention to aspects of his life and learning. There is a remarkable coherence in his academic career from boyhood to intellectually vigorous old age (it is also a physically vigorous old age: recently in Greece Dr Cronin ran in a Marathon). We see a progression from his early experiences in the hill-country of east Kerry to his study of the calendar and the weather lore in the hexameters of the Ascraean poet to whom the Muses taught song on Mount Helicon.
He was born into a farming family in the townland of Magha an tSamrhaidh, that is to say Summer Pasture, on Sliabh Luachra, near Rathmore. The locality has strong literary resonances. In the eighteenth century the poets Aogán Ó Rathaille and Eoghan Ruadh Ó Súilleabháin had lived close to Dr Cronin?s birthplace. More recently that great lexicographer Father Patrick Dinneen, who died in 1934, was born in the neighbourhood. There was still a Breac-Ghaeltacht hereabouts early in the twentieth century. Young Patrick Cronin soon became fluent in Irish, a language he continued to study until the end of his second year at university. I may remark, incidentally, that it is for me an enormous pleasure to receive letters in Irish from Dr Cronin in his beautiful handwriting. The responses, I regret to say, match neither his líofacht nor his calligraphy. From primary school he went as a boarder to St Augustine?s College at Dungarvan and thence to St Brendan?s, Killarney. He was fortunate to have had an inspiring Classical teacher in each institution, Father Lyons in Dungarvan and Father O?Neill in Killarney. The Muses continued to favour him at University College Cork, where he was instructed by Hubert Treston, John Fogarty, and John Richmond. The last named is reported to have been an excellent teacher of Greek and Latin prose composition, a beneficial activity, too little attempted these days. Through the practice of composition Dr Cronin?s sense of literary style and sensibility towards language in Irish, Greek, Latin, and German were signally enhanced.
In 1959 he took a first class degree in Classics; to this were soon added a Mastership of Arts and a Diploma in Education. Later, in 1992, a Certificate in Archaeology was awarded; the work for it included a substantial field report on the monuments of his native territory of Sliabh Luachra. His accurate textual scholarship has never excluded him from the study of material remains, and his widely ranging perception of antiquity is a conspicuous quality of his learning.
His professional career began as a Tutor in Classics at University College Cork. From there he moved to Sandymount High School in Dublin and soon to his alma mater, St Brendan?s. From 1967 until September of this year he lectured in Classics at Cork.
His doctoral work was devoted to the understanding of Greek weather lore, with special reference to the De Signis ascribed to Theophrastus. The keen-eyed observer of the Atlantic climate of Kerry was well equipped to expound the seen or reported by authors of meteorological texts. The doctorate was duly awarded in 1979, and after revision and more research, the thesis was published by Rutgers University Press in 1992.
From Kerry Dr Cronin has brought also an interest in folklore and in traditional music to his Greek studies. In Greece his knowledge of the modem spoken tongue, in both its demotic and official registers, has enabled him to extend his experience of folklore into modern Hellenic laografi/a; in these researches he has cooperated fruitfully with Professor Loukatos, a Kephallenian by birth. Cronin is competent also in the skills of field-survey. He has worked on surveys at Gournia in Crete and in the neighbourhood of Pylos as a member of teams from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. That he possesses archaeological serendipity is suggested by his having picked-up a piece of a Linear A inscribed tablet during a visit to the excavations at Palaikastro in Crete. Seven years later, in 1993, his then thirteen-year old daughter Iseult found another inscribed clay fragment near Palaikastro; serendipity, it seems, runs in the family.
When the Institute needed its first Director, in 1997, Dr Cronin was an obvious choice. It is difficult to exaggerate the amount of hard work he has selflessly undertaken and completed in the past five years. Without his tact, modesty, and patience the Institute would not have enjoyed the support of so many well-wishers. The help of the Irish Embassy has been crucial - let us recall in particular the beneficence of the Ambassador, Patrick Cradock, and his wife Soula, and of Mr Patrick Sammon. I take this opportunity to thank again Mr Sammon and his colleague Mr Tom Russell for all their help in the mounting in Athens in 1988, at the Gennadius Library, of the exhibition ?Ireland and the Hellenic Tradition?. Heartfelt thanks must also be expressed to the McCabe family, who lent to the Institute its first home in Prytaneiou Street in the Plaka; their generosity and kindness have been constant, and I have been delighted to watch a firm friendship growing, over the years, between the Cronins and the McCabes - Robert, Dina, Anna, and George. We are sure that these happy ties will still be strong when the Institute moves to new quarters in the Spring of next year.
