Irish Roots

Surprisingly synchronised cycles


One piece of popular science that lingers in the public imagination is the notion of menstrual synchrony, the way in which the monthly cycles of women living together gradually come into sync. Neither I nor Turtle Bunbury is a women; I’m well past the menopause and we’ve spent a grand total of five hours in each other’s company over the course of two series of The Genealogy Roadshow. And yet somehow our cycles are coinciding.

Turtle is bringing out The Glorious Madness – Tales of the Irish & the Great War (Gill & Macmillan) on Tuesday October 21th, and my own The Atlantic Coast of Ireland (Francis Lincoln) is launched two days later on Thursday October 23rd.

They are very different books. Turtle continues the wonderful listening and yarn-spinning he has honed in the Vanishing Ireland series, applying it to veterans of the first World War. The stories he recreates are poignant, whimsical and bleakly funny, bringing back into the light the lives of people who found themselves on the wrong side of history after the struggle for Irish independence. This is my kind of micro-history.

My own book is not really my own. It is a collection of eyewateringly vivid landscape photographs taken by my friend Jonathan Hession, to which I have added a series of short essays. I grabbed the opportunity to get out of the genealogy ghetto and unburden myself about ecology, geology, myth, Irish accents, the Gaeltacht, religion, what’s wrong with Kerry and whatever you’re having yourself. Complete editorial freedom went straight to my head.

Turtle’s launch is in the Hibernian Club on Stephen’s Green at 6.30pm on Tuesday. Jonathan’s and mine is just around the corner at the Dubray Bookshop on Grafton Street at 6.30pm on Thursday.

We each have high hopes for our offspring and have made a date to spawn again at the same time next year.