FURLONG, LAWRENCE O’BRIEN, merchant, politician, and office holder; b. 12 Jan. 1856 in St John’s, son of James Furlong and Margaret —; m. there 8 July 1884 Helen Carty, and they had four daughters; d. there 2 Oct. 1908.
Larry Furlong was named after his godfather, St John’s merchant Laurence O’Brien*. He received his education in St John’s and at the Collège Sainte-Marie, Montreal. In 1877, along with his brothers John and James, he started a dry-goods business styled J. J. and L. Furlong. He launched his own commission agency on 1 Jan. 1890 and retired two years later from the other business.
Furlong first entered politics in 1889 as a candidate in St John’s East for the Reform party, led by Premier Sir Robert Thorburn. Furlong and the Thorburn party went down to overwhelming defeat at the hands of the Liberals under Sir William Vallance Whiteway, who had been premier from 1878 to 1885. Four years later Furlong again ran in St John’s East, for a tory party led by St John’s merchants Moses Monroe* and Walter Baine Grieve. In the face of strong opposition, he was the only tory elected in the three-member district, but the Liberals won the election overall. In early 1894 the tories, under Alfred Bishop Morine*, surprised the government by successfully seeking to have Liberal members disqualified from sitting in the House of Assembly because of their misuse of public funds during the 1893 election. A tory government under Augustus Frederick Goodridge assumed office on 11 April 1894, with Furlong as chairman of the Board of Works. However, when the legislature reconvened on 2 August he had resigned the board’s chairmanship in order to be elected speaker of the House of Assembly. Though he had limited legislative experience, he was familiar with rules of procedure from his chairing of public meetings in the past.
By-elections were held later in 1894 to fill the seats vacated by disqualified members, and Liberals were returned in all but one constituency. Goodridge resigned as premier, and his successor on 13 December was Liberal Daniel Joseph Greene. In the change of government Furlong remained speaker of the house, and after Whiteway replaced Greene as premier on 9 February the following year, Furlong continued in the position until the Liberals lost the 1897 election to tory Sir James Spearman Winter*. In April that year Furlong had formally joined the Liberal party, probably out of political expediency, and he won re-election in St John’s East along with the two Liberal incumbents.
Robert Bond* replaced Whiteway as Liberal leader in 1897. Furlong remained loyal to Bond when the latter’s chief lieutenant and political rival, Edward Patrick Morris*, and several others split with their leader in 1898 over a contract the Winter government had signed with Canadian railway contractor Robert Gillespie Reid for the operation of the trans-insular railway. In 1900 Bond successfully carried a vote of no-confidence in the Winter ministry and formed a government, with Furlong as a minister without portfolio. In an election later that year Bond defeated a Reid-financed tory opposition under Morine by campaigning on a promise to amend the terms of the 1898 railway contract. Furlong was re-elected in St John’s East and again assumed the speakership of the assembly. He continued to hold the position until the 1904 general election, when he chose not to run. The Liberal party won re-election on 31 October, and the following January Furlong accepted an appointment as cashier (general manager) of the Newfoundland Savings’ Bank, replacing Sir Edward Dalton Shea*, who had retired.
In May 1908 Furlong contracted a severe cold, which developed into acute bronchitis, and he travelled to Montreal to see a medical specialist. He died on 2 October, a day after returning to St John’s. He was remembered as a popular politician, a fine orator, and a skilled speaker and parliamentarian in the assembly.
Basilica of St John the Baptist (Roman Catholic) (St John’s), Reg. of baptisms, 1855–61: 42 (mfm. at PANL). Daily News (St John’s), 2, 3 Aug. 1894. Evening Telegram (St John’s), 2 Oct. 1908. Adelphian ([St John’s]), 5 (1908): 105–7. Hiller, “Hist. of Nfld.” Nfld men (Mott).