Contents & Reviews
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.
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.
I was utterly elated by the very first review I received for ‘The Irish Diaspora’ by Sean Connolly, published in the April 2021 edition of BBC History Magazine, the UK’s biggest selling history magazine. This is an extract:
‘An impeccably researched book that shows how Irish emigrants have made their mark on history … This fascinating assortment of case histories, spread across 1,400 years and six continents, is an impressive feat of research. All of the chapters are based on a solid body of up-to-date historical writing. The summaries of often-complex historical background to the lives explored are models of lucid compression. The short biographies themselves are lively yet judicious, packed with vivid detail but willing, where necessary, to question or dismiss colourful legend. And the reader will come away with a new sense of the many ways in which Ireland has interacted with the world beyond its shores, and of some of the extraordinary careers that have resulted.’
‘Bunbury’s stories weave the tapestry of Irish emigration through over nearly 1500 years and many carefully chosen life stories, each a potential book in itself. His pacey but well-researched narrative is addictive. Just when you finish a chapter to take a break from the read, you find yourself turning the page for….. just one more story. The research that underpins the short and engaging biographies delivers credible detail. Bunbury’s book is a delightful read … history at its most vibrant.’
Diaspora Digital News
‘A wonderfully rich book of stories. Love it.’
A valuable and immensely readable addition to the Diaspora canon.
Ragnar Almqvist, Embassy of Ireland, Washington D. C.
The Kilkenny People
The New York Daily News
Intriguing … warm and engaging … a fascinating range of people.
‘A lovely and engrossing portrayal of 42 vignettes of such a melange of characters to ever grace the pages of a book. One could not ask for a more excellent collective prosopography.’
‘I just had the pleasure of finishing ‘The Irish Disapora’ and what a book! An absolutely brilliant, thoroughly entertaining and informative read. Will be recommending to everyone! Not one for tweeting my appreciation but this book was a super read so thank you!’
‘We are loving this new book – it has so many great tales about the Irish abroad. If you are looking for some inspiring stories of people from this little island of ours and their impact on the world, get this!’
Old Ireland in Colour
‘Well researched, fascinating reading.’
‘My wife got this for me as one of my birthday presents. It is the best books I’ve read on all things Irish and our global impact from emigration. It should be in history classes across our secondary schools.’
Turtle Bunbury has done it again. In his latest “unputdownable” read the dispersion of the Irish throughout the world is traced in such a way that you just want to keep reading to see just what the next little known fact will be – and, believe me – there are plenty! In his own individual style this book is written (and so well researched) that the end product retains your interest from start to finish! I certainly recommend this to anyone who has an interest in factual history written in a way that is definitely not “stuffy”.
There are books, good books and exceptional books – this is an exceptional book. I have a growing collection of your fine books and greatly envy your lightness of scholastic touch. Your skill in drawing in readers, while retaining historic integrity, is to be respected and admired. Well done.
Perfect lazy Sunday afternoon. Just love it. So many surprises JG stories.
My new favourite read. Congratulations @turtlebunbury on distilling 42 gripping stories of extraordinary members of the Irish diaspora into one very readable volume. Highly recommended.
Serious, properly researched history for a non-academic audience is something we really need, so I was delighted with what you had written – and also learned a lot.
Prof Sean Connolly
A seriously beautiful book! Really nicely produced and irresistible reading! Just dipping in and re-reading the Hercules Mulligan; it’s a master class in deft storytelling and such a fun new window on the Revolution. It’s the perfect bedside read for every expat and those keeping the home first burning.
Wonderful read – compelling stuff.
I share your interest in history – but your skill at providing the facts and the background to events is unrivalled.
I took great joy in reading “The Irish Diaspora”. As a successful businessman, who has lived the American dream, someone who emigrated from Ireland in 1989, I took great pride in celebrating some of your many Irish emigrant stories with my Family. Thanks for a great book!
Paul McDonnell, New York
Well done, a good one!
A great read, I would highly recommend it.
Perfectly written as always – I can’t put the book down
I can’t put it down. Absolutely marvellous history, so well written in your smooth engaging style. My problem will become how can I bear to switch off my bedside lamp to sleep this evening.
Richard Crampton, Virginia
The Irish Diaspora was really a great read … . What I liked about this book was the way you describe situations, in past centuries, in a dialogue as though you were there and knew what people were thinking, and how they looked etc. You have a unique way of relating events and describing people in various situations and even the colour of their eyes … I think that made it very readable too. The photos look swell. Well done.
I was so honored and thrilled by the dedication of your book. It’s a great book, so interesting, inspiring and readable. Bravo!
Rosie O’Neill, Chicago
Your range is truly impressive and your detachment and objectivity admirable. You have the indefinable gift of carrying your reader along.
A wonderful book. Well done!
Love it , a great read.