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Nicholas Furlong - One of Ireland's Foremost Authors





Nicholas Furlong

Drinagh Lodge, Wexford
Tel: + 353 (0)53 9143063




King of Leinster

(Anvil Books 1973)



Diarmait King of Leinster

(Mercier Press 2006)

'Putrid while living, damned when dead', has been the epitaph of Diarmait Mac Murchada (Dermot MacMurrough), King of Leinster, the man credited with inflicting 800 years of strife on Ireland.
Diarmait ruled in a time of great turbulence, when kingdoms were lost and gained through violent battle and hostage taking, and when it was common for kings to maim or blind the most accomplished of their own sons to avoid competition for the throne.

Nicholas Furlong’s first book about Dermot MacMurrough, titled Dermot-King of Leinster and the Foreigners was published in 1973. He updated and incorporated new material on the life and times of the notorious but seriously misunderstood king in Diarmait King of Leinster published in 2006.

Bannow, Dermot MacMurrough and Established Errors: Read more>>


"It is the fruit of considerable research written in and is written in an easy and popular style" Professor Donacha O Corráin, University College, Cork

I agree that ‘Anglo-Norman invasion’ is an incorrect phrase. In fact, I warned my students in the lectures I give for this period of Irish history that it was ‘Cambro-Norman’, and that it was not an invasion; and that it was not in 1169, only that whatever happened did happen! Professor F.X. Martin.

I have read and digested the book on ’Dermot’, with much relish. Every page, every paragraph of it is not only a masterpiece of history, but also of delightful literature. Charles J Hearne.

“His image is so bad”, writes Nicholas Furlong of Diarmait Mac Murchada (Dermot MacMurrough to many) in his new book, “that there is a challenge to reverse the colour… However, there is no black, no white… instead the many subtle shadings of motivation and circumstance.” In the case of MacMurrough there is no better challenger than Furlong in this edition of his ground-breaking work on the Leinster King. Commonly condemned as the ultimate Irish traitor since he invited the foreigner to our shores in 1169, Diarmait was a much more complex character than popular opinion would suggest. He was, as Nicholas Furlong reveals, a cultured man who possessed a considerable library; a masterful leader who maintained the loyalty of family and followers in peace as in war; a man capable of extreme brutality but who also endowed abbeys and monasteries in his kingdom in accordance with the religious reforms of his times. His fate was that his story was recorded chiefly by his enemies who ultimately prevailed and handed him on the image with which so many have become familiar – vae victis. Historian Furlong has again put matters to right and his revised, augmented and newly illustrated study (with original Irish names) is arguably the best to date on the fateful king of Leinster. Richard Roche, Irish Times.

MacMurrough's Castle, Ferns.  It was reconstructed and consolidated in the 13th century by King Dermot MacMurrough's granddaughter Isabella and her Norman husband, William Marshal. 

 “I opened Dermot doubtfully and then found I couldn’t put it down. As I read on avidly, I kept wondering why it hadn’t come out firstly in a hardback with a fanfare launching.”

“What do you know about Dermot MacMurrough? Would it fit on a postage stamp? Does it go something like this: That he brought the English into Ireland; that the whole country was handed to him on a plate by the then reigning Pope, the only Englishman ever to occupy the See of Peter; that he snatched Devorgilla from the arms of her outraged husband, Tiernan O’Rourke, ruler of Brefni. Read how Nicholas Furlong unravels the tangled skein. This is a splendid book; it would be impossible to overpraise it. In addition to giving us an entirely new analysis of Dermot MacMurrough, the author straightens out with deft touches here and there, the record of a momentous period. One gem that had never been published before is the document giving Dermot MacMurrough the written benediction of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. One might suppose that this is a gross example of the misinformation on Irish leaders constantly reaching the continent, but this would be a wrong assumption because MacMurrough was a vigorous founder of Cistercian monasteries in Ireland, adding yet another facet to his many-sided and unpredictable personality. Read this book. It is ridiculously under priced: history that is positively painless. Wexford should be proud of Nicolas Furlong. I wonder is it?” Alice Curtayne.

"Nicholas Furlong has written a first class story in this life of the Leinster King Dermot MacMurrough. Successful historical novels are rare on Irish subjects, and while this book does not belong to that genre, it is just as exciting, bringing to life the 12th century Ireland of Dermot, Rory O’Connor, Tiernan and Dervorgilla O’Rourke, Archbishop Laurence O’Toole, and Strongbow. Tracing the constant warfare of the various kings, the author has established precedent for every action of Mac Murrough’s. Indeed, by contemporary standards, the King of Leinster was civilised and human, though he did have occasional lapses into extraordinary behaviour. At the end of Dermot’s story the arrival of the Normans in Wexford is more easily understood.
Furlong has thoroughly upset the traditional opinion of MacMurrough as the arch-villain of Irish history, and made one aspect of the past a more vivid era for this reviewer at least. It is to be hoped that he continues his delving into further historical personages with the success evidenced here." An Cosantoir, The Defence Forces Journal.

