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This extensive archive offers hundreds of historical articles on (mostly Irish) families, houses, companies and events, including content from Turtle Bunbury’s best-selling ‘Vanishing Ireland’ series, as well as ‘Easter Dawn’, ‘Dublin Docklands’, ‘The Irish Pub’, ‘Maxol’ and the ‘Past Tracks’ panels now on show at Irish Rail stations throughout Ireland.

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This considerable archive is updated, improved and expanded on a daily basis. You can also try searching by County, by Historical Era or by Category here. If any story you seek is incomplete or not showing up, please email us and we shall investigate.

The Altar of St. John by Rogier van der Weyden (c.1400–1464), from a c. 1455 oil-on-oak wood panel altarpiece now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. This panel shows the beheading of John, with Salome receiving the disembodied head on a plate.
The Forgotten Cult of St John the Baptist in Medieval Ireland by Michael Brabazon & Turtle Bunbury

Following his seizure of the High Kingship of Ireland in 1120, Turlough O’Connor, King of Connacht, and the O’Duffys, attempted to establish Tuam, County Galway, as a new political and spiritual capital. As part of the project, a new priory-hospital was dedicated to St John the Baptist. This became the centre of a cult that brought bonfires and holy wells to all parts of Ireland but its story became blurred when it was confused with a later order that became known as the Fratres Cruciferi.

A Rare 19th Century Stick Grenade - Oak Park, County Carlow
A Rare 19th Century Stick Grenade – Oak Park, County Carlow

Homing in on a grenade found as part of a cache in the basement of Oak Park House in County Carlow, shortly after it was taken over by An Foras Taluntais (now Teagasc).

Colour lithograph of a barber powdering a wig on a stand.
Thomas Bunbury (1705-1774) of Kill, County Carlow

The life of a Georgian gentleman farmer in 18th century Ireland as he extends his land ownership from County Carlow into Longford and Kildare. Thomas Bunbury was grandfather of Jane Bunbury who married John McClintock of Drumcar, from whom the McClintock Bunbury family descend, and also of Field Marshal Viscount Gough.

Captain William Murphy, courtesy of the Tullow Museum, County Carlow.
Murphy of Kill House, near Tullow, County Carlow

Once home to the Bunbury family, Kill House (Kilmagarvogue) later passed to Edward Murphy, an Irish nationalist. His son Bill died fighting alongside Tom Kettle at the Somme – the Captain Murphy Memorial Hall in Tullow is named for him.

A History of Ballyfin House, Co. Laoise, Ireland
A History of Ballyfin House, Co. Laoise, Ireland

Consistently ranked among the world’s top resorts, Ballyfin’s history reaches back to an age when the O’More chieftains dominated the surrounding lands. Its story encompasses multiple families – Crosbie, Pole, Coote and Wellesley – with Iron Dukes, bounders and heiresses in the mix, as well as its tenure as a Patrician school and its remarkable restoration in the present century.

In 1975, four generations of FitzGeralds gathered at Langston House, Chadlington, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. L-R: Gerald (8th Duke of Leinster), with his grandson Thomas on his lap, seated near his father, the 7th Duke, with Maurice, the present duke standing in between. Joshua Reynolds’s portrait of the 2nd Duke is on the wall behind them.
Kilkea Castle 8 – Nightfall (1887-1961)

The FitzGeralds would face no end of challenges during the opening decades of the 20th century with two tragic deaths and the loss of a huge portion of their ancestral wealth. However, with the birth of the Irish Free State, Kilkea Castle in County Kildare remained home for many FitzGerald sons and daughters through both wars until 1961 when sold by the 8th Duke of Leinster.

Above: Mantua, Swords, County Dublin, taken by Maurice Craig in the book, “Vanishing Country Houses of Ireland." This was Redmond
Kane’s house in the 1770s and is where his grandchildren, including the future Jane McClintock (Bunbury), were born. Sadly it was
subsequently demolished, but it looks like rather a remarkable pile. Mantua Road is still there, being a business park located
between the old Belfast Road and the Malahide Estuary.
Redmond Kane and the O'Cahan Family

The story of the O’Cahans of Limavady, who became the Kane family, prominent bankers, homing in on the attorney Redmond Kane of Mantua, Swords, County Dublin, one of the wealthiest commoners in Ireland during the late 18th century. He was also for many years the Solicitor to the Irish Company entrusted with management of what is now County Derry Londonderry. In time, the substantial Kane estates would pass to his grandson Colonel Kane Bunbury.

The dresses worn by Kate Rathdonnell and her eldest daughter Isabella at the latter's wedding to Forrester Colvin in 1894.
The Life & Times of Thomas Kane McClintock Bunbury, 2nd Baron Rathdonnell, of Lisnavagh, County Carlow – Part 2 (1879-1913)

Taking the story from his succession as 2nd Baron Rathdonnell in 1879 and the complexities of the Land Wars, through the glory days of Anchor, Bluebeard and the other Lisnavagh bulls, plus the marriage of his daughters, the death of Billy in the Anglo-Boer War and up to the eve of the Great War.

The Altartate Cauldron in the Prehistoric Ireland exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. The find suggests the continuation of certain Later Bronze Age traditions into the Early Iron Age although its form differs from that of Later Bronze Age cauldrons. A band of ornament below the rim, which may be compared closely with that found on certain Early Iron Age spears, suggests that the wooden cauldron may have been carved during the 2nd century BC. See also image on this page of WIlliam Mealiff.

(With thanks to Matthew Gallagher).
A History of Bishopscourt, Clones, Co. Monaghan

Built as a rectory for the Church of Ireland during the Napoleonic Wars, Bishopscourt was considered such a fine abode that two Bishops of Clogher opted to use it as their main place of residence during the first decades of the 20th century. This tale takes in the Lennard family, scions of a natural daughter of Charles II, as well as Cassandra Hand, champion of Clones Lace; the dairying enterprise of the Mealiff family; the fabulously named Baldwin Murphy; and the enigmatic Archie Moore, Consultant Surgeon at Monaghan General Hospital.

Black Tom Wentworth, Earl of Strafford.
Madden of Bloxham Beauchamp (England) and Manor Waterhouse / Hilton Park (Ireland)

Exploring the origins of the Madden family of County Monaghan and their connection to the Waterhouse of Manor Waterhouse (Fermanagh), the Butlers of Stotfold (Bedfordshire) and Belturbet (Cavan) and Black Tom Wentworth.

John William Seoige. Photo: James Fennell.
John William Seoighe (1919-2015) – The Oarsman of Connemara

An interview with one of the greatest oarsmen of currachs and Galway hookers to emerge in the 20th century, as well as his remarkable Connemara background and expeditions to Huddersfield and Jersey.

Stephen John Tierney
Stephen John Tierney (1935-2010) – Farmer of Lough Corrib, County Galway

 ‘Make a living on it if you can and if you can’t, pack it up. Farms are a thing of the past,’ says he, ‘and all that’s keeping them going are old lads like me at seventy! A young lad doesn’t want to know about it.’

Tomas O Niallain (farmer, musician & policeman, born 1932) Gort, Co. Galway
Tomás Ó Nialláin (c. 1932)- Farmer, Policeman & Melodeon Player – Gort, Co. Galway

If they had to choose their absolute favourite, the cows would probably opt for the Kilfenora …

When Tomás played reels to his cattle, they stood easy and the milk flowed pure and simple. But when he threw on a rock n’ roll record, all Hell broke loose. ‘It had them cracked,’ he recalls. ‘They broke the machines and fences and everything.’ To play it safe, Tomás just sang while he milked and that did the job. ‘Republican ballads,’ he says. ‘Some of the cows sang-a-long.’

What’s in a Name? The Houses of St Columba’s College
What’s in a Name? The Houses of St Columba’s College

St Columba’s College in Dublin is named for the feisty Donegal missionary best known who brought Christianity to Pictish Scotland, but who are the houses at the school named for? The story behind Iona, Stackallan, Beresford, Clonard, Holly Park, Glen, Gwynne, Tibradden and Killmashogue.

Murder of a Wife, the death of Molly Bunbury.
Bunbury of Lisbryan, Spiddal, Woodville … and Borneo

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.

Colley Siblings: Dudley, Jack, Noreen, Valery
The Colleys of Castle Carbery, Mount Temple & Corkagh

The story of the Colleys is a rip-roaring account from the first  dastardly Tudor to come to Ireland on Thomas Cromwell's watch through to the sad finale for Corkagh, the Colley house near Clondalkin, County Dublin. Among those profiled are the Duke of Wellington, the novelist Elizabeth Bowen, the Titanic victim Eddie Colley and the ancestors of the actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes.

The River Chicago is dyed green every St Patrick's Day.
The Irish in Chicago

By 1890, Chicago had the third highest population of Irish emigrants in the USA. The city's Irish-American heroes include Butch O'Hare, Captain Francis O'Neill, Richard Daley, Mother Jones and the men who built the I&M Canal.

Detail from Philadelphia 1778
William McClintock (1697-1774) of Cappagh & the Pennsylvania Links

A branch of the Donegal family who made their mark in Pennsylvania, including the McClintock Slave Riot of 1847, when John McClintock was accused of instigating a riot that resulted in the rescue of a number of fugitive slaves

Figure 2: A Scottish fisherlass with fingers protected while gutting herring. The same practice would have been followed in Omeath. 
The Forgotten Fadgies: From Omeath To West Belfast – A Guest Post by Brian Hopkins

Omeath and its townlands at the northern tip of County Louth was home to the last of the Irish speakers in Leinster. Beginning with the Great Hunger and later the decline in herring fishing, people migrated from Omeath to Belfast. Here they sold fish and fruit in the city centre and were assigned the nickname Fadgies. Until recently, their history was relatively unknown. This article brings together a wide range of relevant literature to chart this history.

The soprano Grace Bumbrey.
Bumbry (Bunbury) of Virginia

The eldest grandson of Sir Henry Bunbury went to North America as an indentured servant in 1660 and became a tobacco farmer in Virginia. His great-grandson Dick founded the Bunberry, or Bumbrey, family, from whom sprang Grace Bumbry, one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of her generation. The family also connect to Abraham Lincoln’s assassin and Ronald Reagan’s near assassin.

Beneath the Rent Table, 27 slabs surround the four inner base slabs. The tabletop weighs approximately 450 kilos and each leg about 80 kilos. The place where the table stood at Kilkea is still visible by the outline of the original plinth. The three cannonballs below the table were found in the Maynooth vicinity and were probably fired at the castle when Silken Thomas was besieged in 1535. Where are they now!?
Kilkea Castle, Chapter 4 – The Geraldine Age, Part I – Rise and Fall (1273-1537)

In the 1420s, Kilkea Castle in County Kildare was considerably extended and improved by the Earls of Kildare who would become the most influential dynasty in Ireland by the end of the century. With the Tudors came a sensational but disastrous rebellion that would bring the FitzGerald elite to the brink of extinction.

Tom Bunbury, 2nd Baron Rathdonnell  with his wife, Kate (née Bruen), courtesy of Hugh Dalgety.
The Life & Times of Thomas Kane McClintock Bunbury, 2nd Baron Rathdonnell of Lisnavagh, County Carlow – Part 3 (1914-1929)

Following the final quarter of a century of Tom Rathdonnell's life from the outbreak of the First Word War through the Irish revolutionary period to the Wall Street Crash.

Benjamin Bunbury (1642-1707), the first of the family to settle at Killerrig. Courtesy of Camilla Corrie of Leighton Hall, Shropshire, England.
Benjamin Bunbury (1642-1707) of Killerig, Lisnavagh & Tobinstown, County Carlow

Looking at the life of the first of the family to truly settle in County Carlow, where he acquired Killerrig, Lisnavagh and Tobinstown, as well as his connections to the Dukes of Ormonde, Philip Wharton and some lousy days for a Quaker sheep-farmer by name of Thomas Cooper. 

