Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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Above: 'Easter Dawn' will be in shops nationwide across Ireland from 25 September, and will
have its official launch in Glasnevin on 15 October.

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Above: The US edition of 'Easter Dawn' is called 'The 1916 Rising - The Photographic Record'
and is published by Rowman & Littlefield.
Click on the image to buy the book direct from Amazon.

Easter Dawn was one of the most successful books to arise over the course of the centenary commemorations of the Easter Rising, with positive reviws in newspapers such as the Irish Times and the Irish Independent, as well as magazines such as Socialist History. Easons' bookshop placed it in their top five '1916' bestsellers of the year. Turtle helped to promote the book through a series of talks nationwide with the 'Paths to Freedom' roadshow, as well as a major talk in Chicago on 30 June.


In the long and epic fight for Irish independence, few events match the drama and tragedy of the Easter Rising of 1916. Bonded by a mutual dream of an independent Ireland, an extraordinary alliance of men and women sought to overthrow the British authorities who had ruled the island for centuries past.

Launched on 15 October 2015, 'Easter Dawn' charts the story of the 1916 Rising, from the landing of the guns at Howth for the Irish Volunteers in 1914 to the arrests and executions that followed it. The battlegrounds that erupted across Dublin city and elsewhere in Ireland form the stage upon which a remarkable cast assembled.

Intricately researched and emotively written, the narrative, which includes the stories of the personalities involved in separate vignettes, is woven around contemporary photographs, many rare and unseen, providing a fresh look at the people and places involved. This book, which includes a strong American perspective, offers an excellent insight for anyone seeking an accessible, impartial and vivid account of that immense week.


Click here or on the book cover image for 'Easter Dawn', published by Mercier, to buy the Ireland/UK edition of the book direct from Amazon.co.uk


Click here or on the book cover opposite to buy 'The 1916 Rising - The Photographic Record', published by Rowman & Littlefield, direct from Amazon.com


“Possibly the best-seller of the centennial ... the whole story easily told and illustrated by a brilliant populariser. Documents and cuttings in facsimile, and photographs galore”.
Books Ireland, November 2015.


‘A highly readable account of the Rising peppered with short pen portraits of its leading lights and some lively background on the plethora of military and cultural organisations that laid much of the groundwork for the rebellion. Bunbury’s odyssey through the areas in Dublin, and around the country, which played a significant part in the rebellion is engaging.’
Mary Carr, Irish Mail on Sunday.


RTE’s Eileen Dunne chooses ‘Easter Dawn’ when asked for her suggestions for “Xmas reading tips? RTÉ presenters pick their faves” (Sunday 20 Dec 2015)


“Bunbury writes with the flair of a story teller, the detail of an historian, and the empathy of a friend. He brings people to life with their environmental and genetic influences explained, allowing us to easily place ourselves in the shoes of others ... In rapid fire he introduces the Rising’s contributors in eminently readable fashion … The book reveals many surprises. The commander of the German U-boat that brought Roger Casement to Ireland in his abortive gun running in 1916, went on to sink 36 allied ships in the First World War. In 1966 he was an official guest of the Irish government at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Rising. There’s still more to learn with Bunbury’s outstanding “Easter Dawn” on this the 100th anniversary.’
Harold Peacock, History Out There, July 2016.


‘It was my great fortune to find your Easter Dawn book at the GPO gift shop and I want you to know that it’s the most comprehendible (as opposed to comprehensive) title I’ve ever read. Not only was the book laid out beautifully graphically, the 3-4 page “chapters” struck the perfect balance for readers new to the subject. As they say in baseball, you knocked it out of the park”.
Brian Downes, director, John Wayne Birthplace & Museum, Winterset, Iowa.



‘'If Yeats had saved his pencil lead,'" inquired Paul Muldoon cheekily, "would certain men have stayed in bed?" If so we might have been saved the avalanche of books about the Rising. The batch [of four] under review are classified as "coffee-table books" which generally suggests weight rather than substance, designed for show rather than study, to be picked up at idle moments and left down just as quickly. This, however, is to undervalue what is on offer. Each in its own way, these are substantial pieces of scholarship which add to our appreciation of what was happening on the streets of Dublin at Easter 1916 and open the way to further debate.

Easter Dawn, by Turtle Bunbury (Mercier) is clearly coffee table in format, design and production values, and has what the publisher calls a coffee-table style (whatever that might be). The effect is a quick tour of the terrain, competently setting the events in the context of political and cultural developments in Ireland and more widely, a handy route map to the fighting and the aftermath. There are informative, if sometimes quirky pen-portraits of the main actors, and other lesser characters. There is a wealth of contemporary source material and photographs and evidence of assiduous research and archival retrieval.'


"A handsome hardback with many fine and rare images ... a fine survery of Easter week 1916."
RTE Guide, November 2015.

'Bought your new book yesterday. I can't leave it down. It's a very easy read. Wishing you great success with it. Brings me back to leaving cert and why I fell in love with Irish history.' - Mark Fitzell.

