Why not enjoy a classic
song while reading through the
following ... such as Paul Robeson & his 1936 rendition of
'Ol' Man River'- Paul Robeson - click here to listen.
All four books
are available in
Ireland or from Turtle's Amazon Store.
Above: The launch of the third volume of the series with, from
left, Jack Lonergan, Turtle Bunbury, Nellie Shortall, James Fennell and
legendary GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh.
(Photo: Dave Gaynor, Tipperary Nationalist)
Cara Magazine, February 2014
Breda Purdue of Hachette Books Ireland, is one of none Irish publishers asked to select their favourite book. She writes: "It's been a year to be proud of for Hachette Ireland, with two of our books winning Book of the Year Awards. Louise Phillips won the Crime Fiction Award with The Doll's House. Michael Harding's bestselling memoir Staring at Lakes won both the Listeners' Choice and the Nonfiction Book of the Year awards and then went on to win the overall Book of the Year. But the book we're most proud of this year is the latest in the Vanishing Ireland series. Historian Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell have created a unique record of Ireland in this bestselling series and the fourth volume, Friendship and Community, is one of the year's bestselling illustrated books. I am very proud as a publisher that, in this digital age, we have all four volumes of Vanishing Ireland in print and on the shelves of bookshops around the country. These books will be treasured for generations to come.
‘A fascinating ode to this island’s elders’ with ‘stunning photography’ and ‘sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, but always fascinating interviews’ to create ‘a unique testament to the old way of life and a vital document for preserving the wit, insight and knowledge of this island’s elders’.
‘A beautiful and remarkably simple book that will melt the hardest of hearts. Bunbury has a light writing style that lets his interviewees, elderly folk from around the country, tell their stories without interference. It's neither patronising nor overly romantic about the past; just narrating moving tales ... The portraits by Fennell are striking, warm and dignified, with a feeling of being invited into people's lives'.
Turtle talks with Gerry Kelly on the Late Lunch about the Vanishing Ireland project. Mr. Kelly very kindly says: "I say this honestly, this is one of the nicest books I have ever had the privilege of receiving, reading and looking through. It is the third in the hugely popular series. It is a masterpiece, an incredible book. Just pick it up and enjoy it. I have to say it again. It's a beautiful, wonderful book."
Turtle talks about the new book with Dáithí Ó Sé, Claire Byrne and Joe Duffy.
Turtle spoke with Derek Mooney on RTE Radio 1 about the third Vanishing Ireland book ... you can hear the interview here by clicking on the above link, go to Listen Back and the short interview comes on at 53.30 minutes into it.
Turtle's debut feature on 'Nationwide' was watched by 33.8% of Irish televsions. His chosen subject was 88-year-old Baby Rudden, the cover-girl of the second 'Vanishing Ireland' book.
Turtle is interviewed at length in a 'Nationwide' special about the Dublin Docklands, talking twixt wobbling bicycles and hot towel shaves, featuring interviews with 'Vanishing Ireland' stalwarts Sonny and Bart.
Turtle and James live in studio with Tom Dunne on a day when the reputation of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland was once again on the slide. (Go to Thursday 17 Dec, Part 2, fw to 18 mins).
Turtle and James in studio with Matt Cooper discussing the book, in the same show that broadcast Paul Gogarty's infamous 'F.U. Deputy Stagg'.
Click here to see Turtle and James Fennell talk of ancient humour, barefoot children and the good old, bad old days with Mark Cagney and Elaine Crowley of TV3. The interview was repeated on Ireland AM's best of the week review on Saturday 31st October.
Click here to listen to Turtle discuss the Vanishing Ireland project with Ryan Tubridy (Fast forward to 39 minutes). The interview was repeated on RTE 1's 'Playback' review on Saturday 31st October.
Page-turner puts collapse of Celtic Tiger into context -
Visit to doctor's unearthed literary gem (by Joe Barry)
While sitting in my doctor's waiting room recently, I began browsing through the literature that one always finds in such places. Doctors, dentists, barbers and hairdressers provide an extraordinary range of mostly unreadable magazines ... I was about to give up and try some meditation when I found, underneath the pile of rubbish, a book so good that I ended up borrowing it (I did ask permission and yes, I will return it). It was titled Vanishing Ireland and is one of those large coffee table publications.
It tells the life stories of elderly Irish men and women, most of whom were born around the 1920s.
It's written by the wonderfully named Turtle Bunbury, with photographs by James Fennel.
The images are simply stunning as are the tales that each individual has to tell of their differing experiences while growing up in Ireland in the 1920s and '30s and later.
The book dramatically spells out the experiences of people from many walks of life and how they managed through the early decades of independent Ireland during a time when the population endured one of the lowest living standards in Europe.
To quote the author, "it was a time of grim despair".
He recalls how Eamon De Valera once hoped Irish firesides would become "forums for the wisdom of serene old age".
The sad reality was that many of the younger souls who might have sat and listened were instead forced to emigrate in search of work other than manual labour or poorly paid domestic service.
Some of the individuals featured stated that despite the poverty, people were happier back then. Others maintained that life is much more enjoyable today and all agreed that the end of the Celtic Tiger was a useful wake-up call for a country that had lost the run of itself.
For anyone who grew up in those early years, when warfare and deadly epidemics blighted the land, our little 21st-century recession must seem like a harmless event.
Vanishing Ireland tells, in fascinating detail, the rich and full life stories of farmers, farriers, musicians, fishermen, miners, clerks, laundry maids, clockmakers, tailors and many others.
All are a part of our nation's recent history that needs repeating, lest we forget our past and the stark comparison it makes with the living standards that we enjoy today.
If you don't get a copy for yourself, at least ask both your doctor and dentist to purchase one.
The long-suffering patients in the waiting rooms of Ireland will thank you.
Naas characters to feature in new book
AUTHOR Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell, the duo behind the successful ‘Vanishing Ireland’ book series, visited Naas to interview characters for a fourth volume which is due to be published in 2013.
Amongst those who recently gathered in Monaghan’s Harbour Hotel to talk with the pair were Michael Kane and Sean Whelan, as well as football guru Jackie Brennan, Noel Sheridan, Brendan Drew, Michael Kane, Joe Waldron, Michael Cronin, Frank Lawler and Kathleen Doyle, daughter of Kildare football legend Jack Higgins.
