Hector Russell 1945 – 2022

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.


Hector and the 214 after yet another Highland Shield win…Left to right: Alex M MacIver, Dan Finlay, Hector, Junior Callaghan, ?, Gordon Ferguson, Jim Marshall, ?, Dougie Elmslie, Robert Turner, John MacDougall, Joe King, Alex Ibell

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.

Hector and the Hackle….Hector is second from the left front row in this shot of the Red Hackle Pipes & Drums from the early 1970s

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.

The book compiled by Hector for his old pipe major

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.

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7 thoughts on “Hector Russell 1945 – 2022

  1. Just returned from a road trip ‘out bush’ and received the sad news of Hector’s passing. I was playing with the 214 in the same era as Hector and many a great time we had in the BB and on the competition field. We had a few exchanges of emails as he strived to complete his book of P/M Alex MacIver compositions; a great achievement.
    Hector, like many other ex-members including myself, fondly look back on our days in Boys’ Brigade and really appreciate the wonderful tuition we received as young pipers and drummers from a truly dedicated team, not to mention the life lessons that have stood us in good stead. R.I.P. Hector.

  2. It’s a great sadness and a considerable shock to learn that Hector has passed so suddenly. It seems hardly any time since my brother, Alastair, and I were talking to him at the funeral of our father, Willie McDonal,d on 16th Sept. Not so very long before that, in July, the two gentlemen were sitting here in the livingroom, having a dram to toast the publication of Hector’s new work on The Pipe Tunes of Pipe Major Alex Maciver. Hector was kind enough to present our father with the first copy of the first edition, and the generous inscription he wrote in it is rather poignant now:

    “This book is for Willie to help him celebrate his 95th Birthday. He is now our oldest surviving member. No one of our membership had a longer or closer connection to Alex. This is the first copy of the book to be acquired by the 214 Ex Members. Very Best Wishes from all BB fellow ex members.

    SURE & STEADFAST Hector Russell”

    Though our Dad only had a few weeks to enjoy Hector’s book, he was often found with it open on his lap, carefully studying its photos or tunes. It gave him a lot of pleasure, so we are grateful for that.

    I gather that in the days when Willie and his Old Amigo Tom (McColl) were still fit enough to attend reunions, Hector made a considerable contribution to road safety by taking our father in his car, allowing him to enjoy a wee refreshment (or two, or maybe three).

    Our heartfelt sympathy goes to Hector’s family at this difficult time.

    Eileen and Alastair McDonald

  3. Thanks for posting Robert… saddened indeed…. Hector Russell was a longtime friend….from his days in the Hackle up to the present… with his keen interest in researching and publishing the pipe music of notable influences in his life…we collaborated on the works of the blind piper, Archibald MacNeill. As I live in Canada, I was a friend of Archie’s son, Alec MacNeill, from Montreal, (who mentored me to some degree in the 60’s)…. Alec’s son in law, Pipe Major Billy Gilmore of the RCR’s here in Canada, also assisted us in our researches. I remember so very fondly our trips to the Argyllshire Gathering. Hector would take the train up with Malkie MacKenzie (ex Hackle) and Ian MacLellan (ex Strathclyde Police)… I would meet them there… days of great humour – great music… and of course a dram or two!… I will miss my conversations with him going forward… RIP Hector – you were a good man!

  4. Sad news indeed, couldn’t believe it when I heard this yesterday while on holiday.

    Hector will be greatly missed by all in the 214BB Ex Members Association, as well as by myself.

    Thankfully once Hector got an idea he was like a dog with a bone, constantly badgering Ex Members for information.

    This sterling work produced a massive amount of information for the benefit of all, which can be found at http://www.214bb.com

    Thanks Hector for all your hard work and dedication.

    Condolences to Marilyn and the family.

    Alan

  5. A Great loss to piping, One of natures gentlemen who only ever had such a positive approach to life and a wonderfull sense of humour.
    R.I.P. Hector. We are going to miss you dearly.

    1. I was taking on the phone with Hector only 10 days ago. He sounded bright and his usual self. Quite shocked to hear the news from via dad from Iain McLellan. A close family friend over the years who will be sadly missed by all who new him. RIP Hector.

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