I was tempted to lay aside the book – I thought just another “patriotic” fairy tale version of events – but I persevered and ended up glued to the book, it became v.v. readable and fascinating. The notes and bibliography also fascinated. " I really had no idea that so much had been recorded and written about Diarmait MacMurrough and his era". Owen F Corcoran, Oxford.

Published by Mercier Press, Douglas Village, Cork: P.B., 192 pages, illustrated:  Price €14.99. Web: Distributors, Columba Mercier, 55a Spruce Av., Stillorgan Industrial Park, Blackrock, Co. Dublin:



With Dr. Daire Keogh

(Four Courts Press 1996 )

On 21 June 1798, the last great open battle in Irish history took place at and around Enniscorthy on the River Slaney. Twenty thousand Crown troops were engaged to destroy a United Irish Army which had shocked the London government by its spectacular military success. This collection of essays offers a new interpretation of the Rebellion in Wexford where ordinary people, goaded into ferocity, 'swept o'er the land like a mighty wave'.

By Bishop's Rath and Norman Fort

with Dr Edward Culleton and Patrick Sills 

(Wexford 1994)

An inter-disciplinary history of a union of ancient parishes, now named Piercestown,  immediately south of Wexford town, Ireland 


(Distillery Press)

This biography, written by a recognised historian, Nicholas Furlong, is a remarkably good introduction to the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798, particularly in the Wexford area of Ireland, focusing on the role of Fr. John Murphy in the fateful weeks of action. Very little was known about Fr. Murphy’s early life and what is known now is faithfully presented. This is a story of a man who followed, in obedience, the strictures of his  bishop until he could stand the inhumanity dealt out to his neighbours and friends no longer. It is well written, easy to digest, and very worthwhile.


“Fr John Murphy of Boolavogue made a deep impression. A fine and powerful piece of historical writing.” Roger Owen, Wimbledon, London.

“A work of passion and attention to detail…organised in a meaningful and lucid way the myriad threads of documentation, contemporaneous accounts, recollections and oral history… A work that not only explores but also manages to explain the complex web of motivations of Fr Murphy and those involved in the Rising of 98… A book that manages to give a sense of both the large sweep of history and the ‘human scale’ of individuals caught in this history.” Richard B Evans, Composer, Sonoma, California

“Fr John Murphy of Boolavogue” has given me the most intense pleasure and in places  the most intense fury.  A wonderful job of research written in most readable fashion. I could hardly put it away from me.” Brother Joseph McNally, Lasalle Sia College of Arts, Singapore

"Father John Murphy of Boolavogue, a masterly piece of research, well organised and beautifully written.  It has given me great pleasure and shone a light into a forgotten dark corner of history here in the United Kingdom."  Irene Moore, The Armourer Magazine

Third edition, published by Distillery Press, Kellystown, Drinagh, Wexford. Telephone/Fax:  053 91 43063: P.B., 206 pages, illustrated:  Price €15 (including packaging and post).
Enquiries Email: Web:



with Dr. Daire Keogh

(Four Courts Press, 1998)

No aspect of the 1798 rebellion has been so neglected as that of women's role in the events of that year.  It is the intention in this work to redress this neglect, to bring a new light to bear on the subject and create an accurate assessment of the role of women in that year of devastation. 

"In a short review it is impossible to give anything like an adequate account of the wealth of often startling first hand information contained in this remarkable collection. Warmly recommended". Conor Cruise O'Brien, Sunday Independent. 


(Gill and MacMillan)

"Furlong traces the story of the county from its earliest settlements through its Gaelic, Christian, Norse and Norman phases of life to the turbulence of the Elizabethan and Cromwellian regimes. He brings the reader through the great upheaval of 1798 and the institutional revival of Catholicism in the 19th century, its sporting and cultural revival, the Wexford Opera Festival and modern Wexford which has built itself into the nation's holiday playground and a vital European transport hub."

Commissioned by Gill and MacMillan, 2003. Phone 01 5009500, Email:


Nicholas Furlong and John Hayes

(Old Distillery Press 2005)

The fourth edition theme is County Wexford in War, 1910 – 1924. It is a wide spectrum, period photograph issue covering the political and military build-up to World War One; the World War on land and sea particularly off Wexford’s Irish Sea and Atlantic coasts; the 1916 Rising in Enniscorthy, the War of Independence, The Civil War and the aftermath in the strategically important south-east. It includes sensational photographs from private collections and photographs never before published. It will in short be essential, not merely for the general public, but scholars and researchers, particularly as we approach the centenary commemorations of a monumental decade in Irish and world history.”