Memories of Naas in an age of cotton mills, shoe factories, monotypesetters and plug-telephones circulated through the room while James Fennell, of Burtown House & Gardens, outside Ballitore, captured the scene with his camera.
The Vanishing Ireland Project began in 2001 when Turtle and James beegan touring Ireland to chronicle a world that seemed to be disappearing rapidly. - Paul O’Meara
A synopsis of the Vanishing Ireland project by Turtle Bunbury, with extracts from four interviews, the sister website of the Irish Voice.
In Search of Ireland by Steve King.
St. Patrick said that he returned as a missionary to Ireland because of a vision in which he heard the local peasants ask him "to come and walk among us." The advice contained in Turtle Bunbury's Vanishing Ireland is that those who wish to see the island's old folk and old ways better not wait for a visionary invitation. Bunbury and photographer James Fennell have published three volumes in their series of bio-portraits -- farmers and shopkeepers, thatchers and seamstresses, gravediggers and ghillies (fish-and-game guides), all in their last years and following near-extinct ways of life. The portrait below is of George Thomas, an eighty-three-year-old bachelor farmer from Greenane Mor, County Wicklow:
" George was, without doubt, one of the last of his kind. He lived without electricity or mechanization. He had no car and saw no need for an avenue. His one-story farmhouse was hidden in a field behind a hedge of cypress trees…. To access the property, you had to open a red gate from the road and walk across a grassy meadow -- sheep on one side, heather on the other, with the glacial slopes of Glenmalure rising in the distance. Two strips of box hedge and a rickety gate pointed straight to his front door.… In George's paraffin-lit kitchen, the only sound was the turf burning on the vast open hearth, the fire gently fanned by a wheel-operated, under-floor pipe.
Above the fire was the crane with a couple of hanging pots, used by George for both baking and cooking."
George liked a drink (Guinness, bottled, room temperature) and had he not died in 2008 he would no doubt have celebrated St. Patrick's Day at his local -- MJ Byrne's, featured in one of Bunbury's other books on vanishing Ireland, The Irish Pub. You will find the décor at MJ Byrne's to be 1920s-shabby, says Bunbury, and you may even find the door locked -- if so, one of the two brothers who run the pub will happily open to your knock.
'The third release in the Vanishing Ireland series, this stunning book includes images and interviews with ordinary Irish people, all of whom share their memories of the past in an honest and thought-provoking way. As Ireland continues to move away from its traditions and history, people from all walks of life and from all around Ireland are brought together to provide an invaluable link to our past.'
Ogie, Maisie and a vanishing Ireland
By David Medcalf
I happened to run into Ogie Nolan the other day. I told him that there were some great photographs of him in circulation. He did not seem too impressed. His attitude was that as long as his image was not adorning a 'Wanted – dead or alive' poster, then he had no reason to be overly concerned.
The photos of Enniscorthy's favourite rascal are part of a collection published in a book called 'Vanishing Ireland: Recollections of our Changing Times' with pictures by James Fennell and words by Turtle Bunbury. In the past, the pair have made their reputation by turning lens and pen on that grand old institution, the Irish pub.
This time, they jumped into the car and toured the land simply chatting to people. They met assorted blacksmiths, coal miners, mattress makers and cattle drivers, representatives of professions that have largely been overtaken or altered beyond recognition by new practices and procedures.
The authors visited farms in Kerry and Clare, turf sheds in Limerick and Tipperary. They drank cups of tea, or glasses of whiskey, in the kitchens of Sligo and Dublin. They crossed cobbled yards around Wicklow and Tipperary in search of their quarry. They visited the hills of Leitrim and Donegal. And they hit on two right ones in Enniscorthy.
The first was the aforementioned Aidan Nolan, universally known as Ogie, retired saddler and harness maker from Weafer Street, whose prowess as a bridge player remains undimmed as he rolls into his 90th year. And the second was Courtnacuddy resident Maisie Grannell, who was born in 1925.
Ogie is well enough used to the limelight. The shoe repair business that he ran with brother Patsy up a side lane in Enniscorthy was a wonderfully chaotic institution, smelling of glue and leather. The siblings finally stepped down from the business about two decades ago, but not before their place of work had been re-created on stage as the setting for a production of Billy Roche's play 'Cavalcaders'.
Maisie, on the other hand, has seen less of the limelight, though by no means a shrinking violet. Hers is also a nickname as she was christened Mary Theresa, the third child in the family of William and Mary Sunderland raised in Clonhaston. Her story brings readers back to the era of the thatched cottage and of a simple rural life.
She received a full formal education from the Mercy nuns but it was her mother who gave her practical lessons in how to make soda bread and churn butter. The young Maisie become so proficient at baking that as a teenager she was able to conjure up a Christmas cake over an open fire in a lidded pan. Mary Sunderland also taught her daughter how to sew, imparting a skill that enabled her to earn her living.
She spent 24 years working for the Spring family at Ballynadara House in Bree where life revolved around hunting and horses. Maisie's willingness to make horse-rugs and racing caps proved invaluable.
The book tells how she was 30 when she married a farm labourer, the late Jack Grannell. In due course the couple had one son, Denis, and two daughters. She was determined to follow the pattern laid down by her own mother, passing on the fundamentals of baking, sewing and knitting to Maureen and Betty.
Though she worked as a house cleaner and child minder, she also took on the task of caring for her ageing parents. In 1966, she had to rescue them from a flood that lapped around the bed where they were sleeping. Her mother died late in 1969 and her father the following summer.
A generation later, Maisie has had her own troubles in retirement. She was knocked down in a road accident in 2001 and was left with severe injuries: 'I could hear my two legs breaking the same as sticks,' she told Turtle Bunbury. She has survived that setback with her sense of humour intact.
There is no shortage of humour either in the twinkling eyes of Ogie Nolan, who is old enough to recall the days when Blue Shirts and Sinn Féin followers clashed outside the family home at Weafer Street in the early 1930s. His mother Bridget (née Shiel) had been forewarned that trouble was brewing and closed the shutters on the windows of their rooms above the sweet shop before the stones started to fly.
