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Bunbury of Lisbryan, Spiddal, Woodville … and Borneo

Mary Bernard who married Thomas Bunbury (1793-1874) of Lisbrayn.

This branch of the main Lisnavagh family initially settled between County Tipperary and Connemara. Descendants include a man who held the world record for shorthand writing, the Borneo settler for whom the Bunbury Shoals are named and the unfortunate Molly Bunbury who was murdered by her doctor husband in 1886.




Thomas J Bunbury (1793-1874) of Lisbryan & Spiddal

Born in 1793, Thomas J Bunbury was the second son of Thom and Maria Bunbury Isaac. Thom was himself a son of Thomas Bunbury of Kill and a half-brother to William Bunbury of Lisnavagh. Thomas J Bunbury was thus, by extension, a first cousin of Thomas Bunbury, MP of Carlow, as well as Field Marshal Gough and Jane McClintock (née Bunbury).

Thomas J Bunbury married Mary Bernard (sometime Barnard) of Lucan, County Dublin. I have a note that she was the daughter of a Joe Bernard of Lucan but I am unsure where this claim comes from. They lived at Lisbryan House (sometimes spelled Lisbrian or Lisbrien), which is situated in the Ballingarry, Borrisokane, Shinrone and Nenagh part of County Tipperary. The house is still occupied by his direct descendants. According to the Landed Estates Database from NUI Galway, Lisbrian [sic] was occupied by Mr. Faulkner, Esq, in the 1770s and 1780s.

By 1801, Lisbryan House was home to Sir Robert Waller, baronet. [1] In 1796, Sir Robert Waller (1768-1826) ‘of Newport, in the co. Tipperary’ was married to ‘Miss [Mary] Bernard, daughter of Thomas Bernard, of Castletown, in the King’s County Esq.’ Lady Mary Waller (née Bernard) died in 1804. Their marriage may explain the path by which Lisbryan came into the Bunbury family, perhaps in the wake of Sir Robert Waller’s death in 1826. [2] That said, an advertisement in the Dublin Evening Post of  11 August 1807 advised:

‘COUNTY TIPPERARY. To be SOLD, the FREEHOLD INTEREST in the Houfe and Demesne of LISBRYAN, held Sir Robert Waller, Bart., producing a yearly profit rent of £129,  18s. 6d.’

Moreover, the property seems to have been sold to a Judge Moore as per this advertisement in the Dublin Evening Post of 16 February 1822:

CO. TIPPERARY. —To be LET for Ever, the Interest SOLD, the House and Demesne of LISBRYAN, containing 130 acres, with a largo Bog and Commonage, the property of the Honorable Judge Moore, situate in the Barony of Lower Ormond, and County of Tipperary. The House, and Garden are in perfect order and repair; the Land excellent, beautifully planted and inclosed by a wall nine feet high. The above Demesne is one the most eligible in the County, it distant five miles from Parsonstown [Birr], five from Shinrone, and ten from Roscrea. The Steward will show the Lands. Application to be made to Thorny Stoney, Esq. Arran-hilI; or Samuel Barry, Esq., Bell-Park, Burrasakane [Borrisokane].

In any event, Thomas and Mary Bunbury were at Lisbryan by August 1832 when Thomas was admitted as a member of the Protestant Conservative Society.[3] In August 1834, Mary’s mother, Mrs Bernard, died at the house, aged sixty. [4] Samuel Lewis records Thomas as the proprietor in 1837. The Ordnance Survey Name Books also refers to it as his residence, “a very extensive building of the modern style”. Thomas held the property from Lord Ashtown (who lived at nearby Sopwell Hall) at the time of Griffith’s Valuation when the buildings were valued at £40+.’ The Irish Census of 1901 shows Lisbryan House had 33 rooms.

Charitable Acknowledgment.— Mrs. Bunbury, Lisbryan House, Shinrone, returns her grateful thanks to the Ladies Relief Association, for the liberal grant of clothing sent her by them for Thirty Poor Women she had employed knitting socks the last year, for which they feel most thankful to their kind benefactresses.
Kings County Chronicle – Wednesday 17 January 1849


The Lands at Labanasigh & the Lisnavagh Link

Captain William McClintock Bunbury of Lisnavagh..

I believe Thomas also had lands at Labanasigh, near Fenagh, in County Carlow. When Benjamin Bunbury of Moyle, the magistrate, passed away in 1823, his will referred to ‘my nephew, Thomas Bunbury of Labanasigh in the county of Carlow …’. Benjamin’s will elsewhere referred to ‘my nephew, Thomas Bunbury of Lisnavagh in the county of Carlow’ so this is clearly two different Thomas Bunbury’s.

The Lisbryan and Lisnavagh-Moyle branches were evidently still close through until the Victorian Age. In 1843, for instance, the Dublin Morning Register reported that ‘Thomas Bunbury, Esq., has left his seat, Lisbryan, county of Tipperary, to spend some time with Thomas Bunbury, Esq., M.P., at his seat, Moyle, county Carlow.’ [5] The trip may have been worth the effort. When Thomas Bunbury of Moyle died on 28 May 1846, a will drawn up two days before his death left £2,000 ‘to his cousin Thomas Bunbury.’ In 1847, Thomas J Bunbury headed north from Lisbryan to Lisnavagh to stay with his cousin, William McClintock Bunbury, MP for Carlow. [6] Griffith’s Valuations for Labanasigh (near Fenagh) in 1852 lists Thomas Bunbury as the landlord. [7]


The Spiddal Connection


Reports from Commissioners regarding Spiddal Weir.

Thomas also had a home at the Manor House, County Galway, just east along the coast from Spiddal, where the Údarás na Gaeltachta industrial estate lies today. [8] The Manor House previously belonged to Sir Robert Staples. In 1844, Thomas successfully applied to have a post office and mail service established in Spiddal.

The family clearly lived between their Galway and Tipperary homes as, for instance, the Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent of 27 August 1844 reported that Thomas Bunbury, Esq., and family, have left Lisbryan for their sealodge, Spiddal House, Galway’. Again, on 30 June 1847, the Kings County Chronicle reported that ‘Thomas Bunbury, Esq. family, and suite, have arrived at Spiddal-house, Galway, from Lisbryan, Shinrone.’ This suggests that the Manor House was also known as Spiddal House.

In 1846, Mr Bunbury was writing from Spiddal House regarding the ominous threat of a the potato famine. Documents held at the Bolton Archive indicate that a Mrs. Bunbury was in the process of building a house and flax mill at Spiddal in 1855. There was also a connection between theAshworths, who owned the Galway Fishery and Mrs Bunbury of Spiddal House. Jackie Uí Chionna, who completed a Ph.D. at NUI Galway in 2010 on the History of the Galway Fishery, writes: ‘The Ashworth brothers, Thomas and Edmund, purchased the Fishery in 1852, and on one of their earliest visits to Galway to inspect their new purchase they visited a Mrs. Bunbury of Spiddal.’ [9] Mrs Bunbury is listed in Slater’s Directory of 1856. “J.B. Bunbury” [sic] was involved in blasting rocks at Spiddal Waterfall in 1862, as per the image above. There was also clearly some situation between a man called Kenny and Mrs Bunbury at Spiddal.

By the time Griffiths Valuation was conducted in Connemara in 1864, Thomas was lessee of two townlands in the parish and barony of Moycullen, namely Spiddal East and Truskaunnagappul. This seems to have included a small strip of land at Baile an tSagairt, which stretched to the sea. Slater’s Directory of 1870 lists a Mrs. Bunbury of Spiddal under ‘Nobility, Gentry and Clergy’ but no husband – Thomas was still alive but perhaps they were estranged?  Several of Thomas and Mary’s daughters were also to live in the area (see below).

