Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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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 books include the award-winning Vanishing Ireland series and The Glorious Madness, which told the story of some of the Irish men and women who served in the Great War, and was shortlisted for Best Irish Published Book of the Year.

He is the curator of ‘A City By the Sea’ and ‘Cork 1918,’ two ongoing exhibitions in Cork City. He has worked closely on interpretive design projects for Cork Harbour and Avondale House in County Wicklow.

As founder and curator of the History Festival of Ireland, he brought over 100 Irish and international historians and thinkers together over the course of three successful festivals.

A co-presenter of the Genealogy Roadshow TV series for RTE, Turtle is an ongoing contributor to Who Do You Think You Are? and Nationwide. His work frequently appears in print and online media, including National Geographic Traveler, Vogue Living, The World of Interiors, Playboy, The Australian and The Irish Times.

He also runs the popular Wistorical and Vanishing Ireland Facebook pages.

He is also author of the acclaimed Vanishing Ireland series, a collaboration with photographer James Fennell and publishers Hachette Ireland. 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 77,000 books.

His new book Corkagh - The Life and Times of a South Dublin Mansion was launched in June 2018 by Paul Gogarty, Mayor of South Dublin County Council. His other books include Easter Dawn (an account of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland), 1847 - A Chronicle of Genius, Generosity & Savagery, Sporting Legends of Ireland, The Irish Pub, Dublin Docklands and Living in Sri Lanka.

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. 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.

He was a co-presenter of the first two series of 'Genealogy Roadshow', the pioneering RTE television series. He was also Newstalk Breakfast's Resident Historian from June to December 2013, as well as co-founder of the History Festival of Ireland, curating the event in 2012 and 2013. 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 (April 2014), 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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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, Turtle 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.

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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)

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)

A frequent contributor to The Irish Times, The Irish Daily Mail and other national newspapers, Turtle is a well known name on TV and radio. He was one of the co-presenters on the 'Genealogy Roadshow', which ran to two series between 2011 and 2014. 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 will appear on the US series of the same show in November 2018.

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 have 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 on 20 May. Among the other speakers gathered to consider Foley’s life and times were Dr Patrick Wallace, Dr Paula Murphy, Jason Ellis and Ronan Sheehan.

He is 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 has also talked about inspirational books with Daisy Banks of The Browser.



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

· Tourism Ireland – Content creation for St Patrick’s Festival (2018)

· Who Do You Think You Are? USA (2015-2018)

· Sotheby’s Ireland (2018)

· Leisure World: ‘A City By the Sea’ and ‘Cork 1918’ (2017-2018)

· O’Sullivan Productions – Series treatment (2017-2018)

· Waterford Distillery – Historical Report (2017)

· Telltale UK – Avondale Heritage Interpretation (2017)

· Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (2016-2017)

· University College Cork (2015-2017)

· Chq Dublin Ltd. – Historical Report (2016)

· Ireland’s Ancient East – Kildare Fáilte (2016)

· Slane Castle Irish Whiskey – Historical Report (2016)

· Fáilte Ireland, The Maritime Heritage of Cork City & Harbour (2015)

· National Diaspora Centre & Museum Content Advisory Group, Ireland (2015)

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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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

· Ireland’s Forgotten Past (Thames & Hudson, 2018- pending)

· 1847 - A Chronicle of Genius, Generosity & Savagery (Gill, 2016)

· Easter Dawn (Mercier, 2015)

· The 1916 Rising (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)

· The Glorious Madness (Gill & MacMillan, 2014)

· Vanishing Ireland, Friendship & Community (Hachette, 2013)

· Vanishing Ireland, Recollections of Changing Times (Hachette, 2011)

· Sporting Legends of Ireland (Mainstream, 2010)

· Vanishing Ireland, Chronicles of a Disappearing World (Hachette, 2009)

· Dublin Docklands, An Urban Voyage (MPG & DDDA, 2009)

· The Irish Pub (Thames & Hudson, 2008)

· Vanishing Ireland (Hodder Headline, 2006)

· Living in Sri Lanka (Thames & Hudson, 2006)

· The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of Co. Wicklow (IFN, 2005)

· The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of Co. Kildare (IFN, 2004)

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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)



· 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, 2016 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.

· 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.


· 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 August 2018

· Vanishing Ireland Group: 35K+ followers.

· Vanishing Ireland Page: 25K+ followers.

· Wistorical: 23K+ 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
, '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
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

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
New York & Chicago chapters, Irish Georgian Society.