Why did the Romans never try to conquer Ireland? Why did the King of Spain give his name to an Irish county? And how did brandy change the course of Irish history? 

Turtle Bunbury explores unexpected corners of the past to offer an informative and entertaining glimpse into 36 lesser-known tales from Irish history, from the eruption of a massive volcano in County Armagh sixty million years ago to more recent events that have made Ireland the vibrant place it is today. 

In his inimitable sparkly style, Turtle explores the people and events from high to low that played major roles in Ireland’s fascinating past but have since been overlooked. These alternative annals include tales of spymasters and scientists, battlefields and brothels, tailors and traitors. Ireland’s Forgotten Past paints a surprising, witty and engaging new portrait of an Ireland you thought you knew. 

Read an extract published in The Irish Times. 

Listen to Turtle's interview on the Tubridy Show.

"Full of interesting stories and very beautifully written" - Oliver Callan, RTE Radio One.


"Turtle Bunbury has pulled off a feat of exquisite skill - the upholding of a mandate to edify entertainingly without overwhelming his audience in scholarly aridity. Ireland’s Forgotten Past is a rare and cherishable thing: combining assiduous research with a nose for ribald fun, Bunbury disinters the odd, the arcane and the profoundly surprising from the dark recesses of a mostly unknown history."

Steve Whitaker, 

The Yorkshire Times



Adare Manor has always been remarkable. Its story began eight centuries ago when the original manor was granted to a Norman knight while a substantial monastic community was established on the nearby riverbanks. 

From the seventeenth century to the 1980s, Adare Manor was home to ten generations of the Quin, or Wyndham-Quin family, including the seven Earls of Dunraven.

In 1832, the 2nd Earl and his countess, Lady Caroline, started work on a new Gothic Revival mansion; the project was completed thirty years later by their son Edwin, the 3rd Earl. An equally impressive project got underway in 2016 when the present owner initiated a meticulous conservation of the existing mansion, along with the construction of a new wing. 

At the same time, the championship golf course at Adare Manor was thoroughly redesigned by Tom Fazio with the specific goal of hosting tournaments.  The course will host the Ryder Cup in 2026. 

In October 2019 Adare Manor won the  Condé Nast Traveler Reader's Choice Award for European Resort and was awarded a Michelin star for the Oak Room restaurant. It was voted Ireland's Favourite Hotel at the Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020.

The book was designed by John Power and edited by Yvonne Gordon, winner of the Travel Extra Irish Travel Journalist of the Year award in 2017 and 2019. 

Turtle Bunbury’s book traces Adare Manor’s wonderful journey from medieval manor house to its 21st century status as a shimmering 5-star hotel


"I just wanted to  say how pleased we all are with the  beautiful Adare Manor book. It is really special and I know this is down to all of the hard work you put into this project ."

Colm Hannon, Chief Executive, Adare Manor



In 1869, Thomas Weir, a Scottish jeweller, moved to Dublin to establish what would soon become one of the biggest and busiest jewellery and silverware manufacturers in the city. Based at 3 Wicklow Street, the store subsequently expanded around the corner into a fabulous Victorian redbrick block at 97-99 Grafton Street.

150 years after Thomas Weir’s arrival in Dublin, Weir and Sons continues to be run by his descendants, Chris, Lucinda and Natasha Andrews, who represent the fifth generation of the family. 

This celebratory book tells the story of the Weir family from their Glaswegian origins to Thomas’s rise through the ranks of Dublin jewellers and onwards into the twentieth century when his charismatic sons and grandsons built the business up into one of the world’s largest privately-owned chains of jewellery stores on the eve of the Second World War. 

Offering a behind-the-scenes insight into the romance and ingenuity of the jewellery, silverware and watch trade, the book features cameos by actresses such as Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth, as well as connections to the brilliant philanthropist Sir Isaac Wolfson and the political icon Michael Collins. It also explains the origins of the Liam McCarthy Cup, the All-Ireland Senior Hurling trophy, and the Dublin Horse Show’s famous Aga Khan trophy. 



Having grown up in an Irish country house built in 1847, Turtle Bunbury has long been fascinated by that epic year. Determined to understand its zeitgeist, he has assembled 36 remarkable stories that took place across the planet during those twelve momentous months. 

