“James Whalen”


Jim Whalen is told by his foreman to help clear a logjam. When the jam breaks, he is thrown into the rapids and drowned.


Rickaby reports this to be based on an actual incident, in which James Phalen (so spelled; pronounced Whalen) died at "King's Chute" on the Mississippi River. (That's the Canadian Mississippi, a tributary of the Ottawa). Rickaby's informant, Cristopher Forbes, is the source of the claim that John Smith of Lanark wrote the song.

The date of the event is uncertain; Rickaby states it was in 1878, but Fowke quotes Phalen's grand-niece to the effect that the date was 1876. - RBW

Cross references


  • Emerson Woodcock, "Jimmie Whelan" (on Lumber01)


  1. Laws C7, "James Whalen"
  2. Doerflinger, pp. 243-244, "Whalen's Fate (George Whalen)"
  3. Rickaby 3, "Jim Whalen" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  4. Gardner/Chickering 110, "James Wayland" (1 text)
  5. Fowke/Johnston, pp. 82-83, "Jim Whalen" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Fowke-Lumbering #31, "Jimmy Whelan" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Fowke/MacMillan 25, "Jimmy Whelan" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Ives-NewBrunswick, pp. 39-41, "James Whalen" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Sandburg, p. 389, "James Whaland" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. Beck 53, "James Whalen" (1 text)
  11. DT 601, JMMYWHEL*
  12. Roud #638
  13. BI, LC07


Alternate titles: “James Phalen”
Author: John Smith (?)
Earliest date: 1926 (Rickaby)
Found in: US(MW,NE) Canada(Mar,Ont)