Michael Whelan

Known as “the Renous River Poet” or “the Miramichi Bard,” Michael Whelan was born at Grainfield, NB on the Renous River on 27 April 1858. After teaching for a short time, he became a bookkeeper for local lumber operators, all the while sustaining his intellectual life by reading and writing. Whelan was one of the first Miramichi writers of note, his poetry celebrating the rich folk culture of central New Brunswick. While he wrote more than eighteen chapbooks on subjects such as his faith, the Catholic Church, and his Irish heritage, it was his folk poetry about New Brunswick and the Miramichi region for which he is best known. Whimsical and cheerful, that folk poetry often depicts the Miramichi as quaint, rural, and idyllic, even as his own life – later marked by poverty and alcoholism – testified to a much harsher reality. His most famous poem is “The Dungarvon Whooper,” which gained popularity after being included as a drinking song in the repertoires of Miramichi folk musicians. While Whelan’s verse describes a version of the Miramichi that later writers would challenge, his poetry holds an important place in the history of the region, for more than anyone else, he nourished a folk culture along the Miramichi that would eventually inspire a flourishing regional literature. He died in May 1937.

For the full Author Page on Whelan, click here.


The linked Author Page contains the poems "The Fair New Brunswick Hills" and "Leslie Allen."