With his penchant for the quirky, Turtle confronts all manner of human enterprise to reveal a world of nobility and generosity, of bold genius and fearsome savagery, embracing everything from the salty seadogs who explored the Pacific and Arctic oceans to show-stopping entertainers like Lola Montez and General Tom Thumb –the intrepid pioneers who stumbled through the mountains and prairies of the Americas to the ground-breaking inventors of the doughnut, the gumball and the Christmas cracker – the famine-starved Irish and persecuted German emigrants to the Vietnamese emperor’s war with the French – the ivory-tinkling genius of Liszt and Mendelssohn to the horse-bound Comanche warriors who dominated Texas - the American opium magnates who ran roughshod over China to the Irish soldiers who fought for Mexico - ‘1847’ is a rollicking globe-trot that reveals a world whose heart pounded every bit as fast and as furious as it does today. 


'Like many people I associate Turtle Bunbury with the ‘Vanishing Ireland’ books … He must be one of the most versatile authors of his generation, writing about travel, the Irish in the First World War and many other subjects. He is a serious historian with a light touch in writing. This time he has managed to make an episodic book, spanning just one year in the nineteenth century. It is consistently entertaining, thoroughly researched and a pleasure to read. It swings from tragedy to comedy and back. This is done with a light hand and the result is highly readable. It was difficult to remember that I was writing a review, not reading for my own pleasure, and I shall be looking up Turtle Bunbury’s earlier books.' 

Marjorie Quarton, Books Ireland


'I’ve always loved 
Turtle’s writing, the wit and heartbeat in his history. "1847" is, for me, the best thing 
he has done so far. It is vivid, surprising, hugely entertaining; an unforgettable 
encounter with an extraordinary year.'

Lenny Abrahamson, 

2016 Oscar-nominated director of 'Room'

‘The book that I have been buying for my friends this Christmas … a very entertaining read indeed … a brilliant read, an incredible insight into what was going on around the world in the darkest years.’
Patrick Geoghegan, 

Talking History, 

Newstalk 106.

‘A fascinating book.’
Amy Alipio, 

Senior Editor, 

National Geographic Traveler


Vanishing Ireland

In 2001, Turtle and photographer James Fennell embarked on the first of many adventures, criss-crossing Ireland to interview and photograph some 300 people who were born in the first decades of the 20th century. The interviewees are primarily working class Irish – farmers, blacksmiths, fishermen, dockers and nurses – as well as priests, nuns, teachers and representatives of disappearing professions like saddlers, thatchers, lace-makers, clock-makers and turf-cutters.


To younger generations, the sepia-hued world of our grandparents is sometimes difficult to comprehend. It seems like an almost make-believe land of thatched cottages, potato furrows and pony traps. But the stage on which they played out their lives was little different to that of their grandparents before them. And of course it was every bit as real as our own.

The people we met during this project have invariably been charming, courteous, amusing and friendly. Some were eloquent; others indecipherable. Some hardly said a word. One or two didn't draw breath. Some spoke profound truisms that no philosopher has yet considered. Others invented everything as they went along. They all completely understood the nature of this project, plying us with tea and whiskey while they coloured in the past with their memories and mused upon the quandaries of the present.

There is much we can learn from these tribal elders. Raised in an age before cars and televisions, most lived an outdoor life, rising with the dawn, working in the fields, strolling the roads, always in tune with both the landscape and the weather. Their hardy constitutions undoubtedly stem from a childhood where they all walked, and sometimes rowed, to and from school. When they were young, horses, ponies and donkeys formed the backbone of rural Ireland. Many lament the end of that era but others relish the way in which the ‘Machine Age’, as one farmer called it, took the ‘hardship’ out of daily life.

Ireland has an incredibly rich history, albeit tragic and dark in many places. The Vanishing Ireland project is an attempt to bring the more recent past to life through the stories, both humorous and sad, of those who remember how things were when the world was younger. It is our great hope that these interviews inspire others to take a moment to think of old timers whom they know, to phone them or meet for a chat, and to write down or record the stories they hear.


Turtle and James's findings are published in a series of four beautiful and critically acclaimed coffee table books. Three of them were short-listed for Best Irish Published Book of the Year.  The Vanishing Ireland series is now a household name across Ireland, with sales in excess of 75,000 copies.

Turtle has given talks on the project in New York, Savannah, Paris, London, Chicago, Dublin, Limerick, Carlow, Cork, Kilkenny and Monte Carlo.  There have also been ten exhibitions of photographs from the series across Ireland.


