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

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

ImageTitleSummary
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 …

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.

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

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

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

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

The 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.

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.

William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke (1147-1219) - The Greatest Knight
William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke (1147-1219) – The Greatest Knight

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

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

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

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

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

Bill and Birdie Martin. Photo: James Fennell.
Romance in Ballitore: Bill Martin (1921-2019) & Birdie Martin (1931-2022)

Bill and Birdie are as charming a couple as you can meet. They still flirt and rile and tease and torment and love each other, just as they did back in the early 1960s when Bill first offered to walk her home from a dance in Crookstown. ‘He asked me after only one waltz,’ says Birdie, still bashful at his haste. ‘I didn’t know what I was getting into, mind! He was my first and only one.’

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

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

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

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

'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.

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.

Rita Hayworth. Illustration by Derry Dillon.
Clonsilla, County Dublin – Historical Tales

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.

Launching: 14 March 2022.
Turtle Bunbury's Global Irish

A podcast series exploring some of the more extraordinary Irish people who have found fame and infamy around the world in centuries past. 

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

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

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.

Illustration by Derry Dillon
Winnie Letts (1882-1972) – A Poet of the Great War

Winnifred Letts published a series of remarkable war poems during the First World War, in which she worked as a nurse. The Dublin-based author also published children's books and a play staged by the Abbey Theatre. South Dublin Libraries will host a series of events to mark the 50th anniversary of her death in June 2022.

Mary Spring Rice (1880-1924)
Mary Spring Rice (1880-1924)

During her all too short life, Lord Monteagle's remarkable daughter sailed out with the Childers on Asgard on that extraordinarily audacious gun-run in 1914 and, during the War of Independence, she made her mark by offering indispensable first aid lessons to nurses tending to wounded IRA members.

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

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

Drew of Scotland & Westmorland

[Work in progress] Above: A gathering at Dalmonach on the shores of Loch Lomond. The …

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 .

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Antony and Justin with Bertha.
Bertha’s Resurrection

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

The 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.

Lisnavagh - The War Horse
Lisnavagh – The War Horse

A remarkable hunter, bred at Lisnavagh, who competed at the International Horse Show in London before going off to the Western Front as the mount of Captain Eustace Mansfield.

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

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

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

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

Above: Molesworth Street, 2021.
A History of Molesworth Street, Dublin

A history of the central Dublin street from its origins as a playground for citizens during the Tudor age through its development by families such as Molesworth, Rosse, Dawson and Hamilton, to its gentrification in the 19th century and its reemergence as an urban hotspot in the 2020s.

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.

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).
Athenry, County Galway – Historical Tales

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.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, as portrayed by Keira Knightley, with Bess Foster played by Hayley Atwell in The Duchess.'
Foster of County Louth – Ambassadors, Speakers, Lovers Extraordinaire

A family who rose through the hierarchy through their astute understanding of finance, property and agriculture, culminating with John Foster’s election as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and his elevation to the peerage as Baron Oriel. With 6,500 acres at Collon, Dunleer and Glyde Court, County Louth, the head of the family also became Viscount Ferrard and Viscount Massereene, inheriting Antrim Castle. Includes the philanthropist Vere Foster and Lady Bess Foster, part of the Duke of Devonshire’s ménage à trois with Georgiana.

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

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

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.  

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

‘I, an Irishman by extraction, was born in the Scottish capital after two separate lines of Irish wanderers came together under one roof’. So remarked the creator of Sherlock Holmes. His mother was Mary Foley from Lismore with strong roots in Kilkenny; his father Charles Doyle had paternal roots in Dublin and Wexford. One of Arthur's uncles was director of the National Gallery of Ireland and married into a Dublin a family by name of Sherlock …

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 .

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

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

The Palatines in Ireland
The Palatines in Ireland

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

Waterways Through Time', a podcast series by Turtle, launched on his 50th birthday.
Waterways Through Time

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

King Edward III's face from his bronze effigy in Westminster Abbey.
Wall (Du Valle) of County Carlow

From the time of the Anglo-Normans through until the end of the seventeenth century, a large swathe of land running east of Carlow town in Ireland was held by the Wall family. Much of this property was subsequently subsumed into the estates of the Bunbury and Burton family. The area has been home to humanity since ancient times – Johnstown, one of the Bunbury’s principal houses, is only a mile or so from the Browne’s Hill dolmen and boasted its own bullaun stone.

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

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

Spike Island -  Australian Convicts & the Vagrancy Act
Spike Island – Australian Convicts & the Vagrancy Act

Between 1787 and 1868, over 30,000 Irish men and 9,000 Irish women were transported to the Australian colonies as convicts. The vast majority were held at Spoke Island before they departed for exile from Cobh, the County Cork seaport which had been renamed Queenstown in 1849. This article looks at the campaign to secure a posthumous pardon for those sentenced during the time of the Great Hunger.

Bunbury of Kilfeacle, co. Tipperary

MATTHEW BUNBURY (1675-1733) The Bunburys of Kilfeacle, Co. Tipperary, descend from Mathew Bunbury (1675-1733), fourth …

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

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

Photo: James Fennell
Liza Mulvahill  (1915-2015) – Dairymaid & Cook of Moyavne, County Kerry

‘I got afraid seeing all the men and I ran. One of them put up the gun to shoot me. They thought I was running to tell the IRA they were coming. My mother was in a panic until another one said, “Stop, don’t shoot the child.”’

Photo: James Fennell.
Maurice Fitzgerald (1919-2012) – Farmer of Glin, County Limerick

‘I was a great boxer. A heavyweight. Oh yes, I was highly dangerous and the whole town knows it. I’m Maurice Fitzgerald. One of the Normans. Did you ever hear of them? I’m a tough man. My right arm is a ten-pound sledge. Did you ever get a belt from a sledge? And my left arm is a kick from a mule. Do you know what a mule is?’

Replica of an urn found on Ballon Hill.
Around Lisnavagh: Neolithic to the Bronze Age

As of January 2022, I have an inventory of (extant or vanished) 3 ring forts, 1 square fort, 1 standing stone, 1 dolmen, 1 monastery, 1 castle, 1 Bronze Age settlement, all located in a small stretch of land running from the summit of Knocknagan to the Haroldstown dolmen, drawing in a little bit of Tobinstown and the townland of Acaun  …. throw in an underground stream, the River Dereen and the mysterious shapes in Bowe's Grove, and the stage is set for yet more sleuthery. 

Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton's Island

A review of the National Geographic's episode of Ice Patrol entitled ‘Shackleton's Island' (2009) when a group of marines followed Shackleton's astonishing journey through the uncharted mountains of South Georgia Island.

