Although Whelan is the more common of the two versions, Phelan is the one which has left its mark on Irish placenames, with Kilphelan in Co. Cork and Raheenphelan and Rathphelan both in Co. Laois.
.Leo Whelan (1892-1956) was well known as a portrait painter.
Sean O'Faolain, (1900-1991) was born in Cork John Francis Whelan. He was internationally famous in particular for his short stories which present unsparing but compassionate pictures of life in modern Ireland. He was bitterly opposed to the censorship and narrow Catholicism of Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s.
His daughter, Julia O'Faolain (1932 - ) is also a successful novelist and translator.
Nuala O'Faolain (1942 - ) has had a varied career as a feminist, academic and film-maker. She is best known now for her role as an influential and respected social commentator with The Irish Times.
Bill Whelan (1950-) is a composer, songwriter and record producer. He is best known now for the music he composed for the hugely successful dance show, Riverdance.