Field Marshal Montgomery pins a Military Cross on Bill Rathdonnell at Schleswig
on 12 August 1945. As chance would have it, Montgomery descended from the McClintock
family, as did Field Marshal Alexander. Colour by BSC
William Robert Bunbury, 4th Baron Rathdonnell, M.C. (1914-1959)

My grandfather packed a lot into his 44 years. Born during the Great War, he lost his mother at the age of eight and, an only child, became very close to his father, the 3rd Baron Rathdonnell. Educated at Charterhouse and Cambridge in England, he lived it up in the US in the late 1930s but life turned serious again at the age of 21 when his father died and he succeeded as 4th Baron. He married Pamela Drew, a free-spirited artist, a few weeks later. And then came Hitler’s War, in which he found himself in command of a squadron of tanks …

The lavabo at Mellifont Abbey (c1200) where the monks washed their hands before meal, pictured in November 2022.
The Cistercian Order in Ireland

Between 1142 and 1270, the Cistercian Order built 38 abbeys in Ireland from which, at their peak, they owned almost half a million acres in Ireland, including 48,000 acres at their mother-house, Mellifont Abbey. Famed for their agricultural prowess, the Cistercians were particularly adept at bringing sheep's wool to the markets of Flanders, by which means they became a corporate megastar – closely affiliated with the Knights Templar.

Reflections on Irish Identity in 2023
Reflections on Irish Identity in 2023

Considering the impact of Ireland abroad from ‘The Banshees of Inisherin' to St Patrick's Day to Mick Lynch and the Trade Unions, as well as the historical precedent behind the Biden presidency's support of the Good Friday agreement and the Irish diaspora around the world.

Kilkea Castle - Contents
Kilkea Castle – Contents

Foreword   Introduction 1 – The Time Before the Normans Charting the emergence of the …

This was one of the draft covers for the Kilkea book. 

Pre-1170 	O’Toole (ua Tuathail) sept.
1170s-1290s	De Ridelesford
1290s-1304	De Iverthorn 
1305-1425	Wogan
1420s-1534	FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare
1534-1547	Butler / Eustace
1547-1556	Peppard
1556-1634	FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare
1634-1646	The Jesuit Order
1647-1668	FitzGerald, Earl of Kildare
1668-1675	Brabazon, Earl of Meath
1675-1679	Jennings
1679-1706	Browne
1706-1797	Dickson / Dixon
1797-1798	Reynolds
1798-1840	Caulfield
1840-1849	Lalor / Lawlor
1849-1949	FitzGerald, Marquess of Kildare
1949-1960	FitzGerald, Duke of Leinster
1961-1966	Draddy
1966-1973	Cade
1971-1975	Chapman
1975-1987	Shanley
1988-2010	Conway
2010-present	Cashman
Kilkea Castle – Acknowledgments

For the full contents, see here.   This book has been a deep dive into …

Kilkea Castle - Further Reading
Kilkea Castle – Further Reading

In terms of source material, as well as the persons acknowledged here, I salute the …

Kilkea Castle (5) - The Geraldine Age, Part II (1537-1773) – Resurrection
Kilkea Castle (5) – The Geraldine Age, Part II (1537-1773) – Resurrection

The FitzGeralds rose from the ashes with the remarkable return of the Wizard Earl of Kildare in the 1550s. Despite a litany of premature deaths, his successors managed to ride out the turmoil of the 17th century intact, extending Kilkea Castle in County Kildare along the way. The castle also served as a Jesuit novitiate for 12 years before being extended in the 1660s. In the 18th century, the great-great-grandson of the Fairy Earl would become the first Duke of Leinster.

The ruined medieval church at Kilkea is thought to have been built on the site of St Caoide’s monastery. Photo: Elaine Barker.
Kilkea Castle (1) The Time Before the Normans

Charting the emergence of the landscape around Kilkea Castle in County Kildare from the end of the last Ice Age through the establishment of the ringforts at Mullaghreelan and Mullaghmast, as well as St Caoide’s church, to the eve of the Cambro-Norman conquest in the 1170s.

Sir John Wogan, Justiciar of Ireland, based on George Victor Du Noyer’s reproduction of the Waterford Charter Roll of 1373. Sir John was granted Kilkea in 1305 and his heirs would live in the castle for over one hundred years.
Kilkea Castle – (3) The Wogan Years (1305-1425)

Arising from nowhere, Sir John Wogan became the most influential man in Plantagenet Ireland, for which King Edward II of England gifted him Kilkea Castle and its manor lands in County Kildare. The castle would also be of much interest to the FitzGerald family, now Earls of Kildare, not least with the Pale itself becoming one of the bloodiest battlegrounds on the island of Ireland. 

A view of Kilkea Castle from immediately after the restoration, showing the Front Elevation, South Elevation and West Elevation. 
Kilkea Castle 7 – Twilight (1822-1895)

In the 1830s, the 3rd Duke of Leinster began a lengthy restoration of his family’s ancient castle at Kilkea in County Kildare, giving it the shape that it has today. For the rest of the century, Kilkea would be home to the Marquess of Kildare. This era, which coincided with the Great Hunger, the Land Wars and the ever-louder call for Home Rule in Ireland, would end with the calamitous – and premature – deaths of the 5th Duke of Leinster and his beautiful wife, Hermione.

Extract from Taylor & Skinner's map of 1783.
Kilkea Castle, Chapter 6: Hellfire (1668-1837) – The Dixon, Reynolds and Caulfield Years

During the late 17th century, Kilkea Castle in County Kildare was occupied by a series of well-to-do families before the FitzGeralds’ move to Carton. In the century thereafter, the dissolute Henry Dixon and the duplicitous Tom Reynolds did not bode well, and Kilkea would be the scene of high drama during the 1798 Rebellion, with Lord Edward FitzGerald centre-stage. Ultimately, it would find calm under the Caulfields before the FitzGeralds resumed control of Kilkea once more.

Betty Chapman (1916-2015), the wife of Agent Zigzag, was among the colourful characters who owned Kilkea Castle during the last decades of the 20th century.
Kilkea Castle 9 – The New Custodians (1961-2010)

In 1961, the Marquess of Kildare – later the 8th Duke of Leinster – sold Kilkea Castle, his ancestral home in County Kildare, to the Land Commission. There then followed a succession of fascinating owners including an engineer who built most of Northern Ireland’s aeroplane runways, a veteran of the French resistance and the wife of Agent Zigzag, an extraordinary British double agent – as the castle evolved into a health farm and hotel. The castle hotel is now owned and run by Jay Cashman.

The White Tower at Kilkea Castle. Photo: Elaine Barker.
Kilkea Castle – (2) De Ridelesford & the First Castle (1169-1304)

Following the Cambro-Norman conquest of Leinster in the late 12th century, the lands around Kilkea and Castledermot in County Kildare were granted to Walter de Ridelesford, a man with strong links to the Knights Templar. The original stone castle – once among the most formidable in Ireland – was built by Hugh de Lacy in about 1180. Within a hundred years, the manor had been divided between Walter’s female heiresses, Christiana De Marisco and Emmeline Longespée, which would bring the House of FitzGerald into the mix.

Waterways Through Time - Season 2
Waterways Through Time – Season 2

What impact did the Vikings and the Normans have on Ireland’s inland waterways? How did Turlough O’Connor earn the moniker ‘King of the Water’? How did the Knights Templar use the waterways during the Anglo-Norman invasion? Those are some of the questions Turtle tackles in the second series of the ‘Waterways Through Time’ podcast, launched in May 2023.

Lady Franklin waits in vain for her husband's return. The child by her side is probably his daughter by a previous marriage.  Illustrated London News, 2 November 1977.
Admiral Sir Leopold McClintock & His Family

An especially accomplished branch of the family, descended from Harry McClintock, Collector of Customs at Dundalk port and uncle of the first Lord Rathdonnell. Harry's son Leopold would find lasting fame as the man who discovered the fate of Sir John Franklin's Arctic expedition, while another son Alfred became Master of the Rotunda. Leopold's children included a naval veteran of Gallipoli, a Royal irish Constable and a New Zealand emigrant, while his grandson was one of the great keepers of Irish language literature.  

The Dacres Dixon Family: 1630 – 2013

(with sub-chapters on the Earls of Listowel, the Earls of Yarborough & the Bevans) Henley …

James and Margaret Moore with their eight sons and daughter Irene.
Moore of Loughall, County Armagh

Profiling the Moore family, ancestors of my fair wife Ally, who were flax-growers in County Armagh before making their mark in the world of railways, airplanes and medicine, with a focus on Tom Moore the huntsman, James Moore the blacksmith, Pilot Officer Stanley Moore and the surgeon Archie Moore.

The Comanche Warriors & the Free-Thinking Germans
The Comanche Warriors & the Free-Thinking Germans

A very tall, music-loving German aristocrat signs a treaty with the chiefs of the Penateka, or Honey Eaters, one of the fiercest bands of Comanche warriors in Texas. Under the terms of the 1847 treaty, the Germans and the Comanche agree to scratch one another’s backs in the wilds of Comancheria. The treaty transpires to be one of precious few agreements made with native Americans that was never broken. It also leads to the establishment of an extraordinary, proto-type hippy commune at Bettina settlement.

Lola Montez and the King of Bavaria
Lola Montez and the King of Bavaria

Lola Montez was one of the most famous dancers in Europe in the 1840s. Her love affair with the King of Bavaria brought him crashing down before she embarked upon a new life running a literary and social salon in California. This tale follows the rise and fall of this tempestuous Irish woman, charting her romance with Franz Liszt and her encounters with Richard Wagner, Hans von Bülow and Alexandre Dumas. 

The River Nore flowing by Woodstock.
Waterways Through Time

The text version of Turtle's collaboration with Waterways Ireland in which he explores Ireland’s natural rivers and lakes, as well as the man-made canals that criss-cross the island. This starts with the geology and archaeological legacy of Ireland's waterways and how, the Blackwaters aside, almost every Irish river is named for a goddess of the mythical Tuatha de Danaan. I then delve into the spiritual aspects of the waterways with the onset of Christianity.

Edward the Bruce's army invaded the region around Athy in 1316. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Athy, County Kildare – Historical Tales

The stories of Ernest Shackleton, a saviour ape, a Scottish invasion of Kildare, a World War One hero, a bare knuckle champ, amongst others, from the very first Past Tracks panel – installed in 2019 and illustrated by Derry Dillon. Nationwide filmed an episode with Turtle guiding viewers through the panel. 

Above: William Tighe by Thomas Pooley 1679
Tighe of Woodstock, Co. Kilkenny, and Rossanagh, Co. Wicklow

An epic saga that follows the descendants of an opportunist farmer who became the principal baker to Oliver Cromwell’s troops in Ireland through to a murder in 1917. We meet one of Dean Swift’s greatest foes, families such as Bligh, Fownes and Bunbury, and a host of literary greats including Percy and Mary Shelley, Thomas Moore, John Wesley and Patrick Bronte.

Giles Blundell and taking a sip of Guinness, alongside Christopher Horsman, in Peter Curling’s painting of McCarthy’s Hotel, Fethard. Prints of this painting were sold in aid of a fund organised by Mouse Morris to restore the walls of Fethard.
Giles Blundell (d. 2000) of Slievenamon (Fethard)

Lt Cdr Giles R Blundell was a mechanical engineer who became a test pilot for …

Doing their Duty
The Dublin Pals in Gallipoli

The grim fate of the Dublin Fusiliers as they landed at Suvla Bay and attempt …

The grim fate of the Dublin Fusiliers as they landed at Suvla Bay and attempt to storm the Kiritch Tepe Sirt ridge and Chocolate Hill, a slow but steady cull that annihilated the cream of the Dublin Pals , including numerous rugby players (drawn from the Irish Rugby Football Union), a TCD professor of law and the chief botanist from the Botanic Gardens.

Dick Hooley of Ballina ran one of the most popular opera houses in America in the 1870s. From an Illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Ballina, County Mayo – Historical Tales

The stories of one of Ireland's most successful presidents, the origin of the town ‘Font', a pioneer of showbiz in Chicago, the engineering ancestors of Joe Biden, a leading opponent of slavery and a strike by schoolboys seeking an end to corporal punishment and Wednesday's off. Extracted from Past Tracks 2021, with Irish translations by Jack O'Driscoll.

