Jimmy Beairsto, "the Fiddling Barber" | Bowing Down Home
Jimmy Beairsto was born during a freak snowstorm on the family farm in Indian River. According to family lore, he was only two lbs., two oz. (about one kg.) when born and was kept in a shoebox on the oven door as a makeshift incubator.
Jimmy got his first fiddle at the age of nine. It was a gift from his older brother Preston. One of the first tunes he learned was Soldiers Joy. He played the violin by ear and would generally listen to a tune once and within a short time he'd be able to master it.
In the early 1930s, Beairsto bought a farm on the Old Town Rd in Baltic; soon afterwards he married Hattie Campbell and they had two sons. He held the farm until 1964 and engaged in "mixed farming"; he raised Holstein cattle, pigs, hens and grew potatoes, grain, peas, cucumbers, turnips and other vegetables. Most of the time he had two horses.
In 1964 the Beairstos bought a house in Kensington, next door to the Canadian Legion. This was about the time he opened up Jimmy's Barbershop, and kept that business open until 1984. Known as the fiddling barber, his shop was often a gathering place for other fiddlers and the musically inclined, as attested in stories told by Alvin Bernard and Ivan Day. According to many people familiar with the shop, not many haircuts were happening but there was always music being heard down the street.
Jimmy spent many hours repairing other people's violins and guitars. One gentleman from England was so taken with Beairsto's skills as a luthier that he would fly all the way to PEI for repairs and maintenance on his violin.
Jimmy had a lifetime membership to the PEI Fiddlers Association. In later years he often provided music for performances by Libby Hubley's Lady Slipper Dancers and was a frequent participant at Reuben's Jamboree in Clinton View Lodge.
In 1983, Beairsto gave his violin to his only granddaughter Heather Mae, who was 9 at the time; she still has his fiddle to this day. All five of Jimmy's great-grandchildren have learned to play the violin, carrying on the family tradition.
The musical selection that accompanies this page was provided by Melissa Marie Morse; it was recorded in 1968.
Bio and photos (still to come) provided by Heather Mae Zinck.