A Dundalk man delivered a eulogy at the grave side of James Joyce as part of Bloomsday celebrations.
Kieran Rogers travelled to Joyce’s burial site in Zurich with his partner Clodagh to make what was a “very emotional” speech which was live streamed to a Bloomsday event in Dublin.
It was also a very personal trip for Kieran who is a direct descendant of Joyce, on his mother’s side.
"My great-great-grandfather was a brother of Joyce’s grandfather in Gortletteragh, Co Leitrim, it’s something I’ve been aware of for a very long time, so to come out here to the place where Joyce is buried.. it’s very special for me,” he told The Argus.
One of the most iconic writers of the 20th century, James Joyce fled to Switzerland from France during the second world war.
“Joyce initially fled Ireland back in 1904, he wanted to get away from things there, including the power of the Church. He had a mind that was very expansive, and he felt very restricted by the conservatism of Catholic Ireland.”
He was, added Kieran, “very well known as an unconventional person, who wrote a lot about the human condition, and human frailties.
He really felt that he had to leave Ireland to be able to mature as an artist and to essentially be able to write the way that he wanted to write.”
Joyce famously headed towards Europe, spending many years in Paris, which was a cultural beacon in the 1920’s.
"His journey towards Europe gave him wings to write the way he wanted to.”
Joyce spent several years in Switzerland, based in Zurich, the city where he is believed to have written most of his famous work, Ulysses.
"That legacy, and the fact that he came back here in his later years, and was buried here, has led to this city having a great affinity with Joyce.”
There was a gathering, he added, at the graveside, and as he delivered the eulogy, his words were transmitted live back to a gathering of the James Joyce society in Dublin, where a host of celebrations took place.
"It was a very emotional moment actually, I was standing at the grave with a statue of Joyce just behind me. It felt like he was almost spiritually looking over my shoulder as I spoke.”
He added: “I felt very proud to be Irish I have to say, as Joyce made his mark not just on Ireland but on the world itself.”
During their trip Kieran and Clodagh visited the James Joyce Foundation in Zurich, where they met the 94-year-old Founder Fritz Senn.
"It was fascinating to meet him, said Kieran. “He actually showed us a death mask which was taken of Joyce. It was extraordinary to see Joyce’s features, exactly what he looked like shortly after he died.”
The couple were also invited to a Bloomsday reception in Zurich, attended by the Irish Ambassador, Eamon Hickey, where excerpts of Ulysses were read.
"It was a really special few days, very much an Irish celebration in a city that one of our most loved writers had made his home.”