Bob Semple: a new tune for a pipe band legend

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A photograph of Bob Semple taken during WW2.

A new tune has been composed in honour of Robert – Bob – Semple O.A.M, B.E.M. who died in January after a short illness, aged 99.

Bob was a huge figure in the piping scene of Australia and was at the centre of the pipe band movement there for most of the 20th century. At his funeral a couple of months ago, a former Governor-General (Quentin Bryce) and a former Victoria State Premier (Ted Baillieu) delivered readings and comments. Two pipe bands played, Australia’s armed forces sent a troop of soldiers and the Scots’ Church Melbourne was filled to overflowing. The police closed part of the street to allow for mourners. It was reportedly almost like a state funeral.

During the Second World War Bob joined the 2/12th Australian Field Regiment – 9th Australian Division, which ultimately saw more front-line combat action than any other Australian division. The unit was dubbed the ‘Rats of Tobruk’.

In 1946, in same month he returned to Australia, Bob joined the Hawthorn City Pipe Band and played in its ranks until 1960. He remained associated with the band for the rest of his life, though, being appointed Drum Major until his death.

Iain Bell of Canonbie never knew Bob but was touched by the news of his death. Iain composed this 2/4 march in honour of Bob but also of his comrades:

Iain Bell.

Iain, who in 2018 published his own collection of original pipe tunes, From Scots Borderer To Ulster Scot, said: “I believe Bob had a couple of tunes composed for him already and I hope those who knew him find my tune worthy of him and a ‘cheery’ one suitable to his ‘upbeat’ character.”

A spokesman for the Hawthorn Pipe Band said: “It’s wonderful to see another tune in Bob’s name and I’m sure he would be pleased to see that this tune is also for his former comrades.”

*Bob’s full obituary appeared in the March Piping Times.