The Red Cross of the Knights Templar was given to them by the Pope on the eve of the Second Crudade.
Rise & Fall of the Knights Templar – The Irish Experience

The Knights Templar have captivated people’s imagination ever since the Order was founded in 1119. One of the most powerful forces in Europe for almost 200 years, their initial purpose was to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land. In Ireland, they had manors and banking preceptories across Leinster, as well as anchorage for ships from Waterford Harbour to Galway City to the north-west coast. Their fall was astoundingly dramatic.

William Desmond Taylor 2
William Desmond Taylor – A Hollywood Murder Story

William Desmond Taylor was 49 years old when a fatal bullet ploughed into his back in 1922. The murder of the popular Irish film director was to become one of the greatest unsolved crimes in Hollywood history. Perhaps, as he lay dying in his bungalow in downtown Los Angeles, he had time to think back to the childhood he spent in County Carlow in another century and another world.

Lisnavagh Oak by Niam Brennan
The Lisnavagh Oak

Memories of an oak that grew up to be my favourite tree of them all. It stands on the front lawn of Lisnavagh, our family home in County Carlow, where it was planted over 175 years ago.

Elizabeth in pearls.
Reflections on Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)

The author of ten novels and over 100 short stories, Elizabeth Bowen was one of the most remarkable writers of her generation. She was also my grandmother's first cousin and, arguably, best friend. I once found her CBE in my sock drawer and my mother inherited her typewriter. This is an account of her life, and her many loves, which I add to as new reflections strike me.

You needed a lot of neck to be a sailor in the 1830s. And judging by this portrait of Captain William McClintock Bunbury, he wasn't short of neck. The portrait is held at Lisnavagh, the mansion he commissioned during the 1840s. The portrait suggests a kindly
man whose sea-faring career ensured he was well used to staring into the middle distance.
Captain William McClintock Bunbury, R.N., Part 2: The Sea Years (1813-1835)

In 1813, 13-year-old William McClintock Bunbury joined HMS Ajax as a first-class volunteer, participating in his first sea battle the following year. Over the next two decades he would rise through the naval ranks and travel astonishing distances across the southern hemisphere. Most of this was on board HMS Samarang, a sister ship of HMS Beagle, and Charles Darwin was never far away. Meanwhile, as William IV succeeded George IV, and slavery is abolished, there is pile up of family tragedy in store … 

The Head Reliquary of St. Oswald at Hildesheim Cathedral in Lower Saxony, Germany.
St Oswald and St John the Baptist – Two Heads are Bigger Than One

Exploring the links between Northumbria and Ireland through the holy islands of Iona and Lindisfarne and the Saxon prince who founded Mayo. Also looking at St Oswald – a military man who became a deeply religious convert to Irish Christianity on Iona, the HQ of St Colm Cille (aka Columba) and how the cult of Oswald, centred at Regensburg, became a core part of the Crusader culture of later times. 

Gozo - Blessed Virgins and Grophibberous Beaches
Gozo – Blessed Virgins and Grophibberous Beaches

Turtle sizes up the second-largest of the Maltese islands, with its clearwater beaches, religious festivals and Neolithic ruins.

Arms of the Marquess of Waterford
Beresford of Curraghmore – Marquess of Waterford

The story of a family from Staffordshire in England who prospered in Ireland in the wake of King William's victory at the Boyne, marrying the heiress of wealthy Power family and acquiring the titles of the Earl of Tyrone and Marquess of Waterford. Also told here is the story of Lord William Beresford and Edmund O'Toole, who won Victoria Crosses after an especially close call during the Anglo-Zulu War.

Daniel Robertson, an American Architect in Ireland
Daniel Robertson, an American Architect in Ireland

An eccentric and prolific architect. Robertson left his mark on such well-known Irish mansions as Killruddery, Powerscourt and Lisnavagh. An American of Scots origin, he grew up between South Carolina and Georgia before training as an architect in London. Having gone bankrupt in 1830, he moved to Ireland where he lived until his death in Howth in 1849.

My Cultural Life 2023
My Cultural Life 2023

Author and historian Turtle Bunbury: ‘I’m not normally one for zombies but The Last of Us hit the spot with its ace script’.

Lisnavagh in the Down Survey
The Pre-Bunbury History of Lisnavagh, County Carlow

A look at the origins of Lisnavagh's name, and the various players – Butler, Leyn, Meredith, Gilbert and Korton – who were connected to the townland before the Bunburys arrived. The more I learn about the past, the more connected I feel to the future.

Corkagh House
The Story of Corkagh, Clondalkin (Dublin) – Introduction & Chapter 1

The Corkagh demesne has been in existence since at least 1326 when listed as part of the Archbishop of Dublin’s manor of Clondalkin. A modest castle existed here in the medieval age followed by a farmhouse constructed in about 1650. This section looks at the turbulent 17th century when both house and lands passed through a series of families such as Mills, Trundell and Browne before being were settled upon the Nottinghams, kinsmen of the Jacobite dynasty of Sarsfield.

Viscount Gough's statue by the Dublin-born sculptor John Henry Foley and his assistant Thomas  Brock. It was was badly damaged by a Republican bomber in the 1950s. It is presently held at Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. Would it have survived the 2020 purge of public statues?
Hugh Gough – Of Opium Wars & the Punjabi Sikhs

Hugh Gough commanded in more battles than any other British soldier of the nineteenth century save for his fellow Irishman, the Duke of Wellington. This included his victories in the Opium War and the Anglo-Sikh Wars. His mother was a Bunbury.

Copper mining in Mexico.
Delbridge of Cornwall, Arizona & Mexico

John Delbridge lived an extraordinary life that took in the tin mines of Cornwall and the copper mines of Mexico and Arizona, among many other places. He was my wife Ally's great-grandfather.

John Delbridge's father-in-law the Rev. Alfred Rudall, Vicar of St. Agnes, Cornwall, England.
Rudall of London and Cornwall

The ancestry and descendants of the Rev. Alfred Rudall, Vicar of St. Agnes in Cornwall, including the Clara Schumann link and the remarkable story of his nephew Lieutenant Alfred Rudall and Eva Halpin.

The Simmons Family
The Simmons Family

An overview of the descendants of Lewis (or Louis) Simmons and his wife Annie, who ran a textile business in the UK in the early 20th century.

Joe Biden with Father Richard Gibbons, rector of Knock Shrine, touching the original gable wall of the church at the Knock Shrine in County Mayo, Ireland, April 14, 2023.
Joe Biden’s Irish Roots

Joe Biden is arguably the most ‘Irish' president to have occupied the White House. He enjoyed an especially successful visit to Ireland in April 2023, his third since 2016. This is an ongoing exploration of his engineering forebears and his ancestral roots, including affiliated lines of the Scanlon, Blewitt, Finnegan, Arthur, Boyle and Roche families.

The bow of the Titanic plunges into the North Atlantic Ocean.
The Titanic – South African Connections

An account of the sinking of the Titanic with a focus on passengers and crew who had a South African connection.

"The Countess"
The Voice of Constance Markievicz

The story of a remarkable aristocrat who co-founded Fianna Éireann, became treasurer of the Irish Citizen Army (and designed their uniform), became a major patron of the Liberty Hall soup kitchen during the Lockout of 1913, helped create Cumann na mBan, fought in the Easter Rising and became the first woman elected to the British House of Commons … even if she never took her seat.

Titanic - The Irish Connections
Titanic – The Irish Connections

At least 79 of the 1,517 passengers and crew who died when Titanic sank were born in Ireland. Built in Belfast, the Irish connections of the White Star liner were many and varied.

Paddy Delaney in his garden. ‘We all have to face whatever is coming for us. We don’t know why we’re alive and we won’t find out until we’re dead.
My Friend, Paddy Delaney (1929-2023) of Tobinstown, County Carlow

‘We all have to face whatever is coming for us. We don’t know why we’re alive and we won’t find out until we’re dead.' So said Paddy Delaney, a wonderfully full-spirited soul who I befriended during the Big Freeze of 2012. ‘It's the same as driving a car – keep inside the white line and do the best you can.’

The children at Tobinstown School.
The Townland of Tobinstown (in progress)

A working document about the townland south of Lisnavagh and east of Haroldstown, including Tobinstown School and the old pub.

Photo: James Fennell.
Michael Brennan Roe (1937-2023) – Coalminer, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny

Michael holds out his miner’s hands, still etched with pallid blue stains from where coal dust got into the inevitable cuts. ‘You hear a lot of talk these days about child labour in Asia and Africa,’ he says quietly, ‘but it wasn’t so long ago they had it here in Kilkenny.’

View from Eagle Hill.
Of Rings, Raths & the Kings of Leinster: Around the Lisnavagh Estate

In the distant past, the raths around Lisnavagh were part of the power base of the Uí Ceinnselaig (Kinsellagh). This section considers the links to Rathmore, Rathvilly, the Oldfort ringfort and the Slíghe Chualann, as well as two kings of Leinster, Crimthann mac Énnai (who was baptised by St Patrick) and his father, Enna Kinsellagh .

One of William Whitelocke-Lloyd's sketches of the British army preparing to knuckle down against the Zulus.
William Whitelocke-Lloyd: The Irishman who Sketched the Zulu War

The story of an independent spirit from County Waterford who was kicked out of Oxford for partying too noisily, and found himself painting the horrors of the Anglo-Zulu War while serving with the the 24th Foot in the time of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, plus the back-story of the Whitelocke and Lloyd families.

Photo: James Fennell
John Cooney (1922-2016) – Postman & Carpenter – Achill Island, County Mayo

Within a minute of meeting him, he has hopped into the back of our car. ‘You met the right man! I’ve nothing else to do and I’m sober. Come on and I’ll show you around. There’s nothing between here and America but the Atlantic Ocean.’

Photo: James Fennell.
Chris Droney (1925-2020) – Concertina Player & Dairy Farmer, Bellharbour, County Clare

‘I started playing when I was eight. I’m seventy-three years playing music now … I saw this concertina one, and it was top of the range. They wanted £64. I said feck it, it’s only once in a lifetime and I’ll have it. It’s done me ever since and it’ll do someone else after I’ve gone.’

Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh, P.C., M.P. (1831-1889)
The Incredible Mr Kavanagh

The story of a remarkable Irishman, born without arms or legs, who became an explorer and member of parliament, as well as a huntsman, sailor, photographer and father of seven. 

The Palatines in Ireland
The Palatines in Ireland

In 1709, just over 3,000 mostly Protestant refugees from Germany's Palatine region sailed for Ireland. Their descendants include the families of Switzer, Wyse, Keppel, Cooke, Young , Embury, Miller, Teskey, Baker, Poff and Gleasure. This article looks at the origins and impact of that Palatine emigration.

Werner von Siemens, c. 1847
Werner Siemens & the Gutta-Percha Tree

In the summer of 1847 the young German army engineer Werner Siemens secures a contract from the Prussian Army to lay a subterranean telegraph line insulated, at his suggestion, by sap from the Malaysian gutta-percha tree. By October the innovative genius has established a telegraph company in Berlin that will evolve into the present-day global telecommunications and engineering giant, Siemens AG.

A lime-wood rendition of the coat of arms, which was made in 2019 by Sarah Goss. (With thanks to Alex Watson)
McClintock of Newtown (Louth) & Seskinore (Tyrone)

This branch of the family descend from Alexander McClintock (1746-1796) of Newtown, County Louth, whose son Samuel succeeded to the Perry family home of Perrymount, also known as Seskinore, in County Tyrone. The story culminates in a sad episode in the 1930s, as well as the demolition of Seskinore.

A Historical Odyssey through Dublin’s Literary Pubs

The pub and the pen have always gone hand in hand, especially in Dublin. That’s why the city is so celebrated for its playwrights and poets and authors from Jonathan Swift to Oscar Wilde to Flann O'Brien to Sally Rooney. That's why Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature, with an annual Book Festival; why three of the bridges that span the Liffey are named for writers; why it offers one of the richest literary prizes in the world; and why Dublin was home to all four Irish-born winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature. This story explores the pub side of things.