Sir Ernest Shackleton - By Endurance, We Conquer
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.

Photo: James Fennell
Maisie Grannell (b. 1925) – The Seamstress of Enniscorthy, County Wexford

Maisie has endured considerable hardship in her life but by dint of her amazing determination and sheer work ethic, she has survived with her sense of humour intact. Politician, be warned. Maisie has a catapult and a bag of road chippings set aside for door-to-door canvassers. And she knows how to use them.

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

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. Extracted from Past Tracks, with Irish translations by Jack O'Driscoll.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Count John McCormack. Illustration by Derry Dillon, extracted from Past Tracks (2021).
Athlone, County Westmeath – Historical Tales

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.

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

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

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).
Ballinasloe, County Galway – Historical Tales

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) - A Hugely Successful Author
Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) – A Hugely Successful Author

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.

Richard Butler, Vicar of Trim and  Dean of Clonmacnoise, was described by contemporaries as ‘a handsome man with expressive eyes’.
Richard Butler (1794-1862), Vicar of Trim and  Dean of Clonmacnoise

Maria Edgeworth’s sister Harriet married my grandfather’s great-uncle Richard Butler, Rector of Trim and Dean of Clonmacnoise, Described as ‘a handsome man with expressive eyes’, he was born at Granard, County Longford, in 1794.

Bishopscourt
Kennedy of Johnstow and Bishopscourt, County Kildare

One of the most celebrated families of the Kildare hunting scene during the middle decades of the 20th century, the Kennedys were direct descendants of Sir John Kennedy, the Father of the Kildare Hunt. Indeed, for much of the 20th century, the area around Straffan was known as ‘Kennedy country’.

Bunbury of Russellstown and Bunbury Lodge, County Carlow
Bunbury of Russellstown and Bunbury Lodge, County Carlow

An unusual branch of the family, whose stars included Henry Bunbury (described by contemporary as ‘an agreeable oddity') and his son Thomas Charles Bunbury, who campaigned for Daniel O'Connell in the 1830s. 

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

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

Liely
A Historical Odyssey through Dublin’s Literary Pubs

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

The Sam Maguire Cup was modelled on the Ardagh Chalice and made by Hopkins and Hopkins. jewellers and silversmiths at 2 O'Connell Street, Dublin (now a bank). The brothers' family originally hailed from Tuckamine, about half way between Tullow to Rathvilly and Carlow to Hacketstown. They were also connected to Knocknagan by Lisnavagh, County Carlow.
Sam Maguire & Liam MacCarthy – For Whom the Cups are Named

MacCarthy and Maguire are household names on account of the All-Ireland cups for hurling and football which are named in their honour. But few know just how intricately both men were linked with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the assassination of Sir Henry Wilson in London and the meteoric rise of Michael Collins.

Aerial view of Lisnavagh, 2021.
William Bunbury (c. 1674-1710) of Lisnavagh, Co. Carlow

William was given the lease on Lisnavagh and Tobinstown by his father in 1695, the year before he married Elizabeth Pendred and commissioned the construction of the original house at Lisnavagh. This page provides some historical context on William's relatively short life, along with some speculations about the first house and its surrounding landscape.

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

Belfast City, Northern Ireland's progressive capital, developed as a great port and industrial centre during the 18th and 19th centuries. Built around the point where the River Lagan enters Lough Neagh in the south of County Armagh, the once troubled city has a rich history and a promising future. In 2021, Belfast was awarded prestigious UNESCO City of Music status, while the Array Collective, a Belfast-based group, won the Turner Prize and Kenneth Branagh's movie ‘Belfast' won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2022. 

John Barry, co-founder of the Continental Navy in the USA.
Commodore John Barry (1745-1803), Father of the American Navy

The Wexford man was the United States’ first commissioned naval officer, as well as its first flag officer. On his watch, the US Navy converted 40 acres of Brooklyn into one of the world's biggest shipyards. It stands next to the oldest park in Brooklyn, renamed Commodore Barry Park in his honour.

William Browne, photographed circa 1847.
William Browne – Father of the Argentine Navy

When Argentina launched its War of Independence against its Spanish overlords, William Brown of Foxford, County Mayo, was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Argentine fleet and powered his adopted country to victory.

Mick King (1924-2013) - Farmer of Lanmore
Mick King (1924-2013) – Farmer of Lanmore

‘I never bothered my head about marriage, but I tell you, when my father and mother were alive, you couldn’t go bringing a woman into an old house like this.' A charming bachelor farmer from County Mayo recalls his days working on the bogs of Allenwood, bringing potatos to Westport by horse and cart, and a school where ‘swallows flew in and out the broken windows’ and ‘you’d clap your hands every now and then to stay warm’.

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.

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.

Photo: Bryan Meade
Interview with Turtle Bunbury, March 2020 – The Irish-American Post

Conducted by Martin Russell of the Irish-American Post, this appeared in March 2020, coinciding with the launch of ‘Ireland's Forgotten Past' and the arrival of a certain irksome virus …

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Helen Mackworth, who shot herself when she found the bodies of her fiancee and his mother.
McClintock of Dunmore House, Co. Donegal

The story of a branch of the family that came of age after the relief of Derry in the Williamite Wars of the 1690s, only for inconceivable tragedy to come in the form of a triple homicide on the eve of the Second World War. With a brief account of the McFarland family who bought the house outside Carrigans, County Donegal, in 1954.

The Whiteboy Insurrection in Macroom, 1822
The Whiteboy Insurrection in Macroom, 1822

An account of one of the most notorious agrarian secret societies to emerge in the Irish countryside in the Georgian age, who remerged during the war against tithes, arguably the most reviled tax of the early 19th century.

Richard Corrigan Papers – General Notes (County Carlow)
Richard Corrigan Papers – General Notes (County Carlow)

Miscellaneous pages connected to County Carlow, extracted from one of Richard Corrigan's books and transcribed as written by Maribeth Nolan in Nov/Dec 2012. Giltrap, Cope, Corrigan are among the names recorded, as well as the Parish Church in Kinneagh.

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.

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

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

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

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

Blake Castle on Quay Lane, Galway, was  the property of Sir Valentine Blake of Menlo at the time of the 1651-2 siege.
Blake of Menlo Castle, County Galway & Meelick House, County Clare

Looking at one of the most celebrated of the 14 Tribes of Galway, whose properties included Menlo Castle and Meelick in Ireland, as well as Whitland Abbey in Carmarthenshire, Wales. The account considers all nineteen of the Blake baronets, Wild Geese and Wine Geese, as well as curious links to Cary Grant, Red Hugh O’Donnell’s assassin and Tony Blake, who was executed during the Korean War.  