Was Mary Bunbury the flax-planting ‘M. Bunbury’ referred to in this letter published by the Farmer’s Gazette and Journal of Practical Horticulture on 1 July 1865:

— Having seen an account of the length of flax in your last Gazette, I was induced to send for some of mine, and have a sample 4 feet long, sowed 26th April, of which I have 3.5 [ed.] acres. The seed was saved here from Riga seed I got from Messrs. Cloherty and Semple, of Galway, last year. I have three acres here of flax, besides, from Riga seed got from Belfast ; this spring it has not grown near as well as the other. I believe that is the case in many places this season. Were the weather more moist flax would be too tall and good. I am sorry so little flax has been sowed in this locality this year. I sowed twice as much as any other year.
—Yours, &.c., M. Bunbury, Manor House, Spiddal, June 28. 1865

Following Thomas’s death in 1874, Lisbryan House (Tipperary) went to his first-born son Thomas Benjamin Bunbury, while the Manor House (Spiddal) seems to have passed to his daughter Susan. His effects at both Lisbryan and the Manor House were valued and auctioned by Thomas Maher, auctioneer, of Borrisokane. Mr Maher conducted the auction with such aplomb that Dublin-based barrister Sadleir Stoney, one of Thomas Bunbury’s executors, wrote to express ‘much pleasure in testifying the very great satisfaction’ he felt at Mr Maher’s work, his ‘energy’ and his ‘promptitude in settling the accounts.’ [10] I assume this is somehow connected to the presentation of the Bunbury Cup by Thomas and Mary as ‘a token of esteem’ to a Sadleir Stoney in 1874. The cup was found in a provincial auction in Bournemouth in the 1980s. Mr Stoney appears in less positive light in the account of George Bunbury of Woodville below.


The Children of Thomas and Mary Bunbury


Thomas and Mary Bunbury’s children are believed to have included:

  1. Thomas Benjamin Bunbury (1830-1883), their eldest son, who succeeded to Lisbryan. (See below)
  2. George William Bunbury who joined the army and later lived at Woodville House (See below).
  3. Rebecca Margaretta Bunbury, their eldest daughter, was married at Ballingarry Church on 21 May 1841 to Ralph Smith-Smith of Milford, Co. Tipperary. [11]
    On 10 December 1845, the King’s County Chronicle reported that ‘serval armed ruffians’ had ‘effected an entrance’ into the Smith’s residence at Milford and attacked Ralph.
    ‘Presenting their muskets to his breast, forced him, on his knees, to take an oath, the nature of which we have not heard. The gentleman from whom we derive our information had been told that one of the fellows struck Mrs Smith on the shoulder with his gun but this, we hope, is not the case. The fellows offered no further violence, but before departing, intimated their intention of calling at another time. On the same night they visited several farmer’s houses in the neighbourhood. What motive they could have in visiting Mr Smith, we cannot imagine – for in the country there is not a more inoffensive or amiable gentleman.’
    Rebecca was presumably the ‘Mrs. Smith’ who, along with her sisters, Mrs Brodie and Mrs Palmer, settled in Spiddal on Galway Bay, with such disastrous consequences for Mrs. Brodie. (See below) Indeed, there was a Smith House in Spiddal, now a ruin, closely associated with the Bunbury family. Ralph died in Camden, Illinois, on 8 Aug 1852, leaving six young children, to whom Thomas and Mary Bunbury were named as guardians in his will. I believe one of these children was Mary Elizabeth Smith who appears on the 1901 census for Spiddal as a 60-year-old widow and farmer, born in County Tipperary. She was living with her 30-year-old daughter Susan Florence who was born in County Galway. On the 1911 census, Mary Elizabeth gave her age as 83 (!) and had retired, while (Susan) Florence was now 40 and presumably running the farm.
    On 21 November 1862, Rebecca Smyth (née Bunbury) was married, secondly, to Henry Neville of Heath Cottage; the wedding took place at Eglish Church near Birr.
  4. Margaret Jane Bunbury, second daughter of Thomas Bunbury of Lisbegan [?] was married at Ballingarry Church on 25 November 1842 to William Woods of High Park, King’s County.
  5. Alice Georgina Bunbury married the barrister Manners McKay on 1 September 1845 and settled at Moreen in Dundrum, County Dublin. A former cornet of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, this naughty chap appears to have been among a group of five soldiers who graffiti’d their names onto the pane of a sash window in a parlour at 14 St Stephen’s Green. [12] If so, he was the son of Dublin attorney Daniel McKay (1778-1840) of St Stephen’s Green and Moreen, by his wife Eliza (1785-1858), daughter of Edward Rowland of Cathen Lodge, Ruabon, Denbighshire. Manners McKay had a brother William McKay who was also a barrister. The McKay’s are buried in a vault beneath St Ann’s church in Dawson Street, Dublin.
    Manners and Alice’s eldest daughter Mary Eliza Adette M’Kay was married in Ballingarry Church by the Rev William Isaac Bunbury, rector of Shandrum, to Lieutenant (James Francis) Lennox MacFarlane, 3rd Dragoon Guards, of Hunstown House, Co. Dublin.[13] Mrs MacFarlane died prematurely on 2 December 1882. Another of the M’Kay daughters, Ella, was married at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, to G. T. Selby of 1 Eaton Square, London, on 23 April 1874.
  6. Sarah Frances Bunbury was born in 1831 and married in Ballingarry on 12 March 1862 to James Lawson, esq., 59th Regt., second surviving son of Charles Lawson, esq., of Borthwick-hall, Mid Lothian. [14] He became Major General James Lawson and served in the China War (1857-1858) and the Afghan War (1868-1870) before his death aged 65 in Dover in 1897. Mrs Lawson passed away in Dover in June 1917. Their eldest son was Colonel Charles Lawson, while their elder daughter Alice Georgina Lawson married Hawtrey Charles Marshall (d. 5 Dec 1927) with whom she had 3 children: Ruby Eily Bunbury Marshall (6 Oct 1891 – 19 May 1953), Beryl Marshall (born 28 Nov 1895) and Cecil Clyde Marshall (born after Jul 1898 – 24 Jun 1917). [15]
  7. Susan Palmer (nee Susan Catherine Bunbury) was born in 1837. On 17 November 1876, aged 39, she was married in St. Anne’s Church, Dublin, to John Palmer, a flour merchant, of Foster’s Place, Galway City. He died less than a year later and was buried in St. Nicholas’ Church. Susan seems to have inherited the 1,000-acre estate at the Manor House in Spiddal from her father. Susan lived at the Manor House with the assistance of Bartley O’Donnell as her bailiff from 1883 until her death aged 94 on 15 September 1931. In her will, she named Bartley’s son as heir to the Spiddal estate. [16] [See also Galway Express, 6 November 1915]
  8. Molly Bunbury, who was murdered. See below.


Molly Bunbury’s grave in Bohermore, County Galway. Photo: Dr Clíodhna Ní Mhurchú.

The Murder of Molly Bunbury


Dr Terence B. Brodie, as a young man, with thanks to Dr Clíodhna Ní Mhurchú.

Mary Jane Bunbury, also known as Molly Bunbury, of Lower Mount Street, Dublin (and formerly of Lisbrien), was married in St. Peter’s Church on 11 December 1880 to Dr Terence Benjamin Brodie, a man from a decent family who was many years younger than herself. I suspect he was a kinsman of Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Baronet, PRS (1783 –1862), the English physiologist and surgeon who pioneered research into bone and joint disease, and served as Kaiser Wilhelm II’s doctor when he was a baby in the 1860s. If anyone can verify this, I am all ears.

Dr Brodie had previously been married in Clifden in 1872 to Frances Mary Eyre, daughter of John Joseph Eyre (1816-1894) of Clifden Castle and his wife Margaretta Atkinson (1812-1896).

Frances and Dr Brodie had four children:

  1. Marguerite Mary (Daisy) Brodie, 1874-1958
  2. William M. Aloysius Joseph Brodie, 1876-79
  3. Terence Francis Brodie, 1877-79
  4. John Joseph Brodie, 1879-79, who died at 3 weeks of age.

However, great tragedy befell the family in 1879 when Frances died giving birth to their youngest boy (who also died), just weeks after two of their sons died of diphtheria.

Murder of a Wife, the death of Molly Bunbury.

