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Rev. Alex Muir: 26 Dec. 1940 - 15 March 2010


Rev. Alex Muir was very well known for a wide variety of reasons, across Scotland and beyond. The last of four articles written by Alex on Revival in the Highlands was published just before he died.
Alex's brother John has provided the following short biography which touches on the the wide variety of Alex's life, ministry and interests.



Rev. Alexander Muir MA. BD.
a biographical synopsis

Alex recording at home after his retirement to Inverness
Alex with guitar1ALEX was brought up in a loving, happy Christian home. His parents were in the Christian Brethren and he, his sister Jean and brother John came to know the Lord at an early age.

Through Sunday School, Bible class and regular church attendance they learned about the Christian faith. In their late teens, he and his close friend Colin Rankin began to do lay-preaching and singing in open airs, in hospitals and around the many small mission halls scattered across Glasgow in these days. Later,his brother John would join him and their friends to sing and preach together in small teams in churches and missions in the city.

Alex attended Rutherglen Academy and Glasgow University where he graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Scottish History and Literature. After completing a Post -Graduate Diploma in Education at Jordanhill College, he taught English (and occasionally History), first of all at Greenfield Secondary in Glasgow. He also studied French and became a fluent speaker.

Missioning in France and Africa


In 1963, as an extension of his French studies, he spent time in France to improve his linguistic competence and decided to take the opportunity to do Christian work whilst he was there. He lived with a pastor in Paris and did some work with a French evangelist, Georges Buisson. He returned to the Limoges area during the summer holidays in 1964 with his brother John and Colin Rankin to support Georges in his church’s outreach to small villages and towns in Central France. They would set out in the warm summer mornings in his bouncy Citroen 2cv, with packed lunches and books for the Stand de la Bible which they carried with them to set up in open air markets.

Alex also had a burden for Africa. In 1966 he a took a year out of teaching to respond to an invitation to help at the West African Missionary Training Centre in Nigeria, where he taught English and Biblical Studies. During the year there he also was keen to take the opportunity to support outreach work, not only in cities but also among some of the tribes in remoter areas. Alex did not lose that passion for missionary work and, on returning to Scotland, was often in contact with foreign students who came along to the city church he attended. The Muir home came to be called “The United Nations” as on many a Sunday there was at least one overseas student present at the lunch table.

Return to teaching


He took up teaching again in 1967, working in two schools in Lanarkshire, latterly as Assistant Principal Teacher of English. In 1969 he met his future wife Catriona at Auchenheath House in Lanarkshire, the home of their mutual friend Dr. Jack Kelly. It was romance all the way from then on. They were married on the 9th July 1971 and set up home in Glasgow, where Kenneth and Graham were born.

Alex continued to teach until 1977, when he felt called to the Ministry of the Word. He returned to Glasgow University to study for a Bachelor of Divinity degree, after being accepted as a candidate for the Church of Scotland Ministry. He graduated in 1980. He did short assistantships in Largs, on the island of Barra and occasional ministry in Sutherland and Wester Ross, before being called to the parish of Canisbay with Keiss in 1982. Their sons Alistair and Ian were born there.

Parish ministry in Caithness


Alex had a fruitful ministry in Caithness, where his preaching and pastoral care of the parishioners were greatly appreciated. He also had the privilege of being Minister to the Queen Mother when she was on holiday at the Castle of Mey. Not long after arriving at the manse in Cansibay, he and Catriona had the honour of being invited to the castle for dinner. This was to be the first of many visits and Alex was able to offer pastoral support to the Queen Mother during his ministry. Alex never divulged any confidences to anyone, including the press, who would sometimes pester him for information about his times at the castle – and the Queen Mother clearly respected him greatly for this.

The Queen Mother and 'The Jeely Piece' song


The dinner parties were not sombre affairs. On learning of Alex’ musical abilities, she invited him to sing Scottish songs and ballads in the drawing room after dinner. This became a regular event. Alex was asked to take his guitar along and had the songs copied out for everyone to join in. Perhaps the greatest memory of these occasions, which Alex and Catriona greatly enjoyed, was the evening when, to their surprise, the Queen joined her mother for dinner at the castle from the Royal Yacht. There was a memorable, if surreal, moment, when the Queen Mother asked for Alex to lead them all in the singing of “The Jeely Piece” song and the Queen seemed to enjoy the humour immensely!

Another particularly memorable morning was when the Queen Mother’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Fermoy, phoned the manse to ask if Her Majesty could come round to see them a few days before she ended her holiday. Unflappable, Catriona, ever the home-maker, welcomed Her Majesty and showed her around their lovely new bungalow. The Queen Mother patted their faithful black Labrador, Suithe, and showed a great interest in everything the boys were doing.

