Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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The new Vanishing Ireland book was short-listed
for Best Irish Published Book of the Year 2013 at
the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.

All four Vanishing Ireland books are available
via http://astore.amazon.com/wwwturtlebunb-20


Since 2001, historian Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell have criss-crossed their Irish homeland innumerable times, interviewing and photographing over 300 people aged between 70 and 108. The interviewees are primarily working class Irish – blacksmiths, fishermen, farmers, dockers and nurses – as well as priests, nuns, teachers and representatives of disappearing professions like saddlers, thatchers, lace-makers and turf-cutters.

The stories have appeared in four volumes of the 'Vanishing Ireland' series which the Irish Independent has described as 'an invaluable record of times past'. The fourth volume was launched in October 2013, with talks by Turtle in London, Paris and Dublin. The first, second and fourth volumes were all short-listed for Best Irish Published Book of the Year, while the third volume was the best-selling ‘Picture Book’ in Ireland at Christmas 2011. All four books are available via http://astore.amazon.com/wwwturtlebunb-20


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Turtle and James also collaborated on ‘The Irish Pub’, an ode to the rapidly changing pub scene in rural Ireland, which inspired a feature length movie of the same name.

Vanishing Ireland was an Irish Times Magazine cover story in early 2013 with a feature, written by Turtle, reflecting upon his collaboration with James.

Turtle has given talks on the project in New York, Paris, London, Chicago, Dublin, Limerick, Dublin, Carlow, Kilkenny, Cork and Monte Carlo. Turtle and James also appeared at the 2011 Kildare Readers Festival to talk with The Examiner's Siobhan Cronin about the project.

The series has enjoyed a series of successful shows at the Dublin Book Festival; City Assembly House, Dublin; Burtown House, Co. Kildare; Cill Rialaig, Co. Kerry; the Visual Arts Centre, Carlow (Éigse Carlow Arts Festival, 2012) & the Hunt Museum, Limerick City.

The books are available in bookshops across
Ireland or from Turtle's Amazon Store.

Irish Non-Fiction Hardback Charts

27 Dec 2011: No. 7 (2875)
20 Dec 2011: No. 8 (1678)
13 Dec 2011: No. 10 (950)

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(Hachette, 2009)

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You can watch special reports on 'The Irish
' on RTE's Nationwide, Ireland AM
and BBC World News here.

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Vanishing Ireland - The First Volume.




The Vanishing Ireland Project began in 2001 when writer Turtle Bunbury and photographer James Fennell began to extensively tour their Irish homeland in a bid to chronicle a world that seemed to be disappearing rapidly.

Thirteen years later, the duo have published four volumes of the best-selling 'Vanishing Ireland' series with sales in excess of 75,000 copies.

Here Turtle explains a little more about the project:

'In 1998, I returned to Ireland after a three-year stint in Hong Kong with a passionate plan to drive around the four provinces in a tractor, talking with old timers about the way things were before the Celtic Tiger came along and made everyone rich. Shortly after my plane touched down, I rang a publisher with the idea. He said: ‘Round Ireland with a Tractor’? Have you ever heard of ‘Round Ireland with a Fridge’? I hadn’t but Tony Hawkes book was already No. 1 in Ireland and I glumly shelved my tractor plan.

About a year later, I went on an assignment to Zimbabwe with my old friend James Fennell, then an up-and-coming interiors photographer. We got talking about the way in which Ireland was changing so dramatically before our eyes. It’s remarkably easy to forget the frenetic pace of change on this island a decade ago. Everything had accelerated to such an astonishing degree that even children agreed time was flying.

In those heady days, much about the past seemed irrelevant. Emigration had come to an abrupt halt and most young people were earning good money, investing it in houses, cars and leisurely holidays. The day-to-day present was all we could think of.

But for many men and women of senior vintage, the changes were deeply alarming. Many stalwarts of generations past were proving to be intensely vulnerable in this brave new Ireland. Church authority had all but collapsed. Politics was following fashion onto the catwalk. Most farms were now framed by tarmac roads, supporting a relentless convoy of cars, lorries and motor-bikes. The friendly villages of old were an increasing rarity, either because the post office, pub and creamery had closed down, or because the fields around them had been developed into housing estates and retail parks. Ireland was changing utterly, and it was all terribly fast.

