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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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.

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.

Photo: James Fennell
Festus Nee (c.1934-2008) – 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.

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.

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 .

Notes on Raheny, County Dublin

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

The White Lady of Castleknock. 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. 

Notes on Hansfield & Phibblestown, County Dublin

New Zealand Anthem   Thomas Bracken, the author of New Zealand’s national anthem, was born …

Notes on Broombridge & Cabra, County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin   The Cabra Baths …

Notes on Coolmine and Blanchardstown, County Dublin

Click here for further tales of Dublin City and County Dublin   Blanchardstown   The …

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.

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.

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.

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.'

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.

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.

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 …

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. 

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.

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 …

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. …

Notes on Bayside (Cois Bá) and Baldoyle, County Dublin

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

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 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 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.

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

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.

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 …

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Illustration: Derry Dillon
Notes on Drumcondra, County Dublin

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

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.

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 …

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

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.

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.’

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.

 Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Notes on Portmarnock, County Dublin

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

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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 …

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 The Hidden Castle   …

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jack McClintock Bunbury
The Hon. Jack Bunbury (1851-1893)

Thought to be the inspiration behind Oscar Wilde’s famous ‘Bunbury’, Jack Bunbury was a remarkable oarsman who won many trophies for Eton and Oxford. He also enjoyed acting, not least during his service with the Royal Scots Greys in the 1870s. His life spiralled when he was caught up in the Land Wars, after which he moved to England. The death of his only son, aged 11, in 1892 was followed by his own premature demise a year later. This account also looks at his wife Myra, of the famous Watson hunting dynasty, and her second husband, Baron Max de Tuyll.

Little Moyle, County Carlow.
Colonel Kane Bunbury (1777-1874) & the Kane-Smith Family of Moyle and Rathmore, County Carlow

Dismissed from the British Army after a court martial in 1823, Kane moved to Moyle, Kellistown, County Carlow, where he became one of Ireland’s principal cattle breeders. From 1865 until his death aged 97 in 1874, he lived at Rathmore Park, also in Carlow. Although he died unmarried, it seems that Colonel Bunbury did not die without issue: hence, the Kane Smith. Also into this colourful mix can be added Willie Wilde, brother of Oscar, and Vera, Countess of Rosslyn, as well as the late architect, Jeremy Williams.

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.

‘Posey photos, is that what you want? Could you not use a photo from when I was fit and had abs?’ Photo: James Fennell
Steve Collins – The Celtic Warrior – World Champion Boxer

Steve was 8 years old when he had an epiphany at the Corinthian Boxing Club. ‘There was a tournament on and they put me on and I won and I got such a buzz that I said “I’m going to be World Champion”. My dad got a bit worried. He thought “there’s something missing in that kid”.’

Calanque de Sormiou
Marseilles & the Calanques, 2007

Marseilles started life as a safe haven for Greek sailors before Julius Caesar conquered it for Rome. In 1792, the city roared ‘Viva La Revolution!’ and sent 500 volunteers to defend Paris. Turtle visits the city, as well as Aubagne, the HQ for the French Foreign Legion, and the Calanques.

Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland

Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the most one of the most enigmatic adventurers, soldiers, …

Sir William Stanley - Hero, Traitor & Bunburying in Tudor Ireland
Sir William Stanley – Hero, Traitor & Bunburying in Tudor Ireland

The tale of a remarkable man, a Catholic in Queen Elizabeth's army, who was tipped to be Viceroy of Ireland until he allied himself with Catholic Spain and became intricately involved with the Babington Ploy, the Spanish Armada and the ill-fated Gunpowder Plot orchestrated by Guy Fawkes.

Overview: The Bunburys 1066 – Present

OVERVIEW: THE BUNBURYS 1066 – PRESENT The Bunbury family descend from the Norman baron de …

Ancient Kildare & the Kings of Leinster
Ancient Kildare & the Kings of Leinster

According to legend, the mighty bluestones used to form the stone circle of Stonehenge in England were spirited across the Irish Sea from Kildare by no less a soul than Merlin the magician. Far-fetched, assuredly, and yet there is something so extraordinarily mysterious about Kildare’s ancient past that even fictitious wizards must be treated with respect. 

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Queen of England and Ireland from 1558, last Tudor monarch. Version of the Armarda portrait attributed to George Gower c1588. (Photo by: Photo 12/UIG via Getty Images) (Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Queen of England and Ireland from
Thomas Bunbury (1542-1601)

Thomas Bunbury is the first of the family with a proven connection to Ireland, being trustee of Lismore Castle for his half-brother Sir William Stanley in 1585. Thomas was a son of Henry Bunbury, Lord de Bunbury, and his wife Margaret Aldersey. He  succeeded his father to Great Stanney in 1547. His wife Bridget Aston was the scion of a prominent Catholic family.

Arriving at Rathsallagh.
Rathsallagh, County Wicklow: A Potted History of 6,000 Years

An epic and sweeping saga of Stone Age genius, Normans warriors, Georgia gentlemen and noble revolutionaries in the Wicklow Mountains, homing in on the Ryves, Pennefather and O'Flynn families.

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 1955, its recent guests have included Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. This history includes a piece I wrote for National Geographic Traveller.

Search by County, Historical Era or Category
Search by County, Historical Era or Category

Search the History Quarter by County, by Historical Era or by Category.

