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The Irish Diaspora – Tales of Emigration, Exile & Imperialism – Contents

The Irish Diaspora – Tales of Emigration, Exile & Imperialism, described by BBC History Magazine as ‘an impeccably researched book that shows how Irish emigrants have made their mark on history.’ Available from Eason’s, Kenny’s, DubrayAmazon and all usual online outlets.



Turtle traces the story of the Irish abroad from the hazy stories of the first missionaries through the seafarers, warriors and explorers of centuries past. Homing on on a variety of convicts, imperialists, emigrants, famine refugees and political activists, a picture emerges of a truly astonishing legacy that has pushed Ireland to the forefront in the present age.




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The Irish have always been a travelling people. Since 1800 an estimated 10 million people have left the Irish shores and today more than 80 million people worldwide claim Irish descent.

Maybe it’s an island thing or perhaps it’s simply the temptation of that vast tract of water that lies along its western shore. In the centuries after the fall of Rome, Irish missionaries carried the word of the Christian god throughout Europe while soldiers and mariners from across the land ventured overseas in all directions.

The advent of the British Empire ignited a slow but extraordinary exodus from Ireland. The pioneering explorers of the Tudor Age were soon overtaken in number by religious refugees, the ‘Wild Geese’ who opted to live outside of the Protestant state that Ireland had become and to take their chances in the Spanish or French empires, or in the fledgling New World of the Americas.

Not surprisingly, the Irish played a pivotal role in the foundation of the United States of America. A mass exodus to Ireland prompted by the Famine is part of the reason why over 200,000 Irish men and women fought in the US Civil War. Other Irish would come to the fore in business, science, engineering and the arts, while yet more were destined for infamy as mobsters and gunslingers.

For many Irish, the British Empire provided the perfect opportunity to see – and exploit – the wider world. Over the centuries, millions of young Irishmen fought in the British Army, or the Royal Navy or, later, the Royal Air Force. Many rose to the very top of their profession and their impact on wars with French, Russian, Zulu and German alike was immeasurable.

Irish merchants prospered from the international commerce opportunities that came with empire, not least the slave trade.  Elsewhere the civil service that oiled the imperial machine was thick with Irish men and women throughout its hierarchy; many served as governors of colonies such as India, Australia, Jamaica, New Zealand, Ceylon and such like. Indeed, at least two British prime ministers were born in Ireland while plenty of respectable women from Ireland doubled up as mistresses to British monarchs.

The lives of Irish emigrants wove in and out of the major events of global history, including the Abbé Edgeworth, confessor to King Louis XVI at his execution during the French Revolution; Margaretta Eagar, governess to the daughters of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia; and William Lamport, who travelled from County Wexford to Central America, and became Don Guillén, a martyr for Mexican independence.

In this acclaimed work, Turtle explores the lives of those men and women, great and otherwise, whose journeys – whether driven by faith, a desire for riches and adventure, or purely for survival – have left their mark on the world.

The book was published by Thames & Hudson in 2021.



Book Reviews

Introduction: Emerald Exodus
Columbanus and the Merovingian Kings
Virgilius of Salzburg
The Carolingian Irish
Brendan the Navigator and the Monks of Iceland
Helias of Cologne
The Creation of the Irish Saints
Jacobo of Ireland and the Mongol Empire
Luke Wadding and the Vatican Elite
Don Guillén, the Original Zorro
Lord Bellomont’s Piratical Venture
George Berkeley, the ‘Irish Plato’ and Bermuda College
12 Richard Brew, Slave Trader
The Abbé de Firmont
Hercules Mulligan, Washington’s Spy
James Hoban, Architect of the White House
Hugh Gough, Conqueror of the Punjab
Pat Watkins, Crusoe of the Galápagos
Chile’s Irish Patriots
John Field: A Muscovy Nocturne
Frederick Young, Father of the Gurkhas
Dr James Barry, Caesarean Pioneer
The Texas Revolution
23 Sir George Gore, Buffalo Slayer
Margaret of New Orleans
Children of the Great Hunger
Little Al Cashier
Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Father of the Canadian Confederation
28 The Railroad Men
Eliza Lynch, First Lady of Paraguay
John Philip Holland, Father of the Submarine
Nellie Cashman, Angel of the Wild West
The Grace Brothers: Conquest of Peru
Annie Moore, the First Emigrant Through Ellis Island
Margaretta Eagar, the Last Tsar’s Governess
The Moore Brothers, Hollywood Stars
Louis Brennan, the Wizard of Oz
Violet Gibson: Killing Mussolini
Don Patricio O’Connell, Barça’s Saviour
Lord Haw-Haw, the Voice of Nazi Germany
Brendan Bracken, Churchill’s Spin Doctor
Patrick Gallagher, Vietnam Hero
The Irish and the White House 
Epilogue: Reflections on Irish Identity

