Stewart MacIntyre’s ancestors came to PEI from Scotland in the early 19th century. He grew up on a mixed farm, but when he was 12 his father was appointed keeper of the East Point Lighthouse. MacIntyre later worked there himself as a radio technician until his retirement in 1962. One of he hobbies he took up thereafter was building his own violins.
MacIntyre’s mother had studied music formally and learned to sing solfège. She played piano, pump organ and a bit of violin, and began teaching him to play violin “by note.” Stewart was only 17 when she passed away, and he gave up playing music for several years thereafter. When he returned to the violin in his early 20s, he started learning jigs and reels by ear. His father – who didn’t play an instrument but had a great ear – then served as a great resource because he was able to jig almost any tune upon request.
In the early 1920s, MacIntyre built the first radio ever seen in his part of PEI. He picked up a Philadelphia radio station, which announced the performance of a Scottish tune by a noted violinist. Stewart them handed the earphones to his father: “When the fellow was done I said, ‘Do you know the tune’? ‘Yes, I do,’ he said ‘but he wasn’t playing it right.’”
MacIntyre played only occasionally for local dances. Nevertheless, during the 1940s he often played for benefit dances at the Elmira Community Hall, which were organized to help the War Effort through an organization called Carry on Canada. In later years, he would sometimes spell the regular fiddler at a dance, or take over when the latter had too much to drink or was otherwise unable or unwilling to finish out his task.
Some fiddlers that MacIntyre recalls who played frequently for dances around Lakeville were Stephen Campbell, Neil Cheverie, Frank Belle MacDonald, Stephen MacDonald, Johnny Ben MacEachern, Allan McPhee, and John Joe McPhee (father of Hughie and Dan McPhee).