Turtle's History Library

An extensive archive of Turtle’s writings on history, travel, interiors and other matters.

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Become a member of Turtle’s History Library to access over 1,000 historical features, mostly Irish, covering everything from the Neolithic period to the Big House, from Viking warriors to Irish revolutionaries, including content from Turtle’s books such as ‘Vanishing Ireland’, ‘1847′ and ‘The Irish Pub,’ plus ‘Waterways Through Time,’ ‘Past Tracks’ and hundreds of house and family histories.

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Turtle’s History Library is updated, improved and expanded on a daily basis.  If a story is incomplete or not showing up, please email us and we shall investigate.

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Mex Poster, 1928
Maxol – The History 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.

Joe Biden and Teddy Kennedy
The Irish & the White House – Why Irish Eyes are Smiling

The White House was built by a fellow from Kilkenny and burned down by a man from Down. At least 22 of its presidential occupants had Irish roots, as did numerous other founding fathers and leading political figures in US history. This epic looks at the many, many connections between Ireland and the US presidents, including the White House staff over the years.

Coptic Ireland – A Chronology
Coptic Ireland – A Chronology

A chronology of events, mostly related to Egypt, some of which may have had a long term influence or impact on the evolution of Christianity in Ireland and, therefore, Europe.

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 largely fictional order known as the Fratres Cruciferi.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
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.

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 …

Barbara Verschoyle built churches, schools and convents in Dublin in the 19th century. From an illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Notes on Booterstown, County Dublin

The stories of a multi-millionaire opera singer, a remarkable Georgian lady, an ancient highway, the most powerful politician in 20th century Ireland, a Sunday morning assassination and how the Radisson Blu was once given as a prize to a victorious general. Extracted from Past Tracks, with Irish translations by Jack O'Driscoll.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
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.

Dancing on the Door, with Frank and Mini McGovern.
Carleton's Country – The Rose Shaw Collection

Rose Shaw was governess to the Gledstanes of Fardross House in County Tyrone during the early 20th century. She spent much of her time walking in the Clogher Valley, on the border of Counties Fermanagh and Tyrone, photographing local people. This page showcases 11 of her wonderful photographs.

Notes on Clongriffin (Cluain Ghrífín) & Stapolin, County Dublin

See also Raheny, Bayside and other Dublin areas here. The House of Paul   The …

Notes on Thomastown, County Kilkenny

  The Empresario   200 years ago, one of the most influential men in Mexico …

Thomas Saint George Armstrong. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Clara, County Offaly

Quaker Quarter   Arguably the most influential family in Clara’s history were the Goodbodys of …

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 composer, Dame Elizabeth Maconchy (1907–94), and her husband William Richard Le Fanu, librarian at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
Leonard Hutcheson Poe (1888-1929)

Between 1916 and 1929, Leonard Hutcheson Poe (1888-1929) was the agent at Lisnavagh and lived in Germaines.

The founding fathers tip their bowlers and trilbies during the presentation of prizes for the Trainers Cup at the first meeting at Naas Racecourse on 19 June 1924. General Waldron (the handicapper) and Thomas Whelan are on the left, with Edward ‘Cub’ Kennedy, raising his hat high on the right. Ned Gaul is centre background, with hat and tie. Charlie Farrell is also said to be in the photo. There may also be a Dowse from outside Naas. Edward Brophy is not in the picture.
Naas – Chapter 2 ­– The Roaring Twenties

The formative years of the Naas Race Company, and the story of its original cast and dramatis personnae.

County Kilkenny – Choose a Topic
County Kilkenny – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Kilkenny’s past.

Photo: James Fennell
The Cistercians of Mount St Joseph, Roscrea, County Tipperary

The jury is still out as to whether or not the corridors of Mount St Joseph became any noisier after Vatican II. The return of the voice had to be weighed against the ever diminishing number of monks walking through the monastery every passing year. ‘Very few enter nowadays,’ concedes Father Laurence.

County Laois - Choose a Topic
County Laois – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Laois.

Johnny Byrne (1926-2023) of Killabban, County Laois
Johnny Byrne (1926-2023) of Killabban, County Laois

Huge thanks to John Glynn for the short video of the late Johnny Byrne which …

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.

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 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 heroes include Butch O'Hare, Captain Francis O'Neill, Richard Daley, Mother Jones and the men who built the I&M Canal. In the fall of 2024, Ireland House will open in the Chicago to house the Consulate General of Ireland and representatives from Ireland’s economic and trade promotion agencies. This page includes what is surely the most comprehensive list of Chicago-linked Irish-Americans online, thanks to Belinda Evangelista.

Inventors of County Kilkenny

  Robert Fulton, inventor, Kilkenny roots – see here.   Henry Archer of Jenkinstown, in the …

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.

A Bianconi coach. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Charles Bianconi (1786-1875) – The Man who put Ireland on Wheels

‘Earn a shilling a day and live upon sixpence’. That was the motto of a remarkable entrepreneur from Italy whose energy, perseverance, punctuality and good humour made him the transport king of Ireland in the 1820s and 1830s. A friend of Daniel O’Connell, he became Mayor of Clonmel in 1845.

County Carlow – Choose a Topic
County Carlow – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, pubs, families, events and places connected to County Carlow’s past.

Reactions to the destruction of Carlow Castle. From an Illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Notes on County Carlow

The stories of a man born without limbs who became an explorer, as well as the Czech engineer who invented the water-bike, the murder of a Hollywood director, the prince of Antwerp who made Carlow his home, the crazy doctor who blew up Carlow Castle and the mystery of one of the world’s biggest ancient monuments. Extracted from Past Tracks, with Irish translations by Jack O'Driscoll.

