About Jim Motherwell

Early Days

I joined the Army as a bagpiper and ended up the Pipe Major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. During this time I took the pipe band all around the world including a 42 state 76-city tour of the United States culminating in playing at Madison Square Gardens. Playing solo on stage in front of a sell out audience and having my wife Trish in the audience was amazing.

After the first Gulf war I was asked to write a tune called Desert Storm and went to Washington to play it at a dinner night for Preside Bush Snr. Also in the Audience were HM The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. I was later awarded the BEM for services to piping.

The Royal Appointment

In 1997 I was appointed personal bagpiper to HM The Queen. When I moved into Buckingham Palace to become only the 10th piper to hold the position since 1843 the feeling was indescribable. The duties of Queen's Piper are vast and include spending a lot of time with HM working at various events in the Palace, Windsor Castle, Holyrood Palace and Balmoral Castle. At Buckingham Palace I would play at 9 every morning. We would move up to Balmoral for the summer where I played at the Queen's dining table most nights. At the gillies' ball I had my father David and my two sons Jamie and Calum up to play as guest bagpipers and the Queen thought it was amazing to have 3 generations from the same family play. My wife Trish wasn't sure who was the hardest to calm the nerves down - my Dad or my sons!

There were many happy extra occasions to play at during State events and the Golden Jubilee, far too many to name them all. But one of the best was playing at the wedding of HRH Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex in Windsor Castle. Another highlight was when myself and the Queen's Page Ray Wheaton were made Knights of the order of Independence by the then King of Jordan.

Unfortunately there were sad times too, with myself and the Pipe Major of the RHF playing HRH Princess Margaret's coffin from Kensington Palace, and me playing the coffin of HM The Queen Mother from the church in Windsor Great Park. Although a very sad occasion it was a great privilege to play for both great ladies. During my time at the Palace I occasionally had time to play at other events including with the Royal Philharmonic at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall conducted by David Arnold who did the music for Skyfall and the Olympic opening ceremony. I also played at Miss Joan Collins, wedding to Percy, a very grand affair in London.

One of my last jobs as Queen's bagpiper was to play a duet with Leslie Garret at the launch of Queen Mary 2. We did Amazing Grace just before HM did the champagne bottle. Joan Collins continued to invite me to play at her famous Xmas party in London where I played in front of many celebrities too many to mention but included Hugh Grant, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Lulu and Sir Cliff Richard. When I left the Palace in 2003 I became The Director of Pipe Music at Eton College where they have had a pipe band from 1905.


At the moment I have 36 students. I play jobs all around the world, my most recent being Hawaii, New York and Norway. I also enjoy playing at weddings. You have to be careful selecting a piper for your wedding in England. I have been at many a wedding as a guest from London to Newquay and had to sit cringing at the bagpiper playing very badly and with badly tuned pipes. Bagpipes when played properly is the most amazing sound in the world.

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