‘A gorgeous book - fabulous’ – Madeleine Forrest.

'Very entertaining book. Loved the profiles. And the pics.' - Martina Reilly.

'Wonderful book and so very well presented. Best of luck with it it's a fantastic work. Well done.' - Seaghan Mac Cionnaith.

‘Turtle, your book is gorgeous. It’s really well-done. Congratulations.’ Kalen Landow, Maryland.

‘A well-researched insight into a dramatic week that changed Irish history' – Evening Echo (Cork)

‘I have received your new book for Christmas and i am enjoying reading it.’ - Kevin Doyle.

“A subject that I find very interesting. Enjoyed immensely.’ Pat Slingsby, Angus, Scotland.

'Thank you for giving me back a deep and abiding love of my history and land.. for reawakening the passion I once held to know what truly happened in 1916 and it's aftermath..putting flesh and blood on the bones of those now gone, instead of the sanitised version thrown across my desk at school! What genius to have given the main players their own pages ..the events that guided their lives, like Casement's past in the Congo, transforming atrocities into a revolution for freedom. And such a treasure trove of photographs that spoke a thousand words..pure gold! Having the privilege of reading Easter Dawn I feel I got to experience the light and shadow of those who lived, loved and fought for their dream of a free, united Ireland in 1916. Your words are both spare and rich, elegiac, profound and deeply deeply moving.’- NC Britton, Co. Sligo.

‘A great read really well produced and equally welcome for children and adults – I like it's vignette and pictorial style. A great book – sensitive, reverend and fun’ – Paul Horan.

‘A lovely book to bring home’ – Patrick Quigley.

'Just finished Easter Dawn - gorgeous and well written.' - Dr. Daniel Clausby.

'Excellent book, really enjoyed it' - Paschal Marry.

'Great book' - Lynn Brady. Resident Genealogy Officer, Glasnevin Trust.

'The book looks fantastic and reads very well - my hearty congratulations on seeing it through to publication.' - Brian Kirby, Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives, Church Street, Dublin 7

‘Just to say how much I enjoyed reading Easter Dawn … well done’ – Ted Mustard.

‘A very concise, clear and interesting version of the Rising and the illustrations are beautiful.’ – Gillean Robertson Millar.

‘Massively impressed ... Delighted your book is doing so well. The kids in my class selected it as the best overall account- praise indeed!!!’ – Shay Kinsella.

‘I have in fact already purchased two copies of both Easter Dawn and Glorious Madness as Christmas presents for friends and have flicked through them before wrapping them and I must say that I found them excellent, informative and very well presented. You really are to be congratulated.’ – Eamonn Dillon.

'I bought my copy at Dublin airport. A very insightful and historical read.' - Fiona Symes, Australia.

'Got my copy a few weeks ago. Very well researched. Very well presented. Excellent record of our history.’ - Paul Dangerfield P Rice.

'Great book considering how much has been written over the past 100 years, always something new to learn with a fresh perspective’. - Al Martin.

'Am much enjoying your book "Easter Dawn" that my wife produced for me on Christmas morning. Well done on an interesting book & do keep up the good work.' - David Rea, Fermoy.

‘I wanted to drop you a quick note as I just bought your book ‘Easter Dawn’” - a wonderful book, very well written, wonderfully designed, like all the books you have made so far. We have them all.’ - Renate Helnwein, Co. Tipperary.

'Great read' - George Jones.

'Congratulations on the new book, it looks great and I enjoyed reading it' - Lar Joye, National Museum of Ireland.

'Very good' - Jack Ó Drisceoil.



About 500 metres from the old Pearse family home on present-day Pearse Street stands the two-storey red-brick St Andrew’s National School. It opened in 1897 to provide primary education for 1,200 Catholic children from Dublin’s Docklands. Nearly twenty years later, in 1916, eight boys from the school – scouts for the paramilitary Fianna Éireann – carried messages and firearms to rebel strongholds across Dublin in what the school’s roll books for April 1916 described as the ‘Poets’ Rebellion’.

Many of those who sought to establish an Irish Republic in 1916 were poets, including four of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic (Pearse, Plunkett, Connolly and MacDonagh), while a fifth, Seán Mac Diarmada, enjoyed reeling off Robbie Burns’ poems as his party piece. The Cork nationalist Thomas Kent, who was one of the sixteen men executed in the wake of the Rising, likewise dabbled in poetry.

Others preferred prose. Eoin MacNeill, Chief of Staff of the Irish Volunteers, was a history professor at University College Dublin. Michael O’Hanrahan was an acclaimed novelist, and, while he was not involved in the Rising itself, Erskine Childers, the man who skippered so many German guns into Ireland for the Irish Volunteers, was considered the foremost spy novelist of his generation. Roger Casement earned a knighthood for his stirring reports on the evilness of the rubber barons in the Congo and the Amazon. Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Féin, was a journalist. The playwright Seán O’Casey, a past secretary of the Irish Citizen Army, was briefly interned as a possible rebel during the Rising and knew many of the players involved so well that he would immortalise them a decade later in The Plough and the Stars. George Bernard Shaw viewed the Rising from afar but campaigned vociferously against the executions, particularly for Casement.