George Peabody and his Quaker friend John Bright beside St Joseph’s Church, Castleconnell. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Castleconnell, County Limerick

An Efficacious Spa   For over 200 years, Castleconnell was celebrated across Ireland for its …

The Very Rev. Fr. Cullen preparing Rathvilly for its Tidy Town victory, with Martin Cody, Miley Brennan and Joe Toole.
Clergy who have Served in Rathvilly and Kiltegan by Monsignor John McEvoy

AP: Assistant Priest. CC: Curate. PP: Parish Priest Parish Priests Years Native of Born Ordained …

One of the earliest published depictions of Napoleon, made just as he was coming to prominence as a 29-year-old General. It was drawn by Jean-Urbain Guérin (1760-1836), who, along with Jean-Baptiste Isabey and Jacques Augustin, is considered one of the finest French miniaturists.
Dr Barry O’Meara (1786-1836) – Napoleon’s Doctor

An account of the gung-ho surgeon from Blackrock, County Dublin, who became physician and friend to the fallen French Emperor during his exile on the island of St Helena.

James II and his second wife, Anne Hyde, by Sir Peter Lely.
Irish Links to Albany, New York

Irish links to Albany since the late 17th century. This page includes what is surely the most comprehensive list of Albany-linked Irish-Americans online, thanks to Belinda Evangelista.

The Naas Supporters Handicap Hurdle at Naas in 2010. Photo: Peter Mooney.
Chapter 11: Naas Races 2010-2019

From ‘The Centenary of Naas Racecourse (1924-2024) – Nursery of Champions’ by Turtle Bunbury.   …

County Tipperary – Choose a Topic
County Tipperary – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Tipperary’s past.

Trainer Henry de Bromhead, his wife Heather, left, and winning jockey Rachael Blackmore after Honeysuckle won the Mares' Hurdle. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile.
Chapter 12: Naas Races 2020-2024

From ‘The Centenary of Naas Racecourse (1924-2024) – Nursery of Champions’ by Turtle Bunbury. Back …

Index to Vanishing Ireland Interviews
Index to Vanishing Ireland Interviews

A county-by-county index to all the people interviewed for the Vanishing Ireland series.

The Dalkey Atmospheric. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Dalkey, County Dublin

Accounts of the Dalkey hawks and the Atmospheric Railway, of Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, and Harry Styles, of the Kingdom of Dalkey, a gold rush and a woman who tried to kill Mussolini, of Flann O’Brien, Maeve Binchy and the evolution of Sorrento Terrace, Vico Road and Monte Alverno, amongst other tales.

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.

Benjamin Bunbury the magistrate, close up.
The Magistrate: Benjamin Bunbury (1751-1823) of Moyle & Killerig

Benjamin Bunbury was one of the younger sons of Thomas Bunbury of Kill but the death in a horse fall of his older brother William propelled him into the deep end as he took over the running of Lisnavagh, as well as Moyle and Killerrig, on behalf of his young nephew. He earned himself a reputation as something of a diplomat during the 1798 Rebellion but narrowly avoided being murdered by the Finnegan gang shortly before his death at the age of 72 .

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.

Cathy Gannon. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Howth Junction & Donaghmede

The Grange   Most of present-day Donaghmede and Clongriffin falls within the 451-acre townland of …

Cistercians at work. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
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.

Arthur Guinness
Arthur Guinness (1759-1803) – The Brewing Maestro

The story of the man who founded the famous brewery at St James's Gate in Dublin, including his ancestral link to the MacCartans of County Down, the controversy of his birth in Celbridge , his bequest from Archbishop Price and his marriage to the heiress Olivia Whitmore. 

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

In 1534, Silken Thomas FitzGerald flung down his Sword 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.

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 .

Brendan Behan and his mother Kathleen. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Harmonstown, Artane & Coolock

The Drummer’s Kitchen   60 Rosemount Avenue was the childhood home of U2’s co-founder and …

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.

The River Derreen at Acaun. Photo: Turtle Bunbury (2021)
The Monastic Townland of Acaun, County Carlow

Located just east of the Lisnavagh farmyard, Acaun is the smallest of Carlow County's 603 townlands. This account considers the origins of its monastery, mill-race and castle and touches on its connections to people such as Alice Kyteler, Bishop Ledred and Edmund Butler, Earl of Carrick.

Photographed in August 2018 by Ken Williams of Shadows and Stone, this drone photograph shows the outline of several barrows and ring-ditches, as well as a
large circular enclosure, in the Long Field behind the Haroldstown Dolmen in County Carlow. The road on the right is the R727 from Hackestown to Tobinstown, the bendy
bit is Acaun Bridge and the grey lump in the field by the bridge is the dolmen. This incredible photo, made possible by the long drought, is the first indication of any such complex in this area.
(With thanks to Ken Williams)
Haroldstown, County Carlow – Of Dolmens, Evictions and Eccentric Historians

Located on the River Dereen, this 350 acre townland includes the beautiful Haroldstown Dolmen, while neighbouring Ballykilduff appears to have been home to a Bronze Age settlement that was first charted by a drone in 2018. Closely linked to the nearby monastery at Acaun, its past owners include two former Lord Chancellors of Ireland and an eccentric newspaper man. It was also the scene of an appalling eviction of 173 tenants in the 1830s, including numerous widows.  

