Whelan, Michael

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Michael Whelan, the Poet of Renous was born on April 27, 1858, in Renous, New Brunswick, the second youngest child of William Whelan, a native of Ireland, and his wife, Mary Keary, a woman of Irish origin who was born in New Brunswick.

The original Whelan family home was a modest log dwelling situated near the head of the settlement. It was opposite an island in the Renous river known as Whelan's Island, just below the confluence of the Renous and Dungarvon rivers. At a later date, this locality was officially named Grainfield.

Early in his life, Whelan worked as a school teacher on a local license at schools in Renous, Grainfield, White Rapids, and Cains River. He later worked as a bookkeeper for Snowball's lumber mill and other lumber firms on the Miramichi and in the United States. His real vocation, however, was writing poetry, especially poetry praising his native land and the people who lived in it.

Best known for writing poetry celebrating the Miramichi, he was not only a successful poet in the area, but continues to be a hero within the area’s rich folk tradition. While many verses were published in the local newspapers, he supplemented his income by printing and selling them in pamphlets. The Dungarvon Whooper is perhaps his most famous poem, a song about the Dungarvon River and its whooping ghost based on an often-told tale in the Miramichi.

He died on May 10, 1937, in Chatham, N.B. leaving his legacy in the form of songs and poetry still cherished. His title of “The Poet of Renous” was well earned.


A collection of his poetry was selected and edited by Michael O. Nowlan and published in a book called "Michael Whelan - Folk Poet of Renous River" by New Ireland Press, 1990. Some of the above information was extracted from this book and used here.

This text is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
For more information, select the following link: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

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