Commission Turtle Bunbury Histories to reveal your family history.
Family Histories by Turtle Bunbury

The list on this page provides links to most of the 300 (or so) family histories that Turtle has delved into – mostly Irish or Anglo-Irish, but also Irish-American, Australian, Canadian, British, British colonial, Danish, Swedish, Dutch and Russian. Turtle sets each generation into the context of the historical events and characters they would have encountered.

County Waterford – Choose a Topic
County Waterford – Choose a Topic

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

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, …

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 Louth – Choose a Topic
County Louth – Choose a Topic

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

Photo: James Fennell


West of Ireland Open Amateur 1968

Alfred Dunhill Cup 1988

Hennessy Cognac Cup 1980, 1982.

Team Appearances

Ryder Cup: 2.

Alfred Dunhill Cup: 5 (1 win).

World Cup: 5.

Hennessy Cognac Cup: 3 (2 wins).

UBS Cup: 1.

Professional wins 20

Open Championship: 15+

Number of wins by tour

European Tour: 8 (tied 28th all time, check)

Champions Tour: 2

European Seniors: Tour 2
Des Smyth – Champion Golfer

‘What's great about golf is that you can start when you are four years old and you can play forever. You don’t get injured and it keeps you active. I’ve got friends of eighty years of age who jump out of bed in the morning to play a round. And they are marching! That’s living proof that there’s a long life after forty.’

Illustration: Derry Dillon
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.

Alex Findlater
Alex Findlater (1937-2019) – Dublin Merchant

Alex Findlater, who died at the age of 81 after a riding accident in Jaipur, was one of the most determined, fun-loving, charitable men of his generation. It was in his blood. As chronicled in his immensely readable book, ‘Findlater – The Story of a Dublin Merchant Family,’ his forebears were Scots excisemen who founded the Dublin wine and grocery firm in 1823.

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.

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.

Rathvilly prior to the construction of St Patrick's Church, with the chapel visible to the right of what is now Centra.
Rathvilly – A Journey Through Time

With 22 townlands covering almost 10,000 acres, the parish of Rathvilly has a history that stretches back to earliest times. In this talk, Turtle provides an overview of this rich tapestry, documenting everything from dolmens and ringforts to the 1980s band In Tua Nua.

Photo: James Fennell.
Eamon Madden (1924-2022) – The Blacksmith of Athenry, County Galway

‘It was a new world,' says Eamon, of the 1960s. ‘The farmers still needed to repair their ploughs and grubbers and the harrows and the grills that kept the cattle in. But they also needed us to work with the tractor and all the implements that followed, to adjust them or put a piece onto them or, if they were broken, to fix them.’

Sunset along Slievemore mountain and Doogort beach on Achill Island, Co. Mayo by Mick Reynolds.
Rolling Around the Achill Sound (1999)

Ireland's largest outlying island is also one of its most magical.. If you've only got time to gaze out a moving windscreen, then a tour of the island shouldn't take more than an hour. But it is better suited to day-trippers, with numerous options for silencing the car engine and making further investigation.

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.

The Wizard Earl
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 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.

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.

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.

Charles Bianconi
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.

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

Paddy’s 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’.

Photo: James Fennell
Jenny Cullen (1925-2010) – Factory Worker – Inchicore, Dublin City

‘You hear the young people say “I’m going down to the village?” That’s what they call Inchicore. But I never knew it to be called “the village” and I was born and reared here. It was like a village, but we called it “Inchicore”.’

Photo: James Fennell
Angela Downey-Browne – Camogie Legend, Kilkenny

Her lightning pace certainly made defences fraught … the ‘sheer speed and power’ of this ‘deceptively diminutive’ player made her ‘virtually unstoppable’. Always within 15 to 20 metres of the goal, dominating from the puck out and firing countless cracking shots between and over the posts.

Jessie Harrington. Photo: James Fennell.
Jessie Harrington – Queen of the Turf

An interview with Ireland's most successful female Jessie Harrington was named The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman of the Year for 2017 after a remarkable year in which she trained Sizing John to win the Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cups, won the Irish National with Our Duke, and enjoyed her best ever year on the Flat. This interview took place in 2011.

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.

County Wicklow - Choose a Topic
County Wicklow – Choose a Topic

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

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.

Photo: James Fennell
Maureen Tierney (1920-2017) – Laundry & Factory Worker – Inchicore, Dublin City

‘I worked from eight in the morning until nine at night, pressing and ironing shirts, or cleaning and pleating coats for the nurses at Vincent’s Hospital. The money was very bad and it was hard work … Ah, there’d always be dancing. Ballroom dancing on the street corners – one, two, three and a hop.’

Maureen and Connie. Photo: James Fennell
Connie Brennan (born 1929) – Child Minder, House Keeper & Hotel Cleaner – Inchicore, Dublin City

‘We’re unclaimed treasures, all of us. They say that only the mugs get married and the best china is left on the top shelf.’

Photo: James Fennell
Mary Parkinson (1932-2016) – Garment Manufacturer & Record Saleswoman – Inchicore, Co. Dublin

‘There’d have been a lot of animals around here when I was young. You’d always hear the pigs squealing. One of my neighbours had ducks who would go mad anytime it started raining.’

