Biography of James McIntyre
James McIntyre (baptised 25 May 1828 – 31 March 1906), called The Cheese Poet, was a Canadian poet.
McIntyre was born in Forres, Scotland and came to Canada in 1841 at the age of 14. He worked as a hired hand to begin with, performing pioneer chores that formed the basis of a number of his works. Later, he settled in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he dealt in furniture. There he married and had a daughter and son. He later moved to Ingersoll, Ontario, then a town of 5,000 on the banks of the Thames in Oxford County, the then-heart of Canadian dairy country. He opened a furniture factory on the river as well as a store which sold furniture, along with such items as pianos and coffins.
He was well-loved in the community, from which he often received aid in hard times, due in part to his poesy and oratorical skills -- he was called on to speak at every kind of social gathering in Ingersoll. The region seems to have inspired him, and it was in celebration of the proud history of Canada, the natural beauty and industry of the region, and especially (as noted above) its cheese, that the majority of his oeuvre was written.
McIntyre was uninhibited by minor shortcomings -- such as his lack of literary skills. The Toronto Globe ran his pieces as comic relief, and the New York Tribune expressed amusement, but their mockery did not dampen his enthusiasm. He is assumed to have continued writing until his death, in 1906.
McIntyre was forgotten after his death for a number of years, until his work was rediscovered and reprinted by William Arthur Deacon -- literary editor of the Toronto Mail and Empire and its successor the Globe and Mail -- in his book The Four Jameses (1927).
In recent years a volume of his work, Oh! Queen of Cheese: Selections from James McIntyre, the Cheese Poet (ed. Roy A Abramson; Toronto: Cherry Tree, 1979) collected his poems together with a variety of cheese recipes and anecdotes. However, the greatest boost to his fame probably came from a number of his poems being anthologized in the collection Very Bad Poetry, edited by Ross and Kathryn Petras (Vintage, 1997). This included his masterpiece and possibly best-known poem, "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds," written about an actual cheese produced in Ingersoll in 1866 and sent to exhibitions in Toronto, New York, and Britain.
An annual poetry contest is held in Ingersoll, Ontario, to honour McIntyre. The contest is sponsored by The Ingersoll Times and the Corporation of the Town of Ingersoll, and includes a cheese-themed poetry competition.
James McIntyre's Works:
Musings on the Canadian Thames (1884);
Poems of James McIntyre (1889)
Oh! Queen of Cheese: Selections from James McIntyre, the Cheese Poet (1979)
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James McIntyre Poems
Ode On The Mammoth Cheese
We have seen the Queen of cheese, Laying quietly at your ease, Gently fanned by evening breeze -- Thy fair form no flies dare seize.
Oxford Cheese Ode
The ancient poets ne'er did dream That Canada was land of cream, They ne'er imagined it could flow In this cold land of ice and snow,
American Poets: Longfellow
Like fruit that's large and ripe and mellow, Sweet and luscious is Longfellow, Melodious songs he oft did pour, And high was his Excelsior.
Prophecy Of A Ten Ton Cheese
In presenting this delicate, dainty morsel to the imagination of the people, I believed that it could be realized. I viewed the machine that turned and raised the mamoth cheese, and saw the powerful machine invented by James Ireland at the West Oxford companies factory to turn the great and fine cheese he was making there. This company with but little assistance could produce a ten ton cheese. Who hath prophetic vision sees
Our muse it doth refuse to sing Of cheese made early in the spring, When cows give milk from spring fodder You cannot make a good cheddar.
Irish Poets: Oliver Goldsmith
Goldsmith wrote Deserted Village, Now again reduced to tillage; Once happiest village of the plain, Place now you look for it in vain;
If you are sulky, Nova Scotia, We'll gladly let you float away From out our Confederation; You sicken us with sily agitation.
When this country it was woody, Its great champion, Mrs. Moody, She showed she had both pluck and push, In her work, roughing in the bush.
Father Ranney, The Cheese Pioneer
When Father Ranney left the States, In Canada to try the fates, He settled down in Dereham, Then no dairyman lived near him;
Windmills And Stone Stables
Cows suffered in the days of old For want of water and from cold, Now of good water they have fill For it is pumped by the windmill.
Hints To Cheese Makers
Addressed to Jonathan Wingle, Esq. All those who quality do prize
My friends, we sing Canadian themes, For in them we proudly glory; Her lakes, her rivers and her streams, Worthy of renown in story.
English Poets: Shelley
Fertile Lands And Mammoth Cheese
In barren district you may meet Small fertile spot doth grow fine wheat, There you may find the choicest fruits, And great, round, smooth and solid roots.
Hints To Cheese Makers
Addressed to Jonathan Wingle, Esq.
All those who quality do prize
Must study color, taste and size
And keep their dishes clean and sweet,
And all things round their factories neat,
For dairymen insist that these
Are all important points in cheese.