The story of Cyprus’ connection to Glasgow start around the time of the British government becoming its de facto administrative power, after Ottoman rule, in 1878. Former student, Sir Robert Hamilton Lang, provided the first link, serving in Cyprus as Acting Vice-Consul on three occasions and Consul from 1871-72.
He also helped to organise the Cypriot court at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886. Lang acquired many artefacts from archaeological digs in Cyprus, much of which have been purchased by the British Museum, however many objects were also donated to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum.
It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the University of Glasgow received students coming from Cyprus, the majority entering either the Faculty of Science or Medicine. Between the 1940s and the 1960s, 18 Cypriot students graduated and their main career paths were Doctors (3), Chemists (3), and Engineers (6 including Electrical and Civil). Studying abroad in those decades was considered an achievement on its own for Cypriot students and the ones who made the effort of coming to Glasgow to study, had a promising career path in mind. The lack of Arts students owns to the fact that, if they were to study abroad, Cypriot students chose countries closer at home with stronger language and heritage connections, such as Greece.
After Cyprus was officially a British colony, the British government started to have greater cultural and political interests in the island. In the University of Glasgow’s Archives, as part of my Club21 internship, I found a number of lectures being given to the Glasgow Archaeological Society with Cyprus as its theme. As T. Bruce Mitford explains in a lecture given 21 December 1950, Cyprus attracted the attention of British archaeologists because it was still under British flag, it was “only country in the Middle East where foreign excavators are still welcomed” and it also preserves the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron and the Classical period.
Political unrest and war in Cyprus between 1955-59, caused an influx of military activity in the island. Minutes of State for Colonial Affairs (1956-57) and later Secretary of State for Scotland, John Scott Maclay’s folders and notes can also be found in the University’s Archives (DC371, John Scott Maclay First Viscount Muirshiel of Kilmacolm). There was a variety of sources about the question of Cyprus independence and the British stance towards it (see DC371/2/20, Folder 1954-1956, ‘Turkey and Cyprus’, including Malta Round Table Conference, 1955 and reports of Council of Europe). An interesting one is Field Marshal Sir John Harding’s (Governor of Cyprus) broadcast on the 9 October 1955 addressing the Cypriot population, contemning “terrorist” activities seeking unification with Greece and encouraging the people to agree with the proposed independence. The affairs escalated into the 1955-59 conflict between the Greek Cypriot nationalist paramilitary organisation EOKA and the British government, ending with the creation of the Republic of Cyprus on 16 August 1960.
Due to continued conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities and the UK as one of the mother-states guarantors of the Republic, the University of Glasgow’s alumni links were to through the military.
Medical graduates from the University of Glasgow who joined the RAMC figure prominently in the island’s connections. Three of the biographies I looked at as part of my internship concerned former medical students in the 1960s, both Colonel David Wright and Colonel William Melville McCutcheon were sent to Cyprus, the former as commanding officer of the newly opened British Military Hospital in Dhekelia, (where he died on 11 October 1962) and the latter as Chief Medical Officer in 1964.
By Maria Constantinidou, MA History, Cyprus, Club21