John 'Bumper Jack' McClintock of Drumcar was chief serjeant-at-arms in the Irish House of Commons during the 1790s. He was grandfather of the first Lord Rathdonnell.
‘Bumper Jack’ – John McClintock (1743-1799)

The builder of Drumcar House, John McClintock was one of the most prominent MPs during the age of Grattan’s Parliament, serving as MP for Belturbet and Enniskillen between 1783 and 1797. He was also Chief Serjeant of Arms to the Irish Parliament (when his wife’s cousin John Foster was Speaker of the Irish House of Commons) and Treasurer of the Northern Rangers. This story also takes in the remarkable tale of John Suttoe, a black man who worked for the McClintocks and married Margaret O’Brien from County Louth.

Death of Sir Hector Maclean
Alexander McClintock of Trintaugh, County Donegal – The First Settler

It is said that the first of the family to come to Ireland was an Alexander McClintock who arrived in Donegal 1597. A mercenary, perhaps, who fought during the Nine Years War? And yet it seems more likely he arrived as part of a settlement arranged by Bishop Knox of Raphoe circa 1620s. The first known McClintock home was a farm at Trintaugh near the River Foyle. They built the nearby church at Taughboyne. This page seeks to flesh out what we know of these early settlers.

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.

A wolf hunt in the Great Scaldwood. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Coolmine and Blanchardstown, County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin, such as Clonsilla – …

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.

Back garden at Ballyvolane House by David McClelland.
Ballyvolane, County Cork, Ireland – The Place of the Springing Heifers

Ballyvolane is one of the most admired guest houses in Ireland. Built by a former Chief Justice of Ireland, past occupants of the County Cork mansion include a butler and a maid executed for murder and a nationalist politician who vanished without trace. Owned by the Green family since 1953, its recent guests have included Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. This history includes a piece I wrote for National Geographic Traveller.

A miniature portrait of Thomas
Bunbury as a young boy, presumably about
the time of his father's death.
Thomas Bunbury II of Lisnavagh (1775-1846), MP for Carlow

A chronological account of the bachelor Thomas Bunbury, eldest son of William Bunbury III of Lisnavagh and his wife Katherine (née Kane), taking in the tragic deaths of his father and sister, his time at Oxford, his connections to Bath and his role as an MP and magistrate in County Carlow on the eve of the Great Hunger.

 Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Portmarnock, County Dublin

The Pirate Station   Sunshine Radio, the most successful super-pirate radio station in Irish history, …

Illustration: Derry Dillon
Notes on the Connolly Station area in Dublin City

Looking at stories of the sculptor John Henry Foley, the beautiful Montgomery sisters, the 1916 leader James Connolly, the eccentric Earls of Aldborough, the boundary wall around the Custom House docks and one of Europe's biggest red light districts.

County Dublin & Dublin City – Choose a Topic
County Dublin & Dublin City – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to the city and county of Dublin.

Illustration: Derry Dillon.
The Artane Band & Lily Allen

It was a proud day in the history of Scotshouse. On Saturday 14 August 2009, …

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

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. 

St Patrick's (Church of Ireland) in Slane was a stronghold of the Disney clergymen.
Brabazon Disney – A Mostly Clerical Family

Looking at the life of an Irish clerical family whose best known members include John Disney, sometime Mayor of Galway, and Catherine Disney (1800-1853), a love interest of mathematician and astronomer Sir William Rowan Hamilton. 

Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Raheny, County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin, including Kilbarrack, Harmonstown, Sutton, …

Sir William Rowan Hamilton etches his famous formula. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Broombridge & Cabra, County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin   Eureka!   On …

Howth Harbour Lighthouse, undertaken by Halpin who was the Inspector of Lighthouses; his brother Richard was Warden of Howth. 
The Halpin Family: Lighthouse Builders, Port Engineers, Pioneers

A dynasty whose bloodlines interlink across multiple generations from their origins in the Huguenot stronghold of Portarlington, County Laois, to Wicklow, the Dublin Docklands, Meath and the distant lands of the USA and Australia. George Halpin, the ‘Founding Father’ of Irish lighthouses, constructed 53 lighthouses around the Irish coast, and did much to shape Dublin Bay and the Liffey. His nephew Captain Robert Halpin laid the Atlantic cable, while the article brings us to the present-day with the inventor, engineer and MacArthur fellow, Saul Griffith.

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.

Reflections on Irish Identity, 2024
Reflections on Irish Identity, 2024

Considering the impact of Ireland abroad from Cillian Murphy 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.

Photo: James Fennell
PJ Guerin (The Kingfisher) of Castleconnell, Co. Limerick

Paddy Guerin is one of Ireland's oldest publicans. His pub offers perhaps a dozen different seating arrangements, flowery sofas, quirky bar stools, upturned half-casks, railway benches, church pews, rough wooden tables, everything different. ‘I’m like a crow', he says. ‘I pick up things. Everything is borrowed, never given back or stolen’.

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.

 Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on the Bobbett Family of Ashbourne, County Meath, and Hansfield, Count Dublin

Random notes on a family said to descend from a William Bobbett who came to Ireland from Brittany in 1650. He reputedly swam ashore near Swords after a shipwreck and settled in the area.  By 1834, they were renting the lands of Hedgestown [Hodgestown], County Meath from the Marquis of Lansdowne. They became prominent in the Clonsilla / Blanchardstown / Hansfield / Porterstown area.

Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Hansfield & Phibblestown, County Dublin

What’s In A Name?   The townland of Phibblestown was renamed ‘Hansfield’ by Hans Blackwood, …

Sir Benjamin Baker (1840–1907)
Sir Benjamin Baker (1840–1907)

The son of a Carlow man, Baker designed the Forth Bridge in Scotland and the Barrow Bridge in Ireland. He was also the consulting engineer on the building of the Low Aswan Dam on the River Nile.

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.

County Mayo – Choose a Topic
County Mayo – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Mayo’s past.

Kilruddery House, Bray, County Wicklow,  in the 19th century.
Brabazon of Killruddery, County Wicklow – Earls of Meath, Barons Ardee

The Brabazons came to prominence during the Tudor conquest of Ireland when Henry VIII dispatched the shrewd Sir William Brabazon to Ireland as Vice-Treasurer. He established the family at Killruddery and his grandson was created 1st Earl of Meath in 1627. Over the next 300 years, the family would consolidate their influence in Wicklow, Ireland and the wider world of the British Empire.

Count John McCormack. Illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Notes on Athlone, County Westmeath

The stories of a Victoria Cross winning drummer boy, a world heavyweight boxing champ, a deadly hurricane, the Earls of Athlone, Count John McCormack, and a brilliant bandmaster who performed at the inauguration of six US presidents. Extracted from Past Tracks. Irish translation included.

County Westmeath – Choose a Topic
County Westmeath – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Westmeath’s past.

Mrs Oscar De Glanville, The Graphic - 27 December 1930.
De Glanville of Sussex, Formby, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Burma (Myanmar)

Kitty Ievers, my father’s great-aunt, married Bertram de Glanville, chairman of the Colombo Port Commission in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the 1930s. The following insights into the de Glanville / Glanville family focuses on Bertram and his half-brother, Sir Oscar de Glanville, who had an fascinating, sometimes controversial and ultimately tragic career in Myanmar when it was a part of the British Empire known as Burma.

Tynan Abbey in its heyday. Photo courtesy of Kate Kingan.
Stronge of Tynan Abbey, County Armagh

The dramatic tale of the Stronge family from their arrival in Ireland on the eve of the siege of Derry through to the brutal murder of Sir Norman Stronge and his son James by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1981.

Rita Hayworth. Illustration by Derry Dillon.
Notes on Clonsilla, County Dublin

The stories of Rita Hayworth and Prince Aly, the Shackleton Gardens, Luttrellstown Castle, the wrestler Stephen Farrelly, a strange poisoning and a remarkable barrister.  Irish translations follow below.

Kindred Spirits by Alex Pentek.
The Choctaw Nation’s Extraordinary Gift to Ireland, 1847

In 1847 the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma raised $170 for Irish famine relief. Their empathy was stirred by a similar experience during the early 1830s when between 1500 and 4,000 died Choctaw on the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’. This story explores the fate of the Choctaw and the two Irish-American brothers who helped them cross the Mississippi, and also looks at donations from the Muscogee, Cherokee and Mississauga people.

Past Tracks - An Illustrated Journey Through Irish History
Past Tracks – An Illustrated Journey Through Irish History

Like Paddington Bear, the Past Tracks project came to life on a railway platform. In …

I was utterly elated by the first review of ‘The Irish Diaspora’, from BBC History Magazine (April 2021), the UK’s biggest selling history magazine. This is an extract:  

‘This fascinating assortment of case histories, spread across 1,400 years and six continents, is an impressive feat of research. All of the chapters are based on a solid body of up-to-date historical writing. The summaries of often-complex historical background to the lives explored are models of lucid compression. The short biographies themselves are lively yet judicious, packed with vivid detail but willing, where necessary, to question or dismiss colourful legend. And the reader will come away with a new sense of the many ways in which Ireland has interacted with the world beyond its shores, and of some of the extraordinary careers that have resulted.’
The Irish Diaspora – Reviews

‘Bunbury's pacey but well-researched narrative is addictive … The research that underpins the short and engaging biographies delivers credible detail. His book is a delightful read … history at its most vibrant.’

'The Seraph's Watch' by Ford Madox Brown
Art of 1847

Showcasing works by Dionysios Tsokos, Ford Madox Brown, Pavel Fedotov, Richard Airey, Charles Lees, David MacDonald, Friedrich Nerly, Thomas Websiter, John Everett Millais, Thomas Couture and others.

Saint Brigid of Kildare
Saint Brigid of Kildare

In Ireland, St Brigit is considered as venerable as the Blessed Virgin, mother of Christ, and second only to St Patrick in the hierarchy of patron saints. She's even been known to turn up in a Lindsay Lohan rom-com. Her story is a complex cocktail, embracing the deities of pre-Christian Ireland and the political machinations of the medieval church, as well as a series of revamps in recent times.  

Naas Roll of Honour

Between 2020 and 2023, National Hunt horses that ran at Naas also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the King George VI Chase, the Aintree Grand National, the Cheltenham Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Cheltenham Triumph Hurdle and the Queen Mother Champion Chase, twice. On the Flat, they also scooped the Epsom Derby, the Epsom Oaks, the English 2,000 Guineas, the English 1,000 Guineas, the Melbourne Cup and four Breeders’ Cups.

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

In March 2024, Willie became the first trainer in history to score 100 wins at the Cheltenham Festival. He's been in the saddle since 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. This is an interview from 2010, when he was already an equestrian superstar.

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. 