Ballynatray House, near Youghal, was inextricably linked with Raleigh, who became owner of both Ballynatray and nearby Molana Abbey in 1587. The abbey was given to his friend, the brilliant mathematician Thomas Hariot while it was Robert Maule, one of Raleigh's two estate managers in Ireland, who most likely lived at Ballynatray in the late 16th century. When Raleigh's star waned and disgrace loomed, he sold his vast Irish estates directly to Richard Boyle, subsequently the Earl of Cork, for a token £1500. 
Smyth of Ballynatray

The Holroyd-Smyth family who lived at Ballynatray House near Youghal in County Waterford descend from a family named Smyth who were closely allied with Richard Boyle, the Great Earl of Cork. This story charts the family's journey from the Tudor age to the 1850s.

Charles Kickham
Charles Joseph Kickham (1828-1882)

A short account of the 19th century novelist and Fenian pioneer, famed for the poem ‘Slievenamon', who was born at his mother's family home in Mocklershill outside Cashel, County Tipperary, with some additional notes on his cousin, Michael Kickham, a priest who became the bane of the Catholic church in Australia during the 1880s.

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

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

Murder at Shandy Hall - The Coachford Posioning Case, 1887
Murder at Shandy Hall – The Coachford Posioning Case, 1887

The murder of Laura Cross of Shandy Hall was the talk of all Britain and Ireland when the story hit the press in the summer of 1887. Michael Sheridan's 2010 book reexamined the extraordinary circumstances which ultimately led to the execution of her husband, Dr. Philip Cross.

Deep-Sea Fishing in County Clare
Deep-Sea Fishing in County Clare

In 2009, a Swiss financier caught a bluntnose sixgill shark near Carriagaholt, County Clare. It was the largest yet fish caught by a rod and line in Irish or British waters. Turtle headed down a week later to see if he could do any better. He could not.

Brian Kennedy - The Rise of a Falls Road Boy
Brian Kennedy – The Rise of a Falls Road Boy

“I've never set out to be political in any sense but because of where I was born and how I grew up, that defined me immediately.’ We were never involved in anything other than the day-to-day thing of going to school and being shot at and all those kinds of mad things.” Turtle interviewed the Belfast born singer shortly before he competed at the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest.

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.

Close up of Derry Dillon's illustration of the FitzGerald ape.
FitzGerald of Carton House & Kilkea Castle, County Kildare – Earls of Kildare, Dukes of Leinster

The dramatic story of one of the most powerful families in Irish history – their early years as French-speaking adventurers, their rise to being a vital cog in the running of the Irish colony, their rebellions against the kings of England and their stunning decline when the pay-off of a gambling debt backfired.

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

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

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

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

Dr Bartholomew Mosse – Founder of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin
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.

Kevin O'Higgins with WT Cosgrave behind him in 1923.
Chesterfield House, Booterstown, Co. Dublin

WILLIAMSTOWN Chesterfield House is located on Cross Avenue, midway between Booterstown and Blackrock. When the house was …

Johnny Golden, mechanic and sexton, of Doogarry, Co Cavan. Photo: James Fennell.
Johnny Golden (1937-2010) – The Gouldy

Raised in the Sunbeam Orphanage near Bray, Johnny Golden was a home-boy on a farm in County Leitrim by the 1950s. He later became sexton of the church in Killegar, and worked as a mechanic from his home in County Cavan. The Gouldy was murdered in 2010. This story formed the basis of the eulogy I read at his funeral.

The Clonmel Show (1865-2015)
The Clonmel Show (1865-2015)

The Clonmel Show has survived some of the darkest days in Irish history, through times of local agitation, national crisis, global conflict and Covid 19. This account was commissioned by the Clonmel Show Committee as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations in 2015.

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.

Ral
Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland

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

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.

Photo: James Fennell
Very Rev. Patrick Gill – The Parish Priest of Lecanvey

Born in 1927, the Very Rev. Patrick Gill muses upon a horrendous pogrom in 1795 that drove 7,000 Ulster Catholics to Connaught,  the impact of the Great Hunger on County Mayo and his own experiences administering a parish at the foot of Croagh Patrick.

Sister Rita, née Molly Cranny. Photo: James Fennell.
Sister Rita (1917-2013) & Sister Alphonsus (1920-2015)

‘It was a very sheltered life, and it wasn’t always easy. But that was the way it was. You did whatever you had to do and there was plenty to be done’. Two Sisters of Mercy in Athy, County Kildare, look back over the nine decades since their childhood, and explain how they fetched up in the order.

Humewood Castle, County Wicklow
Humewood Castle, County Wicklow

  When the Right Honourable Fitzwilliam Hume Dick stood for election in November 1868, he advised the …

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

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.

Reviews of '1847 - A Chronicle of Genius, Generosity & Savagery' by Turtle Bunbury
Reviews of ‘1847 – A Chronicle of Genius, Generosity & Savagery' by Turtle Bunbury

“1847” is, for me, the best thing Turtle has done so far. It is vivid, surprising, hugely entertaining; an unforgettable encounter with an extraordinary year.' Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson and others weigh in on Turtle's 2016 book ….

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 Maxol Story
The Maxol Story

Turtle was commissioned to research, write and  produce the history of Maxol as a handsome coffee table. He also converted the history into an 11-part podcast series, which he narrated.

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.

Harry Kernoff's celebrated painting A Bird Never Flew On One Wing. Two auld fellows raise a pint. In the background is the name of every pub in Dublin they frequent. The second pint is always justified by the reasoning that a bird never flying on one wing.
The Irish Pub – Media Coverage & General Applause

‘Delightful' says The Irish Times. ‘Fascinating' concurred the Independent-on-Sunday. ‘A brilliant history of the Irish pub' declared Country Life. ‘A masterpiece of pub porn' said the Sunday Independent. Turtle's 2008 book ‘The Irish Pub' – his third with photographer James Fennell – gathered plenty of the plaudits following its publication. It was selected as Bookseller's Choice for Christmas by Hughes and Hughes and short-listed in The Irish Times Christmas Gift Special. The sumptuous hardback sold over 5,000 copies in its first 3 months.

Harrington with Eileen Grey, pictured in The Tatler of 24 December 1941, following their engagement.
Bill Harrington, 11th Earl of Harrington (1922-2009)

This story followed my meeting with Bill in 2005 in which he told me he had personally arrested Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler's successor as President of the German Reich. Sadly the facts don't add up but Bill, who was one of my grandfather's greatest friends, nonetheless lived an incredible life.

