Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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(For TV and Radio Appearancs click here)

Newspapers:The Financial Times, The New York Post, The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Daily Mail, South China Morning Post, The Irish Echo, The Guardian, The Scotsman, Sunday Express, The Australian, The Independent, The Irish Echo, The Sunday Business Post, The Sunday Tribune, Sunday World, The Sun, Sunday Independent, Hong Kong Standard, Belfast Telegraph.

Lifestyle: The World of Interiors, Playboy, Vogue Living, Country Life, House & Garden, The White Book (as Homes Editor), Ireland of the Welcomes, International Homes Magazine, Homes Worldwide, Objekt, Magill, The Dubliner, Wealth, Irish Tatler, Social & Personal, Prudence, SQ.

Travel: National Geographic Traveler, World Traveler (NWA), Cara (Aer Lingus), Serendib (SriLankan Airlines), Identity (Emirates Airlines), Ryanair Inflight Magazine, The Australian, The Guardian, The Irish Times, The New York Post, Abroad, Visitor and iMode.

Awards: Irish Travel Journalist of the Year 2006.

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Turtle Bunbury on a fishing assignment with The Irish Daily Mail.
(Photo: Eamon Ward)


National Geographic Traveler - March/April 2014

In 'Irish Manor Houses', Turtle explores five of Ireland's finest big houses, with photographs by Jace Rivers.


The Examiner - Tuesday June 11th 2013


A history festival featuring singers and actors? Why not, says Jonathan deBurca Butler


“If you know your history, you would know where you’re coming from.” — Bob Marley, Buffalo Soldier

LAST year, there was much controversy over discussions on the merits of history as a mandatory Junior Certificate subject.

Academics and teachers were aghast at the possibility of it becoming optional. Many of them believe, like Marley, that without history there can be no informed going forward. Without history, the future has no context and we are destined to repeat mistakes. The words ‘David McWilliams’, ‘Japan’ and ‘property bubble’ are probably sufficient to illustrate the point.

The coordinator and organiser of The History Festival of Ireland is unapologetically militant in his aims for the event.

“It is 100% to get more people interested in history,” says Turtle Bunbury. “And not just to broaden interest but also people’s understanding, because there’s so much spoon-fed baloney about it.”

Now in its second year, the festival will take place in Duckett’s Grove in County Carlow. The setting could not be better; an old ruined castle on top of a hill guarded by lordly oaks and surrounded by fields.

“It’s a particularly interesting place,” says Turtle of the imposing ruin. “It was basically a Georgian house which was turned into this fantastic fairytale castle in the 1820’s. They stuck turrets and towers on it and made it gothic. It’s straight out of a Brothers Grimm movie.”

The event takes place this weekend and will feature 50 speakers and actors from Ireland and abroad in four venues within the grounds of Duckett’s Grove.

According to Turtle, this year’s festival has a “certain showbiz side to it”, and without doubt the top draw for younger attendees will be Turtle’s interview with Nicky Byrne from Westlife. For the last few months Turtle and his team have been looking into Byrne’s family history and the results promise to be intriguing.

Stage shows include musical performances from actors Gerry Stembridge and Paddy Cullivan, while Mary Kenny has scripted the play Allegiance: Michael Collins v Winston Churchill. This intriguing piece dramatises what turned out to be an allegedly boozy meeting between these two powerhouses of history at the time of the Treaty negotiations in London.

As expected, much of the festival will centre on debate and argument; and there is plenty to savour. A debate on The Great Famine involving among others Tommy Graham of History Ireland magazine, Conor McNamara of St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, and artist Robert Ballagh, can be expected to be animated, while Turtle believes that a debate on Elizabethan espionage between former head of History at Trinity College Dublin Ciaran Brady and author John Cooper will draw the crowds.

Turtle has also decided to look at the Irish abroad.

“There’s definitely a Gathering-type theme,” says Turtle. “We have a talk on the American Civil War in which over 200,000 Irish people served and whether it made much impact here. Conversely, we have the Easter Rising and the American reaction to that; how that changed our relationship with America. That’ll touch on everything from The O’Rahilly and Erskine Childers who were married to rich Americans, through to Kevin Barry and the outcry in America when he was executed.”

With so many academics on show, Turtle is aware that there is a slight risk of an ego orgy.

“We’re hoping to get some more audience participation,” says Turtle with a laugh. “There’s a danger when you get so many academics together that the audience might get lost and we don’t want that. So we have some very good chairpersons in this year who are going to keep the speakers on track but are also going to allow more time for the audience to pitch in.”

For Turtle, access to - and immersion in - history is the central tenet of the festival.

