The Occupation of Cyprus by the British in 1878 and the Speeches of Welcome


by Pavlos Andronikos, June 2020

Sir Garnet Wolseley

“You represent a nation sympathising with the long sufferings of this thoroughly Hellenic country of ours. Our language and our religion have been from time immemorial our two national symbols, and those mighty Britain, in the performance of her noble work, we are assured will maintain and uphold in the future for the welfare and prosperity of this nation. We [Greeks] have before us the noble precedent of the Ionian Islands. The great island of Cyprus, the pearl of the Mediterranean, is ceded to the crown of her Majesty, and our respect and pride will be great for her in like manner as other countries and nations under her protection.”

(A Greek exarch of Cyprus addressing Sir Garnet Wolseley, 26 July 1878, Limassol)

The Swearing-In Ceremony, Larnaca

The first British governor of Cyprus, Sir Garnet Wolseley, reached the island at Larnaca on the HMS Himalaya on the morning of Monday 22 July 1878, and officially took over the governance of the island at a small swearing-in ceremony in Larnaca that evening.

However Wolseley was disappointed to discover that the British flag had already been hoisted by Admiral John Hay, who had been sent to Cyprus to prepare for the arrival of Wolseley, his entourage and troops.[1]

In fact, the British formally took over the governance of Cyprus from the Turks some days before the arrival of Sir Garnet Wolseley on the 12th of July when Admiral John Hay visited the Turkish Governor’s official residence in Nicosia, and there met with “Pessim Pasha (Governor, pro tem.) and all the notables, Mussulman and Christian, and the heads of departments of administration”. At the conclusion of this meeting Pessim Pasha (Besim Pasha) had formally handed over the governance of the island to Hay, the representative of “Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria”.[2]

The landing pla

There are extensive reports on Wolseley’s arrival in Cyprus in two of the most important British newspapers of the day: The Times and The Daily News. I propose in this article to consider and comment on the accounts they offer.

With regard to the swearing-in ceremony for the new Governor, each newspaper carries two reports: a short one based on an initial telegram from their reporter on the spot, and a longer one some days later: The Times 23 July and 7 Aug 1878; The Daily News 24 July and 9 Aug 1878. Surprisingly the two newspapers differ in their accounts with regard to significant details.

At the ceremony a proclamation from Queen Victoria was read in English, Greek, and Turkish. Neither newspaper gives the text in full, as far as I can discover, but a short version was published in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper of Sunday 28 July 1878, and the proclamation in full can be consulted in Cyprus Under British Rule by Captain C. W. J. Orr (London: Robert Scott, 1918) pp. 40-41. Here is the Lloyd’s Weekly version:

Her Majesty directs me to assure you of the warm interest she feels in your prosperity, and her intention to order the adoption of the measures best calculated to promote and extend commerce and agriculture, and afford the blessings of freedom, justice, and security. It is her Majesty’s pleasure that the government be administered without distinction of persons or in favour of any race or creed. Equal justice will be done to all under the impartial protection of the law, and no measures will be neglected to advance moral and material welfare. It is the Queen’s wish that in the administration of affairs the reasonable wishes of the inhabitants should be regarded respecting the maintenance of ancient institutions, usages, and customs, consistent with good government and the principles of civilisation and liberty.[3]

According to the initial account in The Daily News, the proclamation was read and translated sentence by sentence:

Colonel Greaves then read his Excellency’s proclamation to the Cypriotes, already telegraphed, which was repeated in Greek and Turkish every alternate sentence. (The Daily News, 24 July 1878, p. 5)

But this description is modified markedly in the fuller report of August:

Colonel Greaves then by his Excellency’s direction read the proclamation to the inhabitants of Cyprus... This was in the original English. A Greek priest, who was so nervous that he could hardly turn over the leaves, then read a Greek version of the proclamation. But this did not inform the Turks of its contents, so the Greek priest read it again, a Turkish gentleman translating it impromptu, sentence by sentence, into Turkish. (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p. 6)

In addition The Times informs us that the Cypriot who read the Greek version of the British proclamation was “the Professor of the Greek College in Larnaca, and a Greek ecclesiastic”:

He was intensely nervous, and his hand trembled and his voice shook so that he could barely gather the words from the paper and speak them continuously. At the conclusion, “Zito” after “Zito” re-echoed, and the reader, appearing to be fairly carried away with excitement, turned again to the audience and addressed them a rapid sentence—congratulatory words of his own, I imagine—the precise purport of which I failed to understand. (The Times, 7 Aug. 1878, p. 10)

One would dearly like to know what the Professor/ecclesiastic said in that excited interjection, which the reporter for The Daily News does not think worth mentioning.