His father Michael Nolan worked as a saddler, though he later took up employment in J Donohoe's Star Mineral Water plant – briefly as it turned out. He was scarcely a month on the payroll when the factory went on fire, so he set on his own account as a harness-maker and boot repairer. It was 1940 when the teenaged Ogie (the name a childish mispronunciation of Mogue) was recruited by the da to join Nolan & Sons.
The business at its height employed 14 men, making harnesses, saddles, dog collars, luggage straps and shoes. Ogie made frequent trips to Dublin to buy the leather but still found time to enjoy swimming at the Headwire. In his interview for 'Vanishing Ireland' Ogie also tells how he met Fred Astaire and served with bayonet drawn in the Local Defence Force during the Emergency.
Times have changed, but this book will ensure past experiences are not forgotten.
‘For the cognoscenti to indulge their whims within, here be treasures of a fascination. When faced with all the pace and pressure of suburbia, subways and subsidiarity encountered around built-up London, take ten minutes to discover the philosophy of a slower lifestyle from an ancient countryside. Dip into chest full of reminiscences to discover gems of different ways of living in the generation slowly ‘vanishing’ from the remoter parts of the British Isles [sic - surely the Atlantic archipelago :) ]. The character portrayal is excellently scripted and admirably portrayed; pages beneath whose surface one can submerge into nostalgia and reminiscence yet gain a clear understanding of human spirit and endeavour which may be less evident in our current times. Such a volume so beautifully produced and so full of life well deserves a place on the Christmas list’. – Bruce Edwards.
'The past may be another country but did they really do things differently there? In recent weeks, an avalanche of books chronicling the way we were has taken over my desk. There are all sorts here: from the sweets that put the fizz into childhood to spaces haunted by long-gone lives. In some cases the suggestion is that things were so much better back then (apart from Kevin C Kearn’s Ireland’s Arctic Freeze when things were not so hot)|. But there’s wisdom even in the whimsy. In the third book in the Vanishing Ireland series, Recollections of Our Changing Times (Hachette Ireland), writer Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell once again take to the highways and byways, recording in words and images a generation that will soon disappear into history. We meet all sorts and souls from the rural edge of Kerry to the working class heart of Dublin, from the chant of blacksmith Eamon Madden to the recollections of harness maker and poet JJ Hackett’. Donal O’Donoghue, Books.
'The Vanishing Ireland series is an invaluable record of times past' - John Spain, Books Editor.
Double page spread entitled 'Vanishing Ireland' focusing on the story of May Morris and Paddy Byrne.
'Already well-established as chroniclers of Irish lives - this is the third title in the phenomenally successful Vanishing Ireland series - photographer James Fennell and bestselling author Turtle Bunbury introduce yet more fascinating Irish people whose lives span a century that drastically changed the face of Ireland. Nostalgic, yes, but Vanishing Ireland is also successful because it maintains the dignity and good humour of the people whose lives it explores, without straying into faux sentimentality. A feel-good book that stokes up memories of a time when there was a place for blacksmiths, coal-miners and bone-setters.' Claire Brophy.
"If you do one thing this week - 'Vanishing Ireland: Recollections of Our Changing Times' by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury is published by Hachette Books and available nationwide".
Q&A on "Vanishing Ireland" with Author Turtle Bunbury
'Turtle Bunbury is an Irish journalist and historian, whose photo-book series “Vanishing Ireland” chronicles the lives of Ireland’s eldest living residents and institutions, through interviews and photography. Mr. Bunbury partnered with photographer James Fennell in 2001 for the first volume in the series, and this year they’ve completed the third volume in the series, Vanishing Ireland: Recollections of Our Changing Times. The “Vanishing Ireland” series is handled in the United States by London-based publisher Hodder & Stoughton: The third volume will be released in the United States in February. Mr. Bunbury also runs a family history service, in which he researches and writes family histories for descendants of Irish emigres. The WildGeese.com’s Daniel Marrin spoke with Bunbury about his work on the Vanishing Ireland series.'
TheWildGeese.com: So what drew you and James Fennell to begin this tour of the Irish homeland back in 2001?
Turtle Bunbury: I grew up on a farm, which had employed over 100 men, when my father was a boy. In my childhood, a lot of these men still lived in the area, although most had long since retired. I became acquainted with some of them, peak-capped old timers who'd stand against white-washed pebble dashed walls of downtown Rathvilly [in County Carlow] watching the world go by. One of these guys was Bob Murphy, the first man we photographed.
I was in Hong Kong from 1996 to 1998, three years. By the time I returned to Ireland, the country was booming at breakneck speed, and it struck me that the old-timers were being left behind. I had a whacky idea to drive around Ireland on a tractor, stopping off in pub after pub, talking to them all, writing down their stories. That didn't pan out but what did happen was James Fennell, an old buddy of mine, came to meet Bob Murphy one day. He photographed Bob and “Vanishing Ireland” was born.
WG: Were you immediately envisioning a book series? How did that come to form as the idea?
Bunbury: We weren't sure where it would go. We simply started by interviewing and photographing some of the old fellows who lived around our respective homes. Initially we thought we might focus on bachelor farmers but then we started interviewing women and married men, too. Eventually, we had seven characters’ [interviews] published in Cara magazine, owned by Aer Lingus, and the accompanying article said we were looking for a publisher. Hodder Headline Ireland, now Hachette [Ireland], took up the challenge and published our first volume the following fall.
WG: The institutions you mentioned, like the rural pub, the post office, family run shops, farmers. Why are these institutions in particular in jeopardy? Is it the influence of globalization?
Bunbury: Yes, it’s globalization to an extent. We are all much more dependent on technology than each other these days. The post office gave way to hand-held gadgets that you can use to send e-mail and texts, or as a telephone, without having to go anywhere or queue up for a day.
Family-run shops became redundant because they don't have enough stuff on their shelves to satiate our voracious appetite for more. The pub pretty much buckled under pressure from drunk-driving rules, but there were other forces, not least the fact it’s so easy to zip out to a garage and pick up a bottle of wine these days, which you can drink in your own home, safe from other people. We've become a much more private race.
WG: Do you think there's a sense of anger or frustration among rural people in Ireland about the disappearance of these local institutions, or do they mostly see it as signs of progress?