Naas veteran Fort Leney wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Naas – Chapter 6 – The 1960s

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

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.

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.

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.

1847 - Contents
1847 – Contents

The contents page for Turtle's book ‘1847: A Chronicle of Genius, Generosity and Savagery' (Gill Books, 2016).

Jonathan the tortoise was hatched in about 1832.
Herald and Pandora: A Chronicle of Panama Belles, Irish Colonies & Giant Tortoises

Return to 1847 Contents   Guayaquil, Ecuador, Monday 2 August 1847 The mission must be …

Portrait of Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Arthur Wolfe (later Viscount Kilwarden) by Hugh Douglas Hamilton (c1739-1808)
Wolfe of Forenaughts, County Kildare

This remarkable family produced no less than eleven Freemen of Dublin over the years. The most celebrated member was Chief Justice Lord Kilwarden, a patron of Wolfe Tone, murdered during the Emmet Rebellion of 1803. A high profile marriage to the fashionable Lady Charlotte Hutchinson produced no heirs, while another heir was slain in action against the Mahdi in Sudan. This article also looks at General Wolfe who captured Quebec, and Charles Wolfe, the poet who wrote the famous elegy on the death of Sir John Moore

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.’

County Tyrone – Choose a Topic
County Tyrone – Choose a Topic

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

County Derry / Londonderry – Choose a Topic
County Derry / Londonderry – Choose a Topic

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

For more stories of World War One and 'The Glorious Madness' click here.
The Glorious Madness – Tales of the Irish & the Great War (Contents)

‘The Glorious Madness’ explores the lives of some of these people – including nationalists, nuns, artists, sportsmen, poets, aristocrats, nurses, clergymen and film directors – whose lives coincided with one of the most brutal conflicts our world has ever known.

Nurse Colhoun at the Minto Hospital, circa 1914
Nurse Colhoun & The Bombing of Vertekop, 1917

It was not the first time the German bombers had struck. The previous summer, when the nurses first arrived at Vertekop, there had been three air raids. This was one was so much worse. Seventeen bombs fell on the Red Cross hospital that morning. When the dust settled, two nurses and four orderlies lay dead. For Nurse Annie Rebecca Colhoun, Macedonia had been an extraordinary contrast to her Irish childhood.

Bela Lugosi's Dracula carries Mina (Helen Chandler) off to a breakfast of sorts in the 1931 film.
Ireland – Birthplace of Vampires

The vampire cult owes an enormous amount to Irish writers such as Bram Stoker (Dracula), Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (Carmilla) and Thomas Crofton Croker, not to mention Abhartach, a psychotic dwarf chieftain from Donegal.

P. Bermingham - Navan, Co. Meath
P. Bermingham – Navan, Co. Meath

In 1882, Patrick Bermingham purchased a two-room grocery bar on Ludlow Street, Navan, and converted it into perhaps the most splendid Victorian pub in County Meath. The pub is now run by the Marmion family, cousins of the Berminghams, who have kept the original name proudly gilded on the exterior, framed by stone walls, wrought iron rails and dark oak panelling.

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.

'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.

Illustration: Joe McLaren, from Ireland’s Forgotten Past (Thames &  Hudson).
Pagan Christianity – The Holy Wells of Ireland

Wells were of paramount importance to the people of Ireland who flocked to them for supernatural protection, respectful of the water’s ability to cure. There must have been endless disappointment but, nonetheless, the early Christians adopted these wells which were, in time, rebranded as ‘holy wells’ (Tobar Beannaithe) or ‘blessed wells’ (Tobar Naofa).

Ireland's Forgotten Past
Ireland’s Forgotten Past – Contents

The contents page for Turtle's best-selling book Ireland’s Forgotten Past, published by Thames & Hudson.

I was sent this photograph of Mary Ann McNally (1847-1956) in 2024 by her great-grandson Harry Carson, Cornwall. She was born at Cross, a crossroads near Louisburgh, County Mayo, between Killeen Church and the Clapper Bridge near Roonagh Quay. She somehow survived An Gorta Mór, married and had six children, some of whom emigrated to Massachusetts.
1847 – Introduction – The Year It All Began

An inordinate number of curious, brilliant and dreadful events took place during 1847. It was a year of immense discord that paved the way for so much migration, conquest and turmoil that the planet is still recovering. And yet there was progress and harmony too, played out on pianos and banjos, on broadsheets and telegraphs, as our ever-shrinking world learned more about itself than it had ever known before.

1847 – Dedication

1847: A Chronicle of Genius, Generosity & Savagery   To my wonderful sister Sasha, who …

1955 Picture of Quare Times from Brendan Behan's book
Naas Races – Chapter 5 – The 1950s

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

The Life & Death of Kevin Barry (1902-1920)
The Life & Death of Kevin Barry (1902-1920)

Kevin Barry’s short life was full of firsts. He was the first person executed since the Easter Rising of 1916 and, as such, the 18-year-old medical student was the first person to be executed in the War of Independence. This story looks at his upbringing between Dublin and County Carlow (where he was at school in Rathvilly), his work as a Volunteer, his fatal role in the Monk’s Bakery raid and the world-shocking events of his execution.

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.