Also in Caithness, Alex made his tapes of Revival Songs, God Has Given Us Dream, Pray for Scotland and a Gaelic music cassette called Fuaim an Dusgaidh (Sound of Awakening). He collaborated with a number of musicians from the north of Scotland and also the well known Wick maestro, the accordionist Addie Harper. In 1986 he was invited to take the services for a communion season in the Outer Hebrides. While staying at the home of the weaver, Alasdair Mhor Campbell, he composed the psalm tune that became his most famous to date, Bays of Harris.

Gaelic and North Uist


His affection for Gaelic language and culture came in handy when, in 1991, Alex was called to the parish of Carinish in North Uist. He had a prolific and much appreciated ministry there until 1996 when, due to ill health, he had to take early retirement from his charge.

However, on setting up home in Inverness, he did not really retire from Christian work, for he took services from time to time and, continuing with his passion for literature and music, he spent many a long day composing and writing. For several years he was author and contributory author to a wide range of publications. He is well known in Church circles for his hymns and psalm tunes, among them, the much sung, Ballantushal, Canisbay, Dunbeath and Lochmaddy. Famously, The Bays of Harris was played by the Royal Scots Fusiliers for a charity hit single in the late 90s.

A Christian troubadour and revival historian


Alex is also well known in Scotland for his compositions for the bagpipes, although, to the surprise of many, he had never learned to play the instrument. He often collaborated with his bagpiper nephew Donald Lindsay who went on to make a CD of Alex’s compositions entitled Drum of the Sea. He always had another tune in his head, which he had to have transcribed for future use.

Much of Alex’s passion for reading and writing was focussed on the history of revivals in Scotland and it was always his fervent and regular prayer that God would pour out His Spirit on Scotland. Many of his hymns, one of which we will sing today, were prayers of intercession.

He spent long hours researching Church History and wrote many letters and articles on the topic, the latest of which appeared only last week in the magazine Sword. His passion for the Lord and for the furtherance of the Gospel was undiminished up to his passing, despite many years of suffering following his diagnosis of myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow) in 2003.

He had several relapses over the past 18 months but remained firm in his faith and witness. He passed away peacefully in the Highland Hospice in Inverness on Monday 15th March, surrounded by his family, who hold wonderful memories of his life and witness to the Gospel of Christ. Alex will indeed be greatly missed.

John G. Muir
March 2010

Alex with QM and Andrew
At Keiss church with the Queen Mother and Prince Andrew

Alex with Queen Mother
 

Footnotes:
Following Alex's retiral to Inverness, the Editor of Christians Together spent many uplifiting hours of walking, fellowshipping and conversation with Alex. During the last 12 months of Alex's life he and I spent time recording songs and informal revival conversations. Alex also supplied written material on Revivals in the Highlands which were published over a 8-month period in Sword magazine.

Extension of Alex's ministry into the future

It is the intention (d.v.) to draw on the 'legacy items' of Alex's ministry for the purpose of continuing Alex's heart for the Gospel and anyone who would like to be kept informed of this or to input to the the process should contact the Editor of Christians Together  by <clicking here> to generate an e-mail or
composing an e-mail to editor(insert 'at' sign)christianstogether.net

Alex can be heard here to Sing the Glories of the Lamb.
Other songs will be added in the near future (d.v.)




Alexs Funeral Service front pa



Funeral Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving


for the life of Rev. Alex Muir
at
Dalneigh Church of Scotland
23 March 2010

Order of Service









John Muir/Christians Together, 22/03/2010

Feedback:
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Graeme Longmuir (Guest) 28/03/2010 20:44
Alex succeeded Colin Mackenzie as minister of the Parish of Carinish (North Uist) where my home is. As chaplain to Strathallan School, I had long holidays - most of them spent at home.

Although Alex and I were "poles apart" theologically and liturgically, I came to respect his position, and, I hope, he mine.

Indeed, towards the end of his ministry, I deputised for him in the pulpit at both Clachan Church and at Carinish.

I know that members of his congregation in North Uist held him in high esteem for his pastoral care and prayers for them.

Before being called to the parish of St Andrew (The Auld Kirk) Inverurie in December 2001, after an untimely departure as the last Church of Scotland chaplain at Strathallan in 2000, I taught music in the Uists for six months. Alex telephoned me in Inverurie to ask me to harmonise some of his melodies. I was pleased to assist him with two.

Along with other former ministers from the Uists - I was glad to be present at the Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving at Dalneigh Church.

RIP - Alex.