Bunbury: There is anger in places for sure, but I think it’s chiefly dismay and surprise. But I think John Joe Conway [a 76-year-old cattle farmer and horse breeder interviewed in “Vanishing Ireland,” Volume 3] summed it up best when talking about the closure of the creamery, the shop and the school in his area of County Clare. “This area has been turned upside down. But there was nothing we could do. Like a lot of the country areas, it came so gradual at first that no one took any notice.” Few of the elder generation can understand the Internet, but those who do tend to empathize with the idea that times are changing and not all of it is bad.
WG: You’ve done some televised interviews with characters from your book for networks like RTE, like the one with Ms. Baby Rudden. How do you generally explain your project when you go visit someone like Baby Rudden? What is it that you say you're doing, so as to avoid sounding condescending, for example? [Note: Bridget Rudden, known by everyone as Baby, is an 88-year-old farmer from Drumcor, Redhills, County Cavan, interviewed in “Vanishing Ireland,” Volume 2. She never married.]
Bunbury: I am utterly honest. I say I am gathering stories from the area, local history, trying to gain a better understanding of how things were so that we can preserve the past for future generations. I was probably a good deal more coy in the early years of the project as I was aware I was going into houses to ask people about a childhood which, in many instances, was framed against a backdrop of rebellion, war and civil war.
WG: Does that still come up from time to time? Do people become guarded about talking about the era of the 1910s and ‘20s?
Bunbury: At this stage, they're clever enough to simply say nothing! Ask no questions, you'll hear no lies. But seriously, yes, some people are still guarded. And understandably so because civil wars are dreadful things and it takes a long time to heal. I've met old men in Tennessee who still haven't got over the fact their grandfathers were on the losing side of the U.S. Civil War. There is also the fact that many of the people I met genuinely do not know what their fathers and uncles did during the years of rebellion. ... And then, of course, there are some who are proud of it all.
WG: Do you worry that some of these older people like Baby Rudden may be in danger of dying alone at home, or abandoned?
Bunbury: Baby should be fine because she's about the most popular biddy in Cavan. In fact, just being in “Vanishing Ireland” does seem to elevate people's standing in the locality so more people will look out for them, which does make me wonder about the thousands of people who are destined to die alone. But I think Ireland is still reasonably good at keeping track of who's missing and such like. Mass used to be near vital for that: You'd say “Hey, why wasn't Mick at Mass on Wednesday. ... Somebody better get up there and see how he is.”
WG: What have you learned from doing this book?
Bunbury: As a historian I have benefited enormously. The Easter Rising, World War I, the Spanish Flu, the Black & Tans, the [Irish] Civil War, the Blueshirts -- all these have been vividly brought to life for me by people who lived through them. I think it is incredible that the grandparents of many of those I've met were children during The Famine. Ginger Powell's grandfather, whom he knew, was a teenager when the Blight struck and yet Ginger is still practicing as a vet down in Tipperary. And Statia Kealy, who died aged 108 in September -- she was Ireland's oldest woman for 5 days -- was the daughter of a woman who was born in 1862 [during America’s Civil War], back when those Tennessee boys were having a hard time of it.
WG: What would you most want people in Ireland, or the States, to take away from this book?
Bunbury: For people who are in the U.S., I hope this gives them an insight into the Ireland that their forbears left behind because, in many ways, the Ireland that I write about in these books is one that would be much more familiar to them than the post-Celtic Tiger Ireland of 2011.
Likewise, I hope that the books inspire people in Ireland to stop and think when they watch the old folk walking by, to wonder what [these elderly] did with their lives, to maybe see how they're getting on, to call in and see an elderly neighbor or maybe even to take their photograph and write their stories down.
DANIEL MARRIN is a Queen's, N.Y. -based journalist and videographer.
A North Kerry woman who is a mere four years from her 100th birthday is to feature in an extraordinary new book that provides an invaluable link to our past. Liza Mulvuhill from Moyvane tells her fascinating life story in Vanishing Ireland: Recollections of our Changing Times – a collaboration by award winning photographer James Fennell and bestselling author Turtle Bunbury who journeyed the length and breadth of Ireland to interview ordinary men and women who share memories of growing up in rural Ireland. Click on the link for more.
An interview with Christy Waldron from the new 'Vanishing Ireland' book. Click on the link for more.
Local characters’ indelible mark on a Vanishing Ireland
By Bernie Commins
Often it is said, with an unmistakable air of regret: “I wish I had recorded him or written down all his wonderful stories.” How many times have we said that of a loved one whose tales - tall or otherwise - and stories of their lives enriched our own? Then one day that person is no longer with us and although the memories linger, the person’s way of telling them, the words they use, the emotion that peers through, their expressions, they have left us also.
However a recently published book, ‘Vanishing Irelend; Recollections of Our Changing Times’ by travel writer, historian and author Turtle Bunbury aims to permanently record the stories and lives of so many wonderful Irish people, characters who have lived through astonishing events, witnessed first hand historical occasions, or are directly connected to someone involved in some of our history’s most significant markers. These people, some born 90 and almost 100 years ago hold the key to a history of Ireland that is fading in a haze of modernity - a Vanishing Ireland.
Four people from South Tipperary feature in ‘Vanishing Ireland; Recollections of Our Changing Times’, which is the third volume in the Vanishing Ireland series. Their stories, revealed through conversations with Mr Bunbury who travelled around the country to meet them face-to-face, are complimented by stunning pictures and portraits of them by photographer James Fennel who captures these amazing characters telling their stories of an old Ireland and sharing some of their thoughts on the Ireland of today.
Jack Lonergan from Tickinor near Ferryhouse, born in 1930; Joseph Hanrahan from Kilsheelan, born in 1930; Nellie Shortall from Fethard, born in 1913; and Willie Sheehan from Clonwalsh, born in 1917 all feature in the latest instalment of Vanishing Ireland and they, along with almost 30 other men and women aged over 70 years, have a lifetime of the most amazing stories that are punctuated with sadness, humour, intrique and love; stories of marriage, murder, old traditions, mystery, economics, employment, family and so much more.