Above: The New York Times report on the sinking of the Lusitania.
The Sinking of RMS Lusitania, 1915

Raimund Weisbach followed the trajectory of the torpedo through his periscope from the U-boat where he …

'Storm in the Mountains' by Albert Bierstadt.
The Night of the Big Wind, 1839

The Night of the Big Wind was the most devastating storm in recorded Irish history. The hurricane of 6-7 January 1839 made more people homeless in a single night than all the sorry decades of eviction that followed – a hurricane so powerful that the Atlantic waves are said to have broken over the top of the Cliffs of Moher.

A scene from the 1964 movie ‘Zulu’, with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine.
The Irish Defenders of Rorke's Drift, 1879

The defence of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa has captured the imagination since the moment the battle was over, not least with the 1964 movie ‘Zulu’. It marked a rare moment of redemption in the Anglo-Zulu War, one of the more shameful episodes in British colonial history. Upwards of 30 of the defenders were Irishmen.

Clonmore Castle, County Carlow
Clonmore Castle, County Carlow

A potted history of a fabulous ruin in north-east County Carlow, with its link to one of the combatants at the battle of Bannockburn.

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.  

Viking Warrior - Yomogun
The Vikings on Irish Waterways

In the medieval period, rivers and lakes were the principal highways that people used to get around. However, what happens when a darker force gains access to those same waterways? A force whose sole game-plan seems to be to raid and plunder and generally go on the rampage? The Vikings would be one of the most powerful influences on Irish life for the bones of 400 years.

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.

Photo: James Fennell.
Christy Waldron (b. 1932) of Cloghanover, Co. Galway – Clock & Watch Repairman

‘Did you never hear of the Wag of the Wall?’ asks Christy, somewhat incredulously. ‘It was the first clock to come along after the Sun Dial. It had a big, long pendulum with chains and two weights. A man brought one into me once … it had been lying idle and there was no wear on it. I got it going beautiful for him and he was delighted.’

Round Tower, Castledermot
An Investigation into the Origin and Purpose of Ireland's Round Towers, 2024

There are 67 confirmed round towers in Ireland, where at least a part survives, as well as 23 sites that are generally accepted to have ‘once’ been home to a round tower. Could their original purpose have been astronomical?

County Galway – Choose a Topic
County Galway – Choose a Topic

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

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; why Dublin was home to all four Irish-born winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature and why it has connections to all six of Ireland's Booker Prize winners. This story explores the pub side of things.

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.

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.  

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 .

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.

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. 

Clobber Slobber! Is the Global Media Failing Us?
Clobber Slobber! Is the Global Media Failing Us?

One of the weirdest hazards of the modern age is that we have so much data, statistics, opinion and spin that discourse is splintered between all the individual media corporations and the umpteen thousand websites purporting to tell the truth. Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? And who is telling the verirtas?

Lady on the Bridge.
The Bridges of Dublin City

Dublin would not have been possible without its bridges. It’s all too easy to forget that this is a city built upon rivers and bordered by a wild and tempestuous sea. They’ve been building bridges in Dublin at least since Norman times but the old bridges, made from wood and clay, invariably collapsed and washed away.

1816 - The Year without a Summer - June 2016
1816 – The Year without a Summer – June 2016

The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 was the biggest in recorded history – 1000 times more powerful than the Iceland’ic eruption in 2010, which caused the largest air-traffic shut-down since World War II. In 1815, the cloud of ash and sulfate gasses billowed up to a height of nearly 30 miles, plunging the wider East Indian region into darkness. It would bring on a dreadful summer the following year.

Evelyn Kelly Lambert (1907-2004). Photo: James Fennell. You can find James's photos of Casa Leon here.
Evelyn Kelly Lambert (1907-2004) – The American Widow who Conquered Europe

In 2001, I was lucky enough to spend a week as a guest of this 93-year-old grande dame, collector, philanthropist at Casa Leon, her wonderful home in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Evelyn and her late husband Joe Lambert were icons of Dallas and Venice in the 1960s and 1970s.

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.

Michael ‘Ducksie’ Walsh (1966-2016). Photo: James Fennell
Michael ‘Ducksie’ Walsh (1966-2016) – All-Ireland Gaelic Handball Champion

Michael ‘Ducksie' Walsh, the brilliant Irish handball champion from Kilkenny, died aged fifty in 2016. Just a couple of weeks earlier he had defeated the then No. 1 ranked Eoin Kennedy in the final of the open singles at his home court of Talbot’s Inch. He was probably Ireland's greatest ever handballer.

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 Monaghan - Choose a Topic
County Monaghan – Choose a Topic

Choose from topics on this page for stories of people, families, events and places connected to County Monaghan's past. 

Photo: James Fennell.
Barry McGuigan – The Clones Cyclone – World Featherweight Champion Boxer

And then Barry McGuigan strolled into the sunlight, plucked a microphone from its stand and launched into ‘Mustang Sally'. It was the Flat Lake Festival in County Monaghan and, as the first couples began to shimmy up for a dance, everyone agreed that the Clones Cyclone sure is possessed of a mighty fine voice.

Batting Style: Right-handed Batsman.

Bowling Type: Right-arm medium pace.

Caps for Ireland: 122 (35 times as Captain).

Runs for Ireland: 3,579 (av. 28.63).

Record One Day Score: 127 not out.

Wickets for Ireland: 51.

