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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, described by Sebastian Barry as 'a stirring atlas of Irishness'

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Every field, wood, stream and rock seems to hold another secret about Ireland’s past: hilltop summits crowned with ancient forts, rocky cairns and the ghostly outlines of primeval forests; riversides studded with ruined castles, hollow mills and crumbling farmsteads; the bramble-strewn shells of abandoned canals and copper mines; the stumps of pillars that once carried railway lines; the overgrown graveyards where the forgotten bloodlines lie.

In his inimitable style, Turtle Bunbury explores the people and events from high to low that played major roles in Ireland’s fascinating past but have since been lost to the mists of time. Taken as a whole, these stories underline why Ireland is such an exceptional place for anyone interested in the past. There is an awful lot of amazing history out there – the juiciest plots, the greatest twists, the richest characters – and yet so much of it remains, even now, forgotten. Turtle Bunbury 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

'Will delight anyone interested in the untold history of Ireland'
Timeless Travels

'A series of fascinating and engaging tales'
Current Archaeology

'Corking great tales'
The Corkman

Offaly Express

'Fascinating and informative'
Wexford Today

'A great read'
Carlow Live

'Witty and irreverent'
Family Tree

'Full of interesting stories and very beautifully written'
RTÉ Radio One: The Ryan Tubridy Show

Irish Central

'A quirky collection, well illustrated with woodcuts by Joe McLaren in a handsome hardback that will make absorbing reading or a thoughtful gift'
The Tuam Herald

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 19.8 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 37

Publication date: 12 March 2020

ISBN: 9780500022535

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.

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