The Bunbury/Fennell duo commenced the Vanishing Ireland project ten tears ago in 2001 and published the first volume in 2006 simply called ‘Vanishing Ireland’ with a second, ‘Vanishing Ireland: Further Chronicles of a Disappearing World’ published in 2009. The latest will, undoubtedly, slot into the success story of the series so far.
“These people are a direct link to our past,” said Mr. Bunbury.
“For me they colour in the past and telling their stories will hopefully do the same for other people. They also shrink history because for example, many would have had grandparents who lived during the Famine years,” he said.
Mr Bunbury and Mr Fennell travelled all over the country visiting homes, speaking to people and photographing them, using friends they had in areas to connect to these wonderful characters, most of whom were more than happy to share their thoughts.
“We have interviewed over 250 people, some would open their mouths and wouldn’t stop until we left the house and some were a bit quieter and you would have to charm them a little.
“But it is easier now because we can show people the other books and they can see what we are doing.”
“All the stories from South Tipperary are really good. Nellie Shortall has an amazing story and life and told me that she had planty more to tell,” he laughed.
“The same with Joseph Hanrahan, our cover star, and his story of rabbit catching. All four were wonderful.”
Mr. Bunbury hopes that his chronicling of people’s lives, stories and historical knowledge will encourage others to do do the same before it is too late.
A fourth ‘Vanishing Ireland’ volume is on the horizon and will feature some more South Tipperary characters. We can’t wait.
‘Vanishing Irelend; Recollections of Our Changing Times’ is available in all good bookshops.
Four Tipp people tell their stories of a vanishing Ireland
Four Tipperary people of mature years feature in a lavish new book in the ‘Vanishing Ireland’ series.
Author Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell travel the length and breadth of Ireland recording a quickly vanishing part of our country.
Turtle talks to people about what life was like seventy, eighty or ninety years ago and how it has changed for those people today.
As he does, James takes evocative photographs of them in their homes, on their farms or nearby countryside.
The four who appear in the latest book are Ellen (Nellie) Shortall from Fethard, Jack Lonergan who works at Ferryhouse, Clonmel; Willie Sheehan, Clonwalsh, and Joe Hanrahan, Kilsheelan, whose photograph is on the front cover of the book.
They all recount what their lives were like in South Tipperary in the 1920s and 30s and the changes they have seen in the intervening years.
The book was launched in the Hunt Museum in Limerick by former RTE broadcaster Miceal O Muircheartaigh.
He described it as an invaluable record of this country’s history, recounting stories that we are unlikely to hear again.
Wisdom of Our Elders
By Turtle Bunbury
(With photos of George Hawkins, Liza Mulvahill, Moiky Kinnane and JJ Hackett).
In 1998, I returned to Ireland after a three-year stint in Hong Kong, with a plan to drive around the four provinces in a tractor, talking with old timers about the way things were before the Celtic Tiger.
Shortly after my plane touched down, I rang a publisher with the idea.
He was quick to respond: "Round Ireland with a Tractor? Have you ever heard of Round Ireland with a Fridge?" I hadn’t but Tony Hawkes book was already No 1 in Ireland and I glumly shelved my tractor plan.
About a year later, I went on an assignment to Zimbabwe with my old friend James Fennell, then an up-and-coming interiors photographer. We got talking about the way in which Ireland was changing so dramatically before our eyes.
It’s remarkably easy to forget the frenetic pace of change on this island a decade ago. Everything had accelerated to such a degree that even children agreed time was flying. In those heady days, much about the past seemed irrelevant. Emigration had come to an abrupt halt and most young people were earning good money, investing it in houses, cars and leisurely holidays. The day-to-day present was all we could think of.
But for many men and women of senior vintage, the changes were deeply alarming. Many stalwarts of generations past were proving to be intensely vulnerable in this brave new Ireland. Church authority had all but collapsed. Politics was following fashion onto the catwalk. Most farms were now framed by tarmac roads, supporting a relentless convoy of cars, lorries and motor-bikes. The friendly villages of old were an increasing rarity, either because the post office, pub and creamery had closed down, or because the fields around them had been developed into housing estates and retail parks. Ireland was changing utterly, and it was all terribly fast.
James and I decided to join forces to chronicle the memories of the older generations as quickly as we could. I would interview them about their life story and family background, and James would photograph them in situ.
We started with people we knew, mostly bachelor farmers in our home counties of Kildare and Carlow. Then we upped the ante and headed on a series of road trips all over Ireland, heading down every back road we could find, sometimes on a whim but mostly because someone had recommended a particular character to us.
We expanded our brief to encompass any man or woman over the age of 70 who had experienced a traditional, working class upbringing. We sought out blacksmiths, saddlers, fishermen, housemaids, lacemakers, postmen, thatchers, musicians — anyone who would help us to gain a better understanding of a world which was fading fast.
Eleven years and 250 interviews later, we have just launched the third volume of the Vanishing Ireland (€24.99) series.
Published by Hachette, both the first and second volumes were shortlisted for the Irish Published Book of the Year.
The Vanishing Ireland project is gathering momentum as more and more people turn to face our past. To younger generations, the sepia-hued world of our grandparents is sometimes difficult to comprehend. It seems like an almost make-believe land of thatched cottages, potato furrows and pony traps. But the stage on which they played out their lives was little different to that of their grandparents before them. And of course it was every bit as real as our own.
The people we met during this project have invariably been charming, courteous, amusing and friendly. Some were eloquent; others indecipherable. Then there were those who invented everything as they went along. They all understood the nature of this project, plying us with tea and whiskey while they coloured in the past with their memories and mused upon the quandaries of the present.
There is much we can learn from these tribal elders. Raised in an age before cars and televisions, most lived an outdoor life, rising with the dawn, working in the fields, always in tune with the landscape and the weather. Their hardy constitutions undoubtedly stem from a childhood where they all walked, and sometimes rowed, to and from school. When they were young, horses, ponies and donkeys formed the backbone of rural Ireland. Many lament the end of that era but others relish the way in which the ‘Machine Age’, as one farmer called it, took the ‘hardship’ out of daily life.
Ireland has an incredibly rich history. The project is an attempt to bring the more recent past to life through the stories, of those who remember how things were when the world was younger.