The following year Dr Brodie was married again – to Molly Bunbury – but he transpired to be an abusive husband, a trait exacerbated by his mounting addiction to alcohol. Perhaps he was affected by the intense fevers so rife in Connemara at this time; a doctor’s work cannot have been easy. In July 1886, he shot Molly in the face, apparently while she was looking out to sea through a telescope at their home in Spiddal. He did not deny the charge but blamed it on the copious amount of booze, primarily poteen, he had been guzzling beforehand. Such was the law at the time that the courts agreed, and the verdict was temporary insanity caused by alcohol consumption. As historian Jackie Uí Chionna observes of the trial:

‘The great pity is that the servant girl who gave evidence was not believed. From the newspaper reports, her testimony was damning of Brodie, but then again, she was just a servant, and a woman at that, and so it is hardly surprising that her testimony was sidelined.’

Dr Brodie went to Dundrum Asylum where he was immediately cured of his madness and, after just five years, he was discharged. He moved to South Africa where he married again and had children. He died in Parys, Free State, South Africa, on 23 November 1906, aged 56. In the 1940s, his son Ben unwittingly returned to Spiddal to ask if anyone knew anything of his father. He got more information than he bargained for.[17]

Molly was buried in Bohermore Cemetery, Galway, which is also the burial place of Augusta, Lady Gregory, and the infamous William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw. Molly’s grave is at plot number 511, section B (on the left as in the middle section, behind the church). The inscription reads:

In memory of Mary Jane Brodie who departed this life at Spiddal on the 12th of July 1886.
Daughter of the late Thomas Bunbury Esq. of Lisbryan, Co.  Tipperary.
“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life.  He that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whoesever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Believest thou this?  (John 11:25)

The funeral arrangements were probably made by her sister Susan Palmer (née Bunbury), who lived in the ‘Manor House’ in Spiddal. [18]

For more, see: Dr Clíodhna Ní Mhurchú, ‘Dr Terence Benjamin Brodie and “The Spiddal Tragedy,” Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Volume 74, 2022, p. 45-55.


Thomas Benjamin Bunbury (1830-1883)

Thomas Benjamin Bunbury (1830-1883), eldest son of Thomas and Mary Bunbury, was married on 15 February 1862 to Frances Orr Smith from Gurteen. Portrait courtesy of Peter Bunbury via the granddaughter of Fred Bunbury and Hazel Ogilvie.


Born in 1830, Thomas Benjamin Bunbury was Thomas and Mary’s eldest son. On 15 February 1862, he was married at St. Peter’s Church, Dublin, to Frances (Fanny) Orr Smith, youngest daughter of George Smith Esq., of 4 Holles Street, Dublin, and Gurteen, an 1,100-acre estate near Shinrone, County Tipperary. Thomas’ sister Sarah, who married James Lawson just four weeks later, was one of the witnesses. [19] Is this the connection to Ashley Smith?

They had a son, Thomas Kane Bunbury (1863-1908), and four daughters, Mary, Ellen, Eva and Ida, all variously recorded on the 1901 or 1911 census as still resident at Lisbryan.

Thomas Benjamin Bunbury is assumed to have succeeded to Lisbryan on his father’s death in 1874. He also seems to have retained the Carlow lands as per this article from the Freeman’s Journal of Tuesday 30 November 1880:

‘A few days ago the tenantry on the Gorimna, Labarasighi, &c,, estate of Thomas Ben Bunbury, Eaq., Lisbegan [sic], Tipperary, waited on him to pay their rents, in the Courthouse, Bagenalstown, They demanded, with only three exceptions, a reduction of rent, but he refused to give a receipt without the full amount, so they left without paying any at all.’


Major Kane Bunbury (1863-1908) of Lisbryan


Thomas Kane Bunbury (1863-1908). Photo courtesy of Peter Bunbury via the granddaughter of Fred Bunbury and the late Hazel Ogilvie.

Following the death of T. B. Bunbury at Lisbryan in 1883, ownership of the house passed to his eldest son, twenty-year-old (Thomas) Kane Bunbury. Kane, who is elsewhere described as a major, was born in Galway (Spiddal perhaps?) in 1863. In February 1883, the year of his father’s death, the young man led a revived hunt out in the depths of the Land War, as per this article in the Midland Counties Advertiser of 8 February 1883.

On this Wednesday morning the now unusual sight was witnessed in Parsonstown of a pack of hounds—in quantity comparatively small but in quality up to a fair standard.
The miniature turn out was mastered by Mr Thomas Kane Bunbury, of Lisbryan, a young gentleman whose plucky efforts to re-establish. on ever so modest a basis, the all but forgotten sport, are worthy of every support.
For some weeks past Mr Bunbury and his little ‘jelly dogs.’ have been showing some fun to the residents of Lower Ormond, where, it is satisfactory to state, he was everywhere well received by the farmers, and by invitation he came to try his luck on this side of the border.
Shortly after eleven o’clock the little cavalcade trotted into Cumberland-square where the first whip by way of a preliminary flourish endeavoured to awaken the slumbering echoes with his thong, but whether he miscalculated the temperament of his mount, or, that in the excitement of the moment he forgot the good old maxim: “hands down and knees in, toes out and head cool,” the result was a temporary parting between him and his saddle.
Beyond this amusing incident. however, nothing occurred to mar the pleasantry of the meet. and after some formal parading the little host moved on to “danger and to glory” with what success we have not since heard; but if the red herring which was seen protruding its tail from Jack Dwan’ coat pocket meant anything it would be safe to anticipate that the gallant sportsman did not return house without enjoying the chance of encountering the former and earning the latter.’

Kane’s hunting antics would earn him the wrath of the law a year later, as per this article from the Leinster Express of 25 January 1884.


Mary Josephine Smith of Parsonstown (Birr) who married Thomas Kane Bunbury in 1893.

In 1893, Kane married Mary Josephine Smith of Parsonstown (Birr), Co. Offaly, with whom he had two sons, George Bunbury (1900-1985) and Fred Bunbury (b. 1907), and a daughter Eva (b. 1895).


George Bunbury (1900-1985)


George Bunbury (aka Arthur George Cecil Bunbury) lived in Roscrea, near Gurteen Agricultural College, of which he was a great supporter. My late Carlovian neighbour Dick Corrigan was one of the first students at Gurteen when it opened in 1947. He recalls how George Bunbury drove over with his tractor, which was bigger than the Gurteen tractor, to give them all a lesson. ‘He was a fine man’, recalled Dick. ‘He didn’t mind cussing, mind you’.

In 1956, he appeared at the Circuit Court in Thurles when he brought a claim for £200 damages, and costs, against Messrs. Osmond and Co. (Dublin), Ltd., distributors and sellers of veterinary medicines. George alleged that two of his bullocks and one heifer had died, and another became seriously ill, after they had been dosed with P.T.Z. which he had purchased from Osmond’s agent in May 1952 (later amended to October 1953). He said that ‘he had had several dealings with Messrs. Osmond and had being buying from them since the early 1940s. He knew their agent, John J. Carew. a Clonmel man, and had had several conversations with him about the P.T.Z. which they had agreed, was a very good medicine for combating worms in sheep and cattle.’ As it happens, George gave his cattle less than the prescribed amount. Asked why by Judge Roe, he replied that he preferred to err on the side of safety. “And I am glad that I did it” he added, “or else there might have been sixteen of them dead instead of the three”. (Munster Tribune, 3 February 1956, p. 1 + 4). 

In August 1935 George married May Adelaide Kenny, third daughter of Harry Briscoe Kenny, Clyduffa House, Roscrea, County Tipperary.

George Bunbury

May, who lived to be 103, gave him four daughters, namely:

1) Ida, who married the late Robert ‘Bob’ Reed, taught at Wesley, lives in Sandyford.

2) Eileen, who married the late Maslyn Dennison of Carrigagown, Carney, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, and has a son Mervyn and two daughters Valerie and Aideen.

3) Violet, who married James Coburn of Portumna, a connection of the Grubb family, and whose son Howard runs the pharmacy in Rathdowney, County Laois.

4) Georgina, who married Leslie William Stanley in 1980, with whom she has four sons and a daughter.


Fred Bunbury (b. 1907)


Barack and Michelle Obama enjoying their pints of Guinness during their visit to Moneygall. Angel Bunbury’s husband is a distant cousin of the president.