Bill Rathdonnell and his fellow B-Squadron Officers of the Hussars on a Humber scout car
in Germany. L-R: Lieutenant S.R.M. Frazer, Captain Sutherland, Lieutenant R.F. (?),
Captain the Earl of Harrington, Major the Lord Rathdonnell, MC (puffing a pipe at the back) and Captain Weatherby, MC.
An Interview with Bill Harrington, 2005

William Henry Leicester Stanhope, 11th Earl of Harrington (1922-2009) was second-in-command to my grandfather, Major the Lord Rathdonnell, aka Bill Rathdonnell, during the Second World War. They served with the 15 / 19 Hussars in northern Europe in the wake of the Battle of the Bulge. In October 2005, I took a train to Limerick and interviewed him about his wartime experience.

The late 19th-century bar in The Long Hall runs down the right side of the room. Miscellaneous chandeliers hang from a ceiling the colour of beetroot soup, each set into its own unique rose.
The Long Hall – 51 George’s Street, Dublin 2

The Long Hall is the sort of place Brunel would have created if he’d taken to pub design. Reminiscent of a mid-Victorian train station, it came in at No. 2 on a list of the most popular pubs in Dublin published by Tripadvisor in February 2022. Up until 1951, the bar was men only but women sitting in this hallway were served through hatches. One regular was notorious Dublin bad boy Brendan Behan whose father worked across the road in Dockrells.

Although some say it looks more like a moose, this fine stag’s head is said to have grazed upon the grasses of Alaska until dispatched in Alaska in 1901. The cornice above is richly panelled and moulded. Photo: James Fennell.
The Stag's Head – Dame Court, Dublin City

For some, the first indication that they are within range of the Stag's Head comes while strolling along the south side of Dame Street, away from Trinity College. A singular mosaic tile on the pavement depicts the noble head of a stag and points down a small alleyway, past the red and white pole of a barber’s shop, to the aforesaid establishment.

Photo: James Fennell.
Geoff’s Bar – Waterford City

The cover star of Turtle and James's book, The Irish Pub, Geoff’s popularity is probably due to the success of its eponymous owner at maintaining the essence of the grocery bar which his grandfather, Geoffrey Power, founded here on this site over a century ago.

A Knight in shining armour, purchased in New York, stands guard above family patriarch Sergeant Dinny Cunnaire, Irish Army, retired. Photo: James Fennell.
Gertie Browne – Athlone, Co. Westmeath

Running over 200 miles from its source to the sea, the Shannon is the longest river in …

Blackboards invite passers by to sample the food, drink and music offered within. The pub name above was designed by Martin Hopkins. Photo: James Fennell.
The Sky and the Ground – Wexford Town

Chipped enamel lampshades hang low over a counter, salvaged from Gaynor’s shoe shop, now capped by three discreetly assertive tap banks. Shelves are stuffed with Sunlight soaps, Jeyes flats and other ‘where are they now’ household names. ‘I don’t deliberately go out and try to buy stuff’, insists Johnny Barron, the owner of this fine Wexford pub. ‘It’s just whatever comes to me’.

A long ‘Alter’ bar of Balmoral red granite is divided by columns and faced with merry tiles and a heated foot rest. Look out for the huge casks with their polished brass taps.
The Crown – Belfast

One of the last of the great Victorian Gin Palaces that once flourished in the industrial cities of Britain, this landmark establishment originally serviced the six stagecoaches and various jaunting cars passing daily from Belfast to Lisburn.

The tongue and groove counter and back bar runs down one side of the room, its stools occupied by men and women who know each other well.
J. Curran's – Dingle, County Kerry

Like so many of Dingle’s fine pubs, Curran’s has always doubled as a general merchant. ‘They sold everything long ago’, says James Curran, pulling out one of the old ledger books. Sue enough, the ledgers are stuffed with billheads from all manner of harness-maker, tailor, newsagent, chemist, baker and clergyman. Trawling through the names, James shakes his head and remarks: ‘They’re all gone now, every single one of them gone’.

Kelly’s has been a haunt beloved by judges and lawbreakers for over 300 years.  Photo: James Fennell.
Kelly's Cellars – Bank Street, Belfast

The oldest licensed premises in Belfast is also one of its most alluring. The pub was a meeting place for the United Irishmen in the run up to the disastrous rebellion of 1798. It is still easy to imagine such characters plotting revolution here over dark ales and tankards of mead. The pub has changed little since the age of Wolfe Tone and McCracken.

A full-length photograph of The Rahilly, the 1916 rebel leader, hangs behind an old National cash till. Photo: James Fennell.
Michael Finucane’s – Ballylongford, Co. Kerry

Michael Finucane’s great uncle bought the bar from The O’Rahilly, the only leader to die in action during the Easter Rising. It was inevitably a stronghold for Republican get-togethers during the formative years of the new state. Customers sat at the bar and drank while a tailor proposed different colours and cloths. The drapery and the grocery are no more but the pub remains an aesthetic delight and an epicentre of life for the surrounding community.

Nan Brennan (1981–2017) and Patricia Brennan (1981–2018), the owners of The Criterion. The pub shut its doors for the final time on the night of Sunday, 30 September 2018.
Brennan's – The Criterion Hotel, Bundoran, County Donegal

Built in 1823, The Criterion Bar was one of the earliest guesthouses to arise upon Ireland’s raggedy Atlantic shores. The Brennan sisters lived here all their lives, taking it in turns to serve from behind the pitch pine counter. Everything was immaculate, traditional, unfussy, simply inviting customers to take time out from the seasonal mayhem of the streets outside. This was one of the few pubs unsullied by the advent of modern times.

A cascade of flower baskets ensures De Barra’s helps maintain Clonakilty’s reputation as one of the neatest and most cheerful towns in Ireland. Photo: James Fennell.
De Barra’s of Clonakilty, West Cork

Christy Moore is by no means alone when he suggests that de Barra’s is a cut above Carnegie Hall. The pub is all about music, from the flutes, fiddles and saxophones sprawled upon its walls to the purpose-built auditorium out back. But somehow de Barra's’ retains its sense of history and still feels like an old-world grocery bar.

McCarthy’s commendable attention to detail extends to a handsome bank of bronze and enamel taps along the bar. Photo: James Fennell.
McCarthy's of Fethard, Co. Tipperary

A dark and inviting interior, with tobacco-stained walls smothered by images of men clutching trophies, well-toned horses in mid flight, revolutionaries at play, the Bloody Sunday football team. McCarthy’s has a catchphrase: ‘We wine you, dine you and bury you’. Sure enough, the pub offers both an up-market restaurant and an acclaimed undertaker service. Coffins and hearses are parked in the former livery stables out the back.