Awards: Nat West Cup 1991 (Man of the Match);
Benson & Hedges Cup 1995 (Man of the Match).
Photo: James Fennell
Alan Lewis – Cricketer & Rugby Union Referee

‘Refereeing can be a lonely business … It’s about establishing a foothold of control. If players are transgressing, I have to try and persuade them to think a bit differently.’

Rosemary Smith. Photo: James Fennell.


Tulip Rally, 1965.

British Saloon Car Championship: 3.

Coupes des Dames:
12 (including the 1973 East Africa Safari).

Outright Wins in Ireland: 3

Internationals: 24
(Finished in 21, won one;
Ccollected 12, nine class wins;
P laced in her class six times).


Texaco Sports Star of the Year 1965.
Motorsport Ireland Hall of Fame 2001.
Hooniversal Dream Girl Hall of Fame, 2009.
Hon. President of Imp Club of England.
Hon. President of Imp Club of Ireland.
Hon. President of Dunboyne Motorclub.
Rosemary Smith (1937-2023) – Rally Driver

Rosemary Smith, the most successful female rally driver in Irish history, tells how her triumphs in the 1960s began when she mastered driving on the potholey highways of old Ireland, and why she was once obliged to reverse 33 miles up the Khyber Pass.

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.

Desmond Leslie, 1945
Desmond Leslie (1921-2001) – An Irish Gentleman

The man who punched Bernard Levin live on TV, in front of 11 million viewers, was also a brilliant Spitfire pilot during the Second World War. As well as his first marriage to the stage actress Agnes Bernelle, Desmond Leslie made his mark as a scriptwriter, music composer and, perhaps most famously, as a passionate advocate for the existence of flying saucers and alien life.

Illustration: Derry Dillon.
Alcock & Brown’s Trans-Atlantic Crossing of 1919

In 1919, one of the most magnificent events in history occurred when Captain Alcock and Lieutenant Brown crash-landed into a Connemara bog. The duo had just flown 1,880 miles from Newfoundland. Not only was it the longest distance yet flown by man but it was also the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight between America and Europe.

John Grenham, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (Gill Books, 2019), 5th edition, available here.
Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, John Grenham

John Grenham has been pioneering genealogical research for, well, it's getting close to a few …

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 …

Father Phelan, Parish Priest of Rathvilly (1885-1903)
Father Phelan, Parish Priest of Rathvilly (1885-1903)

“His patriotism and enthusiasm had a marked influence with his people, and when Father Phelan was in the zenith of his powers, Rathvilly was looked on to by the entire Co Carlow for light and leading. He was a patriot in the best sense of the word, and his love of country and people was second only to his love of God.”

Sean's Bar, Athlone County Westmeath.
The Battle for the Oldest Pub in Ireland

Return to The Irish Pub Contents On New Year’s Eve 1993, I had the great …

Carrickfergus Castle
Castles in the Sky

Should you chance to look out the window of this aeroplane while traversing over the Irish countryside, you might amuse yourself by counting the number of castles you can see. This island is awash with castles, arising every which way you look and often when least expected …

The Adam of Adamstown,  with Bell looking curiously familiar. Illustrated by Derry Dillon.
Notes on Adamstown (Baile Adaim), County Dublin

Stories of Adamstown Castle, the Lucan Formation, the Great Esker Highway, Charles II's saviour, aviation pioneer Darby Kennedy, 1798 icon Napper Tandy and how the Duke of Leinster dug the Great Southern and Western Railway line.

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.

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.

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 …

County Roscommon – Choose a Topic
County Roscommon – Choose a Topic

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

Photo: James Fennell
Joe Flynn (1923-2016), Coal Miner, of Arigna, County Roscommon

‘It used to be full of musicians up here,’ he says. ‘On both sides of the river, you’d hear them playing of a Sunday, with the dancing and all. I know there’s lots of musicians in the country now – look at the fleadhs and all the young musicianeers who go there – but I don’t think there’s many around here now.’

County Kildare – Choose a Topic
County Kildare – Choose a Topic

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

Wendy Walsh (1915-2014) - Obituary from The Irish Times
Wendy Walsh (1915-2014) – Obituary from The Irish Times

In memory of one of Ireland's finest and most distinguished botanical artists.

Thomas and Monica Duff at the yard in Slane castle with a Royal Enfield and a Ford Consul.
Andy Duff, Benny McCabe & the Slane Castle Stables

Andy Duff was based in the Slane stables in County Meath for much of the 1960s where he was the principal jockey for trainer Tony Riddell-Martin. I interviewed him at his home in Slane Village in 2015, alongside his friend Benny McCabe, who was a stable boy at Slane during the Riddell-Martin years.

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 (1939-2000) of Slievenamon (Fethard)

Giles was one of my father's best friends from his time in the Royal Navy. In 1972, he managed to avoid crashing a Royal Navy Buccaneer jet into East Belfast after it malfunctioned during a routine test flight but his courage came at a cost and he was invalided out of the Navy.

Oakley Park
Maunsell of Oakley Park, Celbridge, County Kildare

A heroic defence of a Waterford against Cromwell's army earned the Maunsell family respect from the Irish when they first settled in the mid 17th century. During the Georgian Age, they rose to prominence in Limerick, as bankers, politicians and Mayors. In the arly 18th century, they moved to Oakley Park, from where they married into the Orpen family. Today the house is run by the St John of Gods.