Fred Bunbury (aka Frederick Thomas Bunbury) married Alice Delahunt and lived at Rodeen, Finnoe, near Borrisokane, a stronghold of the Waller family. Their daughter Carol, whose twin brother died in infancy, married Mr Talbot and now lives at Finnoe. They also had a daughter, Angel Bunbury, who married Tom Donovan. On 3 May 1969, the Nenagh Guardian reported that Miss Angel Bunbury had been crowned Queen of the Borrisokane Carnival by RTE personality Charles Mitchell.[20]

As a curious aside, Tom Donovan’s great-grandfather Benjamin Donovan was a sister of Phoebe Donovan, who married the shoe-maker Joseph Kearney. Their son Fulmuth Kearney was Barack Obama’s great-great-grandfather, meaning that Tom Donovan is Barack Obama’s third cousin three time removed, which is why Tom and Angel were invited to meet the US President when he visited Moneygall in 2009! [21] Click here for more on Obama’s Irish Roots.

As neither George nor Fred left any male Bunburys heirs, Lisbryan passed to George’s youngest daughter Georgina Stanley.


George William Bunbury of Woodville


George William Bunbury of Woodville House, Ballymackey, Nenagh, was the second son of Thomas and Maria Bunbury. He may have been the son born ‘to the Lady of T. Bunbury’ at Lisbryan House, as referenced in the Tipperary Free Press of 18 October 1837. He served as a Captain in the 50th Regiment of Foot and a musketry instructor. He was married firstly, in Fermoy, Co Cork, on 5 November 1859, to Sarah Frances Mansergh, daughter of Lieut. Charles Carden Mansergh (1802-1873). [22] George and Sarah went to Ceylon he served in 1857-59 and again in 1860-63. Their son Thomas Charles and daughter Alice were both born in Colombo. On account of Sarah’s illness, she returned to England with the children whilst her husband went on with his regiment to New Zealand. He sold his commission, which may have nullified his entitlement to a military service pension, and returned via England to Ireland where Sarah died at 26 Mountjoy Square, Dublin, on 17 November 1865 from cancer of the pelvic bones, which she had suffered for four years.

George and Sarah’s son Thomas Charles Bunbury later moved to the Australian state of Victoria where he became the ‘Peanut King’ of Ballendella. In 1912, he wrote some article for a periodical entitled The Irrigation Age (1012), Volumes 28-29, p. 246, offering ‘valuable information to intending settlers in that country,’ saying, for instance, that at least £2000 was required by those wanting to set up an irrigated farm.  Thomas, who died in Kew in 1936, married Laura Turner. They had seven children – Walter, Gie, Kathleen, Arthur, Jim, Tom and Clive. Kathleen Sara Bunbury, born in 1896, is presumed to have remained in England or followed her parents as her mother was an Australian, although it is possible she became involved with Fianna Eireann. [23]. One son is said to have died in Los Angeles. Clive Bunbury, the youngest son, was a Gunner in the 102nd Battery of the 2nd Australian Field Artillery Brigade during the First World War. He died of his wounds, aged 23, while under the care of Australian Field Ambulance medics in West Flanders on 14 January 1918 and was buried in the Irish House Cemetery, Belgium, near the village of Kemmel, halfway between Ypres and Armentieres. A picture of his temporary grave can be seen here.

George and Sarah’s only daughter Alice Maud Bunbury (1864-1938) was married at Bowen’s Court, Kildorrery, Co. Cork, on 18 December 1884 to George Golbourne Tarry (d. 1940), then a lieutenant in the 17th (Leicestershire) Regiment. [24] Having previously served in India, Egypt, Canada and the West Indies, George served as Chief Constable of Leeds from 1900 to 1912; a case of osteo-arthritis in his right knee, caused by an injury during service in 1908, compelled him to retire in July 1912. [25] He subsequently became Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General of Ireland and was, I think, stationed at Dublin Castle during the Easter Rising. On 11 December 1912, their elder daughter Constance Maud Tarry married James Harvey Brand in London. On 14 November 1916, the youngest daughter Florence Golbourne Tarry made headlines with what was believed to have been the first marriage of a British officer interned in Switzerland when she was wed in Berne to Captain Robin Webb Thomas of the Munster Fusiliers, a son of the late Thomas Dawson Thomas and Mrs Georgina Thomas of Castletown-Roche, County Cork. He had been severely wounded in the throat at Mons and spent over two years as a prisoner-of-war in Germany before being transferred, along with other invalid soldiers, to Switzerland on condition that he remain interned until the end of the war. Florence went to live with him at Berne. [26]

Colonel Kane Bunbury, who provided financial support to George W Bunbury.

It is assumed George then took up residence at Woodville House, Ballymackey, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, along with his two children. He sought financial assistance from his wealthy cousin  Colonel Kane Bunbury of Moyle and Rathmore. He also employed a new housekeeper / nanny Maria Georgeanne De’lessert who was to bear him five more children, including George William Bunbury, the esteemed shorthand expert.

Emily Madeline St Aubyn Bunbury, George and Maria’s eldest child, was born on 23 November 1868 at 5, Richmond Court, Dublin, and is presumably the ‘Madeleine Bunbury’ recorded as living with her brother George William Bunbury at Dufferin Avenue in Dublin on the 1901 census, although that gives her age as 29.

The other four children were born in Woodville between 1872 -1877. Among these was Frances Elizabeth Bunbury, also called Fanny, who was born in Woodville House on 15 February 1874 and baptised as a Protestant. On 11 June 1895 she married her first husband William MacCormack, a Catholic, in Dublin Registry Office. A medical student at the time of their wedding, William was the son of Thomas MacCormack, an ironmonger.

At the time of her marriage, Fanny was living at 15, Nelson Street, Dublin. William practiced as a GP in Spiddal, Co Galway. Their marriage certificate was witnessed by Maria Bunbury which, as Jerry Gardner observed, indicates that her mother Maria Georgeanne Delessert had assumed the Bunbury name, although she never married George W Bunbury Sr. Family tradition records that Dr MacComack caught a chill and died after responding to a call in his pony and trap on a cold, rainy, windswept night. This occurred during the first decade of their marriage, after which Fanny was left with a son, also William, and a daughter, Kathleen. Fanny is said to have suffered a stroke when she was 26. On the 1901 census she is recorded as a Catholic and as living in Monaghan with her sister Eva Marie Quinn (née Bunbury). The 1901 census also records her two (Catholic) children as living with their uncle George W Bunbury Jr (of 250 wpm fame, see below) and aunt Madeleine in Dublin.

On 22 November 1905, the widowed Mrs MacCormack was back in Dublin Registry Office where she married, secondly, the dentist Bertram Douglas Black, son of dentist Gerard Black. Bertram was also Catholic. At some stage they moved to Somerset, possibly Yeovil. She and Bertram has a son, also Bertram (who served time in Wormwood Scrubs for homosexuality), and a daughter, Aunora, who married Bill Sharp of Taunton, Somerset. Frances Elizabeth Black (aka Fanny Bunbury) died aged 81 on 15 Dec 1955 at 76, Hamilton Road, Taunton.

Frances’ son William MacCormack was married three times. His first wife Patricia Taylor of New Ross, Co Wexford died aged 28, leaving three young daughters Hilda (who lived in New Ross and then Dun Laoghaire, married Bob Hatton), Betty (who lives in Toronto, married Steve Sulewski) and Pamela (or Pam, who was adopted by William’s half-sister Aurora (AKA Nora) Sharp, married Mike Gardner and was mother to Jerry Gardner.) By his second wife Kathleen, William was father to Christine (who lives in Worthing, Sussex) and Avril (who lived in Brighton). William and his third wife May (née Mary Nesbitt) lived in Guilford and did not have children; May later married George Landers and moved to Magherafelt in her native Northern Ireland. [27]

As stated, George did not marry Maria. Instead, on 9 September 1887, he was married in Dublin Registry Office to 26-year-old Dublin-born Alice Maud Mary Stone. She was a sister of Dr Frederick William Smith Stone, surgeon and physician, of 6 Grove Road, Rathmines, Dublin, and a daughter of John Stone, solicitor, who may also have lived in Rathmines. In 1889, Dr Stone, Alice’s brother, married Katie Eliza Machin, daughter of Edward Machin, gentleman, of ‘Melrose’, Leinster Road, Rathmines.

