‘We preferred a pint to a princess!’ — Grace Kelly’s famous trip to Tannadice remembered 35 years on

© DC ThomsonPrincess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco at Tannadice for the Dundee United v Monaco match in 1981.
Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco at Tannadice for the Dundee United v Monaco match in 1981.

She was the film star who became a princess.

After making her name in Hollywood, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco and retired from acting.

In 1981 the couple flew in to Scotland to stay with friends in Meigle before travelling to watch Monaco’s UEFA Cup tie against Dundee United at Tannadice on September 30.

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco at Tannadice. © DC Thomson
Princess Grace at Tannadice.

It would be her last visit to Britain before her tragic death a year later.

Monaco were 5-2 down from the first leg but won 2-1 on the night.

Dundee singer/songwriter Michael Marra alluded to Grace Kelly’s appearance in front of the Taylor Brothers Coal sign in the song Hamish which he later recorded for United goalkeeper Hamish McAlpine’s testimonial.

Hamish McAlpine at Tannadice. © DC Thomson
Hamish McAlpine at Tannadice.

Recalling the visit 35 years on, McAlpine said the players didn’t get to meet one of the world’s most famous women – preferring a pint to a princess.

McAlpine said: “We were 5-1 up when I misjudged a deep cross in the 89th minute.

“The boys were slagging me off but I said: ‘Look, we had to let them score or they wouldn’t turn up for the second game’.

“It might have been Monaco but we just treated it as another game.

How The Courier reported the visit. © DC Thomson
How The Courier reported the visit.

“The return leg was when Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly came to Tannadice – but we didn’t meet them; I think we were more interested in getting to the pub after the game!

“Michael immortalised their visit in the song and it was absolutely true – there was a big sign that said ‘Taylor Brothers Coal’ and I think that was where they were sitting.”

Big-haired 70s pop legend Leo Sayer later fell in love with the song and was just as intrigued by the goalkeeper who had inspired it.

He recorded his own version and even turned up in Dundee to ask locals if McAlpine was just like he was portrayed in the song.

It turned out he was and Sayer had a new hero to worship.

McAlpine said: “I was humbled when I read the lyrics and I thought, ‘This goalie must be damn good!’

“I should be sick of it but I still have a great affection for it.

“I know Leo Sayer recorded it and I remember hearing it but I didn’t realise Leo was such a big fan of mine.”

Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace at Edinburgh Airport in 1981 after flying in for the game in Dundee. © DC Thomson
Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace at Edinburgh Airport in 1981 after flying in for the game in Dundee.

United regularly played in Europe during the Jim McLean glory years but McAlpine said they just took every game as it came.

McAlpine said the team were unlucky not to win more trophies, especially in Europe, where they went close twice.

He said: “These were massive teams we were playing but I think over the piece we gave a great account of ourselves in the European escapades.”

As for a singing date with Leo Sayer when he brings his tour to Scotland next year, McAlpine is already warming up the vocal chords.

“I know that Leo is coming to the UK next year so he might yet get to sing it on the pitch at Tannadice – maybe I should warm up my throat and sing it with him!

“Leo singing it on the pitch at a promotion party – that wouldn’t be too bad; we just have to hope.”


“Hamish McAlpine was an amazing character” — Leo Sayer

Sayer’s version of the song – which he recorded in the 1980s – was lost for 20 years until Michael Marra’s son eventually dug it out while tidying up.

Sayer recalled: “The song was written for his testimonial game by another local hero – songwriter Michael Marra.

“When I met him in London we became instant friends.

“When amongst other songs he played me Hamish, I thought it was great and had to record it.”

Marra’s song Hamish was recorded for McAlpine’s testimonial in 1983 and was later included on his album On Stolen Stationary in 1991.

“Hamish McAlpine was an amazing character,” said Sayer.

“He was a mighty kicker, had guts and determination, inspired the crowd like a true hero, conducting the fans’ singing while brilliantly protecting United’s woodwork.

“He lifted so many spirits during his playing years; it’s a wonder he’s not on any honours list.

“When I first heard the song, I was so intrigued by his legend that I just had to find out more.

“So, on a couple of visits to Dundee, I asked some local folk about him.

“I found out he was just like he was portrayed in the song.”

Sayer gave his blessing for his version of the song to be used on a fundraising album.


A life in the spotlight

A highly popular film actress in the 1950s, Grace Kelly starred in movies such as Dial M for Murder and To Catch a Thief.

She gained even greater fame after having starred in the film The Country Girl in 1954, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress.

She married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, with whom she had three children, in 1956.

She died after having been in a car accident on September 14, 1982.