The House of McDonnell has been in the same family for an astonishing fourteen generations. Photo: James Fennell.
House of McDonnell – Ballycastle, Co. Antrim

This Antrim gem has been in the same family for an astonishing fourteen generations. Most of what one sees is old world from the classic black light switches and coat hooks beneath the counter to the keyhole clock that gongs above the bar. This was an old man’s pub and to a large extent it still is. ‘We don’t do refurbishment’, says the present owner, Tom O'Neill.

Oliver MacDonnell, the owner of Dick Macks, was born in one of the upstairs rooms and has been based in the pub ever since. Photo: James Fennell (2008).
Dick Macks – Dingle, County Kerry

There’s not many pubs like Dick Mac's left. By night it seems as though every rattan stool, bentwood chair and scuff-resistant step is occupied by someone of a different nationality. All silhouetted by the shoe boxes rising up the wall. The lighting overhead is as stark as you get. Everywhere the banter is in full flow. When the music starts, all ankles tap. If these people are not Irish, they sure want to be.

Morrissey’s retains the air of a venerable institution, with its dark, shelf-lined walls and pot-belly stove, and its ban on television. Since the earliest days, all staff at Morrissey’s have worn the white coats of the grocer. By ensuring that staff are friendly and welcoming, the atmosphere is always inviting.
E.J. Morrissey's of Abbeyleix, County Laois

In more carefree times, there was an unofficial commandment that stated: ‘Thou shalt not drive through Abbeyleix without pausing in Morrissey’s for a pint’. The pub's best known landlord was Willie John Morrissey, a famous character in Irish folklore. He was the town rep for the Cunard Line in an age when the Abbeyleix Carpet Factory kitted out the Titanic with its elaborate rugs and carpets. Although loath to admit it, Willie Joe was so deaf that one effectively had to order a drink with a pen and paper.

Photo: James Fennell.
McConville's (The Mandeville Arms) – Portadown, County Armagh

This classic Victorian bar is one of the most stalwart survivors of the Ulster pub scene right down to its crack-riddled sky blue and dusty red tiled floor. In 1981, the windows were blown out when a 400lb car bomb exploded outside the pub. Its present owner has made it a pub for all, ‘whatever age and whoever you are – anything goes, religion makes no odds’. The pub is certainly an inspiration for all those who want to move on from the Troubles and enjoy the 21st century, not least from within one of the ten impeccably charming leather-bound snugs within.

Dark corridors lead to intimate snugs of leather seats, timber tables and frosted glass partitions. Photo: James Fennell.
Tigh Neachtain’s – Cross Street, Galway City

 Jimmy Maguire, the soft-spoken owner of Tigh Neachtain, says his pub is the oldest in Galway City. He believes it formed part of a medieval townhouse built by the family of Humanity Dick Martin. Jimmy is passionate about history. He tells the tale of Captain Thomas Poppleton, who attempted to liberate Napoleon from captivity, and assures his customers that Poppleton took the French Emperor into Neachtain’s for a secret pint on his way to St Helena. In fact, he blinks, Christopher Columbus most probably drank a rum here when he was on his way to the New World.

When it operated as a grocery, most of the produce sold at Wrights were grown or made locally. Photo: James Fennell.
J & W Wright – Glaslough, County Monaghan

Before insurance costs became too extreme, Glaslough hosted an annual motorbike rally, which could draw a crowd of anything up to 10,000 persons. Ron Kendrick, the owner of Wright's, was himself a keen biker, ‘in between the hedges’, racking up a personal best at his home race of 5th place on a Yamaha road-bike. He was delighted to have his pub at the hub of it all.

Photo: James Fennell.
Lenehan's – 10 Barrack Street, Kilkenny City

Lenehans is the sort of pub that becomes extremely busy on a Monday morning for no particular reason. The pub still derives good business from teachers, nurses and clergy in the locality, as well as the soldiers in the nearby barracks and workers from the Labour Exchange. Jim likes the fact they are off the beaten track.

Photo: James Fennell.
Crotty's Pub – Kilrush, County Clare

Crotty’s Pub today is effectively a square. In the bottom right is the main bar, featuring a pitch pine counter, a tiny frost-glass snug and a rare plate glass Smithwick’s Ale & Barleywine mirror. This was the room where Oliver Reed, Richard Burton and Cyril Cusack all drank when passing through. Miko Crotty managed to lure an Italian stonemason working on the Catholic Church to lay most of the floor, save for the somewhat uneven bar area.

Photo: James Fennell.
Thomas Connolly's – Holborn & Markievicz Street, Sligo Town

During the 1930s, Sligo was the second biggest port in north-western Ireland. Every week, cargo ships from Poland, Denmark, Scotland and such like would dock, laden with corn, tea, timber and coal. The hardy sailors frequently piled into Connolly’s to drink ‘rum and blacks’ alongside Sligo’s indigenous dockers. Public order within the pub was maintained by Jim Fox, who had served with the Royal Irish Constabulary from 1882 through until the foundation of the Free State in 1922.

James Clancy bottled his own Guinness.
Clancy's – 12 Leinster St, Athy, Co. Kildare

Thom’s Directory of 1926 records forty-one ‘wine and spirit dealers’ in Athy. By 2007, that number had fallen to sixteen. To stay afloat, you need to be different and that is where Clancy’s has a trump card. In 1964, Jim Clancy evicted all the dusty old bags of maize from the grocery’s storeroom and reopened it as a music room. Nearly sixty years later, Clancy’s is considered one of the great music pubs of Eastern Ireland.

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.

Photo: James Fennell.
The Bulman – Kinsale, Co. Cork

The Bulman is at heart a mariner’s pub. Full-length exterior portraits of Hugh O’Neill and Don Juan d’Aquila, commanders at the battle of Kinsale, stand solemnly beneath flower baskets at either side of the main door. Light tumbles in from the ocean. Heat rises from fireplaces in rooms at either side. The bar counter is pitched at the perfect height for old men to lean upon.

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

This branch of the main Lisnavagh family initially settled between County Tipperary and Connemara. Descendants include a man who held the world record for shorthand writing, the Borneo settler for whom the Bunbury Shoals are named and the unfortunate Molly Bunbury who was murdered by her doctor husband in 1886.

John Devoy's prison photograph from 1867.
John Devoy (1842-1928) – Fenian Rebel & Sponsor of the Easter Rising

There would probably have been no Easter Rising without John Devoy. Indeed, one could say that there might have been no Irish Free State without Devoy. Certainly two of Ireland’s most iconic leaders, Charles Stuart Parnell and Michael Collins, owed much of their success to the machinations of this extraordinary man, arguably the most influential Irish-American in history.

