Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stewart, Robert Prescott

STEWART, Sir ROBERT PRESCOTT (1825–1894), musician, born at Dublin on 16 Dec. 1825, was son of Charles Stewart, librarian of the King's Inn, Dublin. He was musically educated in the school attached to Christ Church Cathedral, of which church he became organist in 1844. He was also appointed in the same year organist to Trinity College, and in 1852 to St. Patrick's Cathedral, where he also was a vicar-choral. In 1846 Stewart became conductor of the Dublin University Choral Society, which presented him with his robes and a jewelled bâton when he graduated doctor of music in 1851. Ten years later he was created professor of music in Dublin University. In 1872 he declined an invitation to represent Ireland at the peace festival at Boston, U.S.A. In the same year he became professor of theory at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and was knighted by Earl Spencer. In 1873 he was appointed conductor of the Dublin Philharmonic. He died at Dublin on 24 March 1894. He married, first, in 1846, Mary Anne, daughter of Peter Browne of Rahurs, Castlebar. She died on 7 Aug. 1887. Stewart married, secondly, on 9 Aug. 1888, Marie, daughter of Joseph Wheeler of Westlands, Queenstown.

Stewart was a remarkable organist and extemporiser, while his memory is said to have been phenomenal. His compositions, many of which gained prizes, are numerous, the most popular being his glees and church music. In 1870 an ode by Stewart was given at the Birmingham festival. The list of his published works includes a number of cantatas, songs, and organ music. Stewart delivered many series of lectures, including one on bagpipes, on which he was an acknowledged authority. To him belongs the credit of requiring candidates at Dublin for musical degrees to pass a literary test, an example followed some years later at Oxford and Cambridge. He was editor of the Irish ‘Church Hymnal’ (1876).

A portrait, painted by Sir T. A. Jones, belongs to the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and a statue was erected on Leinster Lawn, Dublin.

[Art. by Dr. J. C. Culwick in Musical News, 31 March and 12 May 1894; Brit. Mus. Biogr. 1897; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians, passim; manuscript life by O. J. Vignolles.]

R. H. L.