It is our great hope that these interviews inspire others to think of old timers whom they know, to phone them or meet for a chat, and to write down or record the stories they hear.
Rabbit-catcher and milkmaid recall days gone by
By John Spain Books Editor
JEDWARD are not the only ones with an interesting hairstyle.
Meet 81-year-old Joseph Hanrahan from Kilsheelan, Co Tipperary, who has been sporting an upswept hairstyle for years. Mr Hanrahan, a retired farm labourer, is one of the people featured in a new book, 'Vanishing Ireland: Recollections of our Changing Times'.
The book chronicles the lives of ordinary men and women across the country.
It concentrates on older people who did jobs in times past that have been largely forgotten in today's Ireland.
Blacksmiths, saddlers, harness makers, coal miners, mattress makers, bonesetters and cattle drivers, are some of the people featured in the latest Vanishing Ireland book, the third in the series.
Mr Hanrahan was a farm labourer who also worked as a pony and trap driver.
Mr Hanrahan worked for the Kilsheelan postmistress who had a sideline in exporting rabbits.
He drove her in her pony and trap all around the countryside collecting rabbits from farmers who had snared them.
When they had collected a few hundred rabbits they were shipped to the UK. "They lived on rabbits in England during the war", he said.
There is also dairymaid and cook Liza Mulvihill from Movane, Co Kerry, who is 96. Liza started milking at five in the morning on the Kerry farms where she worked seven days a week. Later she spent time in New York.
She is not too impressed with what went on here during the Celtic Tiger years. "Much wants more", she said.
So does she prefer the old days to Ireland today? "I'd go back to the olden times. You had no cares. You were quite pleased with what you had and that was it!"
'Vanishing Ireland: Recollections of our Changing Times' is published today by Hachette Ireland at £27.99.
Quoting poetry while stoking a Stanley stove, by Deirdre Verney
"There's no doubting that JJ Hackett is one of the most unusual farmers in the parish: he quotes Wordsworth while stoking the Stanley stove".
So begins a captivating and, at times, poignant portrait of the well-known Moate man in a new book, Vanishing Ireland Recollections of Our Changing Times by photographer James Fennell and best-selling author Turtle Bunbury. He is one over 30 people featured in the third volume of the highly evocative publication which tells the stories of ordinary men and women and their memories of years gone by, providing us with an invaluable link to our past in a rapidly changing Ireland.
Pictured at his fireside in Ballinakill, Moate, JJ recalls in a very entertaining fashion his family history with some interesting observations about the many differences between then and now.
"They were a different breed in them times," he said of the old days. "There's an air of arrogance with people today. You get it in shops and in pubs. They're very well educated in one way but not in their manners. Life is very short. There is no use going around with a face that's grim and sour, dim and dour. Civility costs nothing!"
Born in 1937 with a hip deformity which meant he didn't walk until he was seven years of age, JJ remembers in the book that calamity struck him once again on the day his younger sister was born.
"We weren't long home from school but a tree fell on top of me. It broke the collarbone, the cranium and it done in the right knee. I was put in a wheelbarrow and taken to Mullingar hospital, broken up. I never went back to school. I was in hospital for about a year and ten months and I couldn't walk for about two years," he said.
By the close of 1950, after a long recovery and finally able to move around again for the first time since his accident, JJ began a new chapter in his life beginning an apprenticeship as a harness maker with a saddlery and upholstery business in Moate with a trio of co-workers he refers to as the three deaf mutes.
"They were the elite of harness makers," he observes sagely. "They specialised in turning the rims of a collar and they were absolute professionals. What they lost in hearing and lack of speech, they had in other ways, in other instincts," he says.
From the 1960s right up to the 1990s JJ Hackett worked as a saddler on the family farm, sitting patiently at home, making and restoring saddles alongside his father's cobbling business and another man who made wooden churns and buckets.
After his father's death in 1975, younger brother Michael took over the running of the farm, while JJ took care of his elderly mother who battled Parkinsons for the last nine years of her life.
A keen poet, he explains in the book that ideas often came to him while planting potatoes, or the "fruits of the earth" as Patrick Kavanagh dubbed them. The Moate man enthused during the interview that he met the Monaghan poet a number of times in the 1960s in Dublin, the pair of them sinking pints amidst the academics and newspapermen in the well-known hostelry, McDaids of Harry Street.
"Such a dive I had never entered! Very uncouth looking with the paper falling off the walls, but that's the way they wanted it. It was all intellectual conversation interspersed with an odd swear word or two. Kavanagh took a liking to me," he reminisced fondly, adding that he always had an interest in writing and has a room full of books.
His memoir Days Gone By was published to much acclaim around South Westmeath some years ago now.
Vanishing Ireland by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury is published by Hachette Books and is available in all good bookshops now.
Third ‘Vanishing Ireland’
The third volume of ‘Vanishing Ireland’ by local historian Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennel was launched last Tuesday 18th October in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. A second launch is scheduled for the Hunt Museum, Limerick, this coming Thursday 20th October. Judging by the success of the two previous volumes which were shortlisted for the Irish Published Book of the Year (2007) and the Irish Book Awards (2010) respectively this third volume is likely to follow the same sell-out success.
Despite all this business, including participating in RTE’s Genealogy Roadshow, Turtle has managed to research, write and publish an extensive article on Sir Richard Burton to be published in the November ‘Playboy’ magazine. Burton was an eccentric and prolific Victorian explorer and author, writing mainly on travel and ethnography. He translated classical and Renaissance literature and inter alia, translated and printed the 'Kama Sutra', 'The Perfumed Garden' and a complete edition of the 'Arabian Nights' between 1885 and 1888. The ‘Playboy’ article should make a riveting read.
Anne Sheridan profiles five Limerick icons who are on exhibition at the Hunt Museum, in advance of the launch of the third volume of the series.
Nicola Corless talks with Turtle about the late PJ Davis and the inspiration behind the Vanishing Ireland project ahead of the Irish Book Awards.
'At the end of my stay at Leen [Co. Clare], I was flicking through one of their lovely collection of books, Vanishing Ireland by Turtle Bunbury and James Fennell, a superb spotlight on some of our older generation of publicans, musicians, farmers and fishermen. I realised that the Irish artisans, lovers of natural skills, traditions and heritage, are not vanishing at all. And if well supported they will be here for generations to come. So, thank you.' Catherine Mack.
