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Ireland's Forgotten Past

A History of the Overlooked and Disremembered

Turtle Bunbury


An original and irreverent retelling of overlooked stories from Irish history, hailed by Sebastian Barry as 'a stirring atlas of Irishness'


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, Bunbury 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.


'Delicious … a stirring atlas of Irishness'
Sebastian Barry, Guardian

'Marvellous … a magnificently eclectic collection'
BBC History Magazine

'Bunbury’s voice … is warm and engaging. He draws the reader in for a bit of a chat and a bit of a laugh about the eccentricities of his Irish antecedents'
Irish Examiner

'A rare and cherishable thing … Bunbury’s great skill is to illuminate the past through the picaresque activities of significant contemporary individuals. The approach is profoundly effective'
Yorkshire Times

The Corkman

Offaly Express

Wexford Today

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Publication date: 5 August 2021

ISBN: 9780500296363

Contents List

Introduction – It Starts with a Bear • 1. Of Tetrapods and Volcanic Rings • 2. The Bear from Clare • 3. Neolithic Stargazers • 4. The Bell-Beakers • 5. Bog Toghers • 6. Roman Hibernia • 7. Pagan Christianity • 8. The Kingdom of Ossory • 9. The Uí Dúnlainge Kings of Leinster • 10. Sitric Silkbeard & Queen Gormflaith • 11. The Knights Templar of Ireland • 12. Rohesia’s Castle • 13. Great Scot: Edward the Bruce’s Invasion of Ireland • 14. Prince Lionel Comes to Carlow • 15. Great Pretenders & Warring Roses • 16. The Midland Shires • 17. Sir William Stanley, Public Enemy No. 1 • 18. Rise & Fall: The Maguires of Fermanagh • 19. Cromwell’s Tailor • 20. The Byerley Turk: A Warhorse on the Boyne • 21. The Lixnaw Project • 22. Joshua Dawson, Spymaster • 23. Lord Rosse & the Hell-Fire Club • 24. The Butcher’s Column • 25. Peg Plunkett, Queen of Vice • 26. The Cherokee Club • 27. The Avoca Gold Rush • 28. The Lucan Spa • 29. The Night of the Big Wind • 30. The Crimean Banquet • 31. The Prince of Wales & the Curragh Wren • 32. John Henry Foley – Sculptor of an Empire • 33. Bloody Balfour’s Kindly Deeds • 34. Queen Victoria’s Dublin Visit, 1900 • 35. Killer Gas in the Great War • 36. Operation Shamrock

About the Author

Turtle Bunbury is the author of several books, including The Irish Pub. He was a co-presenter of The Genealogy Roadshow on RTÉ television, and also appeared on BBC1’s Wogan’s Ireland and episodes of the American and Irish versions of the 'Who Do You Think You Are?' TV series.