Alice gave George a son George John Bunbury (born at 6 Grove Road, Rathmines, on 10 September 1888) and a daughter Kathleen Susan Bunbury (born in Woodville on 29 March 1890). [28] There was no shortage of drama in Woodville at this time as per this story published in The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England) on Tuesday, June 7, 1892:

At the Court-house at Nenagh yesterday there was disclosed a remarkable case in the house of Captain Bunbury, of Woodville, county Tipperary. Mr Sadleir Storey, a justice of the peace and Barrister at law, being charged with assault on Mrs. Bunbury. It was stated that while Mrs. Bunbury went out to visit a lady friend in the neighbourhood, who was about to leave for the Continent, Captain Bunbury, who was drinking, invited Mr Sadleir Storey, who resided in the vicinity, to join him, and that when she returned the two gentlemen were engaged carousing in a room to which she was refused admittance. The door was locked, and with a small hachet [sic] she attempted to break it open, whereupon Mr Sadleir Storey, rushing out, felled her with a blow, and seizing the hatchet beat her with it. He aimed a blow with the edge of the hatchet at her. The coachman came up, but Mr Sadleir Storey, hatchet in hand, chased both of them and afterwards, when Mrs. Bunbury, fearing for the safety of her children, ran to the nursery, she found the infuriated gentleman pursuing the nurse round a table, and proclaiming his intention to murder her if only he could lay his hands on her. Mrs. Bunbury and the servants were examined for the prosecution. Mr. Sadleir Storey defended himself, and contended that the assault was a slight one and much exaggerated. The magistrates sentenced him to three months’ imprisonment with hard labour, and to give security for good behaviour. He gave notice of appeal.[29]

According to the Waterford Standard of 14 May 1892, Stoney appeared at the Nenagh Petty Sessions for common assault against Alice Bunbury at Woodville on the evening of 3 May 1892. Stoney, who claimed in evidence that Capt. Bunbury “is a man whom I have known from my childhood,” was given three months hard labour in Limerick Jail and ordered to post bail of £200 + £100 each from two solvent sureties.

When George William Bunbury died in 1898, he was survived by nine children from three different women. The family appear to have abandoned Woodville after his death. The house remains empty although there is talk of plans by the County Council to renovate it and put it to some kind of community use.


George John Bunbury (1898-1969)


George William Bunbury died in Woodville in 1898, leaving his 10-year-old youngest son George John Bunbury in the care of his wife Alice who in turn relied on her brother Dr Stone. Alice died in St. Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin, on 2 November 1910; Dr. Stone was named as the executor of her will.

Some serious misdemeanour caused Dr Stone to send George John Bunbury to Canada in 1904. As the late Peter Bunbury remarked:

‘I would say that GJB was brought up in Woodville House until he was deported to Canada at the age of 14 to work as a farm labourer. Surprisingly his uncle did not utilise the Bunbury military connections to get him started. So his sin must have been serious.’

George John Bunbury married Sarah Whiteside and died in Alberta, Canada in 1969. He may also have married a Greta Lynes with whom he apparently had a daughter Kathleen Elinor, born in Alberta in 1917. Some of this information came from William Minchin of Edmonton, Canada, whose late grandfather Tom Bunbury (1935-2024) was George and Sarah’s youngest son. From William’s talks with Grandpa Tom, he understood that George John Bunbury grew up at Lisbryan House (referred to as ‘the Big House’) and attended school about four miles away. ‘Woodville’ was also a familiar name. It seems George John Bunbury returned to Ireland in the 1950’s to visit the surviving members of his family, including ‘Aunt Sue’ (perhaps his sister Kathleen Susan?) who, though reasonably wealthy, did not leave him much when she died.


Tom and Marilyn Bunbury


Tom Bunbury (1935-2024) and Marilyn Bunbury (1940-2024), who passed away within a week of one another in 2024.

Born on 15 November 1935, Tom was the youngest of George and Sarah’s sons. He and his 10 siblings were raised on the family farm in the Lauderdale district. On 2 October 1958, he married Marilyn McGowan, daughter of David and Ethel McGowan, who was born in Galahad, Alberta, on 18 September 1940.

Tom and Marilyn lived together on the family farm, north of Castor, for 43 years, looking after the mixed cattle and grain farm.  They moved to Castor in 2001. Marilyn passed away on 28 February 2024, and Tom died a week later. They both died peacefully, with their family by their side.

As his obituary stated: ‘Tom enjoyed visiting with friends and family, playing cards, driving around the county to check out the fields, showing off his 1963 Pontiac Bonneville. driving the golf cart and visiting all of the neighborhood dogs.  Giving back to the community was important to him. He was a member of the Castor ELKS for many years. He enjoyed their many trips around North America.’

For her part, Marilyn ‘enjoyed gardening, sewing, berry picking, playing cards and being involved in many community organizations such as Royal Purple and she saw the communities need for the Calf Help Line. Marilyn enjoyed their many trips to Mexico, Hawaii and many bus tours around North America.’

Tom and Marilyn’s children are Daniel (Charlene) Bunbury of Castor, Valerie (Donald) Minchin of Sherwood Park, Marla Vierboom of Spruce Grove and Rhonda (Kelly) Knorr of Blackfalds.

Their grandchildren: Vicki Bunbury (Kevin), Jerard (Rena) Bunbury, Rochelle Bunbury, William (Marcy) Minchin, Gregory Minchin, Sarah Minchin, Alexander Minchin, Campbell Minchin, Jasmyn (Mitch) Ray, Onno (Jennifer) Vierboom, Roslyn Vierboom, Colton (Jessica) Knorr and Sawyer Knorr.

Their great-grandchildren: Nixon, Reese, Amy, Daniel, Lily,  Kayandra, Ayris, Jade, Walter, Gordon, Stanley and Paisley.


Kathleen Susan Miller (née Bunbury)


Kathleen Susan Bunbury was born in Woodville on 29 March 1890 and was named as ‘Kathleen Bunbury’ on the 1901 census at which time, aged 11, she was living with her mother Alice and brother George. She married a clergyman named Robert Miller on 25 March 1913 in Killoran, Co. Galway. They had a son Robert Miller (born circa 1913-14) and two daughters (Olive and Kathleen Susan Constance) before the Rev Robert Miller’s premature death in January 1918 at the age of 40.

It is possible that she was the ‘Kathleen Bunbury’ of Nenagh who, still alive in 1945, had a possible connection to Fianna Eireann (which was strong in Nenagh) and may have had a son or husband who was a member.[30]

Kathleen lived with her second daughter Kathleen Susan Constance Miller in Bradford and Rugby, before moving to Scarborough and then Bournemouth. She died aged 83 in 1973 and was buried in Mt Jerome Cemetery, Dublin. [31]


George William Bunbury, Junior – The World’s Fastest Shorthand Writer.

George William Bunbury, the world’s fastest shorthand writer.


George William Bunbury the younger was the exceptionally talented son of George William Bunbury, sen. by Maria Georgeanne De’lessert. He was born on 22 April 1872. As a boy, he copied out his books – Robinson Crusoe, Coral Island, The Gorilla Hunters – in shorthand, ‘as a beginning to many years intense study and energetic practice, comparable only to the preparatory work of a concert pianist. Isaac Pitman himself encouraged his labours’. It paid off in 1894 when the 21-year-old Dubliner became the first (and, I believe, only) man to write shorthand at 250 words a minute for ten minutes. [32]

His speed earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records and Sir Reginald Guinness assigned him a job at the Guinness Brewery where he started work as a clerk in the Directors’ Office on 1 July 1898. He would stay in that office for 47 years, serving as its head for fifteen of them. Clever him to get a job at Guinness, and clever Guinness to make sure the secretary to their Board of Directors was the world’s fastest shorthand writer.

In 1901, 28-year-old George was living with his sister Madeleine Bunbury at Dufferin Road in Dublin. His first wife was Gertrude Agnes Bunbury, second daughter of the celebrated County Clare journalist and poet Thomas Stanislaus Cleary (1851-1898) who lived in Ennis for a period before returning to Dublin. [33] Gertrude, a Catholic, hailed from near Glasnevin, where her family – well-educated and skilled – occupied a solid, red-bricked terrace house.