“One thing that’s of particular interest to me is a talk called A Future for our Past,” says Turtle. “It’s going to look at how we can teach history from here on in. There’s all this new media; I run a Facebook page called Wistorical which has 7,000 followers and it’s amazing to be able to get people interested in history through these new media. You need to hear people discussing it and arguing over it and you need to hear both sides. And I think we need to understand that history is a hell of a lot more complicated than we think. It’s also a hell of a lot more interesting than we think.”

Undoubtedly Bob Marley would agree.

*The History Festival of Ireland takes place in Duckett’s Grove, Carlow, this weekend. www.thehistoryfestivalofireland.com

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved



Posted by The Gathering Ireland on 6 June 2013

For some of us, the word ‘history’ conjures up memories of school exams and seemingly never-ending memorisation of facts and dates. But one festival – yes, festival – is hoping to change all that.

The History Festival of Ireland is bringing the past to life, with more than 30 debates, discussions, readings and interviews over the weekend of 15 and 16 June. Taking place at Ducketts Grove in Co Carlow, the festival is part of Éigse Carlow Arts Festival.

The man behind the festival, historian and author Turtle Bunbury, says that he is “trying to bring history a little bit out from the classroom, and make it funkier and more fun”. So, he is gathering academics and more “media-friendly” speakers, and combining them with summertime weather (hopefully), music, theatre, cinema, food and drink for a weekend of learning and fun.

The first edition of the History Festival of Ireland took place last year at Bunbury’s family home, Lisnavagh House. It dug as far back in Irish history as Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Bunbury says he specifically targeted local history groups and history teachers for the 2012 festival – though anyone with an interest was invited to attend – and the response was overwhelming positive. “They just really, really enjoyed it,” Bunbury remarks. “That’s why we’re going again.”

Westlife's Nicky Byrne will be a special guest at the festival, as Turtle will discuss the singer's ancestry

This year, the event has been moved to the larger venue of Ducketts Grove, which serves as a fascinating backdrop. The 12,000-acre, 19th-century estate includes the ruins of a mansion and gothic revival castle along with outbuildings and walled gardens – no doubt an interesting location for any history buff. Also for 2013, the festival is going even further back in time – indeed 4,000 years back to the Bronze Age.

But don’t worry if ancient history’s not your thing; the programme has a touch of pop culture with a guest appearance by Westlife’s Nicky Byrne, whose ancestry will be discussed live on stage by Bunbury. There will also be a focus on more recent history like the Great Famine and the American Civil War.

The latter is one example of programming created with The Gathering Ireland in mind, according to Bunbury, who curates the festival. “I tried to bring in Irish influence overseas a bit more,” he explains. “I’ve got the Irish in the American Civil War. I think that’s going to be a really interesting talk, because 200,00 Irish served in the American Civil War – 200,000 people who signed their papers saying they were born in Ireland. People here just haven’t a clue about that.”

Additionally the festival includes a talk on the Easter Rising, an event which Bunbury says greatly influenced Ireland’s relationship with America, as well as a presentation on Carlow natives who have left their mark on the world.

Irish history is epic and amazing but it also has some serious issues that we really need to thrash out a bit moreStill, Irish history doesn’t come without debate, and some of the presentations are sure to be lively. Bunbury says, however, that such discussion is an important part of the festival.

“You can’t be seen to be ducking from responsibility,” he says. “You can’t just have nice little talks; Irish history is epic and amazing but it also has some serious issues that we really need to thrash out a bit more. Also, people need to have their views shaken about a bit because a lot of people are very fixed in their ways.”

For example, Bunbury anticipates there will be heated debate during ‘The Great Famine: A Series of Unfortunate Events or Genocide?’ as well as ‘A Future for Our Past: History in the 21st Century’. He emphasises, though, that the key is having a good chairman for the presentation – somebody who can strike a balance between letting people share their opinions and preventing them from dominating the discussion.

And whether you get in on the debates or simply sit back and enjoy the films, the History Festival is all about taking a look into the past in a friendly, approachable fashion.

Bunbury says that he hopes attendees “will feel a stronger connection to the past both personally and geographically… and that they will also come away having been entertained, because it is a festival."

For more details on the History Festival of Ireland, taking place 15-16 June in Duckett's Grove, Co Carlow, visit www.thehistoryfestivalofireland.com.


Spot-On Interview - An Irish Executives Interview by Pascal Derrien (May 2013)

IEN: Who are you and where you based ?

