Legend of the Dungarvon Whooper

Death of a young cook in a lumber camp and his burial in the forest originated the celebration myth of the Miramichi woods.

A young cook by the name of Ryan hired himself out to work in a lumber camp near the Dungarvon River.  When he arrived at camp, he brought all his worldly possessions with him.  Around his waist was fastened a money belt stuffed with coins and large bills.  Nobody knew where he got the money, but the young cook made no secret of the fact that there was plenty of it.

Ryan was a handsome fellow, tall and strong with ruddy cheeks and black, curly hair.  He was well liked and could whoop and holler better than anyone in the camp; and a good strong shout was an accomplishment much valued among woodsmen.

Every morning Ryan was the first one up so as to prepare breakfast and fill the lunch pails with bread and salt pork.  Then he would let out a tremendous ear-splitting whoop to get everyone up.  After breakfast the men would go off to work leaving young Ryan alone.

It was an unlucky day for Ryan, for on this particular morning, the camp boss decided to remain with the young cook.  The boss was a stranger, but he was respected and his orders were obeyed.

When the men returned late in the afternoon, they found young Ryan lying lifeless on the floor.  He was dead and his money belt was gone.

When asked what had happened, the boss said the young cook had taken sick suddenly and died.  None dared question him further but the woodsmen were suspicious.  Where was the money belt?

That night a raging storm swept upon the camp making it impossible to leave so the men had to bury the poor cook in a shallow grave in the forest.  As they trudged back to the camp they stopped dead in their tracks, for above the howling and moaning of the wind came the most dreadful whoops and screams anyone has ever heard.  It continued all that night and all the next day driving the men crazy with fear.  They left camp never to return.

For years the haunting sounds continued until Father Murdock, a priest from Renous, was asked to put the poor spirit to rest.

From over the wilderness grave Father Murdock read some holy words from the Bible and made a sign of the cross.

Some say Father Murdock succeeded in quieting the ghost but others declare the fearful cries of Ryan can be heard to this very day.

The whistle of the train that traveled by the Dungarvon would echo through the hills resembling the whoops of the ghost; hence the name of the train;  THE DUNGARVON WHOOPER.

The Dungarvon Whooper by ‘the poet of Renous’ Michael Whelan, sung to the tune of Where the Silvery Colorado Sweeps Away:

Far within the forest scene,
Where the trees forever green,
Form a contrast to the beech and birches grey,
Where the snow lies white and deep,
And the song birds seem to sleep,
And cease their sweetest singing all the day.
Where the mighty monstrous moose,
Of limbs both large and loose,
Through the forest sweeps with strides both swift and strong,
Where the caribou and deer
Swim the brooks so crystal clear,
And the mighty deep Dungarvon rolls along.

Where the black bear has his den,
Far beyond the haunts of men,
And the muskrat, mink and marten swi the stream,
Where the squirrel so light and free,
Swiftly springs from tree to tree,
And the lovely snow-white rabbit sleep and dreams;
Where the sounds of toil resound
Far across the frozen ground,
And the thousand things that to the woods belong,
Where the saws and axes ring,
And the woodsmen wildly sing,
And the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.

In a lumber camp one day,
While the crew were faraway,
And no one there but cook and boss alone,
A sad tragedy took place,
And death won another race,
For the young cook swiftly passed to the unknown;
From the day of long ago,
Comes this weary tale of woe,
The sad and solemn subject of my song,
When this young man drooped and died,
In his youth and manhood’s pride,
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.

When the crew returned that night,
What a sad scene met their sight,
There lay the young cook silent, cold and dead,
Death was in his curling hair,
In his young face pale and fair,
While his knapsack formed a pillow for his head.
From the belt about his waist
All his money was misplaced,
Which made the men suspect some serious wrong,
Was it murder cold and dread,
That befell the fair young dead
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon rolls along?

When they asked the skipper why
He had made no wild outcry,
He turned away and hid his haughty head;
“Well, the youngster took so sick,
And he died so mighty quick,
I hadn’t time to think, ” was all he said;
A tear was in each eye,
Each heart it heaved a sigh,
While through each breast the strangest feeling throng;
When each reverent head was bared,
As his funeral they prepared,
Where the mighty deep Dungarvon rolls along.

Fast fell the driven snow,
While the wild winds they did blow,
Till four feet deep upon the ground it lay,
So that on the burial day
To the graveyard far away
To bear the corpse impossible was found.
Then a forest grave was made,
And in it the cook was laid
While the song birds and the woodsmen ceased their song;
When the last farewells were said
O’er the young and lonely dead
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.

When the crew returned at night
Their dear comrade still they mourned,
While the shades o’night were falling o’er the hill,
All that long and fearful night
All the camp was in affright,
Such fearful whoops and yells the forest fill;
Pale and ghastly was each face,
“We shall leave this fearful place,
For this camp unto the demons does belong,
Ere the dawning of the day
We will hasten far away
From where the dark Dungarvon rolls along.

Since that day, so goes the word,
Fearful sounds have long been heard,
Far round the scene where lies the woodsman’s grave,
Whoops the stoutest hearts to thrill,
Yells that warmest blood to chill,
Sends terror to the bravest of the brave;
Till beside the grave did stand,
God’s good man with lifted hand,
And prayed that He those sounds should not perlong
That those fearful sounds should cease,
And the region rest in peace
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.

Since that day the sounds have ceased
And the region is released
From those most unearthly whoops an screams and yells,
All around the Whooper’s spring
There is heard no evil thing,
And round the Whooper’s grave sweet silence dwells
Be this story false or true,
I have told it unto you,
As I heard it from the folklore all life long,
So I hope all strife will cease,
And our people dwell in peace,
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.

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