Their son Thomas De’lessert Bunbury (known as Tom) was born in 1906. Gertrude subsequently contracted tuberculosis and, on doctor’s orders, they moved to Howth ‘for the benefit of her health’ and lived in a house called Gertville that stood on a height overlooking the distant sea. Tragically Gertrude succumbed in Howth on 22 May 1909. [34] She was buried at St. Fintan’s Cemetery in Sutton.[35]

The Southern Star, 10 February 1894, page 8


Thomas Stanislaus Clery

George Bunbury, with his son Thomas Dellesert Bunbury

At the time of the 1911 census, George and five-year-old Tom were living at 25 Kenilworth Park in Rathmines, Dublin. In the next year or two, George was married secondly to Elizabeth Irene L’Estrange Graham, known to her friends as Bessie and to George as ‘Gollie’. (She called him ‘Bunny’). Miss B. L’Estrange Graham was a celebrated contralto who studied either under a Mr Woodhouse or Jeannie Quinton-Rosse. She reached something of a peak in her career between 1909 and 1911 when the ‘Irish Primadonna’, as one paper called her, performed a series of concerts at the Gresham Hotel, the Rotunda (Antient Concert Rooms), the Kingstown Pavilion, the Commercial Rowing Club (where she drew ‘thunderous applause’), Sackville Hall and ‘At Home’ in Ely House for the Viceroy and his wife, Lady Aberdeen. She also won the Plunkett Greene Cup two years running at the Feis Ceol. However, it seems she opted (or was compelled) to give up singing after her marriage.

An example of Gregg’s shorthand writing

By his marriage to Bessie, George had two more sons, George (who served on the staff of the Park Royal Brewery) and Harry (who died of tuberculosis in 1949), and a daughter Evelyn Irene Bunbury, known as Gypsy, who was born on 7 March 1914. In 1932, aged 18, she went to work for Guinness and was based in the Accountants Department. She never married and died in 2001. Her last known address was 10 Greenmount Lawns, Terenure, Dublin 6W. [36]

Ida Bunbury once showed me an album he compiled of 100-120 pages.

After a fall-out with his stepmother, Tom Bunbury ran off to Australia and changed his name to (John Patrick?) Burgess. Tom married twice and, by his first marriage, was father to Gregory J. W. Bunbury who lives in Sydney. Tom also had seven children by Ethel Minney, the youngest of whom was the late Hazel Ogilvie who did much, in conjunction with Peter Bunbury and Ida Bunbury, to shed light on this chapter before her death in 2012. Hazel’s brother Lawrence Burgess was father to Peter Burgess.

George Bunbury was Directors’ Secretary at Guinness when he retired on 1 October 1945, at which time he was living at 18 Westbourne Road, Terenure, Dublin 6. He died on 14 February 1962, just a few weeks short of his 90th birthday. He received this obituary from the Belfast Telegraph on 14 February 1962:

‘Record shorthand writer MR. GEORGE BUNBURY of 18 Westbourne Road, Terenure, Dublin, who has died at 89, was one of the world’s fastest shorthand writers. He established a world record of 250 words per minute. maintained for 10 minutes. Mr Bunbury was employed in Guinness’s brewery in Dublin for 47 years. He had been secretary of the Irish Institute of Shorthand Writers. The Guinness book of records states that four people in the British Isles have recorded a speed of 250 w.p.m.. but for only five minutes.’

The family subsequently bought 12 Westbourne Road. Bessie survived him by five years and died on 14 June 1967.

Article on George Bunbury after he retires from Guinness, published in Dublin Evening Mail, 4 April 1945.


Thomas Dellesert Bunbury



George Bunbury & The Unfortunate Edwin Bunbury


Thom and Maria Bunbury’s third son, George Benjamin Bunbury, was born in about 1800 and served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. On 3 November 1836, he was married at Walcot church, Bath, to Elizabeth Ann, only child of Edwin Reeves, Esq., of Bath and Gay-street, Bristol.[37]

George and Elizabeth’s eldest son (Thomas) Edwin (George) Bunbury was an ordained Naval Chaplain and sometime Curate in Burton-on-Trent who spent some time in New ZealandEdwin Bunbury married Anna McGhie Pugh in 1870 but was subsequently confined to the Warneford Asylum on Old Road, Headington, Oxford, where he died on 9 May 1891, aged 51. As his family did not reclaim his body, he was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry.

Edwin and Anna’s son Charles Reeves Bunbury was born in Aylesbury in May 1875 and married Edith Ramsay. They were the parents of Edith Dorothy Bunbury (who married the Chief Police officer in Sandakan, see below under HWLB’s story) and Kathleen Anna Margaret Bunbury (born on 7 April 1904 and baptised in Grouville, Jersey). [viii]

Edwin and Anna’s second son Henry William Lisbrian Bunbury (see below) was born in Bath on 18 September 1876. Anna understandably covered up their father’s tragic demise and told her children he had died when they were young.

George and Elizabeth’s youngest son William Reeves Bunbury was an Indian Army man, starting off as an Ensign with the 82nd Regt and then transferring as a Captain to the Bengal Staff Corps where he ended up as Colonel. He married Elizabeth Garrett and had six sons, the South Stoneham branch, including:

  1. George Alexander Bunbury who was born in Southampton on 1 June 1870 and who, at the time of the 1881 Census, was living with his grandmother Elizabeth Bunbury (née Reeves). From Oriel College, Oxford, G. A. Bunbury was ordained in 1895 and after three years at the Church of Holy Trinity in Oxford, he set off as a C.M.S. missionary in 1898. In 1901, he became sub warden of St. Paul’s College, Hong Kong, a seminary for the training of Christian priests. [38] He married Alice Jane Clayton, who had been attached to a missionary organisation in Fukien Province before her marriage. Their wedding was presumably before 1903, the year their daughter Doris Elizabeth Bunbury was born. He officiated at the marriage of his cousin Henry William Lisbrian Bunbury to Helen Marjorie Miles on the 31 March 1921 when HWLB was on leave from North Borneo. He also presided at the 1902 wedding in Hong Kong of James Francis Wright of Ballinode, County Monaghan (and later of Gilford Castle, County Down) to Mary Menary, see image below. George Alexander Bunbury later became the Vicar of Leytonstone and died in Bath in 1937. His only child became well known as the psychiatrist Elizabeth Hilliard (1903-2001) who, in her retirement, with her husband Leslie, was instrumental in establishing two museums in Bath, the William Herschel Museum and Beckford’s Tower. (Obituaries: The Independent (London, England), June 14, 2001.)
  2. Hugh Sant Pierre Bunbury, who was killed in the First World War.
  3. Captain Charles Thomas Alexander Bunbury, who was brought up by aunts in Weston-super-mare because his father was in the Indian Army. Charles and his wife Aimee had five daughters – Phyllis, Ruth, Bridget (grandmother of Nikki Rodwell), Anne and Ursula (who remained a Bunbury as she was unmarried).


The wedding at St. John’s Place, Hong Kong April 2nd, 1902. The bride and groom are James Francis Wright and Mary Menary. Between them is Sir Thomas Jackson (uncle of the bride). On the extreme left is Mr. Johnston, Mr. (Rev.) Bunbury, Lucie Wright, (the woman right behind “Jim” WRIGHT – I am unsure of), Louis Jackson (wife of David Jackson with the boater-style hat), unnamed woman, unnamed man, unnamed woman (seated behind and between Sir Thomas and Mary Menary), two more unnamed women, and unnamed man, another unnamed woman, Mr. Edwards, Sallie Danby (possibly a sister of Lucy Danby who married Robert Thomas Wright of HSBC in Yokohama), Kathleen Jackson (either the daughter of Sir Thomas Jackson or the daughter of his brother John JACKSON). BACK ROW: A familiar face – but unknown to me at this time (possibly Andrew Coulter Bradford Jackson – brother of Sir Thomas Jackson and also uncle of the bride), Robert Thomas Wright of HSBC Yokohama – brother of the groom. Photo courtesy of Sharone Odie Browne. With thanks to Lucie Green.


