Menu Close

Travel Book Review: The Irish Diaspora by Turtle Bunbury

The Irish Diaspora by Turtle Bunbury Book Cover

I highlighted 132 items in The Irish Diaspora: Tales of Emigration, Exile, and Imperialism by Turtle Bunbury. Each was especially interesting to me—not mildly or moderately. Especially. Bunbury’s tales of the Irish diaspora reach back to the “most famous Irish monk to take to the seas,” Brendan the Navigator (484 A.D. – 577 A.D.), and as far forward as stories about Barack Obama and Joe Biden. 

Chris spent days hearing me say things like, Did you know an Irish-American designed the Oscar statuette? His name was Cedric Gibbons. He also won a few statues for himself. Did you know that an Irish Catholic oversaw the building of the Empire State Building? His name was Al Smith. Construction started on St. Patrick’s Day in 1930. Did you know that Zoro was Irish? It’s a complicated story, which Bunbury spins far better in his book than I can here.

The Irish Diaspora in America

An Irish Catholic, Charles Carroll, signed the Declaration of Independence, along with a number of Scots-Irish signatories. If you’ve listened to the musical Hamilton, you’ve heard the name Hercules Mulligan. An Irish tailor, he manufactured uniforms for the Patriots and the Loyalists and always kept some “libations on offer” in his tailor’s shop. These drinks helped him uncover two plots against George Washington: one to murder him, the other to kidnap him. Mulligan was able to warn Washington both times and became known as “the spy who saved Washington’s life twice.” 

Guess who the architect of the White House was? An Irishman – James Hoban. Who accepted the Statue of Liberty on behalf of the American people? The first Irish Catholic mayor of New York City, Billy Grace. When the immigration station on Ellis Island opened, “the first person through it was Cork-born Annie Moore.”

While I enjoyed focusing on and sharing the grand accomplishments I read about in The Irish Diaspora, there were problematic tales as well. There were slave owners and slave traders. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, has Irish roots that reach back to County Cork. His industrious business acumen has been tarnished by his racist, anti-Semitic views. Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon had Irish roots. Bunbury makes it clear in his book that Donald Trump does not have a drop of Irish blood in him. 

The Irish Diaspora in the World

The Irish Diaspora goes beyond the Irish in America. Bunbury’s stories of Irish influence in the world will take you through Europe, Chile, Mexico, Russia, Africa, and India. The Irish are everywhere. You can read about: Bernardo O’Higgins, the son of an Irishman, who became the first president of the Republic of Chile. Eliza Lynch, First Lady of Paraguay. Or, Margaretta Eager of Limerick, the last Tsar’s Governess. She wrote Six Years at the Russian Court, a memoir of her time working for the Romanovs.  

Should you read the Irish Diaspora by Turtle Bunbury?

I found The Irish Diaspora an intriguing read. While I read it from cover to cover, the way it’s organized allows you to jump into any chapter you feel a curiosity for. I was delighted to read about one of my distant ancestors (according to my Grandmother’s research), President William McKinley. He is one of the 17 Scots-Irish to serve as President of the United States of America. His second term ended early in September 1901 when he was assassinated by an anarchist. 

Who will you find?

Please note that the link below is an affiliate link. If you make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. We would never recommend anything we don’t personally love, and the income goes to keeping this site updated and free for everyone!

Read The Irish Diaspora: Tales of Emigration, Exile and Imperialism.

Follow us on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for more travel and food inspiration. 

Fuel our creativity with coffee! It helps us create free content to inspire your future travels and more!