McINTYRE, JAMES, cabinet-maker, furniture dealer, undertaker, and poet; baptized 25 May 1828 in Forres, Scotland, son of Peter Mackintyre and Primrose Simpson; m. first 12 Feb. 1855 Euphemia Frazer in Ingersoll, Upper Canada, and they had a daughter and a son; m. secondly 12 May 1887 Mrs Belinda Walker; d. 31 March 1906 in Ingersoll.
James McIntyre immigrated to Upper Canada in 1841. He worked first as a farm labourer, then as an apprentice in St Catharines to an uncle who was a furniture dealer and undertaker, and later as an undertaker in Thorold. He moved to Ingersoll in 1854 and set up business the following year as a cabinetmaker and undertaker who made and sold pianos, Pianolas, household furniture, and coffins. Initially his business prospered and he also escaped devastating fires in Ingersoll in 1872 and 1874. However, misfortunes began to fall upon him. His first wife died sometime before 1876, the year of his son’s death. He also suffered financial reversals from a partnership that led to bankruptcy in the 1870s and from the ravages of a disastrous spring flood in April 1891 when high waters destroyed the building in which his business was located and carried away his stock of furniture for a loss of $2,500. In 1903 his business was taken over by his stepsons George T. and Alonzo B. Walker. The company was still operating in 1918 as the McIntyre House Furnishing Company.
From the early 1860s McIntyre had been prominent as a local poet in the literary society in Ingersoll, later the mechanics’ institute, in which he played an important role. Much of his free time was devoted to town affairs in Ingersoll, to lodge work for the masons and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and to the Reform party in Oxford County. He returned to Scotland for visits in 1884 and 1889.
As a poet, McIntyre was called upon to read at many local events and he sent copies of his verse to literary figures such as Susanna Moodie [Strickland*] and Alexander McLachlan*. He published two collections of verse, Musings on the banks of the Canadian Thames, including poems on local, Canadian and British subjects, and lines on the great poets of England, Ireland, Scotland and America, with a glance at the wars in Victoria’s reign (Ingersoll, 1884) and Poems of James McIntyre (Ingersoll, 1889). These contain pieces dated as early as 1859 and two of his most famous poems, “Ode on the mammoth cheese” and a poem in honour of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, for which Strathcona [Donald A. Smith*] sent him $100. The first, typical of the verse that made him known as “The cheese poet,” was written in celebration of the massive “Oxford County cheese” of 1866; after a description of the cheese (“Weight over seven thousand pounds”), it begins:
We have seen thee, queen of cheese,
Lying quietly at your ease,
Gently fanned by evening breeze,
Thy fair form no flies dare seize.
McIntyre’s involvement with the local Reform party and his reputation as a versifier brought his work to the attention of John Stephen Willison*, editor of the Toronto Globe, who arranged to have several poems published in the Globe in the 1890s after the appearance of McIntyre’s second collection. Following his death in 1906, McIntyre’s avocation as poetaster was continued by his daughter, Kate McIntyre Ruttan, who published Rhymes, right or wrong, of Rainy River; I.O.O.F. and masonic madrigals (Orillia, Ont., 1926). The achievements of both have been celebrated by William Arthur Deacon* in The four Jameses (1927), a humorous and affectionate tribute to the four worst poets of Canada writing in English.
Oxford County Library, Ingersoll Branch, Local hist. files – biogs., James McIntyre, Elsie Graham Sumner, “Found an air of prosperity at Ingersoll on 1855 visit” (unidentified newspaper article, 6 Nov. 1943). Univ. of Toronto Library, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, ms coll. 160 (W. A. Deacon coll.), box 38 (contains biographical information and letters pertinent to the life of McIntyre). Daily Chronicle (Ingersoll), 31 March 1906. Daily Sentinel-Review (Woodstock, Ont.), 24 June 1964, 21 Aug. 1965 [these articles concerning McIntyre are also available in his file in the Ingersoll Branch library]. Ingersoll Chronicle and Canadian Dairyman, 12 May 1887, 16 April 1891, 26 Feb. 1903. Ingersoll Chronicle and County of Oxford Intelligencer, 16 Feb., 7 Dec. 1855; 13 Nov. 1857. W. A. Deacon, Dear Bill: the correspondence of William Arthur Deacon, ed. John Lennox and Michèle Lacombe (Toronto, 1988); The four Jameses (Ottawa, 1927; rev. ed., Toronto, 1953; repr., intro. Doug Fetherling, 1974). Directories, Can., Prov. of, 1851, 1857/58; Ont., 1869, 1871. The Oxford gazetteer; containing a complete history of the county of Oxford, from its first settlement . . . , comp. T. S. Shenston (Hamilton, [Ont.], 1852; repr. Woodstock, 1968). Alexander Ross, “The strange revival of our best bad poet,” Maclean’s (Toronto), 78 (January–June 1965), no.1: 18–19. Harry Whitwell, Ingersoll: our heritage (Ingersoll, ).