A Dutch map from 1941 showing the Bunbury Shoals. (Photo: University of Leiden). Or click here to home in on the shoals from a map of 1881.


Henry William Lisbrien Bunbury & the Bunbury Shoals


See album at c/o Sabah (Malaysia) album at National Archives, Kew. It seems likely some of the photographs in this album were taken
by Mr Bunbury.

Henry William Lisbrien Bunbury of Borneo

The bulk of the following information was provided by my distant cousin, the late Peter Bunbury, who lived in West Australia and spent some 33 years living and working in Sandakan, North Borneo which became the State of Sabah within Malaysia in 1963.

Henry William Lisbrian Bunbury was born in Bath on 18 September 1876 and spent 28 years in Sabah, then British North Borneo, where he spent 28 years. He was at one time Acting Governor but fetched up as Resident, Sandakan. He graduated with a B.A. from Cambridge and was employed by the Chartered Company of North Borneo from 1900 onwards. As well as being a good photographer, he became fluent in both the Kadazan language and the local version of Malay. He was closely involved in the 1915 Rundum rebellion where he was the Interior Resident at the time. He is the likely origin for the name of the Bunbury Shoals which lie in the South China Sea, between the Spratly Islands and the northwest coast of Sabah near Kota Belud or Tuaran. The eight-mile-long shoals are adjacent to St Joseph Oil field, named after St Joseph Rock, which was run by Shell Sabah for many years and then sold to Hibiscus Petroleum. [39]

The Bunbury Shoals are in the South China Sea, near the Paracel Islands. The nearest point in Sabah is either Kota Belud or Kudat.  This is an oily area probably operated by Shell (Brunei). They are part of the Sunken Barrier Shoals, a line of shoals that run between Mangalum Island and the Mantanani Islands, which were first properly surveyed and named by the HMS Merlin, under the command of Commander Walter, between 1909 and 1914, during HWL’s magistracy at Tuaran. The survey recovered hydrocarbon gas samples that ultimately ‘laid the foundation for the subsequent large-scale petroleum-related hydrographic and seismic work off Brunei, Sarawak and Sabah. In 1914 HMS Merlin pushed on to Hong Kong.

In 2020, my old pal Paddy Mitchell, who worked in Brunei for many years, alerted me to the fact that HWL went on a science exhibition up Mount Kinabula with officers from the Merlin and suggests that he supplied all the brandy and cigars! He is referenced in relation to rebels in ‘British North Borneo’ by Owen Rutter (1922), and regarding locals and head-hunters in ‘Among primitive peoples in Borneo’ by Ivor Evans (1922). I have not seen either book, but both appear on Google Books.

HWL also engaged a local girl called Agnes Ninihan Kalau as what was referred to in those times as a “Sleeping Dictionary” – by no means unusual in those days. Sir Harry Flashman was a considerable enthusiast, as was Sir Richard Burton. She bore him two daughters, Mary Dorothy and Winifred Agnes, who were born in Papar, North Borneo, and married locally. Agnes Ninihan Kalau died in 1958 in Papar.

Mary Dorothy Bunbury, the eldest daughter, was born on 10 January 1908 and married Charles Peter. After the Second World War, HWL’s son Charles Peter, a naval officer, happened to call at Jesselton on his ship. He made a point of checking on the welfare of his father’s mistress, who had survived the Japanese occupation, as did her two daughters. However, Charles Peter was caught up in the rebellion against the Japanese in 1944. He was amongst 400 locals killed in a mass beheading at Petagas near Jesselton, now Kota Kinabalu. [40]

Winifred Agnes Bunbury, the younger daughter, was born on 10 June 1912 and married circa 1935 to Papar-born Stephen Michael Pritchard (1910-1952) but she died too young. They had three sons and four daughters, one of whom died in infancy during the Japanese occupation. Their eldest daughter Irene now lives in Canberra. Their second daughter Rosalind, a nurse in Jessleton, married the late Michael ‘Mike’ Baker, a Briton who graduated from Oxford, then Stamford, majoring in history. Mike Baker worked in Sandakan for the North Borneo Timber Company and was also, for a while, part of the supervisory staff in their logging camp at Kretam. The Bakers had two daughters Nicola (born 1969), who is researching this history, and Philippa (born 1972). Another daughter Vivienne Pritchard Pembrey was in touch with me by Facebook in November 2016.

As they were girls, the Bunbury name died out from these children of HWL’s first union.

HWL was on leave in U.K. after WW1 when he married Helen Marjorie Miles on 21 March 1921 at Marylebone. Their daughter Daphne Ann Bunbury was born in Sandakan on 18 February 1922. Whilst on UK leave in 1926, a son Charles Henry Bunbury was born in Woking, Surrey, on 25 April. In 1926 and 1927, they were accompanied on their return from leave by Edith Dorothy Bunbury, daughter of his brother Charles, who had married the Chief Police officer in Sandakan. Edith was interned by the Japanese when they arrived in 1942.

On their return from leave in 1927, HWL resumed duty as Resident, Sandakan where, on 28 February 1928, his wife died suddenly, presumably from cerebral malaria as she had just returned from Jesselton where she competed in a golf tournament. She was buried in the Protestant section of the Sandakan cemetery, up the hill behind Singapore Road.

Left to care for his two young children, HWL resigned from the Chartered Company and went to live in Cheltenham where he died in 1950. After he was cremated, the then Resident Sykes brought his ashes back to Sandakan where they were buried in his wife’s grave.

HWL’s daughter Daphne married Michael McClure Williams in 1947 and there were 3 children. She died in Cheltenham in 1993.

HWL’s son Charles Henry Bunbury became a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy and was married in 1953 to Norah Alice Bredon by whom he had a daughter and two sons. He now lives in Sothwold, Suffolk.






Much of this information was provided by my late cousin Peter Bunbury, of West Australia, who was a huge source of inspiration and support to me in my genealogical endeavours for many years while I tried to make sense of all the different branches of this family. Also of vital assistance has been William Minchin, a Canadian descendant of the Woodville Bunburys.

With thanks also to Audrey Arthure, Nicola Baker, Michael Brennan (Carlow Rootsweb), Dr Clíodhna Ní Mhurchú, Jerry Gardner, Sharon Brown, Ida Bunbury, David Williams, John Oisín Moran, Noel O’Donnell, the late Hazel Ogilvie, Sarah Ogilvie, David Prout, Anne Farrelly, Robin Webb Thomas, Michael Purcell, Robert Reed, Patrick Gageby, Dr Miriam Moffitt, Eibhlin Roche (Guinness Archives), Paddy Mitchell, Nikki Rodwell, David Broderick. Kevin James, Megan Stevens, Jennifer Donovan and Jackie Uí Chionna.




[1] Clare Journal, Thursday 10 Sept 1801, Dublin: – Married on Wednesday 2nd at Lisbrian, Co. Tipperary, the seat of Sir Robert Waller, Bart. Captain Bates of the 21st Light Dragoons to Miss Waller, youngest daughter of the late Sir Robert Waller, Bart

[2] Dublin Evening Post – Saturday 07 May 1796. The Bernard and Bunbury family had been connected for several generations by this time. Also of note was this marriage from the Kentish Gazette, 21 October 1800: ‘Lately, at Killboy, in the county of Tipperary, Thomas Bernard, esq. of Castletown, in the Kings’s County, to the Hon. Miss Eliz. Prittie, youngest daughter of Lord Conally.’ See more on the Bernard family here.

[3] Dublin Observer – Saturday 18 August 1832.

[4] Limerick Chronicle, Wednesday 6 August 1834.