It is interesting to notice that the Turks did not understand the Greek translation of the English, which was presumably in formal Greek rather than the spoken dialect. One wonders if the “Turkish gentleman” who translated the Greek into Turkish, impromptu, was in fact a Turk, since it seems unlikely that a Turkish Cypriot would have understood formal Greek. Alternatively, it is tempting to imagine the “Greek priest” rendering the formal Greek in Cypriot Greek dialect so that the Turkish Cypriot could follow it.

What the Daily News reporter does tell us is that the Cypriot officials at the ceremony were the Turkish Kaimakam, the Turkish judge and a Greek priest. Confusingly, however, in his concluding sentence he says, “the Kaimakan and the Archbishop were presented to his Excellency”. Also, in the fuller report of the 9th of August he says:

In the throat of the gateway stood the Turkish kaimakan, in the surtout so affected by all official Turks; the Turkish priest, in white cashmere caftan, and wearing a turban around his fez; and the Greek archbishop, with tall, brimless, black cylinder hat surmounting the long black locks that streamed on to his shoulder. (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p. 5)

Having indicated that the Archbishop of Cyprus was present, the report then surprisingly claims that the speech of welcome from the Greeks was made by a “Greek gentleman” (24 July), otherwise described as “one of the Greek notables” (9 Aug.). One is left with unanswerable questions: Is it possible that he is referring to the Archbishop of Cyprus in such terms? Had the Archbishop of Cyprus really been there would he have permitted anybody other than himself to make the formal speech of welcome?

Here are the relevant passages:

A Greek gentleman read an address, in which he referred to the new era upon which Cyprus was now entering. A Turkish gentlemen spoke of friendship which had existed from time immemorial between England and Turkey, and expressed his gratification that the island had been placed under the protection of the Queen, and that she had chosen such a distinguished representative. immense clamour and cheering followed, Englishmen, Greeks, and Turks intermingled, and the proceedings concluded. (The Daily News, 24 July 1878, p. 5)
One of the Greek notables stepped forward, with an address to his Excellency, which he recited in a sonorous voice. It set forth that the Greek residents of the colony welcomed his Excellency with great joy and enthusiasm as the first British governor of the island; and welcomed also the auspicious change in the fortunes of Cyprus, by which assuredly to-day a new leaf of beauty and promise had been turned in the history of the place. There had been gusts of cheering throughout the ceremony, but at this address the Greeks broke out into quite a tempest of enthusiasm, which seemed to me partly genuine, partly by prior arrangement, partly hysterical. One fellow asked me, sotto voce, for the correct pronunciation of “God Save the Queen,” in order that he might give vent to his feelings in this British formula, and explained that the occasion was one under which the Greeks found themselves très émotionés. But the Greeks were not to have it all their own way. The Mollah was equal to the occasion on behalf of his countrymen, and according to experts he made quite “the speech of the evening.” A few presentations to his Excellency followed, and then the little durbar broke up. (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p. 6)

The account in The Times is quite different and much more specific. We are told that, following the reading of the proclamation, “the Greek Bishop of Larnaca” read an English translation of a Greek address to his Excellency.[4]

Then stepped forward the Greek Bishop of Larnaca, and on behalf of the Greek population of the island read an English translation of a Greek address to his Excellency. The address affirmed that the Greeks welcomed their new Governor with unlimited rejoicing and delight—”μετ’ απέιρου χαράς και αγγελιασέως” [sic, απείρου αγαλλιάσεως] are the words in the Greek original which I have seen, and which I reproduce in the ancient Greek characters as they will be more commonly known to your readers. The Cypriotes welcomed also, they said, their new fortunes, by which a bright page, they were well assured, was opened in their history—”δι’ ης ανοίγεται, έσμεν εκ των προτέρων βίβαιοι, λαμπρά σελίς της νεωτέρας ημών ιστορίας;” and they described their happiness at coming beneath the same Government as the great English nation, the most advanced and civilized of the nations of Europe—”ευημερήσωμεν,” in the words of the Greek, “διοικούμενοι υπό της αυτής κυβερνήσεως υφ’ ης και το μάλλον προήγμενον ιν τω πολιτίσμω και συνταγμακτώτερον των της Ευρώπης εθνών μέγα Αγγλικον έθνος.” From their new condition they said they were full of bright hopes for the future of their island, “πλήρεις φαιδροτάτων ελπιδων περί του μέλλοντος της ημετερας νήσου;” and the address concluded thus:— “Ζητω η Άνασσα Μεγαλειότης η Άνασσα της μεγάλης Βριταννίας, Ζητω το Αγγλικον έθνος, Ζητω η Υμετέρα Εξοχοτης”—that is, “Long live Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain, long live the English nation, long live your Highness.” (The Times, 7 Aug. 1878, p. 10)