A gorgeous three page illustrated review of the book, described as 'a highly engaging new collection of evocative photographs and charming interviews'.
Senator Shane Ross cites 'Vanishing Ireland' [albeit misnamed 'Vanishing Dublin'!] as one of the 'great reads' to have merited tax exemption.
A review of the Carlow Farmers hunt at Lisnavagh nods in the direction of 'Vanishing Ireland'.
A link up with SWC, Ravi Chawla's 'Digest of News and International Reports on Ageing' which followed on from The Irish Times story. Nellie O'Toole of Rathvilly spearheads the photoshoot.
Turtle is interviewed by Brian O'Connell on what makes centenarians live so long for an article entitled 'When Your Birthday is a Presidential Affair'.
'Vanishing Ireland' is a stunning publication in which photographer James Fennell and writer Turtle Bunbury combine poignant photos and inteviews with men and women from the four corners of the country.
'Vanishing Ireland', says Tom Sykes, 'is this year's must-have Christmas gift, which I only mention because it's No. 4 on the hardback chart and one last big push might knock Mr Tayto off the top spot'.
'Vanishing Ireland' recorded as No. 5 in Top 10 Non-Fiction hardbacks,
'Vanishing Ireland' recorded as No. 5 in Top 10 Non-Fiction hardbacks, while cover of book forms part of the Eason's Christmas advertisment on the back page.
Susan Kurosawa and Michelle Rowe hail 'Vanishing Ireland' as one of the twelve best travel books of the year, praising James's 'ravishing' photography in 'a nostalgic journey, full of stories small and tall, told with great humour - what a lovely gift for those with Irish roots.'
Sarah Hackett gives the thumbs up to 'a beautiful book' that is 'both heart-warming and evocative ... [it] gives you a real respect and appreciation for ... our past and heritage and makes us think about a time when things were much simpler and perhaps even more enjoyable.'
The same writer and photographer of an earlier success, says Peter Costello, have once again captured compelling images of fragments of the Ireland of the recent pre-boom past that still survive. With over a hundred images, the book will bring back to older readers thoughts of the old days, while providing young ones with glimpses of a vanished world. The portrait of the old lady on the cover says it all: human dignity is not to be measured by a spurious and evanescent prosperity.
'My ideal present this year would be long lazy days with my family. As a gift book I love the Vanishing Ireland series by historian Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell. It's a beautiful coffee-table book especially for relatives overseas' - Sheana Keane, Presenter.
'This book offers fascinating insights into the fading world of old Ireland, told through the personal stories of Irish craftsmen, musicians, sportsmen, farmers, traders, nuns, gentry and centenarians.' This text accompanied a full page feature in the 'In Tuition' supplement, urging youngsters to 'Listen to the Voices of Experience', with photographs and potted biographies of Cathy Dowling, Johnny Mathis and the Kelleher brothers. 10,000 copies of this supplement were distributed to schools nationwide.
A quick review of Turtle and James's book-signing in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow by Chris Fingleton.
Turtle and his daughter Jemima
at the launch of the second volume
of 'Vanishing Ireland'.
(Photo: Stu Carroll).
A nostalgic record of an Ireland that has not quite gone. The two authors, photographer and writer, interviewed forty one people from across the island who are old enough to remember the early days of independence and to give us a picture of Ireland in recent decades. Alongside the reminiscences of these people are evocative colour photographs of them, where they live and the surrounding landscape. It amounts to a multi-dimensional portrait of Ireland long before the Celtic tiger, a mainly rural society with a strong oral tradition and practices dating back several centuries, though it must be said that city dweller were avoided, even though they too live to good ages and maintain traditions and lore. Reading the words of the interviewees brings the photographs to life in an immediate way, making them more than just photo-portraits or postcard views.
The cover of 'Vanishing Ireland' features on the front page of the Sunday Times as part of Eason's Christmas advertising campaign.
With their second volume of ‘Vanishing Ireland’, historian Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell have once again documented stories that would otherwise be lost. Over the course of a three page spread, they tell Miriam Mulcahy about their search for characters and a good yarn.
Eliz Lee advises readers that 'Vanishing Ireland' has ' hit the jackpot once again' and gone into Ireland's bestseller list and is proving 'just as popular' as the first volume.
Sue, Lady Kilbracken, applauds the 'Vanishing Ireland' project for 'breathtaking photography' and its 'sensitive and profound insight into the fading world of old Ireland'.
Donal O’Donoghue questions whether Romantic Ireland has really gone, describing the new book as 'a sobering look back from these overfed times at ... a generation that is disappearing'.
The launch of the new 'Vanishing Ireland' book is announced to the people of Sligo.
A major feature article, entitled 'Portrait of a Lost Age', with profiles of John Carson, John Mathis, Sister Alphonsus and Sister Rita.
The history books tell us of the hardship that existed in '40s and '50s' Ireland. But how did people cope, what was life really like, and what did they do for fun? Two new books go back in time to shine a light into a fascinating and long-forgotten way of life. Claire O'Mahony meets the books' authors in an Agenda cover story entitled 'Forgotten Ireland'. If Sunday Tribune link does not work, click here.
The terrible beauty of vanishing Ireland, in lines of Yeats during the Easter uprising, is being recorded before it disappears forever by a distinguished writer-photographer team – Turtle Bunbury and James Fennell which has led to the launch of their second book on the theme this week in Dublin. William Paterson interviews Turtle in a piece called 'Capturing the terrible beauty'.
Meadhb Monaghan interviews Turtle and looks at the life of Inishmore farmer John Carson who is chronicled in his new book about a vanishing Ireland. If the above link does not work, click here.