TB: My name is Turtle Bunbury. I’m an author & historian based in County Carlow, Ireland. My books include the award-winning 'Vanishing Ireland' series and, as a freelance writer, I've written for The Australian, The Irish Times, The World of Interiors, National Geographic, Vogue Living, The Financial Times & Playboy.

I founded and curate The History Festival of Ireland and I’m a co-presenter of RTE One's 'Genealogy Roadshow'. I am also founder of Wistorical, an innovative project to promote History globally.

IEN: When did you join Irish Executives and why ?

TB: I joined in March 2013 because word has it this is where I’d find a forward-thinking, internationally minded group of people with an interest in Ireland and Irish history.

IEN: Why this passion for History?

TB: I was bought up in a historic house (Lisnavagh, Co. Carlow), surrounded by portraits and ancient furniture. I wanted to know who the people in the portraits were.

That got me hooked on history early on and, while I initially read Law at Trinity for two years, I then moved stage left and transferred to History. Ireland is a fantastic place to be a historian because it’s not just the story of Ireland – it’s also the story of the Irish abroad and our exceptional impact all over the world.

IEN: What are the main challenges for a writer in modern Ireland?

TB: Old style publishing is a goner, be it writing books or working freelance. Writers need to join the digital revolution, master the new social mediums, understand the ever-evolving publishing options, relish the new ways of connecting to global networks. There’s plenty to be excited about but its all still unchartered territory.

IEN: What is on your horizon for the next 12 months?

TB: Wistorical is developing a historical app which will ultimately enable anyone with an interest in history – including tourists - to learn about the places they are walking or driving through by simply clicking a button visiting Wistorical online. We’ll start with Ireland, because that’s the perfect testing ground.

Although the Wistorical project officially started in November 2012, I’ve been effectively gathering data for it for over 20 years. There’s hardly an inch of Ireland that the foot of history has not trodden upon. I’ve written a massive amount about Ireland (and the Irish overseas) over the years. That information will form the key source for Wistorical. For instance, I have been making daily posts on the Wistorical Facebook page for 6 months, linking places around the world through their common history. We’re on target for 8,000 followers by early June.

By connecting locations around the world, Wistorical enables the Irish diaspora to plug into their ancestral past and gain some insight on the where their forebears came from.

As well as the app, I’m developing an on-line Wistorical shop, which will focus on historical products – Wistorical books, podcasts, niche apps and such like. The shop will incorporate an online version of the app and there will be room for specific advertising here also.

Aside from Wistorical, I’m curator of the 2013 History Festival of Ireland, which takes place at Duckett's Grove, near Castledermot, Co. Carlow, on the weekend of 15-16 June 2013. We’ve a fantastic line up of historians and other speakers, and I’ve also booked 20 hours of sunshine. One massive benefit of being curator is that I am now closely connected to many branches of Ireland’s historical community with whom I hope to work closely with for Wistorical.

This autumn sees the launch of the second TV series of the Genealogy Roadshow on RTE, as well as the 4th volume of the Vanishing Ireland book series. The best thing about both of those is that my work on them is already done - so I can reap the benefits and carry on focusing on Wistorical.

Discover Ireland
Turtle guest blogs on the Discover Ireland website about the jigsaw that is family history.

The Wild Geese
Daniel Marrin interviews Turtle about the origins and future plans of the Vanishing Ireland project. (December 2011)

Sunday Independent
A day in the life of Turtle Bunbury, based on an interview with Ciara Dwyer. (Sept 2011)

The Browser
Daisy Banks talks with Turtle about five books that inspired him to become a family historian.
(August 2011)

The Irish Times
John Grenham talks about behind the scenes action at 'The Genealogy Roadshow'. (August 2011)

Meadhb Monaghan interviews Turtle about his new book 'Sporting Legends of Ireland' (December 2010).

The Irish Times
Turtle talks with Brian O'Connell about what makes centenarians live so long for an article entitled 'When Your Birthday is a Presidential Affair'. (January 2010)

The Carlow People
Turtle outlines his plans for 2010.
(January 2010).

The Irish Times Magazine - A three page interview with Turtle and his 'Vanishing Ireland' colleague James Fennell by Miriam Mulcahy. (November 2009).

The Australian - A thumbs up review of Turtle's 'Your History in a Book' venture. (November 2009).

The Sunday Tribune - An exploration of the motives behind the Vanishing Ireland project by Claire O'Mahony. (October 2009).

The Impartial Reporter - Meadhb Monaghan interviews Turtle in the context of his new ‘Vanishing Ireland’ book and touches on the his History in a Book concept. (Sept 2009)

The Irish Post - Elaine Sheridan provides a detailed profile of the Your History in a Book project for the London-Irish. (Sept 2009)

The Irish Examiner - Turtle remarks on the latest figures from the Vintners Federation. (August 2009).

