41 - Editorial

04:52PM BST - Sunday, 18 April 2010

Contributed by: Alan Bunting

Buntings started emigrating from the UK a long time ago. They were among the true pioneers. There are firm records of Bunting families endeavouring to establish themselves in the USA as far back as the 1680s. Claims are sometimes made of Buntings having been 'found' several centuries earlier than that, on the other side of the Atlantic. But such optimistic, albeit well-intentioned, assertions are invariably difficult to substantiate.

Some of those 17th Century emigrants to North America that have been positively identified sailed from Liverpool aboard the 'Kent'. They were Quakers, mainly from the Derbyshire area who were suffering increasingly from religious persecution in their homeland. Many settled in the area around Philadelphia, including the town of Darby (sic) which today is a virtual suburb of the big city.
In more recent times, historically speaking, there are also positive records of Buntings emigrating from Buckinghamshire to Illinois in the mid 19th Century, most notably between 1841 and 1851. Other branches of the Bunting clan put down roots closer to the eastern seaboard, in New Jersey for example.
By no means all those pioneering Buntings headed straight for the USA. As has been well documented in the pages of Gone A-Hunting, Isaac Bunting, the enterprising horticulturist from Essex, travelled three quarters of the way round the world to Japan on more than one occasion in the latter decades of the 19th Century. His mission was to establish a trade in flower bulbs, specifically lilies. Isaac's expeditions to the Far East must have instilled in him a more geographically diverse wanderlust, because he eventually settled in Canada.
Not all Bunting emigration was entirely voluntary or driven by persecution, as in the case of the Quakers. At a time when punishment for relatively minor crimes was a lot more severe than it is today, at least one Bunting miscreant is on record as having been 'transported for life' from Britain to Australia. His crime, perhaps ironically in view of the abundance of such animals in his new country, was that of sheep stealing.
Buntings are to be found today in all four corners of the globe. A cursory trawl of the internet gives an indication of the extent of the Bunting diaspora. Overseas membership of the Bunting Society is constantly growing. At the last count there were 38 members resident in the USA, 12 in Australia, seven each in Canada and New Zealand, and one each in France and Cyprus.

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