More O'Ferrall of Balyna, Enfield, Co. Kildare
More O'Ferrall of Balyna, Enfield, Co. Kildare

Descended from two great Catholic Irish families, the More O’Ferralls combined with the marriage in 1751 of the Balyna heiress Letitia O’More and the Dublin banker Richard Ferrall. During the 1840s, Sir Richard More O’Ferrall emerged as a great champions of religious toleration and independence.  Balyna is an exclusive hotel near Enfield, County Kildare.

This is believed to be Edward Wingfield, 2nd Viscount Powerscourt, who died unmarried in May 1764, aged 34.
Wingfield, Viscounts Powerscourt of Co. Wicklow, Ireland

Powerscourt House is one of the most famous Georgian houses in Ireland. Built in the 1740s, it was devastated by fire in 1974 but subsequently rebuilt. The estate takes its name from the de la Poer family who built a castle here in Norman times. In 1608, the property came to the possession of Sir Richard Wingfield, a prominent general in the English army. This story of their descendants included one of Lord Byron’s closest friend, a man who hosted George IV to dinner and Sarah, Duchess of York. The Slazengers of Powerscourt are closely related to the present Viscount.

Radley’s Hotel at 11 College Green, Dublin. According to Archiseek, the fine but austere seven-bay three-storey granite building of Radley's Hotel was completed in 1799 to a design by Edward Park. It stood at the corner of Dame Street and Trinity Street, on the old Fownes Court, and included a very handsome pedestrian shortcut through the building and courtyard to Cope Street in London. In 1805, it became a meeting place for the Ouzel Galley Society which dealt with ship insurance and arbitration, and later became a part of Dublin Chamber of Commerce. The beautiful hotel was pulled down to make way for what I would deem an eyesore, but others might like, namely the Central Bank of Ireland, built by Sam Stephenson in 1975. The bank was built higher than planning permission allowed but this was retrospectively rectified.
The Radley Family – Hoteliers & Copper Smelters

A look at a family who developed extensive hotel interests across Britain and Ireland during the early Victorian Age. They started the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, as well as Radley’s Hotel on College Green, Dublin, and other hotels in London and Southampton. The family, whose name passed to my great-uncle Anthony Radley Drew, also had an interest in the copper-smelting business at St Helen’s, Lancashire.  

Detail from Slaves cutting the sugar cane - Ten Views in the Island of Antigua (1823)
Hugh Mills Bunbury & the Guyana Connection

Plantation owner Hugh Mill Bunbury of Guyana (Demerara) was born in Devon and moved to the West Indies as a young man. His daughter Lydia was disinherited for marrying the French Romantic poet Count Alfred de Vigny. His son Charles commanded the Rifle Brigade and married Lady Harriot Dundas. One grandson was Privy Chamberlains to the Pope, as well as heir to Cranavonane, County Carlow. Another was the much-decorated businessman, Evelyn James Bunbury.

Behind the Guinness Gates, launching 1 April 2023.
Behind the Guinness Gates

Beyond the Guinness Gate is the first podcast series from the Guinness Storehouse. Hosted by Turtle Bunbury, the 8-part series features interviews with rapper Mango, chef Niall Sabongi, flavour guru Kate Curran, the Iveagh Trust’s Rory Guinness and local historians Liz Gillis and Cathy Scuffil. The series also includes three episodes by about the formative years of St James’s Gate and the brewery’s strong sense of employment welfare and social philanthropy.  An audio journey into the very heart of Guinness.

Major William Arabin was to be immortalized in the painting ‘Major Arabin as Sir Bashful Constant’ by John Downman in 1787.
Arabin of Corkagh & Moyglare

The tale of a French gentry family who fled their homeland, prospered as officers in William of Orange’s army and ran the gunpowder mills at Corkagh near Clondalkin, Co. Dublin, for almost 40 years, with cameos by a disgraced Lord Mayor, a cuckolded husband and a Commander-in-Chief of India.

The banker Thomas Finlay who bought Corkagh House from the Chaigneau family.
Finlay of Corkagh House, Clondalkin

The saga of a family who flee Scotland with the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots, and make their fortune in Ireland through private banking and a useful cousin that happens to own a handful of iron mines in Sweden. Covering events such as the 1798 Rising and Robert Emmet’s Rebellion, the story ends in tragedy with the death in war of the last three Finlay sons of Corkagh House, County Dublin.

Christy Kate O’Sullivan (farmer, born 1951) Photo: James Fennell.
Voices of Ballinskelligs, South West Kerry

While writing the fourth volume of the Vanishing Ireland series, I spent the bones of a week in County Kerry, happily ensconced in one of nine charming stone cottages overlooking Ballinskelligs Bay at Cill Rialaig. This story is about some of the characters I met while down there.

Photo: James Fennell.
Con Riordan (1912-2008) – Farmer – Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry

With his 95th birthday looming close, Con is philosophical but restless. ‘I can’t do a lot of work at my age. When you’ve nothing to do, you can feel the day. But sure, we still have plenty of time’.

A tea set gifted by Lieutenant Michael Wogan Browne to his Friend, Peter Chaigneau. Wogan Browne apparently died in Peter Chaigneau's home, thought to have been No. 4 Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin.
Wogan-Browne of Clongowes Wood, County Kildare

A far too brief account of two families, Wogan and Browne, whose cast includes a leading light of the Brigidine nuns; a former aide-de-camp to the King of Saxony; an architect who was refereeing Gaelic football matches in 1798; and a popular rugby player who was shot dead in Kildare in 1922. 

John Flynn. Photo: James Fennell.
The Ballyduff Three, County Waterford

Written following an encounter in circa 2005 with thresher John Flynn (born 1943), store manager Pat Flynn (born 1939) and the late postmaster, Eamon Bolger (1931-2009).

Michael Keneally by Dorothea Lange.
Mick Kenneally (1939-2013) – Potato & Cattle Farmer, Cloonanaha, County Clare

‘They’d all meet after mass and stand around chatting for hours. That’s gone now. Then everyone got motor cars and they drove away afters. Back then it was all walking. There was maybe the odd bicycle or a few asses and carts. But everyone else walked.’

Mike Murphy (1937-2012) - Fiddler & Taxi Driver, Ennistymon, County Clare
Mike Murphy (1937-2012) – Fiddler & Taxi Driver, Ennistymon, County Clare

Mike toured the USA seven times as fiddler with the Tulla Ceil Band. Chicago was his kind of town. Toronto impressed him too. He was not trained in music. Few of his contemporaries were. He would listen to his father play and then, at the age of eight, he picked up a mouth organ. Shortly afterwards he moved on to the fiddle and accordion.

Photo: James Fennell.
Tom Connolly (1917-2008) – Boat Driver & Engineman – Rathangan, Co. Kildare

‘I always wanted to work on the canal’, so, my eldest brother came home and took over the lock and I started on the boats in 1935 … but carrying forty or fifty bags of malt weighing over 20 stone over your shoulder is no easy job’.

Applause for Vanishing Ireland
Applause for Vanishing Ireland

Christy Moore, Rob Kearney, John Spain and hundreds of others voice their approval of the Vanishing Ireland project on a page that Turtle secretly visits from time to time on the rare occasions he's feeling a little blue.

Photo: James Fennell
Mick Lawlor (1927–2004) – Trap Driver – Borris, County Carlow

It was not Mick’s intention to die quite so soon. When James photographed him two days earlier, he had gamely invited us back the following week to join him on his pony and trap. I feel for Sheba, his seven-year-old sheepdog, who literally put her hand out to introduce herself when we arrived. Mick maintained Sheba could tell the time of day by looking at the clock on his kitchen wall.

Photo: James Fennell.
John Murphy (1925-2015) – Farmer & Gardener – Waterville, Co. Kerry

John has no interest in parliamentary affairs. “Feck politics, amen”, he suggests. His particular gripe is against the ‘rules and all kinds of feckology that came in when he and his wife tried to set up a small caravan park in the 1980s. One can see why he got on with Brendan Behan – ‘an ordinary working man like the rest of us.’

Photo: James Fennell.
Paddy Walsh (Farmer) and Johnny Walsh  (Forrester) of Derrinlaur, County Tipperary

‘You see, a tractor could do the work of eight men,’ says Paddy. ‘So of course that changed everything.’ Not that he minded. In the early days, he might be out ploughing all day with ‘nothing to hold only the reins driving the horse’. Over rough terrain, on a warm day, with sweaty trousers rubbing constantly against the skin, that could get pretty sore after a while…

Photo: James Fennell.
Kathleen Lynam Keogh (1930-2018) & Kathleen Lynam (born 1926) – Kiltegan, County Wicklow

‘It’s amazing to think of her now,’ says Kathleen of her mother. ‘And what she did for us. It was a different world. There was no taps, no sinks, no nothing. We only had a few oil lamps. We done our homework by candlelight. We got our water from the well and we ate our meals on stools. We always had porridge for breakfast, big plates of porridge, with lots of milk.’

Cropped from a photo by Ciaran Smyth.
Rise & Fall: The Maguire Kings of Fermanagh

Fifteen Maguires were crowned as Kings of Fermanagh between 1264 and 1589. The region was, by and large, stable for those three centuries. The Maguires were exceptionally progressive, their households replete with historians, poets and learned men. They were also benefactors of the Christian church, introducing new orders, endowing churches and embarking on pilgrimages to Rome and Santiago de Compostella in Spain.

The Forth Bridge, one of the great masterpieces of Victorian engineering. Credit: Getty Images
Sir William Arrol (1839-1913), or, How A Boiled Sheep’s Head Shaped The Industrial Age

The greatest bridge builder of his generation learned his craft while singeing hair off sheep's heads in a blacksmith's forge as a boy. He went on to build works such as the Forth Bridge and the Tay bridge in Scotland, the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the Arrol Gantry in Belfast, Tower Bridge in London, the Nile Bridge in Egypt, the Hawkesbury Bridge in Australia and all the bridges along the Manchester Ship Canal.

Tsar Peter the Great by Jean-Marc Nattier, after 1717.
Peter the Great – Ulster Damask & The Beard Tax

The Russian emperor is said to have visited Ireland to study the latest developments in the manufacture of damask, but could this have been so? A quick look at the Tsar and his Irish links.

Irish Cavalrymen, 17th Regiment of Light Dragoons, in the War of the American Revolution, 1775-1783
Bunbury of Kilfeacle & Shronell, County Tipperary

Following the descendants of Mathew Bunbury (1675-1733), fourth son of Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig, Co Carlow, from Tipperary and Kilkenny to Borneo and Australia, including the family of Field Marshal Lord Roberts and Henry Sadleir Prittie, 1st Baron Dunalley.

George Catlin, Buffalo Hunt-Chasing Back, 1844.
Sir George Gore (1811-1878) – Buffalo Slayer

St. George Gore, the most extravagant buffalo hunter in history, was also a major Donegal landowner and one of the lousiest types of absentee landlord. In a single hunting trip to North America, he killed 2,000 prairie buffalo, 1,600 deer and elk, as well as thousands of mountain sheep, coyotes and timber wolves …

Ted Murphy's award-winning book,
'A Kingdom of Wine' celebrates the Irish Winegeese.
Ireland's Wine Geese

We may not have the climate to grow our own vines, but the Irish have done a colossal amount to develop the wine trade and spread those succulent grape juices across this world from France to California to Australia and New Zealand.

Angela, pictured in The Sketch, 15 December 1954 MRS. FRANK MORE O'FERRALL The very pretty wife of Mr. Frank More O'Ferrall was formerly Miss Angela Jackson, the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Jackson. Her husband, whom she married in 1947, is Director of the Anglo-Irish Bloodstock Agency, and they have two young daughters, Susan, aged six, and Teresa, who is four. Mrs. More O'Ferrall's younger sister Elizabeth married Viscount Cowdray in 1953. Photograph by Yevonde. [A third daughter Emma was born in 1957.]
More O'Ferrall of Kildangan, Monasterevin, Co. Kildare

A short account of Kildangan Stud from its acquisition by the O'Reilly family in 1705 to its development as a major equestrian base by the More O'Ferrall family.

