Gray clouds, loud seagulls over the sleepy and turbid River Liffey. Diagonally cutting rain and sharp wind. This is Dublin, the distant capital of Ireland, the city in which I for the first time heard the charming spiritual music of the great Komitas. I listened to it in the cozy and hospitable home of my Armenian friends.
For those who aren’t familiar with the works of the great composer, let me explain why he was named Komitas. He was born Soghomon Soghomonyan, and after completing a theological academy, he was ordained a priest under the name Komitas. This was the name of a renowned Armenian poet of the 7th century. And now, the music of Komitas can be heard in Dublin.
The music of Komitas is listened to by those Armenians who have been in former times forced to flee to the other side of the world in order to escape the terrifying tragedy, the Armenian Genocide, which should not be forgotten by the world. Many local Armenians associate the word “memory” with the word “pain”. Almost every single Irish Armenian is a descendant of those who suffered the Genocide in 1915.
Ohan Yergainharsian, an honorary consul of Armenia in Ireland, once recounted that his grandfather had been the only survivor from his family of 7 brothers and 4 sisters who had lived in Erzurum. In the family of doctor Kristina Begoyan, every single man had been killed, and Begoyan herself had been forced to flee in search for refuge.
The Armenian diaspora in Ireland is small: only 350 – 500 Armenians live in the country. Approximately the same number of Armenians lives in Northern Ireland. Most of the Irish Armenians live and work in Dublin. There are two places in the capital that unify the local Armenians. One of them is the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The Armenian Church of Dublin was founded in 2010 to hold wedding ceremonies. Already in March 2011, the Armenian missionary church council was registered in the church, the chairman of which became Paul Manuk. Most of the Irish Armenians are followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church, while the rest are Armenian Catholics.
Dundrum, one of the suburbs of Dublin, houses an Armenian Sunday school. It was established in 2009 in order to teach children to read, write, and speak their mother tongue. The students are also acquainted with the history, literature, geography, religion, and art of Armenia. While the new generation begins to comprehend the Armenian culture, their parents gladly intercommunicate, drink aromatic tea, and play chess or backgammon.
How do the Armenians of Ireland live? They live well, in a friendly atmosphere. Ireland is a hospitable country. Over the years, it has become the second homeland of many Armenians. Their children were born here. They work and live here. They also acquired new family ties here. Their old traditions were complemented by new ones as well.
This year, one memorable event awaits the local Armenian diaspora. In November, a huge khachkar (cross-stone), a memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, will be erected in Dublin.
Some scholars argue that the Armenians have been the first inhabitants of the Irish island. This could explain the similarities between the Armenian and Celtic cultures, the presence of khachkars in Ireland, as well as the fact that the Irish church asks God for prosperity for Armenians as well in their psalms. This could be just a guess though, albeit a pleasant one…
Read also: Ireland and Armenia: Studies in Language, History and Narrative, The Armenian Highlands is the Possible Homeland of the Ancestors of Spaniards and Irishmen – British Study, Armenians in Europe – The United Kingdom, Armenia and the Celts (Gauls), Patrick Thomas – On the Similarity of the Ancient History of Wales and Armenia