" A large format of over 400 photographs, most but not all with Wexford connections.  Where did they get these amazing photos? The earliest and first is an 1860 one of the artillery pieces, ammunition, crew and children at Duncannon Fort.  There is Rory O'Connor engaging in target practice with his luger pistol, a tobacco plantation at Mount St. Benedict, Gorey and an understandably shaky Civil War photo of the exact moment of blowing up of Gorey's railway bridge.  Of particular interest, given the year that's in it, is a selection relating to the 1916 Rising in Enniscorthy." History Ireland

However necessary and justified the authors’ warning, their introduction that “the photographs in this volume do not represent academic history”, it would be wrong to underestimate the larger historical significance of such a voluminous collection, which includes many original photographs from private collections never before published. Two examples of that larger significance seem to be especially noteworthy. The first relates to the destruction of Wexford’s railways – of bridges, in particular- carried out as an integral part of the scorched earth policy of republican opponents of the Treaty confronted with the certainty of military defeat in the Civil War.

The second example and, to my mind, the most lasting impression left by this book is the all-pervasive effects of the Great War. These range from photographs of recruits and recruiting meetings, of shell manufacturing, of German U-boats and British airships, of shipwrecks and survivors. Most interesting of all is the stunning collection of photographs of the activities generated in 1918 by the massive US naval airbase in Ferrybank, the existence of which I was hitherto unaware. Professor Ronan Fanning, Sunday Independent.

Available from Distillery Press, Kellystown, Drinagh, Wexford:  Telephone/Fax:  053 91 43063:  P.B., 248 pages: Price €15 (including packaging and post): Email enquiries:

First Novel



(Mercier Press 2002)

"The mother told me to avoid the company of girls until I was thirty five or so and then marry a good sensible match, a respectable girl with a farm and money. 'Take your time, Nicholas,' the mother said, 'there are thousands of farmers' daughters with their tongues hanging out to be married, and don't worry about a thing, for after my day you'll have this place free of rent forever, and your uncle Dick's place as well"

"The greatest comic novel of the century." Dr Gerry Dukes, University of Limerick.

"A panic, that is how this book may be described. Furlong reminds me of both John B Keane and Brian O Nuallain: Keane’s loquaciousness with words, O Nuallain’s undermining effect with them. Giddily, deliciously, viciously, Furlong hones his pencil with the same sharpener. But I cannot remember, with either of those writers, getting as many laughs per page as I got from this book. Furlong is the John B, the Myles na gCopaleen, of the sunny Southeast.

Hilarious hyperbole. Wild and wonderful use of language, lines so well contrived we cannot tell for sure whether they masquerade a critical edge, or more, a Mylesian savagery.

Furlong’s is an accomplished voice, at once an innocent at large in the world and a knowing sceptic. A rare juggling trick, a tightrope act executed with frothy bravado." Leo Cullen, The Sunday Independent 22/09/2002

“It is wonderful. Not a wasted word and close to ‘At Swim Two Birds’ by Brian O Nuallain.” Dr. WJ Vaughan, Trinity College.

French Translation by Delphine Guiot forthcoming. Enquiries to Columba Mercier, Email: Tel 00 353 1 294 2560 Fax 00 353 1 294 2564



(Anvil Books)

A castle in Wales... an Irish King fighting for his kingdom... a Norman earl in disgrace... From the meeting of Dermot MacMurrough and Strongbow are born the Norman landings in Ireland. Gwyn, the Welsh boy who becomes Dermot's foster son, sees it all - the siege of Wexford, the sack of Waterford, the taking of Dublin. Tiernan O'Rourke is Dermot's mortal enemy. Can he prevent him becoming High King...? A marvellously exciting story!

For children 8-12: P.B., 128 pages: Childerens Press, 45 Palmerston Road, Dublin 6.  




(Wolfhound Press)

A personal memoir of the sensational hurling revolution in County Wexford 1950-1960. 

In the 1950s one team dominated all others. Wexford was the possessor of only one national title – won in 1910 – when, at the end of the Forties, it gathered together a band of warriors that was to swashbuckle its way through the next ten years. Bliss was it to be from the Model County at that time, when the grey and economy-blasted environment was lifted by the deeds of those camán-wielders in the purple and gold jerseys.

In his loving reconstruction of the time, The Greatest Hurling Decade: Wexford and the Epic Teams of the Fifties, Nicholas Furlong points up this pride in the native county that the achievements of the hurlers produced.

His enthusiasm runs through the book. All the celebrated games are rehearsed, from the defeat against Tipperary in ’51 through the wins in ’55 and ’56 against Galway and Cork, to the fitting climax of the triumph over the old enemy, Tipp, in 1960.

For every lover of the greatest field game this is a book not to be missed. And for Wexford people, it should be compulsory reading. Vincent Banville, Irish Times.

”Lest we forget” Tom Humphries, Irish Times

Tribute Books

(Geography Publications 2007)

This collection contains twenty-two essays addressed to Nicky Furlong.  The various contributions, written by distinguished scholars, colleagues and friends, focus mainly on matters pertaining to the county of Wexford.  The volume is intended to serve as a befitting and long standing tribute to Nicky Furlong for outstanding service to his native county. 


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