New Radio Programme About P/M Alex M MacIver and 214 BB Pipe Band

The men behind the success of the 214, Alex MacIver and Alex Ibell

Pipe Major Alex M MacIver was one of the men behind the incredible success of the 214 Boys Brigade Pipe Band in Glasgow. He led the band to unprcedented success for a juvenile band at the time from post WW2 until 1980.

A soldier, piper, pipe tutor and life long supporter of the Glasgow Lewis and Harris Association, Alex is now the subject of a radio programme about his life.

It features some of his tunes and information about Oidhche Challainn (New Year’s Eve) an ancient Isle of Lewis tradition, also the fundraising event which was at the heart of his life until his passing in 1989. The programme was broadcast on Isles FM community radio Isle of Lewis but is still available on SoundCloud (below).

The 214 BB Pipe Band produced a whole string of Grade 1 pipers and drummers including P/M Ian McLellan, Strathclyde Police, Robert Wallace, editor of Piping Press and President of the Piobaireachd Society, Hector Russell of Red Hackle PB, Gordon Fergusson and Douglas Elmslie of Muirhead & Sons, Alasdair Ross, Strathclyde Police, James Hardie, Muirheads, John Finlay of Muirheads and Clan MacRae, Archie Maclean of Clan Macrae and senior solo adjudicator; drummers Robert Turner (Muirheads), Alex Connel (Strathclyde Police) and Joe Noble (Renfrew).

A history of the band also features in the new collection of Boys Brigade pipe music recently published by John Shone:

You can order the book here.

The programme came about after Hector Russell sent a copy of a book of P/M MacIver’s music to radio host Maggaidh Smith of Isles Radio. Hector writes:

‘One of my first steps in my adventure to source the compositions by Alex MacIver was to find a Lewis connection to aid me in my quest. 

Champions both…. 214 boys Douglas Elmslie and Hector Russell both winners of the SPA’s John MacDougall Gillies trophy for piobaireachd

‘I was given the telephone number of Maggie Smith and made the contact explaining the purpose of my approach. I told her that we had already gathered a number of Alex’s musical creations some of which had Lewis connections like Achmore Loch.

‘Achmore Loch!’, Maggie enthused saying that not only did she live in Achmore but was looking as we spoke out of her kitchen window at the very loch in question! 

Hector is second from the left in this picture of the 214 band after winning the BB Highland Shield in 1961. Gordon Ferguson is fourth from the left, Douglas Elmslie third from the right and Robert Turner far right

‘This was some years ago and since then I have received every possible assistance from Maggie about Lewis and Gaelic and many related topics. Maggie is a lady of many talents. She is resident in Achmore in the croft adjacent to where Alex MacIver’s mother was born and brought up. 

‘She is among many other things a writer, a musician, an actress, a historian/researcher a writer and broadcaster. Maggie had for some time a plan to create two radio broadcasts about Alex and his achievements.

Broadcaster Maggaidh Smith

‘The first in English was to cover his piping contribution and the second in Gaelic covering his significant achievements in Gaelic culture particularly in theatre. This was to be two half hour programmes. However such was the volume of material she had collected this plan morphed into an hour long event.

‘Maggie has been and remains a very valuable ally on ‘Matters MacKeever’ providing much information and contact with several very useful sources. I thank Maggie for all her assistance and constant wise advice.’

Listen to the programme here:

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