H.W. Bunbury. A soldier leaving tavern is confronted by an officer.
Bunbury Baronets in England (1618-1886)

A quick overview of the Bunbury baronets in England, including the Jacobite supporter Sir Harry Bunbury and the family of Sir Charles Bunbury, Admiral of the Turf, and Henry William Bunbury, the artist.

A still from 'The Irish Woman Who Shot Mussolini' with Olwen Fouéré as Violet Gibson.
Violet Gibson – The Irish Aristocrat Who Shot Mussolini

The astonishing story of a Dublin-born gentlewoman, who attempted to assassinate Mussolini when she was fifty years old, and her connection to – and eventual rejection by – one of Ireland’s most distinguished legal families.

'Arrogant Trespass – The Normans Landing at Bannow Strand'  is one of the panels of the Ros Tapestry in New Ross.
The Normans in Wexford

An overview of the Cambro-Norman origins of County Wexford places such as New Ross, Bannow, Clonmines, Tintern, Duiske, Dunbrody, Loftus Hall, Hook Head and Bagibun, as well as families such as Barry, Burke, D’Arcy, Devereux, FitzGerald, FitzMaurice, Furlong, Grace, Keating, Meyler, Prendergast, Power, Roche and Sinnott. . 

The tomb if William Marshal.
William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke (1147-1219) – The Greatest Knight

William Marshal was the most powerful Anglo-Norman lord to come to Ireland. A jousting champion, die-hard crusader and pre-Machiavellian tactician, he survived the turbulent courts of four Plantagenet Kings to become Regent of England, Lord of Leinster and the richest man in the British Isles by his death in 1219. As successor to Strongbow and Aoife, he did more to establish Anglo-Norman control in Leinster than any other man. He was also an enthusiast for roast rabbit and sautéed mushrooms…

19th century irish armorial bookplate for John Lewis More O'Ferral (1800-1881) of Lisard, Co. Longford. First Commissioner for the Dublin Police force.
More O'Ferrall of Lisard, Co. Longford

The Lisard property near Edgeworthstown was acquired in the mid 19th century by John Lewis More O’Ferrall. It was the scene of a shocking murder in 1935.

St. Columba (521-592) – the Making of a Missionary
St. Columba (521-592) – the Making of a Missionary

The story of the feisty Donegal missionary who brought Christianity to Pictish Scotland, after a devastating battle in Ireland, plus Iona's links to Lindisfarne … and how a court case that he was embroiled in set a useful precedent for anyone advocating Google’s right to free content.

Willie Mullins, 2010. Photo: James Fennell.
Willie Mullins – Commander of the Turf

An interview with the Cheltenham Festival’s most successful trainer of all-time, a man who had racked up 94 wins by the close of the 2023 festival. Young Willie was in the saddle from the age he could toddle. In his boyhood, he read as much as he could about the industry, particularly focusing on the methods and problem-solving tactics of other trainers.

Mex Poster, 1928
Maxol 1920–2020: Celebrating the First Hundred Years of an Irish Family Company

Replete with episodes of brilliance, ingenuity, serendipity and success, this sweeping story tells Maxol’s fascinating story from the formative years of the McMullan family through the drama of global wars, oil crises, political conflict and economic hardship to its present-day responses to climate change, Covid 19 and technological advance.

Ireland's Forgotten Past
Ireland's Forgotten Past A History of the Overlooked and Disremembered

An alternative history that covers 13,000 years in 36 stories that are often left out of history books. Among the characters I profile are a pair of ill- fated prehistoric chieftains, a psychopathic Viking, a gallant Norman knight, a dazzling English traitor, an ingenious tailor, an outstanding war-horse and a brothel queen.

Aerial view of Kilkea Castle, photographed in the 1920s.
Kilkea Castle – Acknowledgments

The Kilkea Castle book was a deep dive into the history of the FitzGerald family, as well as many other remarkable people and families associated with it. In the historical process, consultation is key. As such, I was blessed by a magnificent cast of kind and supportive hands to help me shape, enhance, verify and enrich the stories told in these pages. My thanks to …

Dublin City - Streetwise
Dublin City – Streetwise

The etymology (ie: origin) for the names of the streets, bridges, docks and other landmarks of Dublin. This is mainly focused on the docklands area as it is based on work I did for my 2008 book, ‘Dublin Docklands – An Urban Voyage’, which was commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority

Roisin Folan. Photo: James Fennell.
Róisín (Folan) Ui Chualáin (1929-2022) – The Nurse of Inisheer Island

‘Everyone had a donkey,’ she says. ‘But there’s only two left on the island now.’ Born in 1929, the former District Nurse reflects on working as a midwife in Tottenham, London, and life in Lurgan village on Inisheer in the Aran Islands of County Galway.

A portrait of Din Lane by Shania McDonagh
Den Lane (1923–2023) Turf Dealer of Glin, County Limerick

‘It was hard work. We were on Joe White’s bog by eight o’clock every morning from the end of March. We often used to make our dinner with a fire out in the bog. If we were out of butter we’d go into Glin on our way, but we’d be there a half an hour before anyone else would get up!'

Above: Johnstown House, near Carlow Town, 2020.
Bunbury of Johnstown House, County Carlow, Ireland

A branch of the Bunbury family lived at Johnstown House outside Carlow town for most of the 18th and early 19th century. This account looks at such characters as the travel writer Selina Bunbury and the pioneering postmaster Sir Henry Noel Bunbury, as well as connections to the Irish Volunteers, William Pitt, Charles Darwin, Sir Francis Galton, Oscar Wilde, the Conellan family and sub-branches in Liverpool, Essex, Miami and Cuba.

Close up of Lady Rathdonnell (née Anne Lefroy), attributed to
Mayer and dated to August 1829, the year of her marriage to John McClintock.
Lefroy of Carrigglas (Longford), Ewshot (Hampshire) and Canterbury (Kent)

Hailing from Cambrai in French Picardy, the Lefroy family arrived in England as refugees during the French Wars of Religion. Having prospered as silk merchants in Canterbury, two branches emerged. The Irish branch included Tom Lefroy, famed as the love interest of Jane Austen, before he became Chief Justice of Ireland. The English branch were based at Ashe in Hampshire where they were again closely affiliated with Jane Austen's family. Among the family were the first Lady Rathdonnell and the surveyor Sir John Lefroy.      

The Trench Family, Earls of Clancarty
The Trench Family, Earls of Clancarty

A remarkable family, descended from a French Huguenot refugee whose grandson established the family at Ballinasloe in County Galway. Headed up by the Earl of Clancarty, its prominent figures include one of the architects of modern Europe after Napoleon's fall, a 20th century UFO expert and a celebrated dancing girl of the Victorian Age. 

Memorial to Thomas Bunbury in Stoke (Stoak) Church
Thomas Bunbury (1606-1668) – Oxford Links

The Bunburys of Lisnavagh descend from Thomas Bunbury, son of Sir Henry Bunbury (1565-1634) of Stanney Hall, Cheshire. This page looks at his links to the Birkenhead family and Balliol College, Oxford, as well as Cromwellian links to Carlow town and the gruesome fate of his cousin Sir Arthur Aston during the siege of Drogheda of 1649.

John Richardson (1580–1654), Bishop of Ardagh, son-in-law to Sir Henry Bunbury. His portrait was engraved by T. Cross and prefixed to his Choice Observations.
Sir Henry Bunbury (1565-1634)

Henry Bunbury was grandfather of the Benjamin Bunbury who first acquired the land in County Carlow, Ireland. Henry succeeded as head of the family in 1601 and was knighted two years later by the new king, James I. He appears to have been of Calvinist persuasion in religion, encouraged by his second wife Martha, but his first cousin Sir Arthur Aston was a prominent Catholic mercenary and his children would chose opposing sides in the Civil War.

The Benson Family
The Benson Family

Originally from Westmoreland in the English Lake District, the Bensons were renowned for their clerical inclinations from the Tudor Age onwards. They were also closely associated with the Downshire Estates in Ireland and, later, the Pony Club in the UK. This history is based on an interview I conducted in about 2004 with the late Ian and Wendy Benson of Ballyvolane House County Cork.

Huntington Castle has been in existence since the 17th century.
Huntington Castle – Ghostly Tales & Worthy Fellowships

Huntington Castle has always had an otherworldly ambience. Just over a hundred years ago, a meteorite fell to earth and landed near the avenue. The story takes in Franciscan monks, Tudor bigamists, American pioneers, ghosts a-plenty and a cellar devoted to devoted to an Egyptian Goddess.

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

Queen Victoria was the illegitimate daughter of an Irishman. At least that was the sensational …

Painted by Richard Doyle, uncle of Arthur Conan Doyle, this work from 1870 is entitled 'The Fairy Queen Takes an Airy Drive in a Light Carriage, a Twelve-in-hand, drawn by Thoroughbred Butterflies.'
William Francis de Vismes Kane (1840–1918) – A Gentleman Naturalist At Large

The Monaghan-born naturalist and butterfly enthusiast who studied Ulster's ancient Black Pig's Dyke.

Memorial to Michael Fay, Rathvilly, erected in 2021.

"From Flanders plain across the Main,

There came a soldier bold,

who changed his mind, a place to find,

Beneath the Green and Gold,

In England's war he fought till it was o'er,

And his name was Michael Fay

By Barrow banks he joined the ranks,

The ranks of the IRA.' [1]
Michael Fay (1899-1921)

Michael Fay was killed in an ambush at Ballymurphy, County Carlow, in 1921. Born in Dublin, he grew up a virtual orphan before joining the British Army as a teenager in the First World War. He subsequently moved to Carlow where he worked as a gardener (possibly at Lisnavagh) and coachman / chauffeur (at Altamont). In 1920, he joined the Irish Republican Army who assigned him to the Carlow Brigade’s Active Service Unit. These notes were assembled when I was asked to deliver a speech at the launch of a memorial to him in Rathvilly on the centenary of his death.

More Bronze Age gold hoards have been found in Ireland than anywhere else on earth, including eighty gold lunulae.  These decorated neck-collars, shaped like a crescent moon, are made of thin, hammered sheets of gold. 
By the Late Bronze Age, the fashion had moved towards bigger, wider, thinner ‘gorgets’, such as the beautiful gold collar found at Glenisheen, just east of Gregan Castle. The gorget is about the size of a 12-inch dinner plate and was crafted between 900 and 500BC. A teenage boy spotted it tucked into a limestone gryke while hunting rabbits in 1932. 
When Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973, the Glenisheen gorget was chosen as the symbol that defined the state’s cultural heritage.
A Short History of Irish Gold

There is gold in Irish hills, as evidenced by recent finds on the Armagh-Monaghan border and the Sperrins Mountains of County Tyrone. Ireland’s rapport with gold actually began about 4,000 years ago when the Bell-Beaker people arrived in from Europe, heralding the so-called Bronze Age. 

Laurel and Hardy in Cobh. Illustration by Derry Dillon.
Cobh – Historical Tales

A mercy mission from Boston, the bells that rang out for Laurel and Hardy, Sonia O'Sullivan and a remarkable Titanic survivor are among the cast on Turtle's panel in Cobh railway station, illustrated by Derry Dillon, translated by Jack O Driscoll.

The Earl of Wicklow was one of the 'bright young things' of the 1920s and 1930s. Illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Arklow, County Wicklow – Historical Tales

The stories of the Arklow munitions factory, a 1920s party animal, an Olympic Gold medal winner, a spy called Agent ZigZag, a lady mariner, and an old world cure for Charles Stewart Parnell's wounded hand. Extracted from Past Tracks. Irish translation included.

Illustration by Derry Dillon.
Ronnie Delany – Gold Medal Hero of the 1956 Olympics

‘One of my proudest moments was when my son said to me, later in my life, “Dad, I never knew that you were a famous sports person until I was about 10 years of age”. I thought that was beautiful. To him I was just Dad. I wasn’t Ronnie Delany the iconic athlete.’


Olympic Games

Silver 5000m (Sydney, 2000).