The Gloss - A wholesome profile of the Bunbury family of Lisnavagh by Catherine Heaney. (February 2009).

Hospitality Ireland - An in depth look at the inspiration behind 'The Irish Pub' book by Emily Hourican. (November 2008).

BBC World - Turtle provides the BBC's Mark Simpson with some key thoughts on the fate of the Irish pub. (October 2008).

The Irish Independent - An interview with Turtle by Barbara Harding entitled 'The Time Traveller'. (April 2008).

The Carlow People - Eliz Lee takes a look at the inspirations which led Turtle to start writing. (April 2006).

The Leinster Leader - Henry Bauress tackles Turtle's take on the Kildare Gentry. (December 2004).



Life in Monaco (Ireland Funds Connect, Spring/Summer 2012)

Tragedy of the Titanic (Ireland of the Welcomes, March 2012)

West Coast Story (Ryanair Magazine, Jan-Feb 2012)

George Moore & Albert Nobbs (Irish Daily Mail, Feb 2012)


In 2011, international readers also enjoyed a four page feature by Turtle called Big House Hospitality, Hidden Ireland in Cara (Feb-March 2011), the Aer Lingus in-flight magazine, and a four page feature on Irish sporting icons in Ireland of the Welcomes (March-April 2011).

Sylvia Drew's Remarkable Albums - The World of Interiors.

George IV's bawdy trip to Ireland in 1821 - Irish Daily Mail.

Obama's Irish Roots - Irish Daily Mail.

Big House Hospitality, Hidden Ireland - Cara.

Graham Greene's Achill Affair - Irish Daily Mail.


Big Bertha's Wake - The Guardian.

Resting on Erin's Literary Laurels - The Australian.

A Monumental Tour of Ireland - The Australian.

The Ale that Made the Vikings Roar - Irish Daily Mail.

The Annesley Abuduction: The Story that inspired 'Kidnapped' - Irish Daily Mail.

The San Patricios & the Mexican War of 1847 - Irish Examiner.

The Big Snow of 1947 - Irish Daily Mail.

The Irish Sweepstake - Irish Daily Mail.

The Incredible Mr Kavanagh - Irish Examiner.


Ernest Shackleton - Irish Examiner.

The Fate of the Irish Pub - Irish Examiner.

Deep-sea fishing in Co. Clare - The Australian.

On the Lobster Trail in Nova Scotia - Abroad.

At home on the Aeolian Islands - Abroad.

Lisnavagh House - The White Book.

The Life of Arthur Guinness - Irish Daily Mail.

The Fastnet Tragedy of 1979 - Irish Daily Mail.

The Croke Park Rodeo - Irish Daily Mail.

The Golden Circle of Victorian Ireland - Irish Daily Mail.

John Conory - Was Queen Victoria's father an Irishman? - Irish Daily Mail.

Knox D'Arcy - The Mayo Oil Tycoon - Irish Daily Mail.

Vampire Literature in Ireland - Irish Daily Mail.

The Origins of Dublin's Pigeonhouse - Irish Daily Mail.

Ballroom Floor Gloss - The Irish Times Magazine.

Struwwelpeter - The Irish Times Magazine.

Bindon Stoney’s Diving Bell - The Irish Times Magazine.



Turtle frequently reviews hotels and restaurants throughout the world for international magazines and for the Alastair Sawday's 'Special Places to Stay' series. NWA passengers were reading Turtle's tips on where to dine, shop and hang out in Dublin in the March 2009 edition of World Traveller. Meanwhile, Aer Lingus passengers have lately been reading up on the state of the Irish pub in Cara magazine. A modern Sotogrande hideaway was one of the lead features in the July 2008 issue of Homes & Gardens. An interview with Turtle entitled 'How I Got Here' appeared in the Irish Independent in April 2008. An article on three Irish villages at a Crossroads featured in The Irish Times Magazine on April 5th. Meanwhile,Turtle's verdict on Ireland's oldest pub ran in Visitor. Other articles by Turtle on the shelf lately include a look at Huntington Castle in County Carlow for Wealth, a review of Temple House in County Sligo for Objekt and a review of a County Louth sea lodge in 25 Beautiful Homes. An extract from 'Vanishing Ireland' formed a major feature in both Country Life and the Irish Independent in December 2007.


Turtle’s first feature was an examination of Santa Claus, written for his home county newspaper, The Carlow Nationalist. In Hong Kong he became a freelance correspondent for Business News Indochina and the South China Morning Post.