French Connection in Limerick still going strong 70 years on

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

Kate Fleming, president of the alliance, with Marianne Griffin, 92 and Rachael Warren
A 92-year-old lady from Askeaton will be honoured at a special reception in the city this evening, as the Alliance Francaise celebrates 70 years in Limerick.

A 92-year-old lady from Askeaton will be honoured at a special reception in the city this evening, as the Alliance Francaise celebrates 70 years in Limerick.

Marianne Griffin, a native of Geneva, who has made county Limerick her home, has been a “stalwart” of the alliance for 46 years, teaching there since 1968 and was instrumental in its establishment.

Established in 1944 as Le Cercle de Francais (The French Circle), it became the Alliance Francaise in 1969 to celebrate its 25th anniversary and is the second oldest French society in the country, after Dublin.

This Thursday night, the French Ambassador to Ireland, Jean Pierre Thebault, and the chief representative of the Alliance Francaise in Ireland, Philippe Milloux, will attend a special evening in Mary Immaculate College, in celebration of their 70 years in promoting the French language and culture in Limerick.

Born in Geneva in 1921 to French parents, Madame Griffin later moved to Paris where she worked as a fashion designer, and there she met her future husband, Major Ronald Griffin, a translator with the Red Cross, from Co Limerick.

They married in 1951, but sadly he passed away suddenly after only six years of marriage.

While raising their four children, Marianne at first gave classes in dress-making in Askeaton, but was persuaded to teach French in the local secondary school as she was a “born teacher”.

“Mme Griffin was a formidable force in the lives of so many Limerick people, not only was she a key figure in Alliance Francaise, she also taught French in Laurel Hill secondary school, and served as an examiner for both the Leaving and Junior Certificate examinations,” said the alliance.

“For more than a generation, Limerick students of French have benefited from her unique combination of intelligence, creativity, and dedication, and have gone on to make a career in the French language, thanks to her influence and encouragement,” they said.

Today, she still prepares thoroughly for her Senacle - a conversation class where some members have been coming for more than 25 years.

Based in Pery Square since 2011, the not-for-profit organisation counts over 100 members and 350 students, as the French connection in Limerick continues to thrive, through French language classes and a love of French culture, with a number of creative outlets including a book club and cookery classes at the French Table restaurant.

French novelist Michel Deon, 95, who has published over 50 works and is the recipient of numerous awards, was among those to read from his work to members of the alliance this year.

It also hosted the Tres Court international film festival in 69 O’Connell Street this year.

President of the alliance, Kate Fleming, explained that the alliance is a community of Irish and French people who want to share their love of French culture, and their committee is predominantly made up of Limerick people with a love of France.

The Limerick branch is part of a global network of 850 alliances, and their language courses are recognised worldwide, and are accredited by the French Ministry of Education.

All their French teachers are native speakers and are qualified to teach French.

The reception will take place in room G10, Mary Immaculate College, at 6.30pm.