Alan Appleby Drew  (1884-1915)
Alan Appleby Drew  (1884-1915)

My hairbrush once belonged to Alan Drew, my father's great-uncle, who was killed in one of those pointless over-the-top charges in World War One. Prior to his death, Alan taught at Mostyn House (the school near Liverpool where he studied as a boy), learned how to march in Glasgow and spent several years in Shanghai around the time the last Emperor fell from power. Alan's memory was enshrined in a carillon of bells that now rings at Charterhouse School in memory of almost 700 Old Carthusians who died in the war.

Slevoir House, Terryglass, Co. Tipperary, is up for sale via Christie’s, here. The Synge’s sold it after the Rev Francis Syge’s death in 1870.
Synge of Syngefield & Rathmore (Offaly) and Slevoir (Tipperary)

It was always said that my great-grandmother Ethel Synge Ievers (who married the 3rd Baron Rathdonnell) was a cousin of the playwright John Millington Synge. This is true, albeit in a rather distant way …

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 Gaffer and his family, Ballyknockan, c. 1903-4
Back: Patrick, Lil, John, Nan, Bob.
Middle: William, Bride, William (The Gaffer), Mary (née Brady), Marcella, Mary
Sitting: Joe, Jim, Kitty
Osborne of Ballkyknockan, Craddockstown and Tipper

The family who prospered on the Ballyknockan granite quarries in County Wicklow, several branches of which relocated to County Kildare where they became one of the best-known equestrian dynasties in Ireland during the 20th and early 21st centuries.

The Ballybit Pot.
Ballybit, County Carlow

A brief look at the townlands just west of Lisnavagh and their association with families such as Gilpin, Gorman, Elliot, Lowry, Kehoe, Bryan, Carroll, Leary, and Murphy, as well as Viscount Allen, John Drought and the Bunburys, plus the discovery of the Ballybit Pot in 1861. 

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.

Above: Above: A drawing of the new house at Lisnavagh which Redmond Kane's
son-in-law William Bunbury was planning to build when thrown from
his horse and killed in 1778.
William Bunbury III of Lisnavagh (1744-1778)

William was the great-grandson of the first Bunbury to settle in Ireland. He married the heiress  Katherine Kane, shortly before he was elected MP for Carlow in Grattan's Parliament. He was planning to build a new house at Lisnavagh when he was tragically killed in a horse accident in 1778. After his death, his widow took the family to live in Bath until their eldest son, Thomas, was old enough to return. William's posthumous daughter Jane would produce the future heir of Lisnavagh …

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.

The copse at Knocknagan which is said to be associated with the battle of Dunmachir.
Knocknagan by Lisnavagh, County Carlow

A consideration of the lands beside Lisnavagh, once part of the Bunbury empire, and its association with the Shepard, Nolan, Salter, Browne and Hopkins families, as well as the ancient ringfort.

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.

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?

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.

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)

By 1305, Sir John Wogan was the most influential man in Ireland. As a reward, King Edward I of England gifted him Kilkea Castle and its manor lands. The property was also of much interest to the FitzGerald family, now Earls of Kildare, who were partly descended from the de Ridelesfords. Meanwhile, the Pale itself soon became one of the bloodiest battlegrounds on the island of Ireland.

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) - Queen of Novels
Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) – Queen of Novels

The story of the author of the critically acclaimed ‘Castle Rackrent’, a comic masterpiece, and her inventive father, and how Maria came to the aid of the people of Longford during the Great Hunger.

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.

Illustration: Derry Dillon.
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.

Maigread and Donnchadh O Muireagain, aka Margaret and Denis Morgan, with Dermot Morgan as Father Ted in the foreground. Illustration: Derry Dillon.
The Morgan Family – Father Ted's Forebears

Anyone who has watched ‘Father Ted’ can appreciate the genius of Dermot Morgan. Before his abrupt and unexpected death, he was one of Ireland's best-loved comedians. But to understand what made him tick, you need to go back in time. His grandfather, was one of de Valera’s key fund-raisers in America during the War of Independence. His mother was a Dun Laoghaire beauty who taught him the art of mimicry.

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.

John Henry Foley. Illustration: Derry Dillon
John Henry Foley, RA (1818-1874)

JOHN HENRY FOLEY, RA (1818-1874) John Henry Foley was probably the most influential sculptor in …

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.

Dudley Colley crossing the Ha'penny Bridge. From an illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Notes on Clondalkin & Fonthill, County Dublin

The stories of the poet laureate who asked Paddy Kavanagh to be a spy, a 1,200 year old Round Tower, a gentleman farmer who drove across Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge, a plethora or writers and boxers, and a devastating explosion at a gunpowder mill. Extracted from Past Tracks, with Irish translations by Jack O'Driscoll.

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

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.

The Races of Castlebar. From an illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Notes on Castlebar, County Mayo

The stories of the inventor of the torpedo, a global prima donna, a telephone pioneer, the short-lived Republic of Connacht, the inglorious Races of Castlebar, the rise and fall of the Earls of Lucan, and a gentleman who went to the gallows.

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

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.

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.