'A perfect symbiosis between text and images - both similarity affectionate, respectful, humorous, slightly melancholic but never sentimental or nostalgic. This is invaluable social history.'

Cara (Aer Lingus)

'An invaluable record of times past.'

John Spain

Books Editor

Irish Independent 

'This is a beautiful and remarkably simple book that will melt the hardest of hearts. Bunbury has a light writing style that lets his interviewees, elderly folk from around the country, tell their stories without interference. It's neither patronising nor overly romantic about the past; just narrating moving tales ... The portraits by Fennell are striking, warm and dignified, with a feeling of being invited into people's lives.'

The Sunday Times

'I say this honestly - this is one of the nicest books I have ever had the privilege of receiving, reading and looking through.  It is a masterpiece, an incredible book.'

Gerry Kelly


'Stunning ...  honest and thought-provoking.'

Ireland of the Welcomes

'A triumph!' 

Irish Daily Mail 

'Vanishing Ireland is warm, funny, touching, sometimes desperately sad.'

The Dubliner

More Vanishing Ireland Reviews


Easter dawn - the 1916 rising

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

Easter Dawn charts the Rising from the landing of the guns at Howth for the Irish Volunteers in 1914 to the arrests and executions that followed. The battlegrounds that erupted across Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland form the stage upon which a remarkable cast is assembled, including the Irish-Americans who bankrolled the whole thing.

Intricately researched and emotively written, the story of the major events before and during the Rising, and the lives of the main personalities involved, are given in separate vignettes. These are woven around contemporary photographs, many rare and unseen, providing a fresh look at the period. 

In the wake of the powerful centenary commemorations of the Rising in 2016, this book offers an excellent insight for anyone seeking an accessible, impartial and vivid account of that immense week. 

Published as 'Easter Dawn' by Mercier in Ireland, the US edition was published under the title 'The 1916 Rising - A Photographic Record' by Rowman & Littlefield.

The book formed the basis for a series of talks Turtle gave in Ireland as part of the Paths to Freedom Roadshow. He also delivered the keynote address on at the Cultural Centre in Chicago for the city's  1916 Commemorative Cultural Event. 


'A beautiful and workmanlike addition to Turtle Bunbury’s collection of well-researched and lavishly illustrated
coffee table history books ... a mixture of sound history with vivid and sometimes intimate detail.'

Socialist History

'Possibly the best-seller of the centennial ... the whole story easily told and illustrated by a brilliant populariser.'
Books Ireland

'A  fine survey of Easter week 1916.'
RTE Guide

'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


The Glorious Madness

From the generals and field commanders through to the troopers and nurses on the front-lines, the Irish served at every turn in The Great War. 

They tore through the skies in flimsy biplanes. They soared across the seas in battleships. They charged across the tortured earth with bayonets fixed. They wrapped bandages and dabbed softly in the field hospitals. They prayed, they sang, they killed, they wept and about 36,000 of them died.

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

By turns poignant, enlightening, whimsical and darkly comic, this is history as it should be – free-wheeling and finely tuned to the rhythms of the human heart. 

Short-listed for Best Irish-published Book of the Year 2014.


'Turtle Bunbury’s open-handed, clear-sighted and finely written book comes fresh and, I might almost say, redeemed out of the moil and storm of controversy that surrounded the topic of the war, in a thousand different guises in the decades since its end. Turtle holds out his hand in the present, seeking the lost hands of the past, in darkness, in darkness, but also suddenly in the clear light of kindness - in the upshot acknowledging their imperilled existence with a brilliant flourish, a veritable banner, of wonderful stories.'
Sebastian Barry

'Turtle continues the wonderful listening and yarn-spinning he has honed in the Vanishing Ireland series, applying it to veterans of the First World War. The stories he recreates are poignant, whimsical and bleakly funny, bringing back into the light the lives of people who found themselves on the wrong side of history after the struggle for Irish independence. This is my kind of micro-history.'

John Grenham 

The Irish Times


'Bunbury’s metier is the largely traditional story well told.'

Keith Jeffery

The Irish Times

'A most magnificent book and beautifully done ...something to be proud of and something to guard.'

Gay Byrne

Lyric FM

'An absolutely brilliant book. A fantastic production - it really does bring the past to life and captures the totality of the Irish experience.'

Patrick Geoghegan, 

Talking History, 

Newstalk 106

'A sumptuous collection of stories that show the Irish contribution to the Great War with extraordinary tales of derring-do. This is the book you must give your father.'