A Radburn Family. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Bayside (Cois Bá) and Baldoyle, County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin, including Howth, Sutton, Kilbarrack, …

Notes on Killester, County Dublin

St Brigid in Killester   Kilbride Road refers to the ‘church of Bride’ as in …

An tSlí Mhór (The Great Way) and the Esker Riada
An tSlí Mhór (The Great Way) and the Esker Riada

Three parishes and circa 74 townlands across the island of Ireland are named after eskers, ridges formed in glacial times. This article offers a few thoughts on how and why some of Ireland’s present-day roads have been used for several thousand years.

Sir William Gregory, Governor of Sri Lanka. Illustration: Derry Dillon
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.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
Notes on Howth and the Howth Head Peninsula, County Dublin

When the ancient Egyptian cartographer Ptolemy sketched his map of the known world some 1900 years ago, he sketched the Howth Head peninsula on the north side of Dublin Bay as an island. Some hold that Howth was also known to the Phoenicians. Here are a dozen highlights from Howth's history from ancient deer to Russian mutineers, the famous gun-run to a lesser known hero of 1916.

Churchill with Montgomery and Alexander; both generals were part McClintock.
James McClintock of Trintaugh (1735-1786) & the Rathdonnell House Link

The family fortune floundered when one extravagant individual kept 29 hunters and coach-horses in his stable, and always drove with four horses in his coach, but, on the positive side, the hymm-writer C F Alexander, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein and Field Marshal Lord Alexander of Tunis were all part-McClintock.

Published in 2023, 'The Centenary of Naas Racecourse - Nursery of Champions' is available via www.naasracecourse.com for €50 plus post and packaging.
The Centenary of Naas Racecourse – Book Reviews

‘A fascinating canter through Irish history … gripping stories and great insight.' (Sunday Independent) … ‘Cannot give enough praise for this wonderful coffee table publication' (The Irish Field) … ‘A magisterial history … the most impressive publication relating to any aspect of Naas history yet to appear in the 21st century.’

County Fermanagh – Choose a Topic
County Fermanagh – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Fermanagh’s past.

Detail from the McClintock of Trintaugh tablecloth from circa 1736.
John McClintock of Trintaugh (1698-1765)

John McClintock of Trintaugh, County Donegal, was the third surviving son of John and Janet McClintock of Trintaugh. A favourite of his older brother Alexander, which irked his other brother William of Cappagh, he was father to 13 children including Bumper Jack McClintock of Drumcar, Alexander McClintock of Seskinore and Anne McClintock (grandmother of the 1st Baron Lisgar).

Lady Rosamund Langham (née  Rashleigh) and her husband Sir John Langham, 14th baronet, who ran Lisnavagh during the war years. They had been visitors to Lisnavagh since the late 1920s and married in 1930. These portraits were by Carlos Sancha in 1968. Rosamund's family owned Menabilly in Cornwall, the house immortalised as 'Mandalay' by Daphne de Maurier. She is pictured with her West Highland terrier, Sally, and the diamond and ruby brooch she was presented with when she retired from the County Fermanagh Guides.
Sir John & Lady Crystal Langham

  Thomas Kane McClintock Bunbury, 2nd Baron Rathdonnell, died at Lisnavagh on 22 May 1929, …

Herbie Brennan (1940-2024) - Master of the Universe
Herbie Brennan (1940-2024) – Master of the Universe

Over the course of his 83 years, Herbie wrote almost 120 books, of which he sold over 10 million copies in at least 50 countries. He was my mentor and my friend. You never quite knew what would happen next when he opened his mouth to speak, what strange story he would reveal …

John McClintock, 1st BAron Rathdonnell
John McClintock, 1st Baron Rathdonnell (1798-1879)

John McClintock, who inherited Drumcar House, County Louth, in 1855, launched a series of mostly unsuccessful campaigns to represent County Louth at Westminster. He served just one term from 1857-9, but he caught the eye of Benjamin Disraeli and was created Baron Rathdonnell in 1868. This story follows his life and times, his links to the Bunbury family, and his marriage to Anne Lefroy.

Germaines, as featured in The Irish Builder, 4 June 1903. With thanks to Mairtin D'Alton.
Germaine of Lisnavagh & Tobinstown

During the 18th and 19th century, some of the lands at Lisnavagh and Tobinstown in County Carlow were rented by the Germaines, a family of Huguenot extraction who are said to have built several houses on the land. A rather unsettling story claims that, following the Tithe Wars, Philip Germaine was evicted and his property razed to make way for the new house at Lisnavagh … could this be so?

The grave of Lily Bruen (1873–1951), née Ruttledge, who lived at Germaine's before the Great War.
Arthur Thomas Bruen (1873-1957)

Arthur Thomas Bruen, a younger brother of Lady Rathdonnell, was agent at Lisnavagh and served with the Royal Army Service Corps in the war.

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.

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.

County Clare – Choose a Topic
County Clare – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Clare’s past.

County Cork and Cork City – Choose a Topic
County Cork and Cork City – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Cork and Cork City’s past.

County Wexford – Choose a Topic
County Wexford – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Wexford’s past.

County Longford – Choose a Topic
County Longford – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Longford’s past.

Roddy Doyle. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Kilbarrack (Cill Bharróg), County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin, including Raheny, Howth, Sutton …

Ptolemy's Map. Illustration: Derry Dillon
Notes on Sutton, County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin, including Howth, Kilbarrack, Bayside …

J Gordon Lewis
J. Gordon Lewis (1892-1954) – The Cinematographer

Born into a Presbyterian family in Belfast, Lewis initially supported the Unionist cause but was so shocked by the execution of the Easter Rising leaders that he paid closer heed to the nationalist cause. He filmed many remarkable events from the period and did much to polish Michael Collins’ public image. In 1919, Lewis teamed up with the English film pioneer Norman Whitten to create film Aimsir Padraig / In the Days of St Patrick. His work can also be seen in George Morrison’s pioneering Irish language film Mise Éire, and its darker sequel, Saoirse.