George Brent of Ballinasloe (with Olivia de Havilland) was one of the great movie stars of his generation. From an illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Notes on Ballinasloe, County Galway

The stories of the Earls of Clancarty (who liked UFOs, dancing girls and redrawing the map of Europe), as well as a prominent Australian photographer, a Hollywood star from the 1930s, the battle of Aughrim and one of Europe's oldest fairs. Extracted from Past Tracks, with Irish translations by Jack O'Driscoll.

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.

Athenry's stonemasons were busy in the wake of the Night of the Big Wind. From an illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Notes on Athenry, County Galway

The stories of a best-selling novelist, Governor of North Carolina, a terrifying hurricane, a giant cake, ‘The Fields of Athenry’ song and a woman who refused to eat. Extracted from Past Tracks. Irish translation included.

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).
Notes on Arklow, County Wicklow

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.

Kilkea Castle - Further Reading
Kilkea Castle – Further Reading

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

Photo: James Fennell.
Ruby Walsh, Champion Jockey – King of Cheltenham

With 58 wins at Cheltenham, Ruby Walsh is comfortably the most successful jockey in the Festival’s history.  He was also Irish jump jockey champion twelve times between 1998 and 2017 and, when he retired in 2019, he was the third most prolific winner in British and Irish jump racing history. This interview took place in Thurles in 2010.

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.

County Kerry – Choose a Topic
County Kerry – Choose a Topic

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

Photo: James Fennell
Mick O'Connell – Kerry's Gaelic Football Sorcerer

Mick O’Connell was the dominant – and most elegant – player in the midfield throughout the 1960s. By the time he retired in 1973, he had played in nine All-Ireland football finals and won four. He also helped Kerry win six National League medals between 1959 and 1972.

William Blakeney, Lord Blakeney, 1672 - 1761. The defender of Minorca, 1756, Sir George Chalmers
Chapter 9 – George Ievers of Athlacca

Tracing a branch of the family who lived at Athlacca (midway between Adare and Kilmallock), County Limerick, and their connection to the Bolster, Gubbins, Hawkins and Blakeney families.

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.

A scene from El Alamein.
Dennis of Fortgranite, County Wicklow

Kinsfolk of both Jonathan Swift and John Dryden, the Dennis family fortunes rose with a prudent marriage to a sole heiress, netting them extensive estates in Kerry, Cork and Dublin. Family members include the artist Kathleen Marescaux, the Indian tea magnate Maurice FitzGerald Sandes, radio pioneer Colonel Meade Dennis and General Meade Dennis, who served as principal artillery commander under Montgomery at El Alamein. Fortgranite, their family home, was sold in 2019.

Queen Margrethe Of Denmark
Denmark: Royal Winks & Fairy Tales

Turtle attends the bicentenary of Hans Christian Andersen's birth in Copenhagen, and fetches up being winked at by the Queen of Denmark.

Colonel G.A.J. McClintock was a half-brother to Captain William McClintock Bunbury of Lisnavagh.
McClintock of Fellow’s Hall, Co. Armagh and Rathvinden, Co. Carlow

A line of descent from the McClintocks of Drumcar with links to the Curragh Mutiny, the Lonsdale who became Baron Armaghdale, the Tynan Hunt, the Stronge family, a scandalous elopement, the Land Commission that followed the Wyndham Act, and the death of a father and son who were both wartime pilots.

Francis Johnston (1760–1829), by T. C. Thompson, showing him against a backdrop of the GPO. (© National Museums Northern Ireland, Ulster Museum Collection)
Dublin’s GPO

Many things about the housekeeper at the General Post Office were remarkable. Take, for instance, …

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.

Amongst local heroes of this period was Sergeant James Graham, born in Clones, who was regarded by contemporaries in 1815 as 'the bravest man at Waterloo'.
James Graham – The Bravest Man at Waterloo

Sergeant James Graham, born in Clones, was regarded by contemporaries in 1815 as ‘the bravest man at Waterloo'.

Scene following the 1906 Valparaíso earthquake.
Galvin of Ballyporeen, Co. Tipperary & Chile

An epic tale that brings the Galvin family from rural Ireland to faraway lands where they live and perish in Australia, New York, Peru and Chile, with a nod to the Valparaiso earthquake and the Galvin brothers role in bringing rugby to Chile.

Derry Dillon
Ireland – Choose a County

Choose a county from this list on this page to home in on stories of people, families, events and buildings from each area.

County Armagh, 1898.
County Armagh – Choose a Topic

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County Cavan – Choose a Topic
County Cavan – Choose a Topic

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County Donegal – Choose a Topic
County Donegal – Choose a Topic

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

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True Horse-Power - How Jimmy the Coal Carrier got Home from Bradley's pub
True Horse-Power – How Jimmy the Coal Carrier got Home from Bradley's pub

‘He was still 13 miles from home, with 3 right turns, 2 left turns and 6 straight through cross-roads for the horses to negotiate by automatic pilot … This was a regular occurrence and the lead horse never went astray and Johnny never work up until he reached his own yard.' A recollection by John Headen, publican, of the late Jimmy Bolger's homeward voyage from the pub.

