President leads fond memories in Trinity College of 'Matt the Jap'

Matteo Matubara, fondly known to generations of Trinity College students as "Matt the Jap", was remembered by President Mary …

Matteo Matubara, fondly known to generations of Trinity College students as "Matt the Jap", was remembered by President Mary McAleese last night as an "intriguing, enigmatic personality".

More than 100 people gathered at TCD to remember the eccentric 73-year-old, who was a familiar character around Dublin city before his death last month. He received his MLitt from Trinity College in 1987 but never really left the university, despite being banned from many of its buildings for his sometimes troublesome behaviour.

Last night the Garda Press Office said that Interpol had made contact with Mr Matubara's relatives in Japan, but there was no further information.

He was described as "a mascot of our minds" by Joseph O'Gorman, assistant junior dean at TCD, at yesterday's gathering. Mr O'Gorman said he had no memory of their first meeting. more than 20 years ago. "He was sort of always there."


He read a tribute from President McAleese which said that the death had "engendered a sense of loss" among the wider Trinity community.

"Matt has, for generations of staff, students and lecturers, personified a link back to Trinity in a very real way that has for many of us been more tangible than any number of degrees and diplomas. For is our humanity not better comprehended by understanding humans rather than ideas?"

Mr Matubara was born in Tokyo, studied in Norway and came to Dublin in the early 1980s. He was quite deaf but could write in at least seven languages, including Russian and Icelandic.

He was an enthusiastic letter-writer to world leaders and received responses from people such as Prince Charles and Jacques Chirac.

Mr O'Gorman said Mr Matubara could be "a terribly troublesome customer at times". He drew loud laughs when he recalled: "He was fond of hitting people with his stick. He was capable of rude flourishes of gesture which left people in no doubt of what he thought of them."

He was banned from the Students' Union shop, after he was accused of stealing copies of Le Monde. He arrived into Mr O'Gorman's office "in high dudgeon" to complain and when Mr O'Gorman asked if he had been stealing the newspaper, he replied: "Yes, but not all the time."

He was given a job in the Pavilion Bar but this was short-lived because of his tendency to finish off other people's drinks, Mr O'Gorman said.

Mrs McAleese said his intellectual hunger and curiosity made him "a striking figure in the college landscape".

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times