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.

Royal Danelli in action, 1939
Naas Races – Chapter 3 – The 1930s

Bringing the story onwards as Naas Racecourse evolves in the face of the Great Depression, the Betting Tax and the outbreak of the Second World War.

County Sligo – Choose a Topic
County Sligo – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Sligo’s past.

I concede this is not Naas but it is too cool a shot to ignore - its a race at Cheltenham from 17 March 1948.
Naas Races – Chapter 4 – The 1940s

The post-war years were dominated by Vincent O’Brien who saddled three Grand National winners, as well as Cottage Rake (who won three consecutive Gold Cups) and Gold Cup winner Knock Hard. All five of those horses honed their craft at Naas.

Mary Osgood (née Clements) was embroiled in the Salem Witch Trials.
Clements of Killadoon, Co. Kildare

Following the fortunes of a family who arrived in Ireland with Cromwell’s army and scooped up estates in Cavan and Kildare, as well as the Earldom of Leitrim. Nat Clements, one of the great architects of Georgian Ireland, built the Irish President’s residence in Phoenix Park. Also looking at a branch of the family who emigrated to Massachusetts, where they became embroiled in the Salem Witch Trials.

Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive.
The Alexanders, Earls of Caledon

The Alexander family emigrated from Scotland to Ireland with the plantations of the early 17th century and prospered as merchants in Limavady, Londonderry and Dublin. The most successful family members was James Alexander, who made his fortune as a nabob of the East India Company in India in the 1770s and became the 1st Earl of Caledon. Other descendants include Field Marshal Alexander of Tunis, a Primate of All-Ireland and the milling Alexanders of Milford, County Carlow.

Edward Bunbury Foster’s home at 33 Cockspur Street, London, was later home to John Dent (1790-1853), designer of Big Ben. The main bell at the Great Clock of Westminster is officially known as the Great Bell. It is, of course, better known by the nickname Big Ben, which is often mistakenly applied to the Clock Tower. The original bell was a 14.5-tonne (16 ton) hour bell, cast on 6 August 1856 in Stockton-on-Tees by John Warner & Sons. The bell was never officially named, but the legend on it records that the commissioner of works, Sir Benjamin Hall, was responsible for the order. Another theory for the origin of the name is that the bell may have been named after a contemporary heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt. It is thought that the bell was originally to be called Victoria or Royal Victoria in honour of Queen Victoria, but that an MP suggested the nickname during a Parliamentary debate; the comment is not recorded in Hansard.
Bunbury of Killerig, County Carlow

A lesser known branch of the Irish family whose members include the mistress to one of George III's sons, one of Australia's most celebrated clockmakers, a brilliant pianist, a Victoria Cross winner and the landlord of the Yellow-Lion Inn in Carlow Town, as well as a cameo by the creator of Big Ben.

A Month in Monte Carlo: Random Strolls and Black 29
A Month in Monte Carlo: Random Strolls and Black 29

Every time I walked back to the apartment, I went a different way. I’d learnt that it doesn’t matter which way you go in Monte Carlo. You’ll still get there. So long as you know the approximate location of the place you are heading to, all you need to do is fasten onto an angle and walk with dogged persistence in that direction.

Miss Helena Hol- royd Smyth, daughter of Lady Harriette Holroyd Smyth and the late Colonel Holroyd-Smyth, C.M.G., to Mr. Percival Huth,
Holroyd-Smyth of Ballynatray

The Holroyd-Smyth family were descendants of the Smyths of Ballynatray. Lady Harriette Holroyd-Smyth was a daughter of Charlotte, Countess of Mount Cashell, whose father was the last of the Smyths to own Ballynatray. 

Young Cassidy. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Castleknock, County Dublin

Looking at the connections to Caisleán Cnucha, Finn MacCool, the crusader Hugh Tyrell, the Lady in White, the siege of Castleknock Castle, a remarkable German jockey and other tales. 

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.

The Pitons of St Lucia, where Thomas Bunbury was Governor.
Bunbury of Cloghna, Cranavonane & Marlston

Descended from a younger son of Benjamin Bunbury of Killerrig, this branch settled in the region of the River Barrow in County Carlow. One ran The Bear Inn in Carlow. Another was a wine merchant on Bow Street, Dublin, who intermarried with the Mill family, wine merchants of Exeter. This marriage brought them to Marlston House, Berkshire. Family members include a leading diplomat in New Zealand, a Governor of St Lucia and a Privy Chamberlain to Pope Pius XI, as well as the ancestors of the Versturme Bunburys and the Guyana branch.

Ashtown Castle reveals itself.  Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Ashtown (Baile an Ásaigh), County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin What’s in a Name? …

Henry Windsor Villiers Stuart by Richard James Lane. Lithograph, 3 June 1847.
Villiers Stuart of Dromana, County Waterford – Lord of the Decies

[These are notes rather than a carefully researched tale.] On 3 July 1215, Thomas Fitz Anthony, …

Rogers of Airlie Stud and Radnorshire
Rogers of Airlie Stud and Radnorshire

The Rogers family have been breeding first-class stock for at least six generations, winning multiple Classic horse races as both breeders and trainers. Before they turned their attention to horses, they bred cattle. During the Victorian Age they were in the first rank of Britain’s Hereford cattle breeders.

