Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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BIOGRAPHY

 

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Photo: Turtle Bunbury (2016) by Fergal Phillips.

Turtle Bunbury is a best-selling author, historian, researcher and public speaker based in Ireland.
His latest book The Irish Diaspora - Tales of Emigrants, Exile & Empire was published by Thames & Hudson on 11 March 2021.

His other books include the award-winning Vanishing Ireland series, Ireland's Forgotten Past, 1847, Easter Dawn, Living in Sri Lanka, The Irish Pub and The Glorious Madness, which was shortlisted for Best Irish Published Book of the Year.

He also wrote and produced two books for Adare Manor, namely An Epicurean Journey (2020) and Renaissance of an Irish Country House (2019). His other corporate works include major biographies of Maxol (2020) and Weir's Jewellers (2019).

He is the creator of 'Past Tracks', an ongoing project with Irish Rail, and he curated ‘A City By the Sea’ and ‘Cork 1918,’ two exhibitions in Cork City. He worked closely on interpretive design projects for Cork Harbour and Avondale House in County Wicklow.

The Vanishing Ireland project started as a collaboration with photographer James Fennell and publishers Hachette Ireland. A podcast series will launch in Summer 2021. The last Vanishing Ireland was short-listed for Best Irish Published Book of the Year 2013, as were the first two volumes of the series. The series has now sold in excess of 80,000 books while the Vanishing Ireland facebook group has over 130,000 followers.

Turtle has given talks on his books in New York, Paris, London, Chicago, Dublin, Savannah, Hilton Head, Limerick, Carlow, Cork, Kilkenny and Monte Carlo. He went to Chicago as a keynote speaker for the iBAM Conference in October 2016 and spoke at the Chalke Valley History Festival in the UK in 2019. He was the narrator for the Ireland exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, and has spoken in the city thrice before. He is also a keynote speaker on the Paths to Freedom and Great War Roadshows, which have been touring Ireland since 2014.

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Turtle Bunbury and James Fennell at the launch of
'The Irish Pub' in the Guinness Storehouse,
Dublin, in 2008.
(Photo: Stu Carroll)

He was a co-presenter of the first two series of 'Genealogy Roadshow', the pioneering RTE television series. Turtle has frequently contributed to shows such as Who Do You Think You Are? and Nationwide. He was also Newstalk Breakfast's Resident Historian from June to December 2013, as well as co-founder of the History Festival of Ireland, bringing over 100 Irish and international historians and thinkers together over the course of three successful festivals between 2012 and 2014. He is the founder of Wistorical, an innovative concept for promoting Irish history globally, as well as the Vanishing Ireland Facebook page.

A past winner of Ireland's Long Haul Travel Journalist of the Year Award, Turtle's work has been published in National Geographic Traveler , Playboy, Vogue Living, The Irish Times, The Financial Times, The New York Post, The Australian, The Guardian and The World of Interiors.

Click here for a chronology of his recent activities.

Turtle was born on 21st February 1972 and raised at Lisnavagh House, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, Ireland. He received his early education in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, before moving to Castle Park School in Dublin. From 1980 to 1985, he was at Glenalmond College in the Scottish Highlands where he secured the necessary results at A-Level to read law at Trinity College Dublin. He opted to postpone college and go traveling.

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Above: Turtle was one of the main presenters of the Genealogy Roadshow series which aired on RTE
One between 2011 and 2017. In each episode, Turtle teamed up with two genealogists to investigate
claims by people who believed they have famous or infamous relatives, or that they were connected to
a historical event or long-standing mystery.

The series was produced by Big Mountain and inspired PBS America to develop its
own version of the form.

At the age of eighteen, he left Ireland for the U.S.A., working his way across the continent from New York to Los Angeles over three months. He subsequently spent six months in New Zealand and Australia, returning to Ireland, via Singapore and Malaysia, to commence his legal studies in Dublin. The law did not suit him and in 1994 Turtle happily transferred to history. He spent one year at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands before returning to Dublin to complete his degree at Trinity in 1996.

Armed with a degree in modern history from Trinity College Dublin, he moved to Hong Kong in 1996 and spent three years working as a freelance correspondent with the South China Morning Post and Business News Indochina. During this time he experienced an extraordinary period of history while attempting to establish a guesthouse in Cambodia in the same month that Pol Pot was captured. He also visited Vietnam, Thailand, Macau and Tokyo.

Returning to Ireland on the eve of the new millennium, he spent two years working with the travel company, Trailblazer.com, an early victim of the Dot Bomb crash of 2002. He simultaneously developed his interest in Irish and world history, contributing articles to magazines and newspapers around the world.

Since 2004, Turtle has established himself as one of the most prolific and energetic writers in Ireland. As well as his twelve published books, he has travelled extensively, most notably in the USA, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, France and Australia. His work on Sri Lanka earned him the award for Ireland’s Longhaul Travel Journalist of the Year in 2006.

For a detailed look at Turtle's Books, click here.

He also founded ‘Your History in a Book’, creating thoroughly researched and handsomely illustrated family histories, presented as leather-bound books.

