PEOPLE – SEMPLE David R. – Councillor

Accreditation Cleveland Standard 29/02/1936


   One of the most handsome men on the Redcar Town Council looks smart in any old suit. A future Mayor of the Borough. Wanted to be an engine-driver but a fond parent smashed the youthful ambitions. A very kindly man at heart and a genial disposition. Gives a welcome to all callers and loves old people, but very clannish and proud of his own backyard. Dissatisfied with the world and has high hopes for a now and better one – a Socialist. Lives for his fellow men and is constantly active on their behalf.
Speaks like an aristocrat, looks like an aristocrat, yet though maybe he has blue blood in his veins – he is a working man at heart. Of that type of man who is victimised by a statue to his memory. It often serves them right, but if they do it to him it won’t be all his fault. Looked up to by the people and every man within a mile of his house is a neighbour.
Councillor David R. Semple is the uncrowned King of Dormanstown. He will represent the Ward so long as he can walk about unless of course, he resigns of his own accord. The people will always support him for he is Dormanstown. Social life in Redcar’s baby suburb is usually guided by his hand and everybody knows and respects him. The respect in itself is remarkable. They have not a reverential respect for the man; all the people think of him as their own particular friend and take to him all their troubles.
I was once at a social function at Dormanstown when a happy party was at its height. Music, dancing and merrymaking was being conducted at a rapid pace and all were in a very merry mood. Suddenly the light went out, maybe the shilling was spent, or maybe it was an accidental fuse, bit it checked the proceedings for a while and a sudden silence fell. And from out of the darkness came a voice, “What’s up? As Davey Semple gone to bed?” And that’s how it goes in Dormanstown.
No matter what happens in the “garden village” they toddle round and tell him about it. And he gives satisfaction nine times out of ten. The old age pensioners have lately been for ever around his door. All of them have not had free coal this time. Sometimes he dares to tell them to go and see the Town Clerk about it, but when he says this they can hardly believe their own ears. They think he’s all-powerful and won’t believe there is anything he doesn’t know.
On the other hand, Councillor Semple enjoys his unofficial throne and lives for Dormanstown only. Here in Redcar we are sometimes bored by his songs of praise. “Dormanstown leads the way.” Those four words make up a sentence which is surely written across the man’s heart – his lips pronounce them at every function he attends.


   He has several hobbies, but his pet is the Redcar Works Club, of which he is general secretary. The club is his favourite child and he spends all his spare time inside it. But why should it not be so tender a child to him? It would have been there without him, at any rate not in its present structure. He was largely responsible for the new modern premises being established instead of the old hut which had served the working men of Dormanstown for so many years.
He is well known in the iron and steel trade. He came from Scotland in 1919 to take an appointment with Dorman Long and Co. as rolling mill heater, and has done active work in the Iron and Steel Federation helping to bring about many important national negotiations.
He was born in 1888 at Airdrie, Scotland, the son of Alexander Semple, who now manages an important iron and steel concern in Scotland, at the age of 76. He was educated at the Victoria Public and Airdrie Higher Grade School, and began work at the age of 12. In 1909 he married Miss Helen Clark. He joined the Redcar Council in 1925 at the invitation of the local Labour Party, of which he was chairman. He was made a J.P. in the October of that year and a month later a Councillor.
He was a Governor of Coatham School in the year 1934, and has held authoritative positions with the Cleveland Divisional Labour Party. He was Chairman of the Rating and Valuation Committee, and the Deputy Mayor of Redcar in the years 1934- 1935. He is a keen sportsman, fond of bowls and tennis, and is featured in the “Who’s Who” for Yorkshire.
All his life Councillor Semple has been a staunch Socialist – “a Socialist by conviction” he will tell you, – and the Labour Party owe it largely to him that Dormanstown is a Labour stronghold. When he entered municipal life in 1925 it was not because of his personal ambitions – which as a matter of fact; had never a municipal trend, something quire different. His first fight was a very stiff one for his opponent was Mr. J. Lloyd Bentley, chief chemist at Redcar Works and Mr. Semple’s next door neighbour. However, “Davey” Semple got in by 39 votes. After that he was returned unopposed until 1934 when another fight resulted in him being re-elected by almost a thousand majority.


   He began his life as an errand boy, but a very ambitious errand boy. Ever since he could talk he has wanted to be an engine-driver, and he told me a few days ago that he would still like to do something like that. The railway has fascinated him throughout his career and the only grudge he bears his father is responsible for the toppling of his castle – the man who robbed him of the chance to driving an iron horse.
“I should have been an engine driver,” he said to me once, “if it had not been for my father.” He got a job on the North British Railway, when about 15 years of age, as train register bot. He liked the job immensely and made good progress until his father decided to take his son along with him for a holiday in England. The railway would not give him leave so his father insisted on him taking “French leave.”
“And so they sacked me,” “Davey” Semple will tell you with sincere regret.
The women in Dormanstown will tell you that Mr. Semple is one of the most handsome men of the Town Council, and there is a lot in what they say. Of course our Redcar Councillor’s are not conceited, so they will not mind these bouquets being handed to their colleague from the “garden village,” and in fact they will be inclined to agree that Councillor Semple is a good looking Scotchman. He will be somewhere about 46 years old according to the songs he sings, but he does not look it.
He once objected to me printing an old photograph we have of him. “Wherever you want to print my photograph come and see me and I’ll give you one that’s up to date. I’m and old man now and I look about 27 on the picture you’ve got.” He likes to be his age, you see.
He is assuredly one of Redcar’s future Mayors. Redcar owes it to her suburb that a Dormanstown Mayor should be some day elected and when that day arrives, Councillor Semple, the unofficial monarch and ruler of the “garden village,” should certainly be the man. He deserves the honour by his years of devoted service to the Borough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   – H. P.



dean May 15, 2010 People & Characters