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The Irish Diaspora

Tales of Emigration, Exile and Imperialism

Turtle Bunbury

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Explore the lives of over forty men and women – great and otherwise – whose pioneering journeys beyond the Irish shore played a profound role in world history

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The Irish have always been a travelling people. In the centuries after the fall of Rome, Irish missionaries carried the word of Christianity throughout Europe, while soldiers and mariners from across the land ventured overseas in all directions. Since 1800 an estimated 10 million people have left the Irish shores and today more than 80 million people worldwide claim Irish descent.

The advent of the British Empire ignited a slow but extraordinary exodus from Ireland. The pioneering explorers of the Tudor Age were soon overtaken in number by religious refugees, the ‘Wild Geese’ who opted to live outside of the Protestant state and to take their chances in the Spanish or French empires, or in America. The Irish played a pivotal role in the foundation of the United States of America, just as they would in the Civil War that followed eighty-five years later. The lives of Irish emigrants wove in and out of the major events of global history, including the Abbé Edgeworth, confessor to King Louis XVI at his execution during the French Revolution; Margaretta Eagar, governess to the daughters of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia; and William Lamport, who travelled from County Wexford to Central America, and became Don Guillén, a martyr for Mexican independence.

Turtle Bunbury explores the lives of those men and women, great and otherwise, whose journeys – whether driven by faith, a desire for riches and adventure, or purely for survival – have left their mark on the world.


'This fascinating assortment of case histories, spread across 1,400 years and six continents, is an impressive feat of research. All of the chapters are based on a solid body of up-to-date historical writing. The summaries of often-complex historical background to the lives explored are models of lucid compression. The short biographies themselves are lively yet judicious, packed with vivid detail but willing, where necessary, to question or dismiss colourful legend. And the reader will come away with a new sense of the many ways in which Ireland has interacted with the world beyond its shores, and of some of the extraordinary careers that have resulted'
BBC History

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 23.4 x 15.3 cm

Extent: 304 pp

Illustrations: 29

Publication date: 11 March 2021

ISBN: 9780500022528

Contents List

Introduction – Emerald Exodus • Columbanus & the Merovingian Kings • Virgilius of Salzburg • The Carolingian Irish • Brendan the Navigator & The Monks of Iceland • Helias of Cologne • Jacobo of Ireland & the Mongol Empire • Luke Wadding & The Vatican Elite • Don Guillén - The Original Zorro • Lord Bellomont's Piratical Venture • George Berkeley – The ‘Irish Plato’ & Bermuda College • Richard Brew - Slave Trader • The Abbé de Firmont • Hercules Mulligan - Washington's Spy • James Hoban - Architect of the White House • General Gough - Conqueror of the Punjab • Pat Watkins – Crusoe of the Galápagos • Chile's Irish Patriots • John Field – A Muscovy Nocturne • Frederick Young - Father of the Gurkhas • Dr James Barry - Caesarean Pioneer • The Texan Revolution • Sir George Gore - Buffalo Slayer • Margaret of New Orleans • Children of the Famine • Little Al Cashier • Thomas D'Arcy McGee - Father of The Canadian Confederation • The Railroad Men • Eliza Lynch - First Lady of Paraguay • John Philip Holland - Father of The Submarine • Nellie Cashman - The Angel of the Wild West • The Grace Brothers' Conquest of Peru • Annie Moore - The First Emigrant Through Ellis Island • Margaretta Eagar – The Last Tsar’s Governess • The Moore Brothers - Hollywood Stars • Louis Brennan - The Wizard of Oz • Violet Gibson – Killing Mussolini • Don Patricio O'Connell – Barça’s Saviour • Lord Haw-Haw - The Voice of Nazi Germany • Brendan Bracken - Churchill's Spin Doctor • Patrick Gallagher - Vietnam Hero • The Irish in the White House • Epilogue – Reflections on Irish Identity

About the Author

Turtle Bunbury is an author, historian, public speaker and TV presenter based in Ireland. His previous book, Ireland’s Forgotten Past, was described by Sebastian Barry, the Laureate for Irish Fiction, as ‘a delicious and stirring atlas of Irishness’. His other books include The Irish Pub, Living in Sri Lanka and the award-winning Vanishing Ireland series. A frequent guest on Irish radio and TV, Turtle also appeared on the 2018 US series of Who Do You Think You Are?.