James and I decided to join forces to chronicle the memories of the older generations as quickly as we could. I would interview them about their life story and family background, and James would photograph them in situ.

We started with people we knew, mostly bachelor farmers in our home counties of Kildare and Carlow. Then we upped the ante and headed on a series of road trips all over Ireland, heading down every back-road we could find, sometimes on a whim but mostly because someone had recommended a particular character to us.

We expanded our brief to encompass any man or woman over the age of 70 who had experienced a traditional, working class upbringing. We sought out blacksmiths, saddlers, farmers, fishermen, housemaids, lacemakers, publicans, postmen, thatchers, musicians, anyone who would help us to gain a better understanding of a world which was fading fast

Eleven years and 250 interviews later, we have just launched the third volume of the ‘Vanishing Ireland’ book series. Published by Hachette, both the first and second volumes were shortlisted for the Irish Published Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. We also produced a book called 'The Irish Pub' with Thames & Hudson that focused on the endangered rural Irish pub. Bruce Springsteen bought one of the first copies of it. A major exhibition of photographs from the ‘Vanishing Ireland’ project was on show at the Hunt Museum in Limerick for six weeks earlier this autumn.

The Vanishing Ireland project is gathering momentum at all times as more and more people turn to face our past. 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.



2006: Fennell and Bunbury release the first volume of ‘Vanishing Ireland’ to considerable acclaim in Ireland, Britain and the USA.

2007: 'Vanishing Ireland' shortlisted for Best Irish Published Book of the Year 2007.

2008: Fennell and Bunbury's book 'The Irish Pub' is published by Thames & Hudson. Bruce Springsteen is amongst over 8,000 people who now have this book in their library.

2009: A second volume of 'Vanishing Ireland' becomes a major bestseller.

2010: 'Vanishing Ireland - Further Chronicles of a Disappearing World' is shortlisted for the IES Irish Published Book of the Year Award 2010.

2010: Turtle interviews 88-year-old Baby Rudden, the cover-girl of the second 'Vanishing Ireland', for RTE 1's 'Nationwide'

2011: 'Vanishing Ireland - Recollections of Our Changing Times', the third volume in the series, is launched at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin (18th October) the Hunt Museum, Limerick (20th October) with a wonderful talk by legendary GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh.

2011: The best of 'Vanishing Ireland' also enjoys a fantastic 6-week exhibition at the Hunt Museum in Limerick City (9 Sept - 24 Oct 2011). A crowd of 110 attended the exhibition on Friday 23rd September, exactly one week after Turtle and James gave a well-recieved walk and talk tour of the show.

2011: In October 2011, Turtle gives two talks on the Vanishing Ireland project at the Princess Grace Irish Library in the Principlaity of Monaco.

2012: An exhbition of photographs from the project entitled 'Vanishing Carlow' goes on show at the Visual Arts Centre in Carlow from 9th June to 26th August 2012, as part of the Éigse Carlow Arts Festival.

2012: Robert O'Byrne interviews Turtle about the VIP at the inaugural History Festival of Ireland (June).

2012: Work begins on fourth volume of the series with a road trip to the Aran Islands (August).

2012: Turtle delivers talks on 'Vanishing Ireland' to Irish Georgian Society in Chicago and New York.

2013: 'Vanishing Ireland' is the cover story for the Irish Times Magazine on Saturday 2nd February 2013. The feature article, written by Turtle, offered a musing upon the passing of old Ireland.

2013: 'Vanishing Ireland' exhibition at Burtown House & Gardens near Athy, County Kildare.

2013: 'Vanishing Ireland' exhibition at the Irish Georgian Society's new HQ in the City Assembly House on South William Street, Dublin, from 17 July - 31 Aug.


These books offers a poignant, sensitive and often punchy insight into the fading world of old Ireland, told through stories of Irish craftsmen, musicians, sportsmen, farmers, traders, nuns, gentry and centenarians. They bring to life a world and a way of life which is already disappearing fast.

All three volumes of 'Vanishing Ireland', as well as 'The Irish Pub', are available internationally from Amazon and, in Ireland, from all good bookshops nationwide.

Watch a YouTube slide-show of 'Vanishing Ireland' here.