Map showing how Britain and Ireland voted over Irish Home Rule in 1886
Map showing how Britain and Ireland voted over Irish Home Rule in 1886

A fascinating map coloured to show how people voted on the Home Rule question in 1886. The ares in green were in favour. It would be another 35 years before the Irish Free State was born; the six counties of Northern Ireland remain part of the United Kingdom. 

E
William Presley of Eagle Hill, Hacketstown

The story of a savage attack on William Presley in 1775, possibly by the Whiteboys, and how that launched a festival in Hacketstown, even if it sadly transpired that the Carlow town was not Elvis's ancestral home.

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 …

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

A look at the Duchess of Sussex's ancestry including the Dublin marriage of Belfast-born Mary McCue (McCague) and Private Thomas Bird, the Malta connection, the move to New Brunswick and the birth of Meghan Markle's great-grandmother in New Hampshire.

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

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

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.

Grapes
John Concannon & the Grapes of Mexico

A short account of the Aran Islander who revolutionised the wine industry in Mexico.

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.

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.

Scene 57 of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Was the Baron de St Pierre in action on that momentous day?
The Baron de St. Pierre & the Bunbury Family

The origins of the family, with their connection to the Baron de St. Pierre and Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, plus other links to Saint Boniface, the Barons Malpas, the de Boneberrys &c.

Mary Wollstonecraft.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) – A Pioneering Feminist in Ireland

Before she became one of the founding philosophers of feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft was governess to Viscount Kingsborough’s daughters at Mitchelstown Castle in north Cork. While Mary went on to marry  William Godwin (and so became mother to Mary Shelley, author of ‘Frankenstein’), one of her protégés Margaret, Countess of Mount Cashell, scandalised aristocratic society by eloping to Italy with a young Irish officer by name of Tighe.

Pat Nixon with her Irish Cousins in Thomastown, Hollymount, County Mayo, Ireland. It was taken during the Nixons' trip to Europe in 1970.
Mrs. Nixon, the First Lady from County Mayo

The story of Richard and Pat Nixon's visit to Ireland in 1970, how they met, his connections to Kildare and Antrim, and her visit to meet her Ryan and Naughton kinsfolk near Ballinrobe, County Mayo. 

Clonalis, County Roscommon - High Kings and Civil Wars
Clonalis, County Roscommon – High Kings and Civil Wars

The home of Piers O’Conor Nash, nephew of the O'Conor Don, this fabulous Roscommon home holds the Inauguration Stone upon which nearly thirty O’Conor kings of Connaught were crowned. Clonalis was awarded the HHI O’Flynn Group Heritage Prize in 2022. Turtle recounts a visit to the house which he conducted on behalf of National Geographic Magazine.

The people strolling the streets of Main Street, Borris, tends to look a little more colourful when the Festival of Writing & Ideas is on.
Villages at a Crossroads – Borris, Grangecon & Clogh

Over three centuries after Oliver Goldsmith wrote The Deserted Village, our small communities are once again facing a bleak future, with populations falling, pubs and post offices closing and long-held traditions fading away. An article Turtle wrote for The Irish Times Magazine in 2008.

De Burgh of Oldtown, Co. Kildare
De Burgh of Oldtown, Co. Kildare

Reputedly descended from Charlemagne, the de Burgh's role in Irish affairs has been immense since the first knights who cantered across the seas in the 12th century. The Oldtown branch was established in Kildare 325 years ago by Thomas Burgh, a brilliant military engineer. His descendants include the Georgian politicians Walter Hussey Burgh and John Foster, General Sir Eric de Burgh, the singer Chris de Burgh and the 2003 Miss World, Rosanna Davison.

Big House Hospitality & the Hidden Ireland
Big House Hospitality & the Hidden Ireland

By 1986, less than 300 of the big houses were still in the hands of the families who had built or occupied them during the days when Ireland was a British colony. That same year, the heads of some of these families joined forces with some of those who had purchased, restored or converted such buildings during the decades since independence. They came together under a shared belief that the time had come to open their front doors, and the doors of the bedrooms upstairs, to welcome in paying guests. Not as hotels, of course, but as private homes where people could stay. And so the Hidden Ireland was born.

A bust of Jonathan Swift, similarly hatted to  Thomas Finlay.
Jonathan Swift – A Tale of Two Women

Dean Swift, the celebrated satirist and author of such works as ‘Gulliver’s Travel’s’, was Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin for over thirty years. However, perhaps the greatest conundrum of his life was how to maintain an intimate relationship with two women, without one finding out about the other. 

The junction between the Poddle tunnel and the Liffey is visible at low tide.
The Secrets of Dublin's Underground

The underground of any city is replete with the possibilities of another world. Think of the darkly magical catacombs of Edinburgh or Rome, or the abandoned Tube lines under London. Many of the legends of a subterranean Dublin riddled with interconnecting tunnels are codology. The Irish capital is too wet for a decent underground, resting upon reclaimed marshland, but there are nonetheless some tunnels worth knowing about …

Walt Disney’s Leprechaun Hunt
Walt Disney’s Leprechaun Hunt

By the time of his death in 1966, Walt Disney was a household name across the world, having racked up far more Oscars than anyone else in history and established a multination company with zillions of dollars, as well as resorts and theme parks. A classic American success story from man whose ancestors emigrated to the US from Ireland in the 1830s but when it came to his Irish roots, Walt was all about the blarney. This article looks at his ancestry and his visit to Ireland on a research mission for ‘Darby O'Gill and the Little People'.

During his younger years, Windham Quin was a member of the Limerick Hellfire Club, a satirical gentlemen’s club that met at Askeaton, 15km north-west of Adare. He appears in this painting by James Worsdale, a co-founder of the club, which was painted between 1736 and 1740. The work depicts Windham alongside eleven other merry men, and one woman, drinking, smoking and chatting, with bottles of wine on a rack in the foreground, and a large bowl of punch on the table. (Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland).
Chapter 1: ‘O, Sweet Adare!' – The Early Years

Return to Contents   Extracted from ‘Adare Manor: The Renaissance of an Irish Country House’ …

In 2018, select Irish cinemas presented a screening ‘Citizen Lane’, an acclaimed docudrama directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan, written by Mark O’Halloran and starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as the gentleman art dealer and collector. The drama is intercut with interviews from contemporary documentary contributors such as Professors Roy Foster, Paul Rouse Robert O’Byrne and Morna O'Neill, author of ‘Decorative Politics and Direct Pictures: Hugh Lane and the Global Art Market, 1900-15’. The film is now available to buy or rent on YouTube here.
Sir Hugh Lane (1875-1915)

When the Lusitania was torpedoed in World War One, it spelled the end for one of the most intriguing figures in modern Irish history and his dream to build a modern art gallery that spanned the River Liffey in Dublin City. In the art world, Hugh Lane’s opinion was considered so important that paintings reputedly went up in value if he so much as looked at them. His legacy lives on through his bequest of 39 great Impressionist paintings, including works by Monet, Renoir and Manet, which were unwittingly left to the National Gallery, London but now shared with the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin.

