Turtle Bunbury

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The Importance of Being Bunbury

This column appeared in The Dubliner in August 2001.

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Founded by David English M.B.E, the
Bunbury Cricket Club
is a celebrity cricket club which has raised
over £8m for a variety of charities.
The Bunbury Tails album was a collaboration between
The Bee Gees, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Elton John.

Everybody wants to be a Bunbury. That, in case you didn't know, was the title of a short-lived 1988 UK chart entrant sung by a band called The Bunburys who were actually The Beegees in disguise. It was a concept thing designed to regenerate interest in England's cricket team. The Bunburys were rabbits who dressed in white and played cricket. They had names like Ian Buntham and "Golden Hare" Gower and Little Raj Bun from Bungalore who said "Oh My Goodness!" all the time. Seasonal books and catchy songs and an animated series were gradually cobbled together by the "Bunbury Club" but sadly it never really took off. Maybe everybody didn't want to be a Bunbury.

Bunbury is a tiny village in Cheshire named for a crackpot 8th century missionary called Saint Boniface. In 1066 it was granted to the Baron de St. Pierre, a Norman knight who fought alongside William the Conker at Hastings. His son was Humphrey, Lord de Bunbury and I am apparently 23 generations on from Lord Humpers. It's peculiar to think that it takes just 23 individuals to link the 21st century with the Norman invasion of the British Isles. But there you have it.

I think it was the 1780s when Bunbury nearly became immortalised as a household name in gambling dens across the globe. Sir Charles Bunbury took a bet that his horse could gallop faster than the horse of his friend and rival, Lord Derby. The victor would have an annual race named in his honour. I too am possessed of Sir Charles's uncanny knack for getting it wrong more often than not.

But there are Bunbury Races nonetheless. In a town called Bunbury, dubbed the second city of Western Australia. I visited Bunbury, WA, in 1990. And I had a weird one. My hostess at the time was under the impression that I was a direct descendant of the Captain H.W. St. Pierre Bunbury who had founded the place in the 1840s. He was nothing to do with me, a 50th cousin 33 times removed at the closest. But my hostess was also a member of the Bunbury Historical Society and so, when I arrived in the second city, I was greeted by the entirety of the Bunbury Historical Society, along with the deputy mayor, an alderman and several members of the press. I could not bring myself to let the gathered fan club down and so I lied through my teeth and said yes, I am the great-great-great grandson of Captain HW St. P Bunbury. I was reading a wonderful book called "Flashman at the Charge" at the time, which was all about the Crimea. In a trance, I told the tale of how, after he left Australia, Captain Bunbury had survived the Charge of the Light Brigade, Rorke's Drift and the battle of Little Big Horn before settling down to marry my great-great-great grandmother. The next day my mugshot occupied a sizeable chunk of the South West Australia Times. The caption read "BUNBURY - NAME OF CITY REDISCOVERED" and was followed by a page, about the size of this one, full of my horrible lies. If, dear reader, you hail from Bunbury, WA, then I sincerely apologise. If, on the other hand, you are not from Bunbury, WA, shush.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not a Bunbury at all. I'm a McClintock. At the moment my favourite relative is a guy I've never met called Harry McClintock who sings "Big Rock Candy Mountain" on the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack. Me and Harry are descended from a hairy Scotty smuggler called Alexander McClintock who sailed to Donegal in 1597 and nabbed a whole load of land off Hugh O'Donnell, the renegade Earl of Tyrconnell, who was then at war with Queen Elizabeth's Englanders. Alexander had nothing but sons and they established themselves as bigwigs throughout Donegal during the 17th century. By the 1750s they had manoeuvred their way down to County Louth where they did things like serve as high sheriffs and MPs and captain troops of yeomanry. I haven't yet worked out where their politics lay. I presume they were Scottish in outlook but fortunately they don't seem to have had Calvinism in their bloodstream. One of them grew an amazing amount of turnips for which he was affectionately known as "Old Turnip". I too am a great fan of turnips, squished up in buckets of butter.

Bunbury politics are easier to work out. Sir Harry Bunbury supported King Charles I in the English Civil War. This meant he was stripped of his titles and lands and hurled into prison for a decade. A few of his sons decided the time had come to make themselves scarce and cross the Irish Sea to Leinster. Here they went on to secure, amongst other things, a deal with the Earl of Ormonde for a pretty chunk of turf at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains called Lisnavagh. That was in 1683, not long before everything went bananas on the Boyne. Over the next few centuries the Bunbury boys spawned a sizable clan. In fact, I had an e-mail not long ago from a Grace Bumbery of Richmond, Virginia, inviting me to a reunion of the Bumbery family which, she explained, was reckoned to be the oldest black family in King George County, VA.

Jane Bunbury married John McClintock three weeks before the outbreak of a nationwide rebellion in 1798. Jane produced three children before - like her father before her, as it happened - she was thrown from a horse and killed. Her second son, William Bunbury McClintock later sailed the seas and studied baboon's arses with Charles Darwin. When he got back from his travels he inherited Lisnavagh and built a brand new house. To do this he required a loan from his uncle, Tom Bunbury. Uncle Tom said fine, but only if you take on your late mother's name. So William Bunbury McClintock dutifully became William Bunbury McClintock Bunbury and that is plenty enough Bunburying and McClintockery for one reading. Adieu.