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Further Diaspora Tales


The Irish Abroad


Ireland’s Wine Geese

Walter Butler & the Death of Wallenstein by Melosina Lenox-Conyngham

Falkland of the Islands

William McClintock (1697-1774) of Cappagh & the Pennsylvania Links

The Irishman who built 10 Downing Street

Commodore John Barry (1745-1803), Father of the American Navy

Hugh Mill Bunbury & the Guyana Connection

Michael Hayes (1767-1825) – Rebel, Convict, Merchant, Bigamist?

Charles Byrne, the Irish Giant (1761-1783)

William Browne – Father of the Argentine Navy

Samuel Clayton: Forger, Freemason, Freeman

Dr. Barry O’Meara (1786-1836) – Napoleon’s Doctor

Sir John Conroy (1786-1854) – Childhood Nemesis of Queen Victoria

Honest Tom Steele (1788-1848) – Landlord and Repealer

Major Thomas Bunbury (1791-1861) & the Treaty of Waitangi – Envoy Extraordinary

Sir William Gregory (1817-1892) – Governor of Ceylon

Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) – Musical Pioneer

Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (1829-1892) – No. 1 Bandmaster of the USA

Lola Montez and the King of Bavaria

Bob & Kate Ievers in Ceylon, plus Ethel, Nena and Kitty

Billy the Kid (1859-1882)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) – A Study in Green

The Irishmen who Founded Menlo Park, California

The Choctaw Nation’s Extraordinary Gift to Ireland, 1847

John Concannon & the Grapes of Mexico

Spike Island – Australian Convicts & the Vagrancy Act

William Whitelocke-Lloyd: The Irishman who Sketched the Zulu War

John Devoy (1842-1928) – Fenian Rebel & Sponsor of the Easter Rising

George Moore: The Man Behind Alfred Nobbs

William Knox D’Arcy (1849-1917) – The Irish Oil Tycoon

Sir Ernest Shackleton – By Endurance, We Conquer

The Irish Air Aces – Mick Mannock, Jimmy McCudden & George ‘McIrish’ McElroy

Nurse Colhoun and the bombing of Vertekop, 1917

Michael Keogh – The Irishman who Saved Hitler

Sam Maguire & Liam MacCarthy – For Whom the Cups are Named

William Desmond Taylor – A Hollywood Murder Story

Lucia Joyce (1907-1982) – Portrait of a Troubled Daughter

Mae Coughlin (1897-1986) – The Cork family of Al Capone’s Wife

The Irish & the White House – Why Irish Eyes are Smiling

Reflections on Irish Identity, 2024

Turtle Bunbury’s Global Irish


Irish Ancestry


Henry Ford (1863 –1947)

Tom Cruise’s Irish Ancestry

Violet Jessop – ‘The Luckiest Woman Afloat’

Walt Disney’s Leprechaun Hunt

Grace Kelly (1929-1982) – Olympic Gold & Mayo Princesses

Mrs. Nixon, the First Lady from County Mayo

Harrison Ford – The Hollywood Carpenter

Obama: A Tale of Irish Wigmakers, Shoemakers & Oratorical Bishops

Joe Biden’s Irish Roots

Meghan’s Roots: The Duchess of Sussex’s Ancestral Links to Ireland, Malta & New Brunswick


Diaspora Groups


Galvin of Ballyporeen, Co. Tipperary & Chile

The O’Leary and Cavanaugh Families – From Kerry to Houston via Oil City

The Harringtons – From the Beara to Butte City, Montana

Irish Links to Albany, New York

The Irish in Chicago