Scanlan, Michael (1836–1917), Fenian, was born in November 1836 in Castlemahon, Co. Limerick, though his family left for America in 1843 and settled in Chicago, Illinois, where they set up a successful confectionery store; no other details of his parents are known. Largely self-educated, he joined the American Fenian Brotherhood, became its leader in Chicago, and was soon elected to its central council (1863). After it split in October 1865, he sided with the ‘Senate wing’, led by W. R. Roberts (qv), and supported the raids across the Canadian border (31 May–3 June 1866).
Nicknamed the ‘poet laureate of American Fenianism’ (Devoy, 308), he became well known in Irish-America as a writer of popular poems, songs, and nationalist ballads, leading to the publication of Love and land (1866), which included ‘The bold Fenian men’ (not to be confused with a later song by Peadar Kearney (qv)). Under the pen name ‘Dionysius Blake’, he continued to print many ballads in his journal, the Irish Republic, first published in Chicago (1866–8), then in New York (1868–72) and finally in Washington, DC (1872–3), where it was retitled the Irish Republican. This paper supported the US Republican party and the Fenian Brotherhood, but closed down after Scanlan was appointed to a senior position at the State Department's bureau of statistics, a position he held until his retirement around the turn of the century. A good friend of John Finerty (qv) and John Devoy (qv), he remained fairly well known in Irish-American revolutionary circles, though he ceased to be actively involved himself. He died in Washington, DC, in 1917, survived by his wife Nellie (née Hogan), a native of Co. Limerick, whom he married in the early 1860s. Their son Kickham (1864–1955) was a leading judge in Chicago, while Michael's brother, John (b. 1839), published much poetry and fiction in American catholic publications.