Sunday, October 31, 2021

The changing of the guard

 It is always sad to lose one of our Sherlockian number, and this weekend news came out of a large loss in our community, the passing of Mike Whelan. Following not so far behind the passing of Jon Lellenberg, it really gives one a sense of the generational changing of the guard in Sherlockiana.

Both men were dominant Sherlockians who were powerful influences upon our community, and well known for butting heads on issues regarding the Baker Street Irregulars. Both had their own camps of friends and followers, and both had good sides and bad sides to their views on how things should be. Fortunately, Sherlockiana has never been "Ford versus Chevy," "Republicans versus Democrats," etc., or I suspect we might have had a very interesting American Sherlockian Civil War at some point. No, we're more of the "herding cats" sort of community, which does have benefits on occasion.

With the passing of Mike Whelan and Jon Lellenberg, and their influence, we are really entering an entirely new phase of Sherlockian life, a generational change. It took Julian Wolfe not only stepping down as leader of the BSI, but passing on, for women to be allowed in that club, as respect for the former leader carried that tradition on a bit further than it should have. And while neither of our recent losses had that specific of a disputed agenda for the community to move past, we are entering a period where those influences are no longer felt as strongly as they were as the months pass.

When we lose any friend or family member, we don't just lose that person, we lose the part of our lives that only came from their presence. Even if they lived far away, or we only saw them on holidays, that ongoing experience, the special yams they brought to the dinner table for the feast, are gone. And maybe nobody can make the yams the way that person did, but as time passes, someone else brings their best dish to the table enough that a new favorite emerges. Generational change occurs. 

Mike Whelan was one of the most influential, if not the most influential figure, on the course of organized Sherlockiana over the past three decades. Three decades! His legacy, those those many books, events, and encouragements that happened over that period, is now cemented into history. And the terrace of our traditions will be bearing a weighty load as we approach January and that NYC dinner, as it truly marks the end of an era.

The Sherlockiana of the 2020s awaits. Where does it all go from here? I don't know if we can even say who has a clue at this point. But there is still time for fond farewells as that ship leaves the dock.

See you later, Wiggins. And by the way, I did dust the top of that refrigerator.


  1. You don't get specific about Whelan's influence, but I think that, as a businessman, he had a "corporate" mindset, and his choices for BSI reflected that. He picked scion heads and people who had done work for the BSI, not independent scholars, however prolific.

  2. Whelan's legacy is simple; it fits on a bumper sticker:
    He Made the BSI Great Again