THE sound of Bob Semple’s bagpipes were heard for the last time in Bude on St Piran’s Day, as he is packing away his pipes after 18 years of playing during the town’s celebratory events.
Bob, originally from Northern Ireland, has lived in Stratton with his wife Emma for 30 years, and together they own the Tree Inn.
However, after 13 years of running the business, Bob and his wife have decided to sell the pub and move back to their family farm in Northern Ireland, which they hope to renovate and settle down in within the coming months.
Speaking of the St Piran’s walk on Sunday, March 5, Bob told the Post: “We had terrific wind this year, but against the elements, we still managed to do it, and people still turned out.”
Starting his career at GCHQ in Morwenstow — where he lived for 18 years before moving to Stratton — he recalled that his friend and colleague, Peter, was the ‘main instigator’ for the St Piran’s Day walk in Bude. He jokingly added: “So it’s Peter’s fault that I’ve been doing it for so long!”
Bob has played at numerous events in the Bude area, including New Year’s Eve celebrations, occasional local events, and the lifeboat launch event a couple of summers ago.
One event he does recall as being one of the ‘highlights’ of his bagpiping career was the annual commemoration of John Bolitho, a Cornish bard and councillor at one point. Every December, a commemoration event would be held at the pub, where choirs would be invited to come along and Bob would play the bagpipes. He said: “I would like to thank John Bolitho’s family for choosing to have the commemoration here. It was Jonathan Ball who instigated the commemoration, and it is one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing whilst piping, and I would like to thank John’s family and Jonathan Ball. It has always been a big event in my life, and to have all these Cornish voices has been an absolute honour, for an Irish man in a Cornish pub.”
Bob explained that he was taught to play the bagpipes by his father, at the age of eight. Since then, he has enjoyed presenting his skills at various local events. However, things have changed over time. He told the Post: “We’re the landlords of the Tree Inn in Stratton, and my wife and I are selling the business and we’ll be moving to Northern Ireland, to take over the family farm.
“I’ve had a lot of baggage over the last three years or so, and I can’t continue this sort of work, so we’ll be renovating the barn in Northern Ireland, and it will be like we’re back working with our own family farm again.”
Sadly for Bude, Bob’s bagpiping has come to an end, but he will always cherish and hold close to him the kindness and open-armed manner of the people of Bude and Stratton, and is sure to visit regularly.
He added: “My wife and I have always been made very welcome by the people of Bude and Stratton, and in Cornwall in general. I’ve lived here for more than half of my life now, but I expect we’ll be back and forwards.
“I’m always grateful for the welcome and affection that we have been treated with, and I will miss it terribly at times, but that’s the way of life — changes have to come, but we won’t be strangers.”