When John Center and his family immigrated to Australia in 1908, James Robertson Sr and his son, James Jr took over the premises at 64 Grove Street Edinburgh. Early advertisements indicated that James Robertson was "successor to John Center & Son". James Robertson Sr was a Seaforth Highlander, competition piper, and Pipe Major. During the late 1800's he was both Pipe Major and music teacher at Wellington Reformatory. He died in July 1915 and the business was continued by James Jr. who saw active service in WWI with the Scots Guard and served as Pipe Major until 1925.
It is not known who the turners were during the early years however we do know that the standard was set high and continued as such throughout the lifetime of the company. James Martin apprenticed with the company at age 14 (probably in the 1920's however I could not find either his date of birth or other information). Martin would later become shop foreman. He immigrated to Australia in the late 1950's.
George Kilgour also started with the firm at age 14, in 1932. Certainly Martin and Kilgour were two outstanding turners, as evidenced by the decades of immaculate bagpipes that came out of the Robertson business.
My work to this point takes me back to 1914. I'm not going to post pictures of the bagpipe as it's probably from the 1950's with more recent silver (which is outstanding) by Bernie Leigh. I'm not sure where the shield came from however it is an interesting artifact.
James Jr served in the Scots Guards with Alexander Ross, brother of Willie Ross. Alexander applied for a patent in 1923 regarding what was later called a "Drawing Room" bagpipe, which was made by Robertson. More pictures and information can be found in the Alexander Ross room of the museum. The picture to the right of a "Drawing Room" bagpipe provides us with multiple clues regarding Robertson bagpipes during the 1920's and later.
Take note of the flared, angular tuning chambers, casein rings, and nickel ferrules with center scribe lines. Also note the profile and detail of the projecting mounts, along with the material used (black casein). Together these attributes all provide important information regarding Robertson bagpipes during the 1920's and perhaps early 1930's.
The full-size Robertson bagpipe below lines up almost perfectly with the Drawing Room bagpipe and helps to establish characteristics of Robertson bagpipes from that era. Several changes took place in the decades that followed, which can be referenced through the links below.
Sometimes we take what we get (box of rough parts) and put the puzzle together as best we can. The pictures to the right show some consistency with 1920's Robertson and also some evolution. The center scribe line is moving and the stocks have gained a generous bottom bead. I am suspicious that the mid-section tenon might have been turned down to accommodate a non-Robertson mount. That's one of the challenges in working with with old bagpipes - separating what is original from what may not be.
The pictures to the left are so very important as we're now working in ivory. You can still see the angular tuning chambers, but again the center scribe line on the ferrules has moved a bit. Also very important is the "fountain" as Jack Dunbar used to describe it, under the bell. This disappeared later on altogether. Alos not the profile of the projecting mounts and the detail just beneath the bead.