While the Times reporter seems excited by the familiarity of the Greek of the Bishop’s speech, he displays much less enthusiasm than the Daily News reporter for the speech of the “Mollah”:

A spokesman came forward for the Moslems also, and, being apparently unprepared with a written address, spoke in extempore language, which was interpreted bit by bit as the speech proceeded. The Moslems were understood to express their contentment and welcome. Sir Garnet Wolseley informed both representatives that he would reply to them in writing… (The Times, 7 Aug 1878, p. 10)

One notes that the Times reporter demonstrates a good knowledge of Greek and seems to be much more interested in and less dismissive of the Greeks than the Daily News reporter. He also seems rather more meticulous in that he makes the effort to get a look at the written text of the Greek speech and to quote from it in Greek in his report.

In contrast the Daily News reporter seems impressionistic and somewhat slapdash. One suspects that his Greek may be poor, and that he little comprehends the full significance of what is going on for the Greeks, and, to the extent that he does, he is sneeringly dismissive. His sympathies are without question with the Turks whom he frequently romanticises. They are the co-nationals of “the heroes of Plevna”, and “were obeying the inevitable, yet I confess that my heart was sore for them.”[5] Is it necessary to point out that they are also fellow imperialists?

Which reporter should we trust?

It is impossible to say with certainty. Given his consistency, I think we can probably assume that the Times reporter is correct: that the Archbishop was not present at the swearing-in ceremony, but the Bishop of Kition was. However, it does seem that the Daily News reporter’s confusion was also shared by the High Commissioner for, according to the historian George Hill, “Wolseley himself reported from Larnaca, 22 July, that he received an address from the Greek Archbishop and the Turkish Molla (F.O. Corr. 1878-9, p. 4).”[6]

This information complicates the issue markedly. Although neither correspondent signs his reports we know from George Hill that they are St Leger Algernon Herbert (The Times), who was also private secretary to Sir Garnet Wolseley, and the “famous correspondent” Archibald Forbes (The Daily News).[7] So, we have a situation where the private secretary and his employer give differing accounts. How can this be?

It is noteworthy that, in what is perhaps similarly irreverent vein, Archibald Forbes refers to the Archbishop as “the Greek priest” in his telegraphic report of 1 Aug 1878: “At the brow of the hill the Greek priest… poured scent over Sir Garnet Wolseley's hands…” (“Latest Telegrams”, The Daily News 1 Aug 1878, p. 5) This leads one to suspect that maybe the Archbishop really was present in Larnaca. Perhaps he did choose to delegate to the Bishop of Kition the reading of the speech of welcome, since he found himself in that Bishop’s community.

For completeness it should be mentioned that one researcher has concluded that:

There is some confusion about who actually gave such addresses, but probably there were two, from the Bishop of Kitium and Archbishop Sophronios.[8]

However she does not explore the issue in detail; her brief account is itself confused; and she gives no reasons for her conclusion. I do not think that there can be any doubt, on the basis of the reports of the newspapers, that only one Greek speech was made at the swearing-in ceremony.

At this point I ought to explain that I have presented these reports in some detail because there exists in many historical accounts a claim that when Her Majesty’s representative Sir Garnet Wolseley landed in Cyprus, he was greeted by the Archbishop of Cyprus, who lost no time in making the enosist aspiration of his flock known to His Excellency. For example, Cyprus Under British Rule by Captain C. W. J. Orr (London: Robert Scott, 1918):

When Sir Garnet Wolseley landed at Larnaca in 1878 he was waited upon by a Greek deputation headed by the Archbishop, who, in the course of an address welcoming him to the island, used these words: “We accept the change of Government inasmuch as we trust that Great Britain will help Cyprus, as it did the Ionian Islands, to be united with Mother Greece, with which it is nationally connected.” (p. 160)

Clearly the news reports of The Times do not support that version of events. However, it is easy to see how the reports of The Daily News could have given rise to the belief that the Archbishop was in Larnaca to greet the newly arrived Governor, and, given what happened in Limassol soon afterwards... but I am getting ahead of myself.


