James Riddell

-Pipe Major- (1946-1997)

James RiddellPipe Major James Riddell was born on September 2, 1946 and joined the Scots Guards in 1963, taking piping lessons from Pipe Major “Curly” Roe. He joined the 1st Battalion in 1965 and studied with Pipe Major Angus MacDonald during tours of Borneo and Malaya. He became Pipe Sergeant in 1979, and Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion in 1981. He led the band successfully in Grade 2 competition and earned promotion to Grade 1. He was protective of the pipers under his command and was well respected by them, though he could be tough taskmaster as well.

He left the service in 1991 with an exemplary conduct assessment.

During the Falklands War, on June 13 1982, the Scots Guards attacked Argentine positions on Mount Tumbledown, engaging in fierce and mortal hand-to-hand combat. Twelve pipers were among the Guardsman in the attack, though they were there to fight, not to pipe. However, once the battle was won, Pipe Major Riddell produced his pipes on the summit and played the tune for which he is famous. “The Crags of Tumbledown Mountain,” was reportedly written on the back of a cigarette package, though this may well be apocryphal.

Nine Scots Guardsman were killed in the battle, the fury of which was unequalled by any other in the conflict.

James Riddell died in February 1997 from a brain tumour and he was buried in his home town of Stonehaven, Scotland.

JM, April 2007
-with notes from Piping Times, October 2002, July 1997, and private communication with P/M Roger Huth.


  • I was just wondering if James had been in Cromarty J S School in the 1950’/60′? We had been in school at the same time and had been good pals!

  • There was full highlights of the 1976 Edinburgh Tattoo years ago on youtube, and I’m pretty sure he was the lone piper at the very end of the clip walking along the battlements of the castle playing Lament for Donald Dougal Mackay

  • Jimmy Riddell, Patch Keenan John Slattery, we partied hard back in the day. MOËCHENGLADBACH (International music fest) and Frankfurt, when the Scottish Football team was in the World Cup. In my government quarters no less. Sandy (?) brought his pipes…need I say more. One of the few times I felt cheated in life…sitting in the stands during rehearsal for the Highland Games with Pipe Major John McKenzie (last name?) Talking about Crags Of Tumbledown Mountain. Happened to notice the name James Riddell as the composer. We got around to mentioning my two times in life to be with James. “You know Jimmy Riddell” was asked and I replied YES! “You just missed him lad, he was here to judge the Pipe Competition.” Have always felt cheated for that

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