John Center

John Center Bagpipes  -  Parts

from 1860s



Some of the early professional photographers were also involved in other trades, but John Center is the only professional photographer I know of who also earned his living as a bagpipe maker.

Today, his bagpipes are rather more sought after than his photos.

John Center first appeared in the Edinburgh trade directories in 1865.  No occupation given.  In later years, he was described as:

1866 to 1868


1869 to 1880

'Photographer, Bagpipe and Reed Maker'

1881 to 1908

                             'Bagpipe and Reed Maker'





The photographic business  ended around 1880.  The bagpipe business continued.

Year Business Address Home Address


3a Grove Street

3 Grove Street


161 Morrison Street



1 Grove Street




20 Angle Park Terrace


64 Grove Street   Note 1

20 Angle Park Terrace


20 Angle Park Terrace


Note 1:  This was the address of a Bagpipe and Reed Manufacture Company business being run by John Center and his brother, William, in 1901.


Family Business

John's brother William may also have been involved in running the Bagpipe and Reed Manufacture Company at 64 Grove Street in 1901. 

The bagpipe shop was later taken over by James Robertson.

One of the workers in John Center's bagpipe business was Robert Gillanders.  He later married John's eldest daughter, Jane Isabella (Jeanie Bella) in 1893.

Descendants of Robert Gillanders went on to run a bagpipe-making business in Edinburgh, Gillanders & McLeod.  Bob Gillanders, a one-time partner in the business died around early 1990s.  He was a grandson of John Center's eldest daughter.


Emigration to Australia

John and most of his family emigrated to Australia in 1908, several years after the death of his wife, Jean, 

In Australia, John continued his bagpipe-making business.

John Centre Bagpipes  -  Deteil


John Center

Composer and Bagpipe Player

   Bagpipes manufactured by John Center & Son

Bagpipe Tunes

An Edinburgh Pipe Major once composed a bagpipe tune about John Center.

Apparently John piped with such passion that his cap kept falling over his eyes. 

The tune composed about him had the title:  'Center's Bonnet'

The bagpipe tune Farewell to the Highlands was written by another member of the family, John Allan "Jack" Senter.

Thank you to Veronika Ihlenfeldt for details above.

John Center was a brother of Veronika's great great grandmother.




John Center Bagpipes

For Sale  -  2003

Two "handmade sets of John Center bagpipes" were auctioned on eBay, UK in 2003 by a seller in Perth, Western Australia.  They were bought by one of the leading bagpipe players in the USA.

For further details of this sale, including photographs of the bagpipes, please click on the link below:

Bagpipe Photographs

Thank you to Craig Kimberley McLernon, Perth, Western Australia
 for telling me about this sale.




John Center Bagpipes

Not For Sale  -  2006

Thank you to  George Nisbet, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland for telling me, in February 2006, about another set of John Center bagpipes.  This set is not for sale!

George wrote:

"I have a set of Center pipes, year of manufactured approx 1901.

The name on the chanter is J Center & Son, Edinburgh.  They are made from African Blackwood with ivory mounts.  I had them valued last year for insurance purposes at approx. 3,700.

I inherited these pipes from my dad who used to play with Pumpherston Pipe Band as a boy. 

He inherited them from his grandad (my great grandad) who also used to play.  He lived in Dumfries.  He bought the pipes new, approx. 1906ish.

I myself play with the City of Brechin Pipe Band, so they're still singing!"

Acknowledgement:  George Nisbet, Aberdeenshire, Scotland




John Center Bagpipes

around 1980

Neil Williams who wrote:


"I was hoping you might be able to help me with some information regarding Center Bagpipes. I purchased a set of bagpipes some 30 years ago from a farmer in Victoria, Australia who mentioned that they were Center bagpipes and approx 80 years old then.

From memory, the makers name was on the bottom of one of the stocks.  Without having to take the bag off the pipes, is there another way of knowing who made them?  If you could put me in contact with someone who may be able to help it would be greatly appreciated.

I found your history of John Center on the EdinPhoto web site to be very informative.  Surprisingly, I also play Gillander and Mcleod bagpipes, not knowing that they were related."

Neil Williams, Australia: January 22, 2011

Reply 1 to Neil

I don't know the answer to Neil's question above.  Perhaps somebody else might be able to help him.  If you'd like to send a reply to Neil, please email me, then I'll forward your reply to him.    Thank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  February 2, 2011

Reply 2 to Neil

Thank you to Kirstie Center who replied:

"I can't give you any information to you about his question but if you may be able to get some help from Ron Bowen.  He runs a website called The Bagpipe Place."

Kirstie Center, Yallourn North, Victoria, Australia:  April 2, 2011
Kirstie Center is great-great-grand-daughter of John Center

Reply 3 to Neil

Thank you to Kirstie Center who wrote again:

"I've looked over a set of Center bagpipes and found a possible solution to Neil's problem, if he hasn't already found one.

On this particular set, there is also a small inscription of 'Center' on the chanter. This was located at the top of the chanter (above the first pipe hole and where the chanter connects to the chanter stock).  This is able to be seen even with the bag and cover on"

Kirstie Center, Yallourn North, Victoria, Australia:  May 18, 2011
Kirstie Center is great-great-grand-daughter of John Center


John Center and the Senter Family

Most of the family were named Senter. John used the name Center.

George was Center (marriage records), but Centre (christening records).


John Center                    Jane                     Willie and Amy

Family Tree                   Leaving Scotland                   Today


John (Aberdeen)         John (Edinburgh)          Family (Edinburgh)

Cartes de Visite

John Center                  By John Center:   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8


Bagpipe Maker                        Bagpipe Photographs