Sir Garnet Wolseley Visits Limassol

Having arrived in Larnaca, Sir Garnet Wolseley put off for a few days the obligatory visit to Nicosia to meet with the outgoing Turkish Governor of the island. In the meantime he did some sightseeing. He sailed to Famagusta on the 25th of July in the Salamis accompanied by Admiral Lord John Hay,[9] and on the following day he sailed in the opposite direction to Limassol. His arrival there is described at some length in The Daily News:

We landed at a little jetty opposite the vice-consul’s house, where a great mass of inhabitants had collected to welcome the High Commissioner. The Greek element is clearly in the ascendant at Limasol. Greek girls crowded the balconies and windows of the houses on the seafront, Greeks in black coats rather elbowed the Turks into the back ground, and asserted themselves with sufficient complacency. The bells of the Greek churches were chiming merrily. A cafe projecting over the sea was crammed to its last inch of standing room with spectators. In the centre of the throng, stern and rigid, stood a little guard of honour of Marines, a detachment of which have been stationed here since Lord John Hay took over the island. The British bugle sounded as his Excellency stepped on shore. No time was lost. Sir Garnet Wolseley inspected the guard, and then a little procession was formed, with the Konak as its destination. We dived down a lane, and found ourselves in an unfragrant bazaar, covered with canvas stretched overhead from booth to booth. This protection gave some coolness, but was neutralised by the calorie radiated by the crowd which, with pardonable curiosity, thronged about the little party so eagerly that progress was occasionally impeded. But we struggled on to the Konak where a little band of Turkish militiamen formed a guard, and mounted to the court-room, whither there was allowed to follow the most respectable portion of the crowd. The priests showed a good front, there being no fewer than five present. The Greek exarch read an address, the tenor of which gives some indication of the aspirations uppermost in the Grecian mind of Cyprus. It began “we Greeks,” not “we Cypriotes,” and it ran as follows:—
“You represent a nation sympathising with the long sufferings of this thoroughly Hellenic country of ours. Our language and our religion have been from time immemorial our two national symbols, and those mighty Britain, in the performance of her noble work, we are assured will maintain and uphold in the future for the welfare and prosperity of this nation. We have before us the noble precedent of the Ionian Islands. The great island of Cyprus, the pearl of the Mediterranean, is ceded to the crown of her Majesty, and our respect and pride will be great for her in like manner as other countries and nations under her protection.”
I confess I do not see with what right the Grecian population of Cyprus can style themselves the nation. It would be difficult for the exarch, probably, to tell at a moment’s notice how many centuries have elapsed since there was Greek rule in Cyprus and as for “language,” if the exarch’s religion is no better than his Greek, it certainly cannot be called his strong point. His Excellency gave to Mr. Guarracino the terms of a very general reply, which that gentleman translated first into Greek and then into Turkish. The consul made a few presentations to his Excellency and then the party started for a ride. Sir Garnet had a very handsome mule, with the only English saddle in the place… (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p.6d)

According to the report’s account of the address of the “Greek exarch”, there is in the speech no request for enosis—not in so many words—but the sentence: “We have before us the noble precedent of the Ionian Islands” was a clear hint of what was expected. No more needed to be said.

Certainly the reporter has not missed the hint. For him the speech “gives some indication of the aspirations uppermost in the Grecian mind of Cyprus”, and he takes issue with the fact that the Cypriots refer to themselves as Greek. (I will resist the temptation to say what I think of Britons who consider their public-school Greek to be better than the Greek of native speakers.)

It is noteworthy that, in the telegraph version of this news story, printed a few days earlier, the hope for union with Greece is presented as having been expressed unequivocally.