Launch: 'Vanishing Ireland: Recollections of Our Changing Times' was launched in the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin City, on October 18th, and in the Hunt Museum, Limerick City, on October 20th. Legendary GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh entertained those gathered at the latter event with a charming talk about what old Ireland meant to him.

Read the introduction to Volume 3 here.

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Shortlist: Bord Gáis Energy Irish Published Book of the Year 2010.

Launch: 'Vanishing Ireland: Further Chronicles of a Disappearing World' was launched in Dublin City on October 14th 2009 and swiftly became the talk of the country with major feature articles in all the main Irish newspapers and magazines. Nationwide subsequently filmed an interview between Turtle and the book's cover star Baby Rudden.

Print Run: All 15,000 copies of the first print were sold by January 2010. It was the top-selling Picture Book and the 5th biggest-selling hardback - in Ireland over Christmas 2009. A second print run hit the shops in April 2010 and the book continues to be a front-of-bookshop bestseller in 2011. The book also graces the front cover of the Muriel Bolger's book, 'Dublin: City of Literature', published in May 2011.

Read the introduction to Volume 2 here.


In 2008, Fennell and Bunbury again toured Ireland, visiting some 700 traditional pubs to produce what many consider to be the second volume of the ‘Vanishing Ireland’ series, namely The Irish Pub’. Published in October 2008, it immediately caught the attention of both media and book-buyers across the British Isles, Australia and the USA, including features in The Guardian, The Australian and on BBC World News.


Nominations: Eason's Irish Published Book of the Year 2007; Best Production (CLE Book Industry Awards 2007); Best Publicity Campaign (CLE, 2007); Best Cover Design (CLE, 2007).

The first volume of 'Vanishing Ireland' (Hodder Headline, 2006) received extremely positive reviews from the Irish media from the moment it was launched. It features interviews with sixty senior citizens from across Ireland and over 150 hypnotic portrait photographs by James Fennell. The result is an invaluable, humorous and often poignant chronicle of a rapidly disappearing world.

It was the No. 1 selling Picture Book in Ireland for Christmas 2006 and one of the best-selling books of 2007. It was also short-listed for the Eason’s Irish Published Book of the Year Award. The book, which has now sold over 25,000 copies in Ireland alone, was declared 'a triumph' by the Daily Mirror. It was given widespread radio and television coverage on 'Today with Pat Kenny', 'Nationwide', 'Ireland AM', 'Seoige & O'Shea', 'The Sean Moncreiff Show' and 'Soiscéal Pháraic'.

The first volume of Vanishing Ireland charted at No. 8 on Ireland's Hardback Non-Fiction Bestseller Charts the week after it's launch in Easons / Hannas Bookshop, Dawson St, Dublin on Wednesday 25th October 2006. All 10,000 copies of the first print vanished in nine weeks. By April 2007, it had climbed to No. 5. It bounced back into the No. 3 spot for Christmas 2007. The book was reprinted in October 2010 and continues to be a major seller across Ireland.

Amongst the many stories told in Vanishing Ireland, a 104 year old farmer from Carlow remembers life during the First World War and a 103-year-old farmer from East Clare recalls an encounter with the Black and Tans. A Dublin housekeeper remembers tea with the executed patriot Kevin Barry. A cattle farmer from Carlow reconsiders the Spanish Flu which killed his mother in 1919. A piper recounts the brutal reality of the Belfast Pogroms. Two fiddlers and a drummer relive the glory days of the Tulla Ceili Band. A coalminer reveals the true horror of life down in the mines of Castlecomer. A postman from Achill recalls the island of his youth. Two fishermen from Belmullet remember the big storm of 1927 that killed their brothers and twenty seven others. A fruit seller from Galway juggles riddles in the air and orders two more pints when your back is turned.

It was serialized in The Dubliner throughout 2007 and formed major feature stories in Country Life, Cara, The Irish Times Magazine, The Irish Examiner Weekend, the Sunday Independent, the Irish Independent and Social & Personal. It was roundly praised on local radio across Ireland as well as in The Scotsman, The Irish Mirror, The Farmers Journal, The Metro, Ireland's Antiques & Properties, The Irish Arts Review, The Book of Interiors, Magill, Irish Tatler and Image Interiors.



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