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(Photo: Gerry Moore)

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(Photo: Suki Stuart).

Turtle Bunbury


(Photo: Ally Bunbury)

Turtle Bunbury


(Photo: Ally Bunbury)

He appeared on BBC2's 'Antiques to the Rescue', with John Foster, talking about Borris House in Co. Carlow. On BBC1's 'Wogan's Ireland', he pondered the drunkenness of the Jacobite troops at the battle of the Boyne with Sir Terry Wogan. In May 2018 he spoke on BBC Radio 4's Today Show about the Irish abortion referendum. In April 2018 he was on Georgia PBS with 'The Green Island Radio Show'. In May 2011, he talked about Obama's visit to Ireland with Michael Patrick Shiels on Michigan's Morning Show (1240 WJIM). In 2009, he was a historical consultant for the Irish series of 'Who Do You Think You Are?', most notably the episode with former Miss World, Rosanna Davison. He appeared on the US series of the same show in November 2018, with Mandy Moore.

He was one of the talking heads in the film drama documentary, 'Violet Gibson, The Irish Woman Who Shot Mussolini' (2020) starring Olwen Fouéré, commissioned by TG4 and produced by Barrie Dowdall and Siobhán Lynam. The film won ‘Best Documentary Feature’ at the 2020 Kerry International Film Festival.

Turtle was also the consultant and scriptwriter for the BIFF award-nominated 'John Henry Foley - Ghost of the Empire' which first aired on TG4 in November 2008. To mark the bicentenary of Foley's birth in 2018, Turtle and filmmaker Sé Merry Doyle teamed up with the OPW to host 'Ireland Salutes John Henry Foley', an afternoon of evocative film, insightful talks and succulent debate at Dublin Castle.

He was a guest blogger for the Irish Executives on LinkedIn, as well as a contributor to the Discover Ireland website,
WorldIrish.com, Irish Family Names, the Wild Geese Blog and the Gathering Ireland 2013 campaign. He also talked about inspirational books with Daisy Banks of The Browser.

 

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On May 20th 2006, Turtle married Miss Ally Moore of Bishopscourt, Clones, Co. Monaghan. Their eldest daughter Jemima Meike McClintock Bunbury was born in Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda, Co Louth, on 17th June 2007. Their second daughter Bay Hermione McClintock Bunbury was born in Drogheda on 4th February 2009. Since 2007, the Bunburys have lived on the family estate at Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, where they built a new house. The Bunburys moved into Old Fort in July 2008.

 

In September 2010, Turtle was made a Knight of Justice of the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem.

In the autumn of 2011 he spent four weeks in the Principality of Monaco as the Ireland Funds writer-in-residence to the Princess Grace Irish Library.

Turtle has been on the committee of the Butler Society since 2016 and looks after the historical content of their Facebook group.

 

Highlights of Recent Historical Consultancy

Awards & Bursaries

· Irish Studies Distinguished Lecturer, Georgia Southern University, USA (2018)

· 1916 Commemorative Speaker, Consul General of Ireland, Chicago (2016)

· Travel Writer of the Year Award (Travel Extra, 2015, Shortlist)

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ON THE ROAD

From 2014 to 2016, Turtle toured Ireland as part of the
Paths to Freedom
and Great War Roadshows, speaking
at events in Boyle, Sligo, Kells, Tallaght, Clonegal,
Greystones, Dublin City, Thurles and Cavan.

His fellow lecturers included Myles Dungan, Joe Duffy, Liz Gillis,
John O'Keefe, Ciaran Wallace, Gordon Power & Damian Shiels

 

· Best Irish Published Book of the Year (2014, Shortlist)

· Best Irish Published Book of the Year (2013, Shortlist)

· Ireland Fund of Monaco Writer-in-Residence (2011)

· Eason’s Irish Published Book of the Year (2010, Shortlist)

· William Hill Sports Book of the Year (2010, Nominee)

· Best Documentary Boston Irish Film Festival Award (2008, Shortlist)

· Eason’s Irish Published Book of the Year (2007, Shortlist)

· Travel Extra Long Haul Journalist of the Year (2006, Winner)

 

Published Books

  1. The Irish Diaspora - Tales of Emigrants, Exile & Empire (2021)
  2. Adare Manor - An Epicurean Journey(2020)
  3. Maxol - The Story of an Irish Family Business 1920-2020
  4. Ireland’s Forgotten Past (Thames & Hudson, 2020)
  5. Adare Manor - Renaissance of an Irish Country House (2019)
  6. Corkagh - The Life and Times of a South Dublin Mansion (2018)
  7. 1847 - A Chronicle of Genius, Generosity & Savagery (Gill, 2016)
  8. Easter Dawn (Mercier, 2015)
  9. The 1916 Rising (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)
  10. The Glorious Madness (Gill & MacMillan, 2014)
  11. Vanishing Ireland, Friendship & Community (Hachette, 2013)
  12. Vanishing Ireland, Recollections of Changing Times (Hachette, 2011)
  13. Sporting Legends of Ireland (Mainstream, 2010)
  14. Vanishing Ireland, Chronicles of a Disappearing World (Hachette, 2009)
  15. Dublin Docklands, An Urban Voyage (MPG & DDDA, 2009)
  16. The Irish Pub (Thames & Hudson, 2008)
  17. Vanishing Ireland (Hodder Headline, 2006)
  18. Living in Sri Lanka (Thames & Hudson, 2006)
  19. The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of Co. Wicklow (IFN, 2005)
  20. The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of Co. Kildare (IFN, 2004)