'Vanishing Ireland' was the No. 1 selling Picture Book in Ireland for Christmas 2006. Published by Hodder Headline, the book was shortlisted for the Easons Irish Published Book of the Year Award 2007. The book received extremely positive reviews from the Irish media, with widespread television coverage on 'Today with Pat Kenny', 'Nationwide', 'Ireland AM', 'Seoige & O'Shea', 'The Sean Moncreiff Show' and 'Soiscéal Pháraic'. The book was serialized in The Dubliner throughout 2007. The Irish Mirror described it as a 'triumph' while it also formed major feature stories in Country Life, Cara, The Irish Times Magazine, The Irish Examiner Weekend, the Sunday Independent, the Irish Independent and Social & Personal. It was roundly praised on local radio across Ireland as well as in The Scotsman, The Farmers Journal, The Metro, Ireland's Antiques & Properties, The Irish Arts Review, The Book of Interiors, Magill, Irish Tatler and Image Interiors.
TV & RADIO
Author Patricia Scalan recommends Vanishing Ireland as 'an absolutely beautiful book and the photography is stunning. It's also a book our children will love in years to come because this is what the people who lived these lives had to say'.
Helen McInerney interviews Turtle and James, and visits the homes of 'Vanishing Ireland' icons Jack Powell and Paddy Lowry.
Turtle brings Kathleen Lynam and Tom Dowling on stage for an interview with Seoige and O'Shea.
Pat praisesthe book as 'an absolutely beautiful book' in a 20-minute Vanishing Ireland special, featuring Turtle in-studio, and interviews with Paddy Scanlan, Kathleen Lynam and Robbie McMahon.
Soiscéal Padraig (TG4)
The Sean Moncreiff Show (Newstalk 106)
The Arts Show with Dorothy Cole (Dublin South)
The Shaun Doherty Show (Highland Radio)
Voices of Inishowen (Inishowen FM)
On the Record with Sue Nunn (KCLR 96FM)
John Prendergast (Limerick Live 95FM)
'There are many ways to go wrong with a Christmas present, but it's impossible to go wrong with a beautiful book. Join Paddy Canny as he closes his eyes and sees "heels kicking, skirts twirling, elbows flapping, feet stomping, smile flashing, embers glowing, then fading away." The octogenarian fiddler is one of more than 50 Irish old-timers who talk about their disappearing world in a fast-changing society.'
The Irish Mirror
The Irish Times Magazine - 3 page spread - reistration required.
The Irish Examiner - Weekend Magazine - 3 page spread
The Irish Independent - Farming Supplement
The Sunday Independent
The Irish Examiner - Books Supplement
The Farmers Journal
Country Life (UK)
The Dubliner - serialized throughout 2007
Ireland's Antiques & Properties
The Irish Arts Review,
Social & Personal
The White Book
'A triumph' - Irish Mail
'Vanishing Ireland is warm, funny, touching, sometimes desperately sad. A genuine treasure, this social history of the Irish character in his (or her) twilight years is full of stunning photographs and fascinating profiles. I warmly recommend it to anyone who was ever marveled at the wisdom and good humour of our elders' - Trevor White, The Dubliner
'Every so often a book comes along that is magical and wonderful. And there's one available now. It's called 'Vanishing Ireland' - Tom Dowling, KCLR 96FM
'One of the best picture books of the year - a dignified tribute to the older generation of country folk who grew up, so it seems, in another world. These are people who worked the land with horses, drew water from the well, and for whom a dance at the blacksmith's was a great social occasion. James Fennell's photographs are warm-hearted and affectionate, but always careful to put their subject into context, while Bunbury's text brings out the wit and the stoicism of these old timers without ever being condescending' - Alannah Hopkin, Irish Examiner (Best of Irish Interest Books)
'Written with sympathy, understanding and gentle humour … contaning photographs brimful of character' - Charles Lysaght, Sunday Independent
'By turns, beautiful, humorous and moving, Vanishing Ireland depicts life in contemporary rural Ireland in finer and fuller detail than any statistical analysis, opinion poll or economic survey ever could. A labour of love that took the pair from Achill Island to the south-eastern tip of the country, Vanishing Ireland raises timely questions about where the country is going. It is also a reminder of what, and who, we are leaving behind' - Mayo Advertiser
'A remarkable book of extraordinary lives' - Tom Sykes, The Scotsman
'A valuable and beautiful record of an Ireland that is rapidly disappearing ... A wonderful book sure to be turning up under Christmas trees across the land' - Jacqueline O'Mahony, The Metro
'You do not have to be Irish or of Irish extraction or in any particular age group to enjoy and appreciate this handsome, impeccably produced book with over 130 superbly illustrated photographs. A book of the year - any year - a timeless masterpiece by two skilful professionals. One word of advice, buy it, read it but do not lend this book to anyone for you will never get it back' - Michael Purcell, The Carlow Nationalist (see full review)
'Beautifully produced and the contents are most interesting' - Hugh Oram, Ireland's Antiques & Period Properties
'One of the most outstanding books to be published in 2006 - we cannot recommend it highly enough. A good book starts with a good idea and the concept that underpins Vanishing Ireland is as ingenious as it is simple. Essential reading for young and old alike and the importance and value of this book will undoubtedly increase in years to come' - Western People (see full review).
Old video footage of Carlow people in danger of being lost forever ( Apr 2009)
IN THE early 1980s, the Carlow Heritage Society came together to capture the images and words of 40 elderly Carlow people. The film footage was all recorded on videotape and features interviews with some fantastic characters from all over the county of Carlow.
Among the participants in the project were people such as Nan Rocket, who was one of the founders of the opera in Carlow town, Charlie Lewis, who was a cobbler in the county, and Dick Walshe, who had fought in the Spanish Civil War. These were just some of the participants about whom there is over 200 hours of footage. Sadly, all 40 of them have since passed away.But the videotapes still exist, although the footage is now in grave danger due to natural deterioration of the tapes as they absorb moisture from the atmosphere. “The videotapes have been stored well since the project was undertaken in the 1980s,” said local historian Michael Purcell, who was involved in the filming process. “But they are absorbing liquid and they are deteriorating fast. What we want to do is get them onto DVD as soon as possible and there is the technology to do it out there but we don’t know much about it. So we are looking for advice on how to do it,” he added.The cost of the transfer of film is expected to come in around the region of €7,000.According to Michael, a number of people are getting behind the idea of saving the film and these include the award-winning author Turtle Bunbury.“It is imperative that the footage be saved,” said Michael earnestly. “All the people on the videotape have died and my feeling is that if we lose these tapes then we lose those people all over again,” he added.