Big Bertha enjoying a pint at the Blackwater Tavern with her owner Jerome O'Leary.
Big Bertha's Wake – The Guardian, 2010

A wake for a cow in a pub in rural Ireland sounds like an episode of Father Ted. We knew we'd get no further that night

Straw Hat from Rathvilly School, Birmingham.
Rathvilly School, Birmingham

The origins of Rathvilly School in Birmingham, of which the 2nd Lord Rathdonnell was a trustee.

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.

‘The Gallery looks like a Cathedral … I do not know how we shall ever fill it.’ 2nd Earl of Dunraven, 1848. From a drawing by J. R. Jobbins. Inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, the Gallery was the setting for innumerable dinner parties, dances, concerts and hunt balls hosted by the Dunravens during the 19th and 20th centuries. This fabulous space now serves as the primary room for guests to enjoy breakfast or afternoon tea beneath the stained glass windows and antique tapestries.
Chapter 2: The Creation of Adare Manor

The building of Adare Manor by the 2nd Earl of Dunraven and his wife, Lady Caroline, was one of the biggest projects of its kind ever undertaken in Ireland.  Completed over 30 years, it was built in an architectural style that was inspired by the Gothic Revival and the Tudor Revival. This chapter also looks at such epic rooms as the Great Hall and the Gallery.

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

An overview of the contents in ‘Adare Manor – The Renaissance of an Irish Country Manor.'

Weir & Sons 150 - A Celebration
Weir & Sons 150 – A Celebration

Turtle was commissioned to research the history of Weir & Sons, Ireland's foremost jeweller, for a beautiful coffee table book.

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, its Michelin Star confirmed in 2022.

At Caher Castle, two iron cannonballs - one in the wall of the keep, another in the wall of the north east tower - are left as evidence that the Siege of Caher did actually happen once upon a time. In 2022, the 700-year-old castle won the  prestigious European Film Commissions Network Location Award 2021, having served as a location for numerous movies and television, including "The Green Knight," "The Tudors" and "Excalibur."
Robert Essex & the Siege of Caher

Following the rise and fall of one of Queen Elizabeth I's favourites, and his connection to a canon ball in the wall of Caher Castle in County Tipperary.

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.

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

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

'Ireland’s greatest export was always its people. Some fled famine, violence, or poverty. Others sought love, adventure, or fortune. And Turtle Bunbury’s “The Irish Diaspora: Tales of Emigration, Exile and Imperialism” pays them tribute.' Jacqueline Cutler  published this account in the New York Daily News on 2 April 2021.
The Irish Diaspora – Publicity Highlights

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 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.' Other reviews can also be found on this page.

Photo: Rachel Kellett.
Ally Bunbury

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

Photo: Bryan Meade
Where I Work – Turtle in the Sunday Times, July 2021

A self-confessed hoarder, Turtle keeps an eclectic collection of curios in his Co Carlow garden studio. He spoke with Rose Costello for an interview published in the Sunday Times in 2021.

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. 

The Earl of Ely's Arch, visible from Dodder Park Road, Dublin, by Kieran Swords, 
http://hdl.handle.net/10599/7375
(South Dublin Libraries)
How Ireland's MPs voted in the Act of Union in 1799 & 1800

Sir Jonah Barrington's list of which members voted for and against the Union in 1799 and 1800, and what induced them to change their minds.

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

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

The battle of Dettigen, 1743
Campbell of Drumsna, Co Leitrim, & Bath, England

In 1735, Thomas Bunbury of Kill married Catherine Campbell of Drumsna, Annaduff, Co. Leitrim. Her family were closely related to the great naval dynasty of Rowley, the Virginia tobacco merchant family of Martin, and to Sophia, Lady de Clifford, sometime Governess to the Princess of Wales. The broader family included Viscount Clifden, the Earl of Shannon, Sir John Conroy and Edmond Sexton Pery, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.

George Colley served at the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816. Painted by George Chambers.
The Bunbury Isaac Family

In 1758, Thomas Bunbury of Kill, County Carlow, married Susanna Priscilla Isaac, daughter of the County Down barrister John Isaac. Their descendants would hold properties such as Holywood (Hollywood), near Hillsborough, County Down, Seafield House, near Donabate, County Dublin, and Lisbryan (Lisbrien), County Tipperary. Among them were Thomas Bunbury, Bishop of Limerick, and other lines that sprang up in Jersey and Mozambique.

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

Slats the lion served as the mascot of the Goldwyn Studio (later Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MFM) …

Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid (1859-1882)

A veritable Irish desperado if ever there was one, Billy the Kid was born ‘Henry McCarty', the son of an Irish emigrant, and raised amid the ramshackle tenements of New York's Lower East Side before he headed off to the Wild West.

Portrait of Mary Aikenhead
The Venerable Mary Aikenhead (1787-1858)

In 2015, Pope Francis issued a papal decree proclaiming the heroic virtues of Mary Aikenhead, founder of the Religious Sisters of Charity. Not only does that mean she can henceforward be referred to as the Venerable Mary Aikenhead, but the doctor's daughter from Cork is also now only two steps from sainthood.

Violet Jessop – 'The Luckiest Woman Afloat'
Violet Jessop – ‘The Luckiest Woman Afloat'

Born in Argentina in 1887, to Irish parents, Violet survived three major maritime disasters while serving on board the White Star liners Titanic, Olympic and Britannic – a record that ensured Violet’s status as the most famous of Titanic’s eighteen stewardess.

In 1785, Richard Crobsie took to the skies of Dublin in a hot air balloon.
Crosbie of Abbeydorney (Limerick), Viewmount (Carlow) & Crosbie Park (Wicklow)

The Crosbie family descended from a once powerful Catholic dynasty whose influence waned during the religious troubles of the 17th century. Its best known members include Sir Edward Crosbie, executed for treason after the 1798 Rebellion, and his younger brother, Richard Crosbie, who became a household name across Britain and Ireland after his pioneering journey in a hot air balloon from Ranelagh to Clontarf in the summer of 1785.

Viewmount House, Kernanstown, County Carlow, was home to Sir Edward Crosbie, executed in 1798 for his alleged role in the United Irishmen's Rising.
Viewmount House, County Carlow

The story of one of County Carlow's oldest mansions, a Browne-Clayton house, and its connection to Sir Edward Crosbie, executed in 1798.