Tom MacDonagh, Constance Markiewicz, the Pearse brothers and Seán Connolly had all trod the boards of the Abbey Theatre. Bulmer Hobson would later play an important role in founding the Gate Theatre. The future Hollywood actors Arthur ‘Boss’ Shields and John Loder served on opposing sides during the Rising, Shields with the Irish Volunteers, Loder as aide-de-camp to his father, the British General Lowe. Both men would later co-star in John Ford’s 1941 drama How Green Was My Valley. Sara Allgood, who won an Oscar for her role as Loder’s mother in the same film, was an early member of the Inghinide na hÉireann (Daughters of Erin) organisation set up by Maud Gonne.

Music was also of pivotal importance to many. Éamonn Ceannt once played the uilleann pipes for the Pope, Michael Mallin was an extremely talented flautist, both Thomas Ashe and Seán O’Casey founded pipe bands, and Ned Daly was a fine baritone. Denis McCullough, president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) at the time of the Rising, was a piano-tuner who specialised in the manufacture of musical instruments. Patrick McCartan, another leading IRB man and occasional actor, became father-in-law to Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners.

Poets, actors, writers and musicians may seem an unlikely collection to lead a revolution, but their creative intellectualism echoed that of their spiritual forebears, the nationalists of the 1840s, the Young Ireland rebels, the Fenians and the founding fathers of the IRB. Indeed, Tom Clarke, who was old enough to have participated in the Fenian Dynamite Campaign of the early 1880s, was an intimate acquaintance of many of those who participated in the 1867 Rising and who founded the IRB. Major John MacBride, who was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising, had similarly befriended the 1848 veteran John O’Leary.

It was not just thespians and wordsmiths who led the rebels. Many were experienced soldiers. James Connolly, Michael Mallin, Kit Poole, Jack White, Bob Monteith and W. J. Brennan-Whitmore were all veterans of the British Army. Major MacBride had commanded the Irish Transvaal Brigade against the British during the Anglo-Boer War. For others, soldiering was in the blood. Tom Clarke’s father was a bombardier in the Royal Artillery. Liam Mellows’ father and grandfather had both been British Army officers. Hundreds of young men like Seán Heuston and Con Colbert learned how to drill with Fianna Éireann, while others such as Éamonn Ceannt and Ned Daly were simply natural-born soldiers who came into their own when the Irish Volunteers were formed.

The renaissance of the Irish republican movement in the early twentieth century owed a good deal to the northern counties. Tom Clarke spent much of his childhood in the small town of Dungannon in Co. Tyrone, as did Joe McGarrity and Patrick McCartan, two of the most influential Irish nationalists operating in the USA. Seán Mac Diarmada of Co. Leitrim was working as a tram conductor in Belfast when he first met Bulmer Hobson, a journalist from a Quaker family, with whom he began to reorganise the IRB, the main organ of Irish republicanism. In 1908 Mac Diarmada and Hobson moved to Dublin and united with Tom Clarke, lately returned from New York. Together these immensely dynamic men not only restructured the IRB but also seized control of its Supreme Council. All three were also prominent in co-founding the Irish Volunteers in November 1913, although Hobson later alienated himself from Clarke and Mac Diarmada by supporting John Redmond’s takeover of the organisation. Clarke was to play a major role in the momentous funeral of O’Donovan Rossa, in which all the main republican bodies took part, perhaps most notably, Cumann na mBan.

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Above: Turtle Bunbury signing first batch of 300 copies of Easter Dawn at Eason's HQ, 25 Sept 2015.

Eight months later, the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was addressed to ‘Irishmen and Irishwomen’. The inclusion of the latter in such a massive political statement was pioneering in those days before women’s suffrage had been won. Not surprisingly, women of every background joined the cause, from working-class Dubliners like Rosie Hackett and Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell to ladies from an Ascendancy background such as Constance Markiewicz and Cesca Chenevix Trench. Their contribution to the Rising was considerably muted during the decades that followed, but has been successfully reclaimed in more recent times.

The Irish Republic was conceived by dreamers and poets but harnessed by the methodical minds of the IRB. When the time came for the leaders to face the firing squads, one wonders whether they anticipated that their very executions would convert the legacy of the Easter Rising from being an ill-timed failure into the catalyst that prompted a huge number of Irish to abandon their ambivalence about Ireland’s future and pin their colours to the cause of Irish nationalism. W. B. Yeats, watching from the sidelines, gasped at the effects the Rising would have on Ireland’s future: ‘All changed, changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born.’ It was Yeats who had mourned, ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.’ And yet, as the American poet Joyce Kilmer asked, ‘Then, Yeats, what gave that Easter dawn / A hue so radiantly brave?’

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