World Championships

Gold 5000m (Gothenburg, 1995)
Silver 1500m (Stuttgart, 1993)

European Championships

Gold 3000m (Helsinki, 1994)
Gold 10000m (Budapest, 1998)
Gold 5000m (Budapest, 1998)
Silver 10000m (Munich, 2002)
Silver 5000m (Munich, 2002)

World Cross-Country Championships

Gold 8km (Marrakesh,1998)
Gold 4km (Marrakesh,1998)
Bronze(Team) 8km (Turin,1997)
Bronze(Team) 4km (Dublin, 2002)

World Indoor Championships

Silver 3000m (Paris, 1997)


European Athlete of the Year 1994.

RTÉ Sports Person of the Year 2000.

Texaco Sportstar Awards: 6 (Supreme, 1993).

ESB/Rehab People of the Year 2004

Honoroary Doctor of the Arts
University College Cork.
Sonia O'Sullivan – Ireland's 5000 Metre Star

‘I don’t like to go a day without running. If you keep doing it every day, you enjoy it a lot more. You go to bed knowing you’re going to run the next day and you have it in your mind where you are going to run. If you’ve had a late night, and you go out and run, you will still get into it. You’ll always think “I’m glad I did this”.’

Johnny Meehan & the Spanish Civil War
Johnny Meehan & the Spanish Civil War

68 Irish men and women died in defence of the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1938. The war ended with victory for Franco, who would remain in power until his death in 1975. This story focuses on Galway-born Johnny Meehan, one of eight Irishmen to die at the battle of Lopera.

London Bridge, Victoria, Australia, before and after the section collapsed in January 1990. I called in shortly afterwards - its just west of Port Campbell.
Life is a Frying Pan

We are all well and used to the daily bummer in life, from the instant our alarm clocks shrill our weary eye-lids open to the moment we collapse on our beds, too shattered by our escalating ambitions to indulge in the fun and frolics of our more praise-worthy forbears. Here's some relativity to muse upon, from a column I wrote in Hong Kong in 1997.

Palomas by Daniel Shaw-Smith.
‘The only place I can achieve peace is in the bath’ – Pieces of Me (2016)

An Ikea world map, an Edwardian scrap book and an acrylic table containing 1,000 pool cue chalks were among Turtle’s favourite things when he was interviewed by The Irish Times on 26 November 2016.

Merrion Square
A Brief History of Merrion Square

It is over 260 years since the first houses were built on Merrion Square. It just goes to show what you can do with a few acres of undeveloped marshland if you put your mind to it.

The Royal Arch Chapter Room is in the Egyptian style and lit by Jewish gasolier candelabras that spring out from Egyptian heads. This curious mixture underlines Masonic empathy for the priestly caste, technical powers and ancient mysteries of Egypt. It probably also derives from the craze for Egyptology in the 1860s when the Freemason’s Hall was built. Life-sized sphinxes flank the ceremonial chair beneath an exotically coloured Egyptian baldacchino canopy, giving the room a Hollywood meets Monty Python ambience. In Masonic lore, twin pillars symbolize the entrance to the Temple of Solomon, the ultimate repository for strength and wisdom. (Photos: Chris Bacon)
A Look Inside Dublin's Freemasons Hall

What goes on inside the Dublin premises of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Freemasons of Ireland on Molesworth Street? With 22,000 members on the island of Ireland, it's a lot more down-to-earth, albeit in an up-in-the-clouds way, than the secret handshakes and the Da Vinci Code would have you believe.

Barack Obama as a teenage high schooler in Hawaii.
Obama: A Tale of Irish Wigmakers, Shoemakers & Oratorical Bishops

Barack Obama descends from an Irish shoemaker who emigrated to Ohio in 1850 when the family wig-making business dissolved in Ireland. This story looks at his unlikely links to the Kearney dynasty, one of whom was Provost of Trinity College Dublin, as well as the de Montmorency family of Castle Morres, County Kilkenny.

Turtle circa 1998 by Amy McElroy.
About Turtle Bunbury

An overview of Turtle's professional career, including bundles of photos from the last two or three decades.

Jasper Conran
Meeting Jasper Conran – The Waterford Crystal Years

In 1999, Jasper Conran was approached by the Waterford Wedgwood Group to design a range of crystal. He re-invigorated the sector by creating a range of contemporary Stemware. His crystal collections went on to win the Prince’s Medal ‘Homes & Gardens Classic Design’ Award in 2003 and 2006. Turtle traveled to London to talk with him for ‘The White Book'. This article was published in February 2006.

The Glevum Superior, a two-storey paraffin-heated work of scientific art.
Chicken or Egg? The Glevum Superior

As of 2023, there are a staggering 33 billion chickens  clucking, making them far and away the most populous birdbrain on the planet. One reason why there are so many chickens is that their eggs work very well. Indeed, given the right conditions, nearly all fertilised chicken eggs will hatch after 21 days. The key tool for this seismic eggsplosion was the artificial incubator …

Morristown Lattin was designed by William Deane Butler.
Mansfield of Morristown Lattin, County Kildare

The Mansfield family have been in Ireland at least since the 12th century. Penalized for their Catholicism in the 17th century, fortune returned when they married the sole heiresses of the Eustace and Lattin families, as well as a fortune from the Danish colony of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Latter day characters associated with the family include the parachuter Major Richard Mansfield, children’s author Brownie Downing and Fine Gael politician Gerard Sweetman.

George Moore: The Man Behind Alfred Nobbs
George Moore: The Man Behind Alfred Nobbs

The film ‘Albert Nobbs' is based on a story, first published in 1918, by the Irish author George Moore. In 1912, he abandoned Ireland in pursuit of unrequited love in London with one of the richest women in the world. An early critic of the dictatorial behaviour of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Moore was also one of the first writers to seriously address equal rights for women.

Carlow Castle, as depicted in 'Antiquities of Ireland' (1792) by Captain Francis Grose.
Carlow Castle: Rise & Fall

A detailed history of Carlow Castle from its construction by the Normans over 800 years ago through to the present day, co-starring Prince Lionel of Antwerp and the extraordinary doctor who accidentally blew most of the building apart in 1814.

Ballyhacket, County Carlow & the Ridelesford Connection
Ballyhacket, County Carlow & the Ridelesford Connection

 Looking at the townlands connections to Sir Walter de Ridelesford (or Riddlesford), Lord of Bray, as well as the Knights Templar, the Fratres Cruciferi of Castledermot and the displacement of the Mac Gormáin or O’Gorman family, and the Bull Ring.

One of the MGM Lions - I'm uncertain if this was Slats or one of his successors.
Slats – Was the MGM Lion from Dublin?

Slats the lion served as the mascot of the Goldwyn Studio (later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MGM) in Hollywood from 1917 to 1928. Although his hey-day predates the talkies, his sleepy, growling visage also graced the logo that kick-started all MGM films made between 1924 and 1928. Also known as Cairbre, the Irish for ‘charioteer,’ it is widely stated that Slats was a Dubliner, born and bred in Dublin Zoo. Could this be so?

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

Considered one of the finest governors of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in the island's history, Sir William's legacy is complicated by the appalling treatment of Tamil labourers, as well as the Gregory Clause in Ireland during the Great Hunger. His wife was the famous Lady Gregory.

This is neither Palmerstown nor Marlfield. And nor is that Lady Mayo or Mrs Bagwell dramatically sprawled at centre stage. This is a still from a poorly received Tim Burton movie called ‘Dark Shadows’ and it’s as close as I could find to a suitable image of burning mansion. 
The Burning of Marlfield and Palmerstown, 1923

The burning of two Irish ‘big house' jewels during the Irish Civil War, including the 7th Earl of Mayo's detailed account.

Photo: Dr. Connie Kelleher, Underwater Archaeology Unit, National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht.
The Pirate Hull of Leamcon, West Cork

Hull was a piratical cad from the early days when he was engaged in smuggling and piracy operations off the coast of Devon as early as 1604. So it was a case of poacher-turned-gamekeeper when, during the reign of James I of England, the English Admiralty appointed him Deputy Vice Admiral of Munster in 1609.

The Tatler, 30 December 1936
The Ponsonbys of Kilcooley Abbey, County Tipperary

A work-in-progress account of the Posonnby family and their connections to the Barker, Bridgeman, Turton, Plunkett, Holroyd-Smyth, Brabazon and Chetwynd-Staplyton families.

Colonel Joseph McMicking 
Sotogrande, Spain: Paradise Reconstructed

Take a small chunk of desolate Spanish sierra, add a sprinkler system and what do you get? By 2003, Sotogrande was unarguably the most exclusive, up-market golfing resort in Europe.

Derrick's depiction of Sir Henry Sidney leaving Dublin Castle. One of the heads spiked on the wall is said to have been Rory Óg O’More's wife Margaret.
The Massacre of Mullaghmast

In a matter of minutes, the massacre is over. 40 men lie dead, including the chiefs of the Seven Septs of Leix – O'Moore, O'Lalor, O'Kelly, O'Doran, O'Dowling, McEvoy and Devoy – and the chiefs of the O'Dunne, O'Molloy, O'Connor and O'More clans. Only two men escape. In an instant, native opposition in the Irish Midlands has been totally annihilated…

Detail from a 1758 portrait of Thomas Conolly (1738-1803) by Anton Raphael Mengs.
Conolly of Castletown House, Celbridge, Co. Kildare, Ireland

Charting the rise of Speaker Conolly, an innkeeper’s son from Donegal who became the most powerful man of his generation. His magnificent Palladian residence at Castletown House, Celbridge, is one of the Irish nation’s greatest treasures. Also looking at connections to the disastrous 1798 Rebellion, the beautiful Lennox sisters, the Charlston Blockade and the Irish Georgian Society.

Bob Ievers as a young man.
Bob & Kate Ievers in Ceylon, plus Ethel, Nena and Kitty

Robert Wilson Ievers, known as Bob, was a high-profile civil servant in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) during the late 19th century. He spoke Singhalese, wrote poetry and explored the ancient ruins of Anarahdapura and Sigiriya. His wife Kate miraculously survived a scuffle with a sloth bear. In 1912, their daughter Ethel married Tim McClintock Bunbury, later 3rd Baron Rathdonnell. Tim and Ethel's son William was my father's father.

The principal front of Desart Court.
Cuffe, Earls of Desart – Ghostly Women and Forgotten Heroes 

The story of the Cuffes of Desart Court in the Irish county of Kilkenny is as sprawling an epic as ever there was. Over nine generations, the family were deeply ensconced in the affairs of Ireland and the Anglo-Irish world. Their rise through the ranks of Great Britain’s social hierarchy makes for a fascinating mirror of the rise of Britain itself, from uncertain nation state to brash and broody empire, culminating in the burning of Desart Court on 22 February 1923.

Alan II (c. 900–952) was Count of Vannes, Poher and Nantes, and Duke of Brittany from 938 to his death. He was the grandson of King Alan the Great by Alan's daughter and her husband Mathuedoï I, Count of Poher. He expelled the Vikings/Norsemen from Brittany after an occupation that lasted from 907 to about 939.
De la Poer (Power) of County Waterford

Tracking the history of the de la Poer or Power dynasty, reputedly from Brittany, who became prominent in Ireland in the medieval period (despite some hefty criminals in the clan) and fetched up as Earls of Tyrone, a title that passed by marriage to the Beresford family of Curraghmore, now headed up by the Marquess of Waterford.

Tim McClintock Bunbury (1881-1937), 3rd Baron Rathdonnell
Tim McClintock Bunbury (1881-1937), 3rd Baron Rathdonnell

Tim became heir apparent to Lisnavagh and the lordship of Rathdonnell, after his brother Billy was killed in the Anglo-Boer War. As a young man, he was Private Secretary to the Governors of Ceylon and Fiji, and the High Commissioner of Australia. A key figure at the Imperial Institute, he served in the war in East Africa, Italy and Carinthia, now Slovenia. His only child was my grandfather.

Approaching Tankardstown Cross on the N81.
Tankardstown, County Carlow

Musings on the Carlow townland. Does anyone have any information on the Tankard family, sometimes Tancred, of County Carlow?

Jack Cade's Rebellion, depicted in a mural of the history of the Old Kent Road.
The Gough Family – Irish War Heroes

A family with several Victoria Crosses and a Field Marshal to their name, the Goughs started out as clergymen in County Limerick before becoming imperial warriors with the British Empire.