The outline of a sword on the stone at Castlemore.
Castlemore, County Carlow – A Vanished Town, a Solitary Motte

One of the most influential early Cambro-Normans was Raymond Le Gros, a nephew of Maurice …

Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork (1566 - 1643) by William Holl
Richard Boyle (1566–1643) – The Great Earl of Cork

Without question, Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork,  was the dominant figure on Ireland’s Blackwater …

Annie and Mikie Kinnane. Photo: James Fennell.
Mikie Kinnane (1932-2020) – Farmer of Glenagragara, Co. Limerick

An interview with a man who, among other things, opted to fasten a Volkswagen Beetle to the back of his tractor as an ingenious and cost effective system for transporting his family around.

JJ recounts a tale of his father returning home from Moate with a crystal radio set under his arm on the eve of the 1932 Eucharsitic Congree. With an aerial hanging off the clothesline and an earth plugged into the ground, his father was able to tune into Count John McCormack singing the Pan Angelicus ‘the very same as if he was on a telephone.’ By JJ’s time, they had progressed to a Pye, a wet and dry battery radio which they charged up in Moate; young JJ never missed listening in to the Irish Hospitals Sweepstake Draw. Photo: James Fennell.
JJ Hackett (1937-2017) – Poet & Harness Maker – Ballinakill, Moate, County Westmeath

Born with disjointed hips, things did not get any easier for JJ when a tree fell upon him at the age of twelve, breaking his collar-bone, cranium and right knee. And yet, having spent two years recuperating and unable to walk, he went on to cycle hundreds of miles all over Ireland. His story is an extraordinary one, made all the more so by the fact that he then learned how to upholster and make harnesses by working alongside three men who could neither speak nor hear.

Applause for Vanishing Ireland
Applause for Vanishing Ireland

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

Photo: James Fennell.
Paddy Faley (1919-2011) – Poet, Ganger & Farmer of Glenbawn, Ballyhahill, County Limerick

‘It has long legs and crooked thighs, a small head and no eyes.’ Paddy Faley looks directly at me, his eyes luminous, as I scratch my head and look increasingly confounded by his riddle. ‘The tongs for the fire!’ he says at length. ‘Another one … It has a bow-legged father, a fat-bellied mother and three little children all the one colour. What is it?'

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

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

In 2011, Turtle interviewed the then 88-year-old Baby (Babs) Rudden, the cover-girl of the second 'Vanishing Ireland', for RTE 1's 'Nationwide'. The show aired on 5 July and was watched by 33.8% of Irish televisions. Photo: James Fennell.
Baby Rudden (1923-2015) – The Farmer of Redhills

An interview with the charming cover star of the second Vanishing Ireland book, recounting the challenges of farming cattle in the damp County Cavan countryside.

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

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

David La Touche II. (Art Institute, Chicago).
La Touche of Marlay, Bellevue & Harristown

Arguably Ireland’s most prominent Huguenot family in the Georgian Age, the La Touche family descend from David La Touche, a refugee from the Loire Valley who served at the Battle of the Boyne and went on to found the bank of La Touche & Sons. His descendants were to be instrumental in the evolution of Ireland’s banking institutions over the 18th century, and spearheaded educational reform in the 19th. The Harristown branch included John “The Master” La Touche, a fanatical evangelist, and his daughter, Rose, whose tragic romance with artist John Ruskin resulted in her untimely death at the age of 25.

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

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

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

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

Above: John Bull (right) and a hideous old man (left) with a grotesque profile and small wings sprouting from his shoulders face each other, their heads in profile. 'Corruption' has a disk on his cheek inscribed An Eye to Interest, his snout-like nose is A Scent for Interest, his gaping jaw A Mouth of Guile. His wings are Wings of Speculation; his arms, Arms of Power. He has (large) Pockets of Perquisites, and wears a Collar of Corruption. He has Legs of Luxury and Feet of Connivance. In each hand (inscribed Hands of Extortion) is a money-bag. He says to John: What you say about Reform Jhonny is very true,—but this is not the time for it. John answers angrily: No nor it never will be—while such a Monster as you remain in existence!!! He is a fat 'cit' with an ill-fitting wig.' (28 May 1809.)
Corrupt Banking in Victorian Ireland

The scandals that rocked Irish banking in the 19th century were little different to those of more recent times. In each case the men responsible – some rascals from birth, others corrupted along the way – attempted to absolve themselves on the basis that they had not expected things to turn out so bad, that the gambles they took had simply back-fired, that everyone else was doing it so why couldn’t they …

Joe Biden as a student at the University of Delaware.
Joe Biden’s Irish Roots

Joe Biden is arguably the most ‘Irish' president to have occupied the White House. He is set to visit Ireland sometime before the Oireachtas begins its summer recess in July 2022. 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.

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

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

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

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

George IV at the Royal Dublin Society
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.

The Paget Family & the Marquess of Anglesey
The Paget Family & the Marquess of Anglesey

During the 1820s, William McClintock Bunbury sailed around the coast of South America as 1st Lieutenant on board HMS Samarang to Captain Charles Paget (1806-1845), nephew of the 1st Marquess of Anglessy. Also on board was young Leopold McClintock, the future explorer, whose sister was to become Captain Paget's second wife.

The Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773)
The Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773)

‘The world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description; one must travel through it one's self to be acquainted with it’. A short account of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694 – 1773), British statesman, man of letters and arguably the most liberal Lord Lieutenant Ireland ever had.

Henry Grattan
Henry Grattan's Failure

A review of Danny Mansergh's book, “Grattan's Failure: Parliamentary Opposition and the People in Ireland, 1779-1800” (2005, Irish Academic Press), published by Magill in August 2005.

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

The Rock family from Dublin are to be the recipients of the 2022 GAA President's Awards. 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.

Jimmy Murphy, farmer, of Ballinskelligs, County Kerry, was born in 1951. Photo: James Fennell.
Jimmy Murphy, Farmer – Ballinskelligs, County Kerry

‘That was a fresh breeze last night,’ says Jimmy Murphy. This is something of an …

Index to Vanishing Ireland Interviews

  KERRY Joan Crowley (publican & fiddler, 1922-2017) Kenmare, Co Kerry Jimmy Murphy (farmer, born 1951), Cill …

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

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

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. 

Photo: James Fennell.
The McGarvey Brothers of Clones, County Monaghan

The McGarvey brothers were once amongst the best-known faces in the border-town of Clones. Making their way down Fermanagh Street, ambling across the Diamond or talking with friends in the shadow of the ancient Round Tower, the brothers were almost certainly destined for a pub. The joys of celibacy meant they had little to trouble them other than raising the price of a pint.