Lenihan, Maurice (1811–95), journalist and author, was born 5 February 1811 in St Patrick's parish, Waterford city, eldest of fifteen children (ten sons and five daughters) of James Lenihan, woollen draper (in Broad St., then the leading business area in the city), and Margaret Lenihan (née Bourke) from Carrick-on-Suir, where her family was also involved in the woollen trade. He received his early education at a school attached to St John's seminary and in 1823 went to Carlow College, which then catered both for junior seminarians and lay students, and it is clear that he was in the latter category. He studied there as a boarder for eight years despite the financial pressure on the family arising from the death of his father in 1829. He began his journalistic career with the Tipperary Free Press in 1831, moved to the Waterford Chronicle two years later, and in 1841 became the editor of the Limerick Reporter. This was followed by a brief stint with the Cork Examiner before he settled in Nenagh in 1843 and established his own newspaper, the Tipperary Vindicator. In 1849 he purchased the Limerick Reporter, amalgamated it with his existing publication to form the Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator, and moved to Limerick, where he resided for the remainder of his life. His paper integrated local reporting and analysis with reports and commentary on national and international events and discussion of the major intellectual ideas of the age. He also fostered the careers of local writers, in particular the poets John Francis O'Donnell (qv) and Michael Hogan (qv).
He played a distinguished role in Limerick local politics, serving on the municipal council continuously from 1863 till his retirement in 1887, and was mayor in 1884. He took a prominent part also in national political debates and controversies of the period. He was a moderate constitutional nationalist, strongly influenced in his youth by Daniel O'Connell (qv), though he later defended Fenian prisoners. In the 1830s he supported the abolition of tithes, and campaigned in the 1860s for the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland. He championed the cause of catholic education and favoured the teaching of Irish in schools and colleges. He consistently supported liberal party candidates in elections and in the 1880s espoused the twin aims of land reform and parliamentary independence.
Lenihan married (November 1843) a local Nenagh woman, Elizabeth Spain; they had two sons and seven daughters. The family was dogged by ill-health and steadily declining fortunes. The financial problems were caused in part by the losses incurred in the publication in 1866 of Lenihan's major work of scholarship, Limerick, its history and antiquities. The genesis of this enterprise lay in a series of articles on the sieges of 1690–91, which he had researched and published in his own newspaper. With the encouragement and guidance of his friend, the historian and scholar Eugene O'Curry (qv), he spent five years in research and writing. He had amassed through purchase and borrowing an impressive collection of manuscript materials, most notably the Arthur manuscripts, and these were supplemented by transcripts from most of the principal sources then extant in both Britain and Ireland. He supplemented this documentary material with his own local knowledge and oral evidence from elderly residents. The work is haphazardly, even chaotically, arranged and is notable for its voluminous footnotes. These arise from a self-confessed problem in organising his material and from the fact that he was acquiring further information after the main text had been drafted. These deficiencies are more than compensated for by the vast range of primary source material that, in addition to forming the basis for the main narrative, is reproduced in total or summary form in both the footnotes and appendices. This material has proved invaluable to subsequent generations of scholars researching the history of Limerick.
Poverty, poor health, and personal tragedy dogged his final years. His newspaper became progressively unprofitable and he was forced to sell his books and manuscripts to the British Museum. Five of his children predeceased him. He died 25 December 1895 and is buried in Mount St Lawrence cemetery, Limerick.