Robert J. K. Semple B.E.M. O.A.M. joined the Hawthron Pipe Band in 1945 after returning from six years of service in World War Two.
The proud record of success of the Hawthorn City Pipe Band has been built on its unique blend of experience and youth. The most important element in this blend is the extensive experience of the senior members of the Band in top level competition upon which newer members can draw. In the eyes of the public and the pipe band world, no one more clearly typifies the experience as well as the spirit and style, of the Band than its Drum Major, Robert (Bob) Semple B.E.M.
A Life Member of the Hawthorn City Pipe Band, Bob has been involved in the world of pipe bands since 1936, when he joined the Victorian Scottish Regiment – 5th Battalion. At the outbreak of World War II he put aside his pipes and joined 2/12th Australian Field Regiment – 9th Australian Division as an original member of the unit. Between 1940 and 1945 Bob saw service in some of the most active theatres of war; Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, the siege of Tobruk, El Alamein and later in New Guinea and Borneo. The same month Bob returned to Australia he joined the Hawthorn City Pipe Band, after listening to the Band playing in a local park. So began one of the great success stories of the Australian pipe band scene.
Between 1945 and 1961 Bob served as a piper with the Band when the foundations were laid for the great success of the future decades. At the conclusion of his piping career Bob assumed the position of Drum Major of the Band, a position he has continued to hold to this day. As Drum Major, Bob Semple has made an indelible stamp on the character of the Hawthorn City Pipe Band and on the pipe band fraternity as a whole. He has won the Victorian Champions Drum Majors’ Title on 24 out of a possible 28 occasions. At the national level he has won the Australian Title no fewer than seven times.
In 1977 Bob Semple was elected principal of the Dress & Drill Panel of the Australian Federation of Pipe Band Associations. He continued to be re-elected until his retirement in 1987. When not competing he is regularly called upon as the most highly regarded Dress & Drill Judge in Australia. In 1983 Bob was awarded the B.E.M. for his services to pipe bands, and in 1990 was the inaugural winner of the Sir Rupert Hamer Perpetual Trophy for outstanding service to the pipe band community.
As the public face of the Band, Bob Semple is, with out doubt, the most instantly recognisable bandsman in Australia today.