[5] Dublin Morning Register, 6 January 1843

[6] ‘Thomas Bunbury, Esq., has left Lisbryan for Moyle, the seat of Captain Bunbury M’Clintock, M.P..’ Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 13 November 1847

[7] Among the Labanasigh tenants was Henry James who married Mary Cullen in Carrigbeg in 1841; they were living at Labanasigh when their fourth child was born circa 1852. (Thanks to Kevin James)

[8] With thanks to Cáit Seoighe. When trying to work out why the Bunburys were in Spiddal, I wondered if it might be something to do with the Irish Church Missions but, as of March 2019, the name ‘Bunbury’ rang no bells with Dr Miriam Moffitt of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Miriam has published two books of relevance, “Soupers and Jumpers: The Protestant Missions in Connemara, 1848-1937” (2008) and “The Society of the Irish Church Missions to the Roman Catholics: Philanthropy or Bribery?” (2006). There was a station, albeit not the most successful one, and an orphanage, possibly the precursor to the Bird’s Nest. The Irish Church Missions still exist at 28 Bachelor’s Walk, just a couple of yards from O’Connell Bridge. The ICM had a children’s home, Nead na Farraige in Spiddal and the people who worked there were managed separately. The Nead was subsequently incorporated into the Birds Nest and Smyly homes. As Miriam remarked, ‘There was a considerable workforce in these homes, nurses and teachers and what we would nowadays term care assistants. Often people moved from the ICM infrastructure of missions and schools (community based work) to the residential section.’ Miriam also notes that the Eyres (with whom Dr Brodie was married) were a long standing Clifden family and that they were not active supporters of the mission. ‘The local Protestant community was somewhat ambivalent to the ICM, some were avid supporters, some less so, some quite critica’.

[9] Edmund Ashworth was married to Charlotte Christy of the hat manufacturing family. Her sister Ann married Edmund’s brother Thomas, but died after only a few years of marriage, and he remarried. Charlotte accompanied her brother, and brother-in-law, on their earliest trips to Ireland. See the Wakefield family history on this website.

[10] This letter was published in the King’s County Chronicle on 16 July 1874. Sadleir Stoney (1822-1899) lived at Ballycaple House, Co. Tipperary.

[11] A Genealogical & Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry, Sir Bernard Burke, 1852. A contemporary record claims her father lived at Lisbegan House, surely a typo?

[12] For more on this, see ‘A window on history’ by Christine Casey and Christopher Ward, History Ireland (Issue 1 (Spring 1997), News, Volume 5)

[13] King’s County Chronicle, 24 August 1870.

[14] The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 212.

[15] With thanks to Megan Stevens. For more, see

[16] Much of this information was provided by Bartley O’Donnell’s grandson Noel O’Donnell who was born in Rosmuc. Noel, whom I spoke to in January 2014, has Susan’s will, in which she also left money to her nephew Colonel Charles Lawson, her niece Eily [sic] Marshall and someone called Minnie Bunbury Smith. Noel also has a document dated 6 May 1865 pertaining to Thomas Bunbury of Lisbrian and Captain George William Bunbury.

[17] The Molly Bunbury murder case formed the opening episode of the series “Racht” for TG4, which aired on 30 September 2015, repeated in June 2018. The series was produced by Paper Owl Films, who are based in Belfast. See the trailer here. There is a useful extract on this case in a review of Pauline Prior’s book ‘Madness and Murder: Gender, Crime and Mental Disorder in Nineteenth-Century Ireland’ (Irish Academic Press, 2008) published online by in 2008.

‘One cannot but be touched by the many cases of dreadful distress recounted here. The majority of the Dundrum inmates had been convicted of murder or serious assaults: many were traumatised to the extent that they could remember little of the events. Prior strives to find a balance between the criminal, the victim, and often the victim’s family, and permit each to “speak” their perspective of the crime. The famous Galway doctor Terence Brodie is a case in point. Convicted of murdering his wife in 1886 – and the testimony from his servants of how he drunkenly taunted her before her shooting, is truly harrowing – Brodie spent only five years in Dundrum before being discharged and emigrating to South Africa. His release (secured through influential connections) was vigorously opposed by his wife’s family, who also objected to the fact that he continued to enjoy a substantial income from her estate. Yet the reader’s response to this apparent case of gender and class inequality is complicated by the fact that Brodie had himself suffered dreadful trauma … He had lost his entire first family in the space of two months in 1879; two young sons to diphtheria in November, followed by his wife and her newborn infant just weeks later. His surviving daughter was taken to Dublin to be raised by an aunt, leaving him alone (and drinking heavily) in Galway. The doomed second marriage thus had a context that causes the reader to pause before rushing to judgment, and demonstrates the complexity that lies behind the blunt category of “criminal lunatic”.’

(With thanks to Jackie Uí Chíonna)

[18] Thanks to Clíodhna Ní Mhurchú. Irish speakers may also enjoy Clíodhna’s interview 6 minutes in at Iris Aniar Dé hAoine 22 Deireadh Fómhair 2021.

[19] Frances was referred to as Fanny in her marriage notice in the Warder & Dublin Weekly Mail recorded on 22 February 1861, and on the 1901 Census she was Fanny Bunbury. See 1901 Census here and 1911 Census here.

[20] Thanks to David Broderick.

[21] With thanks to Jennifer Donovan, daughter of Tom and Angel.

[22] Sarah Bunbury was a daughter of Lieut. Charles Carden Mansergh (1802-1873) and his wife (married 1830) Elizabeth Bland. Her siblings included Major John Loftus Otway Mansergh (1835-1863); Mary Adelaide Catherine Mansergh (who married Maj. John Lawrie in 1858); Elizabeth Frances Olivia Mansergh; Georgina Constance Antoinette Mansergh (who m. Robert St. John Cole Bowen in 1884 and died in 1886); Maj. Charles Stepney Perceval Egmont (1841-1879, married Helen Ogilvy in 1870); Maj. Arthur Henry Wentworth Mansergh (1844, married Bessie Horner Boyd in 1878); Major Neville Frederick Mansergh (145-1883, married Anne Elizabeth Gibbs in 1870); St. George Dyson (1848-1926, married Alice Emma (née Horner) Peel in 1881).

[23] She may have been the ‘Kathleen Bunbury’ who, still alive in 1945, had a possible connection to Fianna Eireann and may have had a son or husband who was a member. (This from a Facebook message from Eamon Murphy).

[24] Freeman’s Journal, 24 December 1884, p. 1.

[25] See full details in Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer, 20 July 1912, p. 10.

[26] Captain Thomas’s mother Georgina (née Sherlock) was a sister of Captain Thomas Henry Sherlock, MRCVS, grandfather to Anne Farrelly who helped me make sense of the above data. Thanks also to Robin Webb Thomas jun.

[27] With thanks to Jerry Gardner.

[28] Thanks to Jerry Gardner.

[29] With thanks to Adrian Wynne-Morgan for advising of this tale.

[30] This followed on from a Facebook message I received from Eamon Murphy whose grandfather Eamon Martin was not only Fianna Chief of Staff from 1916-1920 but also married to a Church of Ireland Protestant.

[31] Source David Prout.

[32] These details from a booklet called ‘Bunbury on Pitman’s Shorthand’ were recorded in the St. James’s Gate newsletter at the time of his retirement in 1945. Thanks to Eibhlin Roche.

[33] In November 2018, I was contacted on Facebook by John Carey, a great, great, great grandson of T. S. Cleary.

[34] Weekly Irish Times, 5 June 1909.

[35] With thanks to David Neary.

[36] Guinness also have a record of an Anthony Bunbury who only worked in the Brewery for 4 years from 1957 – 1961. Thanks to Eibhlin Roche.

[37] The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, November 5, 1836; Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser, 14 November 1836. Thanks to Sharon Oddie Brown.

[38] 1906 Who’s Who of the Far East: BUNBURY, Rev. George Alexander (Hong Kong) M.A. clergyman Born June 10, 1870. Educated: past; Oriel College, Oxford; second-class classical mods., 1890; second-class literature humanities 1893. Ordained 1895; Church of Holy Trinity, Oxford, 1895 – 98; C.M.S. missionary from 1898; sub warden of St. Paul’s College, Hong Kong since 1901. Address: 2 College Gardens, Hong Kong.

[39] ‘Asiatic Pilot: Sunda strait and the southern approaches to China sea with west and north coasts of Borneo and off-lying dangers, Volume V, (United States. Hydrographic Office, 2nd edition, 1925).

[40] This information was given to Peter Bunbury by the late Mary Georgina Peter, the second daughter of Charles and Mary Dorothy, who lived in Melbourne. My initial miscorrection of ‘Peters’ was kindly corrected by James Peter, a grandson of Charles and Mary Dorothy, in 2020.

Molly Bunbury’s grave at Bohermore.