Sir Garnet Wolseley yesterday visited Limasol, a place of some consequence on the south side of Cyprus. It is a commercial town, is fairly built, and is surrounded by cultivated ground and trees. A large proportion of the population is Greek. A deputation of the Greeks waited upon Sir Garnet Wolseley, and expressed the hope that England would follow the precedent pursued with regard to the Ionian Islands. (The Daily News, 27 July 1878, p. 5f)

Regardless of the truth of the matter—Was the desire for enosis expressed through a hint or a clear statement?—the most significant point is, perhaps, that through this reporter—the “famous correspondent” Archibald Forbes—the British public and politicians were informed that the Greek Cypriots aspired to union with their brethren in Greece.[10]

The reporter’s reach, it should be noted was amplified by the fact that his telegraphic reports were used by other newspapers as well. For example, The Scotsman published exactly the same telegraph item on 29 July 1878 (p. 5b) and The Leeds Mercury on 27 July 1878 (p. 7f).

Note also that the information that the Greek Cypriots desired union with Greece was not just mentioned in the descriptions of the exarch’s speech above, but also in two other passages in the same edition of The Daily News.

The first passage is from a section of text in the same article which is dated 22 July, the day on which Sir Garnet Wolseley arrived in Limassol, but I think the reported conversation must have taken place when the article was being written which was probably after the 26th of July—the last date given in the article.

… I have just seen Captain Rawson, who is the interim commandant of Nicosia, and who was present at the occupation of that place, and has been there ever since.[11] He tells me that the Turks are thoroughly well pleased by the change which has been made in the government; that they desire ardently good government, and that they rest well assured they will have this blessing at the hands of the British Lord High Commissioner. The Greeks, however, are not so thoroughly satisfied. They are glad, it is true, in a modified sense, by reason of the change, since they realise that it will bring them good government; but they have an arrière pensée. They had the lingering hope that the island would be annexed to Greece, and they have some disappointment that this has not been done. We may trust to time to convert them from a delusion so Quixotic. (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p.5f)

In this passage we have unmistakeable evidence that at least some of the British contingent newly arrived on the island were aware of enosist sentiments in the hearts of their new subjects, presumably because these had been communicated to them directly in some way (by the subjects themselves or by third party informants).

The second relevant passage in this edition is a comment by an editor at The Daily News, who seems more sympathetic to the Cypriot Greeks’ hopes than Forbes, for he regards them as merely premature rather than Quixotic.

The Greeks appear to be divided between native desire to turn a penny, honest or not, and a far-off hope that they may some day make part of the Greek Kingdom. Our Correspondent calls this hope Quixotic, and it is certainly premature. No natives of the Levant are less purely Greek, it appears, than the Cypriotes, and none have done so little in the way of fighting freedom’s battle for themselves.[12] Their island is in such a wretched condition that it would be a ruinous gift to a needy and small Power as Greece is to-day. If Cyprus is ever joined to the Kingdom. it will be when the Kingdom can keep its own, and after the island has been put into thoroughly good repair by English energy and money. Why we are to repair it is not very obvious—indeed we may doubt whether Cyprus would ever have been annexed if more had been known about its condition. Money we certainly are not likely to make out of the Cypriotes... (The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p. 4f)

In the light of these references there can be no doubt that enosist sentiment existed among Cypriots from the very beginning of British rule, and that this was quickly communicated to the British administrators, and, via The Daily News and other newspapers, to the British public.

It is interesting to observe that, in contrast, The Times carries only a very short description of the ceremony in Limassol, and makes no mention at all of any speeches.

At Limasol the ceremony was of peculiar interest, for the Kaimakam, the Turkish Governor, begged leave to have the peculiar honour of hoisting the flag with his own hands. The people of Limasol are mainly Greeks, and they kept holiday that day. As the waving lines of the Union Jack appeared over the edge of the battlements, the populace who were outside the fort saluted the flag of their new rulers with a cheer that seemed full of heartiness—as no doubt it was, for the Greeks most certainly welcome our arrival with gratitude and hope. The Turks, too, outside of the official body, seem by no means displeased. (The Times 8 Aug. 1878, p. 8a)

In fact, if one were to rely solely on The Times reports about “the occupation of Cyprus” one might remain unaware of enosist sentiments among the Greek Cypriots. This oversight is corrected, however, by a noteworthy letter to the Editor from a certain D. Bikelas writing from Paris. One presumes this is the famous author of the novel Loukis Laras Δημήτριος Βικέλας. His letter includes the following observations:

The Cypriots have too much reason to hail with satisfaction the change of government inaugurated by the English occupation of their island. They will not certainly divest themselves of their national aspirations. They will nourish the hope that in 50 or 100 years hence the English Government will repeat in their favour the generous policy, a precedent of which they see in the cession of the Ionian islands to Greece. (The Times 26 July 1878, p. 8)

Unfortunately we are not told the identity of the “exarch” who made the speech in Limassol, but one hopes that had it been the Archbishop himself we would have been. However, given the confusion about the identity of the speaker in Larnaca, that may be hoping for too much. We cannot therefore entirely rule out the possibility that it really was the Archbishop who made the address in Limassol. In this regard, the fact that the Times reporter does not even mention a speech, may be of some significance.