Photo: James Fennell
Festus Nee (1935-2008) – Pony Whisperer – Cashel, County Galway

He stands by a stone wall, sporting a Texan hat given to him ‘by an old girlfriend last summer’. He puffs on his pipe and thinks for a while. At length, he scratches his chin and says ‘No, I’d say all the old timers are gone now.

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.

Detail from Slaves cutting the sugar cane - Ten Views in the Island of Antigua (1823)
Hugh Mill 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.

The Hanging Judge. John Toler, 1st Earl of Norbury, Chief justice of the common pleas in Ireland.
Lord Norbury – The Hanging Judge

John Toler (1745-1831), 1st Earl of Norbury, was the most feared Irish judge of the Georgian period. Among the numerous men and women he sentenced to hang were Robert Emmet and the 1798 leaders Henry and John Sheares. He rose to become Chief Justice.

County Meath – Choose a Topic
County Meath – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Meath’s past.

Queen Victoria favoured Balbriggan stockings. Illustration: Derry Dillon
Notes on Balbriggan, County Dublin

Stories of Sinéad de Valera, a heroic sea rescue, Queen Victoria’s favourite stockings, a saint who kept bees, an emigrant who led one of the gangs of New York and the enterprising Baron Hamilton, amongst others.

Front page of Olaudah Equiano's memoir.
Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa) in Ireland, 1791

Born in present-day Nigeria, Olaudah Equiano (c. 1745–1797), aka Gustavus Vassa, was one of the first black abolitionists to visit Ireland, calling in at Dublin, Cork, Belfast and ‘many [other] counties …. I was every where exceedingly well treated by persons of all ranks.'

Bolands Mills & Bakery, Dublin
Bolands Mills & Bakery, Dublin

The two austere, six-storey, cut-stone mini-skyscrapers of Bolands Flour Mills at Grand Canal Docks appear to have been built in the 1830s by Thomas Pim, an enterprising Quaker. In 1873 he sold them to Patrick Boland, owner of the nearby Bolands Bakery. By 1911, 202,779 barrels of flour were being ground annually by 40 milling stones, making it one of the largest mills in Ireland.

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).
Notes on Ballina, County Mayo

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.

Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage (Contents)
Dublin Docklands – An Urban Voyage (Contents)

Turtle's comprehensive history of Dublin's inner city docklands (the Custom House Quays, the North Wall, East Wall, Westland Row & the South Quays, the Grand Canal Docks, South Lotts, Poolbeg and Ringsend), frequently updated.

Photo: James Fennell
Cora Staunton – The Star of Mayo Ladies Gaelic Football

‘I’m not sure we will ever get the same recognition as men’, sighs Cora Staunton. …

De Robeck of Gowran Grange, Co. Kildare & the Focks of Estonia
De Robeck of Gowran Grange, Co. Kildare & the Focks of Estonia

Originating in Estonia and Sweden, the de Robecks came of age during the American War of Independence and the Napoleonic Wars, while Admiral de Robeck was one of the principal figures in the Dardanelles campaign of the First World War. Other family members have been pivotal to the success of events such as the Punchestown races, the Kildare Hunt and the Dublin Horse Show.

County Antrim, 1878.
County Antrim – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Antrim’s past

A Narrative of the Life of Benjamin Benson, Emancipated by the English Government, August 1, 1838, and Subsequently Sold as a Slave in the United States of America' was published in 1847.
Benjamin Benson – A Bermudan Evangelical in Ireland

The lesser known Irish connections to a former black slave who wrote ‘A Narrative of the Life of Benjamin Benson, Emancipated by the English Government, August 1, 1838, and Subsequently Sold as a Slave in the United States of America,' published in 1847.

Bunbury Bridge on the Barrow Navigation between Athy and Carlow.
Bunbury of Ardnahue & Liverpool

A lesser-known branch of the Bunbury tree is a Roman Catholic family of that name who lived in Ardnehue and Benekerry, near Johnstown, County Carlow, during the 18th and 19th century, from which outliers spread into Liverpool and Australia, and possibly Wisconsin and New Brunswick.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
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.

For other interviews from the Sporting Legends of Ireland book, click here.
Sporting Legends of Ireland (Contents)

Portrait interviews with 44 of Ireland's leading sportsmen and women, probing the question as to whether they were simply born to greatness or was it all about how much they trained and a certain degree of luck.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
Notes on Drumcondra, County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin   Don Patricio   …

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

The Furey Brothers. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Cherry Orchard (Gort na Silíní), County Dublin

The Fureys   The Fureys, one of Ireland’s best loved folk bands, was formed by …

Barry Yelverton, 2nd Viscount Avonmore
The Yelvertons, Viscounts Avonmore

Originating in Norfolk, the Yelvertons rose through the ranks in England to become, at various times, Baron Grey de Ruthyn, Earl of Kent and Earl of Sussex. Another branch moved to Ireland where Viscount Avonmore was a leading legal eagle in the Georgian Age. This takes in such events as the celebrated Yelverton v. Longworth case and explores connections to Blackwater (Cork), Portland and Belle Isle (Tipperary), and Whitland Abbey (Wales). Also covered are an early American connection and influential Australian emigres Charles Yelverton O'Connor and Henry John Yelverton.

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.

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. 

Honest Tom sits upon his rock. Illustration: Derry Dillon
Honest Tom Steele (1788-1848) – Landlord and Repealer

The story of a graduate of Cambridge, a landed proprietor of Clare, an inventor of diving bells and a veteran of the Spanish Republican army who served as Daniel O'Connell's right-hand man for 24 years.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
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. 

