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It is with deep regret that The Classical Association in Northern Ireland has learned of the death of Professor George Leonard Huxley who passed away peacefully in Oxfordshire at the age of ninety. An alumnus of Magdalen College, Oxford, Huxley graduated in 1955 with an M.A. in Classical Philology and proceeded to a fellowship at All Souls’ from 1955-1961. In 1956 he was appointed to the position of Assistant Director at the British School in Athens and was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University in 1958-59 and again in 1961-62. In 1957 he married Davina Best and they enjoyed sixty-four years together sharing their mutual passion for travel.
In 1962, Professor Huxley was appointed Professor of Greek at Queen’s University Belfast. It was at Queen’s that his close relationship with the island of Ireland began. Huxley taught at QUB for over twenty years and during this time was highly popular with his colleagues and students. It was also during his tenure at QUB that Huxley published some of his most influential books, including Early Sparta (1962); Early Ionians (1966) and Pindar’s Vision of the Past (1975) in addition to a veritable cornucopia of articles. Huxley co-directed with Nicolas Coldstream, the Kythera Excavation Project which led to the publication in 1972 of Kythera: Excavations and Studies Conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the British School at Athens. In 1984 he was elected as Senior Vice President of the Fédération Internationale des Société’s d’ Etudes Classiques. He became honorary professor of Greek at Trinity College Dublin in 1989 and in 1999 he was appointed honorary Professor of the Classical Association of Ireland.
Determined to bring together scholars and enthusiasts of Classics throughout the island of Ireland, Huxley formed the Hibernian Hellenists in 1963. Their first meeting was appropriately held close to the border at the Ballymascanlon Hotel in the foothills of the Cooley Mountains – an area steeped in ancient Irish history and mythology. Huxley was also present for the final meeting of Hibernian Hellenists in 2013 after some fifty years of attendance. In addition to establishing the Hibernian Hellenists, Professor Huxley was also a leading force in the creation of the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens and was a long-standing member of the Royal Irish Academy.
When one considers the outstanding contribution made by Professor Huxley to the study of Classics throughout the island, it is unsurprising that he should have received honorary doctorates from Trinity College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast, and the National University of Ireland Maynooth. Given his close ties to both the island of Ireland and his fondness of the friends and colleagues he made while living there, Professor Huxley applied for and was granted Irish citizenship at the age of 86.
The Classical Association in Northern Ireland would like to express its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Professor Huxley.
John Curran and Barry Trainor