The use of the word “exarch” by the Daily News reporter also contributes to our confusion, since we do not know exactly the meaning intended. Does it just mean the leader of the group of priests present—a facetious usage perhaps? Or does it mean a bishop, the archbishop, or a representative of one of these? Given that we are dealing with someone who has no qualms about referring to the Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus simply as a “Greek priest”, there can be no certainty.

Returning now to the beguiling image, cherished by Greek nationalism, of Sir Garnet in full regalia stepping off a boat and being greeted by the leader of the Church of Cyprus in splendid vestments, with an assertion in no uncertain terms that the hope, nay the destiny of Cyprus was to unite with Greece, we can say with certainty that, on the evidence I have mustered, it cannot be dismissed as a complete fantasy. A leader of the Church of Cyprus did indeed indicate to the British newcomer that Cyprus desired to go the way of the Ionian Islands.

What is a complete fantasy is the rival claim from some Cypriotists that there was no desire for enosis among the Greek Cypriots when the British arrived. Indeed some of them go so far as to claim that it was the British themselves who planted that desire in the hearts and minds of the “Christian Cypriots”, who before the British intervened could not even be regarded as Greek! For example the historian Andrekos Varnava:

“British rule not only created the space for the introduction of Hellenism [in Cyprus], it planted its seeds.” [13]

Unfortunately for such creative historians, the reports in the British newspapers give the lie to their politically predisposed historiography.


The Nicosia Meeting

The issue of whether the new British Governor was greeted with an enosist speech was explored in some detail by Rolandos Katsiaounis in his Ph.D. thesis Labour, Society and Politics in Cyprus during the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century.[14]

Katsiaounis begins with the information that:

According to certain texts a Greek Prelate had thus welcomed the first British High Commissioner: “We accept the change of Government inasmuch as we trust that Great Britain will help Cyprus, as it did the lonian Islands, to be united with Mother Greece, with which it is nationally connected”. This address is first referred to in 1903, and ascribed to Archbishop Sophronios, in a memorial of the Greek members of the Legislative Council to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. (pp. 47-8)

And concludes his consideration of the matter with the statement that what the Archbishop actually said to Wolseley when the opportunity arose was that the Cypriots were…

“… a quiet and well behaved people who, without denying their origins, will behave with loyalty to the new government of the land.” (p. 53)

As Katsiaounis explains, such a stance on the part of the Archbishop makes good diplomatic sense since, as the Archbishop himself wrote in correspondence to the Committee of the Cypriot Brotherhood in Cairo, which was urging him to be bold,

Everything being in doubt... we cannot harm ouselves… by a thoughtless act.[15]

However, note that the Archbishop does indeed allude to the Hellenic character of his flock in the phrase: “without denying their origins”, for he seems to be implying that the Cypriots will be loyal, but they will not deny their Hellenic identity.

The decision on the part of the Archbishop to hold his horses regarding cession to Greece, if true, was a wise one. Judging from Forbes’ account of the meeting with Wolseley, which occurred in Nicosia on the 30th of July, any request for union with Greece would not have been well received. That, at least, is the impression one gets from the Daily News report of the Archbishop’s speech, which is far from flattering:

After a short conversation a Turkish gentleman read an address of congratulation, professing loyalty to the Queen and personal devotion to his Excellency, who, through Mr. Baring, made a short formal acknowledgment. Another address, on behalf of the Greeks, was then read by the Archbishop of Cyprus. Its tone was similar to all the Greek addresses with which Sir Garnet has been greeted—claiming that the Greeks are the true people of Cyprus, that they have hitherto laboured under difficulties which they expect the British rule to remove, and generally striving to convey the persuasion that Codlin is the man, not Short. His Excellency does not appear anxious to accept the existence of any distinction between Codlin and Short, and his reply was confined to a few general phrases. (The Daily News 12 Aug. 1878, p. 5)

The supercilious Codlin-and-Short metaphor is an allusion to a scene in Charles Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop where Codlin is speaking to little Nell: “I’m the best adviser that ever was, and so interested in you—so much more interested than Short... Recollect the friend. Codlin’s the friend, not Short. Short’s very well as far as he goes, but the real friend is Codlin—not Short.” (Chap. 19)

The account of the dignitaries’ meeting and of the speech in The Times is quite different. Initially, the Archbishop greets Sir Garnet with flowers as he makes his way in procession toward Nicosia.