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HISTORY FESTIVAL OF IRELAND

Turtle was co-founder of the History Festival of Ireland
and curated the event in 2012 and 2013. In 2016 the event
was incorporated into the Festival of Writing and Ideas
at Borris House.
(Illustration by Derry Dillon)

 

Applause

'I’ve always loved Turtle’s writing, the wit and heartbeat in his history. 1847 is, for me, the best thing he has done so far. It is vivid, surprising, hugely entertaining; an unforgettable encounter with an extraordinary year.'
Lenny Abrahamson, Academy Award Nominated Director, Room.

'Turtle goes back with his historian’s eye, but also his humanitarian heart, and gathers together a host of tiny epics, larger epics, the strange stories and the sometimes bizarre happenstances that occurred around the conflict … clear-sighted and finely written ... a veritable banner of wonderful stories.' Sebastian Barry, author of Days Without End and The Secret Scripture.

'Turtle Bunbury is a serious historian with a light touch in writing. He must be one of the most versatile authors of his generation. This time he has managed to make an episodic book that is consistently entertaining, thoroughly researched and a pleasure to read.'
Marjorie Quarton, Books Ireland, 2017.

‘A rare and cherishable thing: combining assiduous research with a nose for ribald fun, Bunbury disinters the odd, the arcane and the profoundly surprising from the dark recesses of a mostly unknown history'
The Yorkshire Times.

‘What I love about Turtle’s writing is that he takes a subject that you might only have a slight connection with, and then he tells you a story that pulls you right into the middle of it. The only other person I can think of who does that is Bill Bryson.’
John Toal, BBC Radio Ulster, 2020

'Turtle continues the wonderful listening and yarn-spinning he has honed in the Vanishing Ireland series ... poignant, whimsical and bleakly funny.'
The Irish Times.

'A most magnificent book and beautifully done. Superb.'
Gay Byrne, Broadcaster.

Education

· Trinity College Dublin, Ireland (1991-1996, BA History)

· University of Groningen, Netherlands (1994-1995, History)

· Glenalmond College, Perthshire, Scotland (1985-1990)

· Castle Park, Dalkey, County Dublin, Ireland (1980-1985)

Facebook Historical Blogs (Founder & Manager) - Stats as of Jan 2021

· Vanishing Ireland Group: 128K+ followers.

· Vanishing Ireland Page: 34K+ followers.

· Wistorical: 25K+ followers.

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Turtle frequently lends his historical expertise to radio shows such as
NPR, PBS and BBC4, as well as TV documentaries like 'The Genealogy
Roadshow'
, 'Who Do You Think You Are?' and 'Wogan's Ireland', in
which he pondered the drunkenness of the Jacobite troops at the battle
of the Boyne with the late Sir Terry Wogan (above). He co-scripted and
researched the award-nominated documentary 'John Henry Foley -
Sculptor of the Empire'
. He was Resident Historian on Newstalk
Breakfast
show from June to December 2013.

Radio & Television

· Who Do You Think You Are? (US) (2018)

· Genealogy Roadshow, RTE Television (2011-2017)

· Nationwide, RTE Television (2010-2017)

· Hidden Histories, Newstalk Radio (2013)

· Antiques to the Rescue, BBC Television (2013)

· Wogan’s Ireland, BBC Television (2011)

· Who Do You Think You Are? (2009)

· John Henry Foley, Sculptor of the Empire, TG4 Television (2007)

For a detailed look at Turtle's TV and radio profile, click here.

 

Speaker's Corner


2020 IBAM Chicago
2020 West Cork History Festival
2020 Dublin Festival of History
2019 Chalke Valley History Festival
2018 John Henry Foley Conference
2018 Hibernian Society of Savannah, Georgia - St Patrick's Day
2017 Hinterland Kellls
2017 Festival of Writing & Ideas, Borris
2017 St Patrick's Festival, Dublin
2017 Kilkenny Whiskey Guild
2016 IBAM Chicago
2016 Cruise Europe Conference
2016 Paths to Freedom Roadshow
2016 Chicago Irish Consul - Easter 1916
2016 Transatlantic Conference
2015 Web Summit
2015 Ireland Exhibition at Chicago's Art Institute
2013 Poesie and Prose Literary Festival, Paris
2013 Irish Writers Festival, London
2013 St Patrick's Festival (Marsh's Library), Dublin
2012 Tall Ships Festival, Dublin,
2012 Royal Dublin Society
2012
New York & Chicago chapters, Irish Georgian Society.