Illustration: Derry Dillon
The Christmas Truce, 1914 – An Irish Perspective

The Christmas Truce of 1914 has become one of the most iconic events of the war, a moment when British and German soldiers met in the killing fields of No Man’s Land to play a football match on Christmas Day. The only hiccup is that, sadly, historians are now unanimously agreed that this match never happened.

Michael Collins and Saint Jimmy. Illustration: Derry Dillon.

Sunshine Radio, the most successful super-pirate radio station in Irish history, operated from Tamango’s nightclub at the Sands Hotel in Portmarnock from 1980 until 1988. With 24 hour music, its ratings were the highest any Dublin station has ever achieved, not least with ‘Bee Bop Gold’, an enormously popular golden oldies show presented by Nails Mahoney.  Fronted by several staff from the famous Radio Caroline, the station was initially funded by Phil Solomon, the Belfast-born son of a record retailer. His wife Dorothy was one of the most highly regarded agents in the music business. The Solomons made their mark in the 1950s handling publicity for touring musicians like Mario Lanza, Acker Bilk and Ruby Murray. In 1966 Solomon founded his own record label, Major Minor Records, signing up The Dubliners and Them (with a young Van Morrison). [Some vibes from https://pirate.ie/archive/tags/sunshine-radio/ here]
Notes on Templemore, County Tipperary

The Saint   In 1920, a teenager named Jimmy Walsh claimed that the Virgin Mary …

Illustration: Derry Dillon
Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) – The Liberator

An overview of one of the most towering figures in Irish history, a pioneer of pacifism through his monster meetings, and winner of emancipation for the top level of Catholics in Irish society. This story commences with his role in a deadly duel, a fatal event that haunted him for the remainder of his life.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
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.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
Dr Bartholomew Mosse – Founder of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin

Dr Bartholomew Mosse was the founder of Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, the first purpose-built maternity hospital in the world, which opened in 1757. This highly motivated surgeon and man-midwife achieved his ambition through his immense gift for corporate fundraising: running lotteries, staging concerts and productions in the theatre, including a number of Handel's oratorios.

Cyril Fry’s Magnificent Model Railway Collection
Cyril Fry’s Magnificent Model Railway Collection

The Casino Model Railway Museum in Malahide, County Dublin, is home to probably the greatest private collection of miniature railway engines, wagons and carriages in existence, largely thanks to the genius of Cyril Fry and Tommy Tighe.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
George IV’s Royal Visit to Ireland, 1821

In 1821, when the new king commenced an 18-day visit to Ireland, the scandal-mongers of London homed in on the new leading light in His Majesty’s bedchamber – Elizabeth, Lady Conyngham, the chatelaine of Slane Castle, County Meath.

Laurel and Hardy in Cobh. Illustration by Derry Dillon.
Notes on Cobh (Queenstown), County Cork

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

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.

County Limerick – Choose a Topic
County Limerick – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Limerick’s past.

Al Capone's Irish Wife
Al Capone's Irish Wife

The beautiful Mary Josephine Coughlin, known as ‘Mae’, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1897, the daughter of Michael Coughlin and Bridget Gorman of County Cork, Ireland. Al Capone's father was Gabriele FitzGerald Capone … so there seems to be Irish a-plenty on both sides.

Dr Myddelton & the Destruction of Carlow Castle, 1814
Dr Myddelton & the Destruction of Carlow Castle, 1814

Carlow, Ireland, Sunday 13th February 1814, 9am. The explosions that shocked many of the town’s …

County Offaly - Choose a Topic
County Offaly – Choose a Topic

Choose from these topics for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Offaly.

The Big Snow of 1947, 1963, 1982 ... and other major Snowstorms
The Big Snow of 1947, 1963, 1982 … and other major Snowstorms

The Big Snow of 1947 was the coldest and harshest winter to hit Ireland in living memory. However, there have been many other severe winters in Irish history, from 1315 through to 1963 and 1982. This is a look at all those white-outs when time stands still.

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 still from Kennet Branagh's acclaimed 1989 film, 'Henry V.'
Bunburys in the Medieval Age

Looking at the Bunbury family during the 100 Years War and the Wars of the Roses, including a timely sickie on the eve of Agincourt.

Adare Manor - An Epicurean Journey
Adare Manor – An Epicurean Journey

In his second collaboration with Adare Manor, Turtle traces the swift and remarkable voyage that has established it as one of Ireland’s principal culinary landmarks, the Oak Room's Michelin Star being confirmed again in 2024.

Condé Nast Traveler: Gold List 2021;  Condé Nast Traveler, Europe's No. 1 Resort  2019;  Ireland's Leading Hotel 2018, 2019, 2020 World Travel Awards
Adare Manor – The Renaissance of an Irish Country House

Turtle Bunbury’s 2020 book traces Adare Manor’s journey from its origins as a medieval manor house in County Limerick to its 21st-century status as a multi-award-winning, luxury five-star resort and venue for the 2027 Ryder Cup.

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 profiled 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.

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

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 …

The Centenary of Naas Racecourse
The Centenary of Naas Racecourse (1924-2024) – Contents

The contents for the book ‘The Centenary of Naas Racecourse (1924-2024) – Nursery of Champions', published in 2023.

McClintock of Derry-Londonderry
McClintock of Derry-Londonderry

Random notes on a Derry Haberdasher who became a 1798 Patriot before his flight to Chillicothe, Ohio, and of a Captain James McClintock who was adjutant of the Derry Militia.