Andrew Melsom

Irish Examiner

'A great read, a dramatic confection of remarkable stories about remarkable events and individuals slapped together with great dexterity and professionalism.'

Pádraig Yeates

Dublin Review of Books

Further Reviews Here



The medieval Arab traders called it Serendib, the magical island of gems that once lured King Solomon to its shores. Our grandparents knew it as Ceylon, the British colony famous for tea and cricket. Since 1972 it has been Sri Lanka. 

Whatever its name, this tropical island off the south-east heel of India has always fired the world’s imagination as a land of enchantment and beauty. Despite the damage caused by the Tsunami of Christmas 2004, Sri Lanka has and will continue to assert itself as one of the most spectacular visitor destinations on our planet. The island is simply too enigmatic for any world traveller to ignore. Almost everything about it instils the promise of paradise.

The houses, villas and hotels featured in this book reflect this new spirit of optimism. They are all unique creations, some three centuries old, others extraordinarily new. Yet they have been constructed with the utmost respect for the environment and are infused with the style and panache of their owners.  

 The Sri Lankan people are friendly and hard-working. It's a contagious attitude that quickly transmits to anyone who visits. For the escalating number of foreigners who have decided to lay down roots on the island, the result is indeed serendipitous. Sri Lankan style has emerged, both architecturally and decoratively, into a captivating hybrid of cheerful elegance and common sense. 

The rich history and excellent climate combine with bold confidence and a discerning aestheticism to create an unforgettable architectural landscape. This is an island that stands proud of the past, prepared for the future but, right now, content to sit back and enjoy the glory of the present. 


'A sumptuous portrait of an unforgettable architectural landscape.'
The Financial Times

'Much more than an armchair travel appetiser: interiors featured are of a consistently high standard … and there is much here to inspire.'

Matthew Dennison 

House & Garden

'An ideal guide for those seeking a stylish retreat or design ideas from the Tropics … there has never been a better reference for those wanting to recreate a calm, harmonious and super-sophisticated scheme.'
Book of the Month
The Essential Kitchen

'An enchanting portrait of this magical tropical island.'
Scotland on Sunday


THE Irish pUB

Published by Thames & Hudson, 'The Irish Pub' is a colourful tour of 39 classic pubs from across the Island of Ireland, with words by Turtle Bunbury and photos by James Fennell. 

Among the pubs featured are The Long Hall in Dublin, Tigh Neachtain in Galway, Dick Mac's in Dingle, McCarthy's of Fethard and the Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast.

''Giddy fiddles and rattling tongues would light the darkest shadows as we dug in deep and lit the night and forgot about the morrows. Along the bar, perched high on stools, toothless old men, both genius and fool, guffawing and snoring and drinking too much, supping stouts and gold whiskeys instead of their lunch.'


'Fans of Eire can relive damp nights warming up with a friendly pint in hand with The Irish Pub, a photo-driven tour by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury of Ireland's favorite public houses, urban and rural, venerable and contemporary'. 

National Geographic

'A brilliant history of the Irish pub, and an encouragement to the reader to visit them before they are lost forever.'

Rory Knight Bruce

Country Life

'I gave Bruce Springsteen a copy of your book to take home for which he was most grateful and impressed. So hopefully by now it features in The Boss's personal library!!' Marcus Houlihan, 

The Long Hall, Dublin


'A nostalgic and entertaining tour of the most individual and historic pubs in the country. Some will be familiar to readers but there are many that are forgotten gems which still somehow survive.'
John Spain,
Irish Independent 

'A superb collaboration between James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury, chronicling our best loved institutions, redolent of ‘free-flowing banter, fireside fiddles and unforgettable nights’.
Ros Drinkwater
Sunday Business Post

private family histories

Turtle  documented my Dad's memoirs spanning over 88 years. We had heard many a story over the years, but it was something special to have them preserved in this way, not only for my own siblings, but my dad’s grandchildren and great grand kids in the years ahead. This is truly something special, as is Turtle in the manner and way he approached the job at hand. Aside from his fantastic research skills and inquisitive questions, Turtle is one of life’s gentlemen as is my Dad who really enjoyed meeting Turtle and particularly how he made my Dad feel at complete ease during his chats, which was most important. I would highly recommend the recording of such memories, they are a real treasure and a great read too. It goes without saying Turtle is the man for the job. 

Pat Ward

Head of Corporate Services

Dublin Port Company