Live piping recitals resume with celebration of Kinloch composer

Alex MacIver

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Lewis and Harris Piping Society is tuning up to resume its programme of regular live recitals with an evening event in Lochs on Friday October 1.

The society has invited Pipe Major Roderick J MacLeod MBE from Glasgow, who has strong family connections with Kinloch, to be the main guest for the recital in the Kinloch Community Hub, Old Balallan School.

Roddy has agreed to include in his programme a selection of tunes composed by the late PM Alex M MacIver. Pipe Major Alex MacKenzie MacIver was born in Glasgow. On his return from service in India in 1947, he joined the 214th Boys Brigade as pipe tutor and nurtured generations of aspiring pipers over many years including Iain MacLellan of Glasgow Police Pipe Band and Robert Wallace, former director of the College of Piping.

He composed many tunes across the spectrum of pipe music: slow airs, marches, strathspeys, reels, hornpipes and jigs. The names he gave to many of his tunes reflected his strong Hebridean heritage, including Achmore Loch, The Laxay Poachers, The Kyles of Scalpay and the Ullapool Ferry.

Alex died suddenly at his home in Glasgow on May 27 1989. In 2011, as a tribute to his former tutor, Hector Russell catalogued approximately 30 of his compositions and kindly donated these tunes to Kinloch Historical Society to ensure their availability to island pipers in the future.

Playing some of these in Balallan will be Roddy MacLeod, one of the best-known pipers in the world. Roddy was taught by the legendary Duncan Johnstone who was known as ‘King of the Jigs’. He has won all the major professional piping competitions, many of them several times, over the past 40 years. In 1995 he was appointed the first director of the newly-established National Piping Centre, a position he held successfully for 25 years. He was also the founding director of the internationally-renowned Piping Live festival held annually in August in Glasgow.

Lewis and Harris Piping Society recitals have traditionally started with a young piper playing a few tunes while the main recitalist is tuning the pipes off stage.

On this occasion, John Angus Graham from Bragar will get the evening going at 7.30pm with a short selection on an interesting set of pipes that belonged to his grand-uncle John MacDonald, known as ‘An Toad’, who served in the Camerons in World War Two.

This recital has been planned for some time in conjunction with Kinloch Historical Society but was postponed due to the Covid restrictions. Hopefully it can go ahead on October 1. Bean Chathaireach for the evening is Maggie Smith, a member of the Historical Society.

On behalf of Kinloch Historical Society, Maggie said: ‘We would like to express our gratitude to Hector Russell, Glasgow, who collated the extensive collection of PM MacIver’s compositions. Our thanks to the relatives of the MacIver family for permission to create the publication of tunes, which is being launched at the recital,  also Lewis and Harris Piping Society for organising this recital in our area.’

Admission, payable at the door, is £10 for adults and free for juniors.