At the summit of a hill close to the gates of the town the cavalcade halted that his Excellency might receive from the Greek Archbishop a bunch of flowers. (The Times 12 Aug. 1878, p. 10)
At the brow of the hill the Greek priest, amid the cheers of the crowd, poured scent over Sir Garnet Wolseley's hands, gave him bouquets, and said a few words of welcome, to which his Excellency replied, Mr. Baring translating. (“Latest Telegrams”, The Daily News 1 Aug 1878, p. 5)


Sir Garnet Wolseley Courting Cyprus
“Sir Garnet Wolseley Courting Cyprus” by Edward Linley Sambourne
From Punch 3 Aug. 1878.

Then at a meeting in the town of all the dignitaries, most of them Turkish, the Archbishop is granted an opportunity to make a speech. Oddly, the Times reporter does not attribute the “address in Greek” to anyone in particular, so we have to rely on The Daily News for the information that the speaker was the Archbishop.

There were assembled in the council-room of the Konak for the reception of the Lord High Commissioner about 20 persons of official position in Nicosia, including besides Samih Pasha and the Kaimakan, the Cadi and the Mufti (the Judge and the adviser in Mahometan law) and the Colonel commanding the troops of the town, who, by-the-by, among his five medals had the medals of Sardinia and the Crimea, and it was observable that he wore them on their wrong ribands, having the Crimean medal on the Sardinian riband. After some conversation of a congratulatory character between his Excellency and Samih Pasha, Mr. Baring acting as interpreter, cigarettes and coffee were handed round. Then, after a time, an address was read to his Excellency in Turkish, and an address in Greek. These addresses conveyed little more than expressions of welcome, the Greek one alone containing, perhaps, a certain significance in its concluding paragraph, wherein a certain shadowy hope seemed to be expressed for representative institutions. If, it said, there is called to the counsels of the Government a certain number of persons distinguished for their intelligence and experience, who are consulted upon questions touching the language, the legislation, the customs, and the form of government, and the wants of the people, there is reason to hope that their good advice may be profitable. Such was the purport of the words as I gathered it, though as I have been unable to see the address itself I cannot reproduce the exact language which was used. These proceedings concluded, one by one those present came up to bow to his Excellency before withdrawing. (The Times 12 Aug. 1878, p. 10)

Reading this account one begins to wonder to what extent St Leger Algernon Herbert is being swayed in his reporting for The Times by his other role as private secretary to Sir Garnet. Is he perhaps tailoring his reports to fit the policies and desires of his eminent employer? Does Sir Garnet want him to give as little emphasis as possible to the great ideas of the Cypriot Greeks? Surely it is no accident that he omits to mention that the speaker of the “address in Greek” is the Archbishop, thereby giving rather less weight to what is reported to have been said without causing offence in the manner of Forbes. Perhaps too the selection of which detail to report is made in the light of Sir Garnet’s own plans for the governance of the island…

Returning to our main topic, it seems clear that in Nicosia no enosist speech was made by a representative of the Church. Katsiaounis is right about that. Beyond that Katsiaounis does explore the possibility that some Greek prelate other than the Archbishop made an enosist speech to the High Commissioner in those first few days, but concludes that that was unlikely. However Katsiaounis does not seem to have searched through British newspapers other than The Times. Certainly there is no mention of The Daily News in his footnotes. He does however refer to George Hill’s A History of Cyprus, Volume 4, and specifically to pages 297-298 where Hill discusses this issue. Hill’s research seems to have been impressively thorough, and he makes reference to The Daily News a number of times. However he too does not seem to be aware of the passages which I presented above from the 9th of August edition, for there is no reference at all to that edition in his footnotes on pages 297-298.