Dr Cronin?s diplomatic skills and gentle manners have also enabled him to establish secure links with Greek administrators, among whom I may name Dr Elena Karakike of the First Ephoreia, Mrs Samartzidou and Mrs Korka of the Department of Foreign Schools, and Mrs Fakarou, who set up the arrangements for work in Kephallenia. Dr Cronin has never forgotten that members of the Institute are privileged guests in Greece, and one result of his prudence is the sunergasi/a in Kephallenia organised through the Ephoreia in Patras. If the Institute becomes responsible for activities at present conducted under British auspices in western Crete, there will be another, and large, extension of our operations.
Dr Cronin?s enterprise has ensured that there have been instructive programmes of lectures in Athens on Greek and Irish topics, and he has contributed much time and effort to study-journeys organised in the name of the Institute. He has been conscientious, also, in the cultivation of good relations with other foreign Schools and Institutes. And let us not forget the untiring efforts of his wife Anne, who has faultlessly dispensed hospitality to colleagues and friends. She has made the old house in Prytaneiou basically habitable and has been rigorous in the imposition of kaqario/thta: the Irish saying Is don ghl6ire an ghluine is thoroughly exemplified by her ?Cleanliness is a part of glory?. Her skills in gardening have been appreciated in Athens, not least because of her lecture to the Mediterranean Garden Plant Society entitled ?From Itylo to Inniscarra. Greek Influences on an Irish Garden?. Anne reminds me of the virtuous woman in Paroimiai in the Septuaginta (31.16): Qewrh/sasa gew/rgion e)pri/ato, a)po\ de\ karpw=n xeirw=n au)th=j katefu/teusen kth=ma ?She considereth a field and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard?. Let us remember also the Cronins? daughter Anita, who gladly and without thought of recompense helped to dispatch urgent paperwork during her father?s Directorship. Two more volunteers must also be mentioned with gratitude, because they worked far beyond the call of duty on what they knew to be a meritorious undertaking of significance for the international reputation of Ireland: I refer to Diarmaid Ó Cathain, whose help in establishing the Institute upon a firm legal basis was beyond price, and Dr Cronin?s friend from school days, John Kelleher, who made certain that early efforts in bookkeeping were orderly. We also owe a huge debt of thanks in matters of presentation and publicity to Jason O?Brien, especially in the early years.
The Cronins will continue to take part in the life of the Institute. We shall hope to witness a productive collaboration with Professor Patricia Lysaght of University College Dublin on folklife in an insular Greek community. This will be an alliance pleasing, I surmise, to the ghost of George Thomson, since Professor Lysaght is well known for her studies in the society of the Blaskets. Dr Cronin informs me that he has signed a contract for a book about Greek Popular Meteorology from Homer to the present day. The writing of it will entail many visits to Greece, and we can expect that his readers will be enlightened by his sharp perceptions of sky and landscape in Ireland as well as in Greece. His sensitivity to the spirit of place was already manifest when he read a distinguished paper on weather in Greek literature to the Hibernian Hellenists at Ballymascanlon many years ago. There is an ancient Greek proverb e)pixw/rioi ou)=ron i/)sasin, which means ?the locals know the fair wind?. This is assuredly true of Dr Cronin not only on the slopes of Sliabh Luachra but also in the dales of Helicon. Patrick and Anne, we praise your deeds, we give you thanks, we hope for your continuing happiness in the years to come, and we know that in the future as in the past your diligence will bestow abundant blessings. The term of Patrick?s Directorship is over, but, as the Ulster saying goes, ?Cha dhruid Dia bearna riamh nach bh-fosgoladh se bearn? eile?, ?God never closed one gap that he did not open another?.
Trinity College, Dublin