The Bunbury Family – Contents Page
The Bunbury Family – Contents Page

With links to all the various branches of the Bunburys I have written about from Lisnavagh to Guyana, Suffolk to Liverpool, New Zealand to Cheshire.

Saint Brigid of Kildare
Saint Brigid of Kildare

In Ireland, St Brigit became known as “Muire na nGael” (Mary of the Irish), as venerable as the Blessed Virgin, mother of Christ, and second only to St Patrick in the hierarchy of patron saints. However, her story is infinitely more complex, embracing the deities of pre-Christian Ireland and the political machinations of the medieval church, as well as a certain amount of revamping in recent times.  

A George II era Irish Silver Coffee Pot with the mark of George Beere, Dublin, 1750.
Beere of Dublin

The Beere family were one of Dublin's leading gold and silversmith dynasties during the Georgian Age. This story also touches on Thekla Beere, the volcanic island of St. Helena and other ancestors of the family who would go on to found the Abrakebabra chain in Ireland. 

Above: Browne's Hill, County Carlow, pictured in 2020. The house is thought to have been built in 1763.
Browne Clayton of Browne's Hill, County Carlow

An account of the family who lived at Browne's Hill outside Carlow from 1763 through until the 1950s, including the Browne Clayton Column (modelled on Pompey’s Pillar in Egypt) in Wexford, and a more recent connection to the last days of the Cambodian dictator Pol Pot.

This little piggy is part of a remarkable collection found in a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
‘It’s a Sulawesi pig, warts and all, painted with vivid red ochre and is quite possibly the earliest known artwork produced by human hand. In fact, the artist even added human hands to the scene. So many millennia ago is a massive timespan to get your head around, but I take much encouragement from the notion that, even then, mankind was seeking to make sense of its surroundings through art.
Sulawesi Warty Pig: ‘My Favourite Painting.'

This little piggy is part of a remarkable collection found in a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. It’s a Sulawesi pig, warts and all, painted with vivid red ochre and is quite possibly the earliest known artwork produced by human hand

View of Roques de García volcanic rocks and Mount Teide in Teide National Park on Tenerife, Spain, by Dronepicr.
Tenerirfe – The Island of Lost Arms & Comedy Seals

Tenerife ain't the sort of place you'd generally associate with snow. Nor would you particularly expect penguins to hang out there. But much is not as it seems on this, the largest of the seven Canary Islands, pitched out in the Atlantic Ocean, 275km off the coast of Africa. In the indigenous Guanche language, Tenerife means ‘snow-capped mountain' and sure enough there's a great big mountain at its centre …

Adare Manor, South East View, by J. R. Jobbins, 1812.
Introduction to Adare Manor: Renaissance of an Irish Country House

An overview of the contents of ‘Adare Manor – The Renaissance of an Irish Country Manor,' the first of Turtle's two books with Adare Manor. The resort was awarded a five-star rating by Forbes Travel Guide in 2023 and voted No. 1 resort in the world by readers of Condé Nast Traveler in 2022.

The explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was born in Kilkea House in 1874.
Sir Ernest Shackleton – By Endurance, We Conquer

An astonishing lesson in leadership from the Irishman whose attempt to cross the Antarctic by land left him with the immense challenge of leading his 27 crewmen on a godforsaken adventure through the world's most hellish waters and an uncharted mountain range.

How would I feel if I contracted Salma Hayek?
Down with Swine Flu

Madam, – As I sit here wrestling with an unidentified flu, I find myself compelled to raise an objection to the name of the pandemic presently sweeping the globe. Swine flu is an unpleasant name … a letter published in the Irish Times in 2009.

Photo: Rachel Kellett.
Ally Bunbury

Full details about Ally can be found on her own website here. As well as …

 Dunmurry House.
Medlicott of Dunmurry, County Kildare and Newport, County Mayo

An invitation to manage the Ormonde estates in post-Restoration Ireland changed everything for the youngest sons of a prominent London barrister. In 1714, the younger brother George Medlicott acquired an estate at Dunmurry. Despite a series of complex changes in ownership, the house remained the family base until 1955. George’s descendants excelled as horse riders, both hunting in Kildare and in action with the British Army overseas.

Finbar Furey who had a role in Wild Goose Lodge (2016) and wrote the music for the film that he performed on the uilleann pipes.  Directed by Paul McCardle and William P. Martin, it lasts 2 hours and took 6 years to make.
North Louth Burning 1816: The Wild Goose Lodge Inferno Retold by Brian Hopkins

A savage murder in 1816 led to the execution of more people than were executed than in 1916, writes BRIAN HOPKINS.  “Given the way witnesses were intimidated or bribed, it is not surprising to learn that more than half of the condemned were innocent.”

Magherymore House.
Leslie-Ellis of Magherymore, Co. Wicklow, and County Monaghan

Looking at the family who lived at Magherymore (now spelled Magheramore), near Wicklow Town for a number of generations, and their connections to the US state of Georgia and Cambridge University. Their home is now a St Columban nursing home.

The Old Library at Trinity College Dublin.
Thomas Burgh (1670-1730) – Engineer Extraordinaire

One of the greatest Irish military engineers of all time, who rose to become Surveyor General of Ireland, his legacies include Collins Barracks, the Old Library at Trinity College, the Linen Hall, the Kilmainham Infirmary and Dr. Steeven's Hospital, as well as his family home, Oldtown, near Naas, County Kildare.

Ballyglasheen House
The Butlers of Ballyglasheen, County Tipperary

A branch of the Anglo-Norman dynasty of Butler settled in County Tipperary during the 16th century and became one of the leading cattle farming families of Tipperary Town by the advent of the War of Independence.

Copper was the mainstay of the Harringtons for a number of generations.
The Harringtons – From the Beara to Butte City, Montana

An off-shoot of the Harrington family of the Beara Peninsula in West Cork who made their way from Milleens near Eyeries, via the copper mines of Montana and the silver mines of Colorado, to the verdant pastures of Tipperary where they turned to cattle farming.

Silken Thomas, illustrated by Derry Dillon
Silken Thomas FitzGerald's Rebellion, 1534-1536

In 1534, Silken Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare, flung down his Sword of State in front of the Council of State and renounced his allegiance to Henry VIII. This was the opening gambit of a rebellion in which FitzGerald attempted to capture Dublin Castle, only to be executed in London, along with five of his uncles, on what was possibly the blackest day in the long, epic history of the FitzGerald family.

Mick Lavelle. Photo: James Fennell.
Mick Lavelle (1930-2013) – The Entertainer of Westport

One of the best-loved faces in Westport, County Mayo, Mick was renowned for rolling up on a nearby seat in Matt Molloy’s and breaking into song. He reckoned he knows the words to over a thousand songs. For instance, he knew ten about Donegal, four about Kildare and one about Carlow. ‘Everyone is so busy now’, he said stoically. ‘Well, there will be plenty of time when we’re dead and gone’.

Tom Frawley.
Tom Frawley (1920-2014) – Publican – Lahinch, County Clare

‘If priests were allowed to marry, they wouldn’t have had half the number of scandals.’ When Tom Frawley makes his point, he does not slam his fist on the bar. He says the words with quiet certainty. He has thought the matter through thoroughly and he knows he is correct. Besides which, the bar is his so why would he want to go and bang it.

Paddy Fagan. Photo: James Fennell.
Paddy Fagan (1924-2014) – Forester & Farmer of Enfield, County Meath

‘I’m just ticking over,’ says the eighty-two-year-old forester, while tippling several litres of petrol from a billy-can directly into a chainsaw without spilling a drop. ‘And once you keep ticking, you’re not too bad.’

Spotlight on Belfast - City of Music & Joy
Spotlight on Belfast – City of Music & Joy

Belfast City, Northern Ireland's progressive capital, developed as a great port and industrial centre during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 2021, Belfast was awarded prestigious UNESCO City of Music status, while the Array Collective, a Belfast-based group, won the Turner Prize and Kenneth Branagh's movie ‘Belfast' won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2022. 

The Cross of Cong
From Holy Jerusalem to Holy Tuam: The True Cross, The Cult of John the Baptist and King Turlough O’Connor 

In 1829, Fr Michael Waldron, the new parish priest of Cong, Co Mayo, discovered in his predecessor’s belongings the now world-famous Cross of Cong.  The subsequent history of the cross, writes MICHAEL BRABAZON, is one of a growing fame, becoming something of a cultural icon housed in the National Museum of Ireland.  But what of the piece of the True Cross for which the Cross of Cong was a purpose-made reliquary in 1123?

I think this is Tom dressed in sporting whites at Eton.
The Life & Times of Thomas Kane McClintock Bunbury, 2nd Baron Rathdonnell, of Lisnavagh, County Carlow – Part 1 (1848-1878)

The Formative Years – Tom McClintock Bunbury (1848-1929) would become probably the most influential member of the Irish branch of the family in history. This section looks at his childhood, his Eton education, his time in the Scots Greys, the death of his parents and sisters, his marriage to Kate Bruen and his position as heir apparent to his uncle, the 1st Baron Rathdonnell.

The 2nd Baron Rathdonnell and his wife were buried beneath a Celtic cross in St Mary's Church, Rathvilly, the church built by his ancestors and extended on his father's watch. He opted not to join his parents, sisters and great-uncle Kane Bunbury in the crypt beneath the church. It was unusual to have a Celtic cross in a Church of Ireland graveyard. This one may have been carved by a man called Taylor, who often did crosses for Glasnevin. This photograph was taken while David Halligan, commissioned by my father, was cleaning up the grave in November 2021.
William Bunbury II (1704-1755) of Lisnavagh, co. Carlow

A grandson of the original Benjamin Bunbury of Killerrig, William (known as Billy) inherited Lisnavagh at the age of six, following the premature death of both his parents. He would preside over Lisnavagh for the next forty years, during which time he helped fund the construction of the Protestant church in Rathvilly. This chapter also looks at his sister Elizabeth Bunbury and her connection to the Lockwood, Minchin and Carden families.

Illustrated depiction of Clarion County oil fields in Pennsylvania from 1877.
A History of the O’Leary and Cavanaugh Families – From Kerry to Houston via Oil City

This epic story homes in on the descendants of Pat O’Leary, who emigrated to North America from Ireland at the height of the Great Famine. Following his marriage to fellow Kerry emigrant Catherine Maloney, he worked on the railroads of New York and Toronto. The O’Leary’s and their seven children then journeyed south to Pennsylvania where the oil industry was underway. Pat's grandson George O'Leary became one of the most influential figures in Houston, Texas. Also told are the back stories of the Maloneys of Knockalougha, County Kerry, and the Cavanaughs of County Leitrim. 

"The Major"   -    Hugh Caruthers Massy (1914-1987)
“The Major” – Hugh Caruthers Massy (1914-1987)

An account of my father's stepfather Major Hugh Caruthers Massy, from orphaned childhood to Prisoner of War, from Gaza to Kenya to Ballynatray, with musings upon his family background and his lovely sister Narcissa.

The Irishman who built 10 Downing Street
The Irishman who built 10 Downing Street

Described as a ‘perfidious rogue' and ‘a most ungrateful villain,' the man who build Downing Street was also a brilliant scholar, a Puritan preacher, a duplicitous spy, a diplomat, an economist and a dastardly politician.

Bob Murphy (1909-2002) – The End of an Era
Bob Murphy (1909-2002) – The End of an Era

A story about the first person interviewed for the Vanishing Ireland project, arguably the smartest dresser in Rathvilly, with a cameo from two eels. ‘We won’t get those people again,’ said his neighbour. ‘Bob was the end of an era.'

Close up of dog-fight by Derry Dillon, from the Boyle 'Past Tracks' panel.
The Irish Air Aces – Mick Mannock, Jimmy McCudden & George ‘McIrish’ McElroy

The top three Allied air aces in World War One were Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock, James McCudden and George ‘McIrish’ McElroy. All three were destined to die in the war. A rather lesser known fact is that all three had strong Irish connections. Mannock was born in Ireland to a mother from Cork. McCudden’s father was born in Carlow and McElroy was the son of a Roscommon schoolteacher.

