I am saddened to report the sudden passing of piper Hector Russell, writes the Editor. Hector suffered a heart attack at his home in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, and died on Saturday. He was 77.
His death comes only a few weeks after the completion of his ‘Pipe Music of Alex M MacIver’, a book he compiled in tribute to his former teacher and which was recently reviewed with acclaim on Piping Press.
Hector was from Dumbarton and had his first lessons there. His father worked with Alex Ibell at the town’s Blackburn Aeroplane Company which built Sunderland flying boats during WW2.
Alex was the first tutor for boys at the 214 Boys Brigade band further along the banks of the River Clyde in Whiteinch. This association between Hector’s father and Alex Ibell led to a young Hector being taken along to the ‘214’ where his schooling in piping began in earnest.
He blossomed as a pupil and was soon winning all the amateur piping prizes available to him. He had lessons from band tutors Dan Finlay, Joe King and Alex MacIver, and piobaireachd tuition from Dan’s cousin John Finlay, a pupil of Robert Reid.
This culminated in Hector winning the Scottish Pipers’ Association’s John MacDougall Gillies trophy for piobaireachd, the most highly valued prize for juvenile pipers at the time. Hector is pictured above with the trophy and medal in 1992 when it was on display in RG Hardie & Co’s former premises at 24 Renfrew Street, Glasgow.
Hector continued to live in Dumbarton during his time with the BB and was always concerned about catching the last bus home from Glasgow after band practice. On several occasions when he missed it Alex MacIver, one of the few people with a car in the early 1960s, would run him the 11 miles home.
At 18 Hector left the Boys’ Brigade and joined the Red Hackle Pipes & Drums under P/M John Weatherston. He enjoyed many successes with the band where among his contemporaries were Andrew Wright and Malcolm MacKenzie.
Work committments took Hector south of the border but he never lost his interest in piping. In the early 2000s he was a regular at the College of Piping’s annual piobaireachd class conducted by Andrew.
Nor did he forget the debt of gratitude he owed to his old BB company, working tirelessly for the ex-members association in compiling historical articles about the pipe band and the wider company.
The book of Alex MacIver tunes was meticulously researched. Hector spent many hours tracing family, seeking permission to use music and photographs.
Ever modest, he spoke very little about his own playing ability but when I joined the band as an 11 year old his name was legion among the pipers. If you could emulate Hector you would go far.
He was extremely proud of the 214s successes and only last week sent me lists of their record wins at the World Championships, Cowal and in the Highland Shield for BB bands.
Hector was kind, considerate, a gentleman and a credit to the Boys’ Brigade. He never forgot a friend or anyone who had helped him in his career both in and out of piping. Our thoughts are with his wife Marilyn and family.
- If anyone would like to leave a message of condolence or share a memory of Hector please do so in our comments section.