Avonlea Krueger (Guest) 29/03/2010 15:10
We were to blessed to know Alex, Catriona and the entire Muir family. Thank you, Alex, for all you did. We are so glad that you are now with our Saviour.
Linda Hosie (Guest) 30/03/2010 13:40
I thank God that he brought Alex & family to North Uist in 1991. As a young Christian I was really encouraged & blessed through Alex, in his ministry and as a pastor. I am grateful that he encouraged me to be faithful to God & make a public profession of my faith before I left school & the island for university life. The couple of years I was able to spend under his ministry prior to leaving for university were a great foundation for my continuation in my Christian walk. Alex’s enthusiasm for the gospel and in so many aspects of life (gaelic, music and singing, to name but a few!) was infectious. One thing for me that made Alex different was that he was much more than just the parish minister. I felt he was a real friend and this was evident in the open door to the manse that Alex & Catriona always had.
When I think of Alex I echo with Paul his words from Philippians – “I thank my God every time I remember you”.

Godfrey (Guest) 01/04/2010 10:11
Blessed are those huble theslves befor the Lord
Effie MacQuien (Guest) (Guest) 05/04/2010 08:10
My husband, Donald Ewen, and I will forever treasure memories of times of loving fellowship and fun enjoyed with Alex, who was a regular visitor to our home at Tigharry in North Uist. Alex and Catriona's manse in the neighbouring parish of Clachan was ever open, and we will also never forget the very blessed times of after church fellowships we enjoyed there on Sunday evenings, when their sitting room would be full of people.Catriona was Alex's perfect helpmeet in the ministry, so loving and so hospitable.
Alex latterly longed to be with His Lord, whom he loved and served.
I was given the following poem when my own mother passed away and I found it a great comfort at the time. I pass it on with our united prayers that the God of all comfort will be with Catriona and the boys and all others who mourn Alex's passing:

'When I am gone remember I'm with Jesus,
Then do not mourn because I've passed away;
Life holds so many griefs and disappointments
And will you cry because I did not stay.

Tis only for a spell we must be parted,
Not many years to us on earth are given,
And when my Saviour tells me you are coming,
I'll go with Him and welcome you to heaven.

Grieve not because the eyes that looked upon you
Shall never see your face on earth again,
Rejoice because they look upon the Saviour
Who gave His life to ransom sinful men.

Weep not because I walk no longer with you,
Remember I am walking streets of gold,
Weep for yourselves that you awhile must tarry
Before the blessed Lord you may behold'
by Barbara C Ryberg
Lachina MacVicar (Guest) (Guest) 06/04/2010 13:53
We treasure the memories we have of Rev. Alex and Catriona and family. After years of listening to the gospel it was under Alex's preaching that I was converted and I thank God for Alex's ministry. Alex Muir had a gift for getting alongside people and speaking to them about spiritual matters and eternity in a loving and encouraging way. What enjoyable times of fellowship we had in the manse at Clachan. Alex's ministry was a blessing to many and both his and Catriona's musical talents were an added bonus. Happy times when the first singing group was started at Clachan. The manse at Clachan was a haven - once in you didnt want to leave. The Muir's home in Inverness was also a joy to visit.
We remember Catriona and the boys in our prayers.
Scott Cameron (Guest) 31/05/2010 09:07
Many of the highlights in my Christian walk were spent in while visiting homes of dear friends in North Uist and Benbecula where we often praised God till early hours of the morning. A number of those precious times were spent at the Church and Manse at Clachan where Alex had me playing the accordion to many of the tunes he had composed to be put to the Metrical Psalms. Alex has left a wonderful legacy of music, hymns, writings, and precous times of great fellowship in the Gospel. Our prayers are indeed with Catriona and the boys.

God has given us a dream
Of a glorious day to come
When the light of Christ will shine on every heart.
He’ll fulfil our heart’s desire
When he sends the holy fire
That will sweep in flames of glory o’er the land.

Now we pray with all our hearts
For the blessing God imparts
To the seeking soul the truth of God’s own word
And that even those whose minds
Seem so closed and numb and blind
Will at last behold the glory of the Lord.

Glory, glory to the Lamb,
Alleluia, praise his name
May his kingdom and his power now expand
May all people bow the knee
To the Christ of Calvary
And the praises of the Saviour fill the land.

Rev Alex Muir

Stuart Macdonald (Guest) 02/06/2010 16:20
A much loved man, who was a blessing to countless people throughout his life. We should learn from his example and continue his legacy of heartfelt prayer for revival in this land.
Fiona Bremner (ex Canisbay) (Guest) 15/03/2011 15:53
I was very sorry to hear the sad news. I always held Alex and Catriona in high regard and remember their family with fond memories. Catriona and the boys are in my thoughts at this sad time.
Editor 15/03/2011 16:18
Alex's family will appreciate your thoughts and prayers Fiona. The first anniversary of the death of loved on is always particularly poignant.
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Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Archive > Around the Region > Wider News > Rev. Alex Muir: 1940 - 15 March 2010