Kevin McClory. Illustrated by Derry Dillon.
Kevin McClory (1924-2006) – James Bond's Mentor

The flamboyant Hollywood producer Kevin McClory (1924-2006) grew up in Dublin. He is credited with converting James Bond’s character into the dashing, charismatic star of 27 hit films. In 1983 he co-produced ‘Never Say Never Again’, in which Sean Connery reprised his role as Agent 007 for the first time in twelve years.

Close up of the man I believe to be Captain William McClintock Bunbury.
Captain William McClintock Bunbury, Part 3: Lisnavagh House & Westminster MP (1835-1866)

This part takes up from William’s retirement from the navy, after 20 years at sea, and the complete revolution in his life in 1846 when, in the space of 5 weeks, he succeeded to his wealthy uncle’s fortune and became MP for Carlow, just as Peel’s government collapsed and the potato blight began to scorch the land. It looks at his sojourn in County Fermanagh, his marriage into the Stronge family of Tynan Abbey, his political term at Westminster and the construction of Lisnavagh House.

The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, whose ill-advised Revocation of the Edict of Nantes dispatched thousands of Protestant Huguenots to Ireland.
Chaigneau of Corkagh & Youghal

The story of a Calvinist Protestant (or Huguenot) dynasty from France who relocated to Ireland in the 17th century. Louis Chaigneau, a wealthy Dublin wine and property merchant, built Corkagh House in Dublin, as well as properties in Gowran, County Kilkenny. Also looking at connections to Wolfe Tone, the actress Peg Woffington and a well-connected army agent.

Galanthus 'Straffan' Snowdrop. With thanks to Jim Tancred.
Barton of Straffan House, County Kildare, and Grove, County Tipperary

The remarkable tale of the family of ‘Wine Geese’ who, having arrived in Ireland in the last year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, prospered in the wine trade despite the French Revolution.  They owned the Châteaux Léoville Barton and Langoa vineyards from where some of the finest clarets in France are still produced to this day, and co-founded Barton and Guestier. With their profits, they purchased Grove House in County Tipperary, and Straffan House in County Kildare, better known as the K-Club.

Antony and Justin with Bertha.
Bertha’s Resurrection

A two-time Guinness World Record-holder – the oldest and the most prolific cow ever recorded – Bertha passed away just three months short of her 49th birthday, being more than twice the lifespan of your average cow. This legendary Droimeann cow from Sneem, Co. Kerry, has been immortalised by an award-winning Irish gin.

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

I was utterly elated by the first review of my 2021 book, ‘The Irish Diaspora,’ from BBC History Magazine, the UK’s biggest selling history magazine: ‘This fascinating assortment of case histories, spread across 1,400 years and six continents, is an impressive feat of research … The summaries of often-complex historical background to the lives explored are models of lucid compression.' Here's some further detail.

Hugh Stirling MacKenzie, right, commander of the submarine Thrasher.
Mackenzie of Druim, Inverness

Looking at the lives of the Rev Hur Libertas MacKenzie, a Scots missionary who was in China from 1860-1899; his son Theodore, who was in charge of the Inverness District Asylum, and grandsons, including Admiral Hugh Stirling MacKenzie, commander of the Polaris submarine. 

Maureen Sullivan of Boyle first starred as Jane in the 1932 Tarzan movie. From an illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Boyle, County Roscommon – Historical Tales

The stories of the Hollywood beauty who starred in the Tarzan movies, the scullery maid who became a baroness, a Great War air ace, the woman who composed India’s national anthem, a regiment known as the Devil’s Own and the inspiration for Chris O’Dowd’s ‘Moone Boy.’ Extracted from Past Tracks, with Irish translations by Jack O'Driscoll.

The Mother Prioress, Dame Teresa, and the three nuns
who revisited Ypres.
The Irish Dames of Ypres – Escape from the Western Front

The dramatic story of the Irish Benedictine nuns of Ypres and their escape from Belgium and France at the height of World War One to Ireland where they went on to establish Kylemore Abbey.

The Glorious Madness - Tales of the Irish & the Great War - Introduction & Contents
The Glorious Madness – Tales of the Irish & the Great War – Introduction & Contents

By the time you combine all the Irish or half-Irish who served in the British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and US armies during World War One, there was probably more than quarter of a million soldiers. As to the number of Irish-born died, 36,000 seems to be the increasingly accepted figure. My book a collection is not a definitive book of Irish involvement in the war. It is simply a collection of Great War stories with an Irish twist

Headshot of Fr Patrick Lavelle
Father Patrick Lavelle (1825-1861) – The Patriot Priest of Partry.

The story of a courageous and fiery priest from County Mayo who sought to end landlordism, evictions and evangelical conversion of Catholic children in the 19th century and who was alleged to have stolen the famous Cross of Cong, one of Europe’s most valuable treasures. The cross was almost certainly commissioned in 1123 by Turlough Mór O'Connor, High King of Ireland.

The Lisnavagh archives contains all of Benjamin’s regimental commissions, including some that appear to be personally signed by King George III.
The Rathdonnell Papers (PRONI)

This index – a work in progress – was originally compiled in 1996 by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. This list covers almost all of the Rathdonnell archive. 

Molana Abbey.
Molana Abbey: From the Stone Age to Dissolution

Molana Abbey is located on the Blackwater outside Youghal, County Waterford. Its history is astonishing – the birthplace of Canon Law, the burial place of Raymond Le Gros and the home of Thomas Harriot, one of the first Europeans to visit the Americas.

Kathleen and Peter Ronaghan in 1928, possibly on their wedding day.
Ronaghan of Monaghan

The Ronaghan family have been associated with County Monaghan for many long centuries, specifically with Oriel, an ancient kingdom that embraced Monaghan as well as parts of Tyrone, Armagh and Louth. In more recent times, they have been one of Monaghan's foremost pharmacists. These notes were compiled by Turtle, with multiple assistance from the late Lorcan Ronaghan, and include records of the Rose Estate (Muallaghmore). 

The Big Snow & Freeze-Up in West Wicklow, 1963, by Michael O'Brien
The Big Snow & Freeze-Up in West Wicklow, 1963, by Michael O'Brien

“The heavens scowled, the huskies howled and an ice wind began to blow.” This is a guest-post by Michael O'Brien.

Photo: James Fennell
Betty Scott (1923-2013) – The Inspiration for the Vanishing Ireland project

The story of Betty Scott, who started work at Lisnavagh as a parlourmaid in 1941 and was the housekeeper from 1959 throughout my young life until she retired in 2007. Without Betty's influence, the Vanishing Ireland project would never have happened.

A family gathering at Harpsden Court, Henley-on-Thames, including Admiral Versturme, Laura Palairet, Harry, Eleanor Hodges (Palairet), Anne and Adolphus Versturme-Bunbury, Eleanor, Charlie, Edith.
The Versturme-Bunbury Family

The Versturme-Bunbury family descend from the 1829 marriage between Anne Elizabeth Bunbury, a descendent of the Bunburys of Cranavonane, and Captain Louis Versturme of Berkshire. They include the North North and Bunbury North family, and a number of people who became influential in Kenya during the mid-20th century.

Section of Mount Edgcumbe Panorama (Men-of-War and other vessels on Hamoaze) c.1779
Peart Robinson of Burnley & Chatburn, Lancashire

A cast that includes the extraordinary Dutch SOE operative Door de Graaf,  the homeopathic surgeon Dr Drysdale, the German novelist Wilhelm Christoph von Polenz, a bailiff of Clithero, a pioneer of the Arts and Craft movement (John Gorges Robinson), the directors of Craven Bank and my great-grandmother's family.

Denny Galvin. Photo: James Fennell.
Denny Galvin – Cattle Farmer of Stradbally

From the ‘Vanishing Ireland' archives, an interview with Denis ‘Denny' Galvin, a cattle farmer born in 1945, about the challenges of keeping his County Kerry farm in order in the early 21st century.

John 'Old Turnip' McClintock, father of the 1st Lord Rathdonnell, Captain William
McClintock Bunbury and Kate Gardiner, as well as eight children by his second wife,
Lady Elizabeth McClintock, daughter of the Earl of Clancarty.
John ‘Old Turnip' McClintock (1769-1855) of Drumcar, County Louth

A prominent player in Irish politics during the last years of the Parliament in Dublin, aided by his kinship with John Foster, the last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and his opposition to the Act of Union, the Brexit of its day. Following the tragic death of his first wife Jane (née Bunbury) in 1801, he married a sister of the 2nd Earl of Clancarty, one of the power houses of European politics after Napoleon’s defeat.

Jimmy Ryan (1928-2018, Hurley Maker), Crosscannon, Killenaule, County Tipperary. Photo: James Fennell.
Jimmy Ryan (1928-2018) , The Hurley Maker – Crosscannon, Killenaule, County Tipperary

‘To make the perfect hurley, you need an ash tree that is between 25 and 35 years old. If the tree is any younger than that, you won’t get enough hurleys out of it. And if the tree has gone beyond 35, then the skin becomes too rough and the timber is old and brittle.’

Mick Gallagher. Photo: James Fennell.
Mick Gallagher (1932-2022), Farm Labourer – Collooney, County Sligo

‘When he wasn’t thatching, my uncle was making crill baskets for the donkeys to carry the turf in from the bogs. It was all donkeys at that time. There were droves of them on the mountains.’ A much loved resident of Ox mountain, County Sligo, recalls a life of hunting rabbits, open-top tractors and working with the O'Hara family.

Pat Kenny's father with the elephants at Dublin Zoo. With thanks to Robyn Fallon.
Elephants at Dublin Zoo

“Oh, I can well remember the elephants, Sara and Komali! A penny’s worth of cubed stale bread to feed them and rides on Sara down by the lake!”

Kitty Kiernan – Michael Collins’ Fiancée
Kitty Kiernan – Michael Collins’ Fiancée

A short account of the love that bloomed between Michael Collins and Kitty Kiernan, including an extract from the last letter she wrote to him before he was shot dead on 22 August 1922.

Soo Piercey relaxing in her garden.
Soo Piercey's Tannery, Zimbabwe – Awaiting the Inevitable

An adventurous artist, whose life sounds very Wilbur Smith, Soo Piercey bought a Zimbabwean tannery for storing elephant hides and leopard skins. It became home to her collections – including the craft of over twenty African tribes, as well as her own extraordinary works, painted over the course of her extensive wanderings.

Han Solo
Harrison Ford – The Hollywood Carpenter

‘As a man, I've always felt Irish. As an actor, I've always felt Jewish.’ So declared Harrison Ford who, born in Chicago in 1942, was the grandson of John Fitzgerald Ford, an Irish Catholic émigré.

Half-Time Oranges: Joe Rock (1927-2016)
Half-Time Oranges: Joe Rock (1927-2016)

The Rock family from Dublin were awarded the Dermot Earley Family Award in the 2022 GAA Presidents Awards. The award honours the superb and long standing impact the Rock family have had on GAA life in the capital. Joe Rock was a Croke Park legend prior to his death at the age of 90 in 2016. A grand uncle of Dublin All-Star forward, Dean Rock, Joe worked at Croke Park since the age of six, looking after the dressing room and tunnel areas for the biggest games of the year. He told me of his highs and lows, including shadow-boxing with Al “Blue” Lewis and picking orange peels off the ground as a young fellow.

Noel Robinson – Farmer of Coole, County Westmeath
Noel Robinson – Farmer of Coole, County Westmeath

Born in 1939, Westmeath farmer Noel Robinson reflects on mixed marriages, emigration, rabbit-hunting, holy wells, and the challenges for farmers in the 21st century. From the Vanishing Ireland archives.

John Kay's depiction of  Charles Byrne towering over the extra short George Cranstoun and three contemporaries of more conventional height.
Charles Byrne, the Irish Giant (1761-1783)

It’s not often that a funeral director buys everyone a drink, but this undertaker had his reasons … The story of a giant from County Derry, a household name in 18th century London, the ongoing fate of his valuable corpse and the important role his DNA has played in identifying the “gigantism gene”.