Edward Lear, Champion of Nonsense

THERE WAS AN OLD MAN CALLED EDWARD By Turtle Bunbury As he plunged his quill …

Above: An extract from Turtle's panel for Drogheda railway station, illustrated by Derry Dillon, showing the Sultan, his ships and the flag.
Sultan Abdülmecid & the Relief of Drogheda, 1847

Drogheda, 1847. The gas-lit harbour lights burned through the dusk as the tug-boat hauled the …

The Annesley Abuduction: The Story that inspired ‘Kidnapped'

As he was pushed through the doors of The George on Dublin’s Bow-Lane, the boy …

Notes on Navan
Notes on Navan

These short blurbs were written for a panel installed in the Riverside Maxol station in Navan, County Meath, in 2023. The illustrations are by the wonderful Derry Dillon.

Trim Castle
Trim Castle – Ireland's Oldest Stone Castle

Trim Castle in Co. Meath which is not just the oldest stone castle in Ireland but also the largest of our Anglo-Norman castles. Here Turtle explores its links to such powerful dynasties as de Lacy, Mortimer, Wellesely and the House of York.

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

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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

Fighter pilots in World War One were the football celebrities of their day, their actions eagerly followed by millions of people in their homelands. The top three air aces in the war 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.

Dr. James Barry (1789-1865): The Man Who Was A Woman

DR. JAMES BARRY (1789-1865): THE MAN WHO WAS A WOMAN London, 25 July 1865. It …

Boyles, Earls of Shannon


The Weekly Irish Times featured an illustration of Convamore House, Ballyhooly, Co Cork, on its front page in 1885. The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1921.
Hare, Earl of Listowel – Convamore

Descended from a Cork merchant, the Hare family came to prominence when they bought significant lands in Counties Cork and Kerry in the late 18th century. Convamore, a splendid mansion just outside Ballyhooly, was built in the early 19th century to celebrate their elevation to the peerage. It was burned in the War of Independence. 

Charles Alfred Worsley Pelham, 4th Earl of Yarborough as a Russian Courtier, by Lafayette
Pelham, Earls of Yarborough

Origins of the Pelham Family   The Pelhams first rose to prominence in the Middle …

Dacres Dixon: 1630 - 2024
Dacres Dixon: 1630 – 2024

Following a family famous for the Mason-Dixie line, who made their mark as astronomers, canal engineers and wildlife artists, with cameos by intrepid emerald hunters in Colombia and Venezuela, plus the Red Lion Inn in Henley-on-Thames and links to the families of Bevan, Hare (Earl of Listowel), Pelham (Earl of Yarborough) and Rathdonnell (McClintock Bunbury).

Capel Island, County Cork, Ireland.
Supple of Aghadoe Castle, Co. Cork

The Supples were an old Anglo-Norman family, descended from Philippe de Capella (or de Capel), …

The Musgrave Migration from Leitrim to Cork

THE MUSGRAVE MIGRATION FROM LEITRIM TO CORK A Report by Turtle Bunbury (2012) It was …

The Rise and Fall of John Sadlier (1813-1856)

JOHN SADLIER (1813-1856) – A VERY SAD LIAR John Sadlier is arguably the best known …

The MacCarthys of Munster
The MacCarthys of Munster

An account of the origins of the McCarthy family, and various branches thereof, plus the miscellaneous and colourful MacCarthy exiles living in France during the 18th century, with reference to the branches at Carrignavar, Gortroe and Spring House.

Fennell of Burtown House, Athy, Co. Kildare

THE FENNELLS OF BURTOWN HOUSE, ATHY, CO. KILDARE This work is dedicated to the memory …

County Down – Choose a Topic
County Down – Choose a Topic

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The Wakefields & Christys of County Down

THE WAKEFIELDS & CHRISTYS OF COUNTY DOWN This family history is a spin-off from the …

John Carson of Inishmore, County Fermanagh. Photo: James Fennell.
John Carson (1928-2019) – An Island Farmer in Fermanagh

Born in 1928, John Carson has lived and farmed at Isle View on the island of Inishmore, County Fermanagh, all his life. Here he recalls fishing for pike, spooky nights and his time with the B-Specials.

Dun Aengus
Dun Aengus

I am still unsure of the fort’s purpose, but I am now quite convinced that Dun Aengus was once a circular fort and that a little under half of it has tumbled into the Atlantic Ocean, a wee slide here, a little collapse there.

Dún Aonghasa rocks, 2022.
Inis Mór (Inishmore) Island

Inis Mor is the biggest of the three Aran islands, which roll out from the west coast of Ireland, like “a necklace of pearls which God has set upon the bosom of the sea”, as one dreamy monk put it. This was the inspiration for Craggy Island, with its own Tedfest, but it also had a rich and wonderful history.

The Ale that Made Vikings Roar

Irish Daily Mail, Monday 18 October 2010 A huge cast iron cauldron smoulders over a …

Sir Richard Burton – Explorer, Sex Guru, Monkey Whisperer

By Turtle Bunbury An illustrated version of this article appeared in Playboy magazine in November …

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.   …

Jack Judge (1872-1938)

Jack Judge (1872-1938) THE MAN WHO WROTE ‘TIPPERARY’ As the curtains parted in Dublin’s Tivoli …

Graham Greene's Achill Affair

By Turtle Bunbury (Irish Daily Mail, 4th February 2011) Graham Greene could hardly say the …

County Leitrim – Choose a Topic
County Leitrim – Choose a Topic

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Strokestown House & its European War – April 2017

Strokestown, 1847. A single shot from a blunderbuss echoed into the Roscommon skies. The lead …