In the light of the information contained in that 9th of August edition, which offers an eye-witness account of the event, we have to accept that a representative of the Church of Cyprus did indeed indicate to Sir Garnet Wolseley that the Greek Cypriots desired union with Greece, and that this happened not in Larnaca as previously thought or in Nicosia but in Limassol. We cannot be completely certain as to the identity of the prelate who spoke, but we do know from the eye-witness account that there was a “deputation of the Greeks” in Limassol which included “no fewer than five” priests, at least one of whom—the speaker—is referred to as an “exarch”. We also know that the exarch “read an address”, i.e., that the speech which he delivered was a prepared speech.

Pavlos Andronikos
formerly Senior Lecturer & Head of Greek,
Monash University


I thank Prof. David Holton of Cambridge University and the Turkish Cypriot historian Ahmet An for their helpful advice and comments.

A much shortened version of this article was published in the periodical Antipodes: “The Arrival of the British in Cyprus in 1878 and the Desire for Liberation” by Pavlos Andronikos, Antipodes no. 66, Nov. 2020, pp. 89-91.



[1] Hay raised the flag in Larnaca on the morning of 15 July. See The Scotsman, 16 July 1878, pp. 4 & 5; Gail Ruth Hook, Britons In Cyprus, 1878-1914 (PhD Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 2009) p. 98.

[2] See the Despatch from “Vice-Admiral Lord John Hay, C.B., Commanding Channel Squadron” in The London Gazette, Tuesday, 30 July 1878.

[3] “The Occupation of Cyprus”, Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, Sunday 28 July 1878, p. 2. The Times summarises as follows: “… setting forth the Queen’s great interest in the prosperity of the inhabitants, and promising that measures will be devised to promote commerce and agriculture, and the blessings of freedom and justice.” (The Times, 23 July 1878, p. 5)

[4] Note that the formal title for the Bishop of Larnaca is “Bishop of Kition”. The Times reporter states that he has seen the Greek original of the speech, from which he quotes in Greek. It was written in formal Greek as one would expect.

[5] The Daily News, 9 Aug 1878, p. 5. The reference is to the Siege of Plevna (Pleven) in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. Plevna was a Turkish-held Bulgarian town. Considering that his own colleague, Januarius Aloysius MacGahan, had caused a storm with his accounts in The Daily News just two years earlier of Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria so horrible as to be almost beyond belief, the selectiveness of Forbes memory is staggering. For an example of MacGahan’s reporting see The Daily News 22 Aug. 1876, pp. 5-6.
Forbes does claim a knowledge of Greek in a later report.

[6] George Hill, A History of Cyprus, Vol. 4, p. 297, fn. 8.

[7] George Hill, A History of Cyprus, Vol. 4, p. 293, fn. 2.

[8] Gail Ruth Hook, Britons In Cyprus, 1878-1914 (PhD Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 2009) p. 27. Also Gail Dallas Hook, Protectorate Cyprus: British Imperial Power before World War I (I.B.Tauris, 2015) pp. 23-24.

[9] Wolseley could be quite brutal in his assesments. In his journal written for his wife he described Admiral Lord John Hay as “that goose”; likened him to a “foolish idle child”; and accused him of “pompous ignorance”. (Anne Cavendish [ed.], Cyprus 1878: The Journal of Sir Garnet Wolseley, [Nicosia: Laiki Trapeza, 1992], pp. 9 & 95.)

[10] For some indication of the extent of his fame, see the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica entry for Archibald Forbes atædia_Britannica/Forbes,_Archibald. There is also a Wikipedia entry.

[11] Captain Harry H. Rawson seems to have been Admiral John Hay’s right hand man. See The London Gazette 30 July 1878.

[12] The point that the Cypriot Greeks have done “little in the way of fighting freedom’s battle for themselves” is a chilling reminder to the contemporary reader of the expression of similar British sentiments in the 1950s which no doubt contributed to the fatal decision on the part of the enosis movement to resort to arms.

[13] Andrekos Varnava, British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878-1915: The Inconsequential Possession, p.33. I note with some dismay that Varnava’s unwarranted claim has been adopted uncritically by at least one other writer. See Othello’s Secret: The Cyprus Problem by R. M. Christofides (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016), pp. 45-46.

[14] In Rolandos Katsiaounis, Labour, Society and Politics in Cyprus during the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century. Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, King’s College, pp. 47-53. Later published by the Cyprus Research Center, 1996.

[15] Rolandos Katsiaounis, Labour, Society and Politics in Cyprus during the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century. Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, King’s College, p. 53.