It was the day Prince Philip was thrust into the heart of a campaign to save a “Wild West” Dundee pub from demolition.
The Windmill Bar on Hilltown – which had a reputation for being “a bit rough” – was earmarked to end up in a pile of rubble 20 years ago when the derelict pub was the subject of a proposal to replace it with flats and townhouses.
The long-forgotten building was deemed to be too much of a hazard and, with broken windows and crumbling walls, was labelled an eyesore by many local residents.
The application prompted a campaign to save the building which brought the Duke’s old ode to the pub out of safekeeping in February 1999 and to the fore of the bar fight.
Prince Philip famously stopped at the bar and pointed up at the windows during the Queen’s jubilee visit to Dundee in 1977 before acknowledging the cheers of the regulars.
In the evening, after the visit, staff and regulars agreed to send a letter to the Duke about the bar.
They produced three poems which were copied out on the back of a print of the bar and handed in to the Queen’s bodyguard at the City Chambers.
The bar was amazed some days later to receive a poem in reply, simply titled The Windmill Bar and signed Philip, thanking the regulars for their welcome.
David McKenzie, son of the owners of the Windmill when the Duke penned his ode, used the original copy of the poem to start the Save the Windmill campaign in 1999.
He formed a committee to front the campaign which placed an emphasis on the pub’s royal connections and bombarded Historic Scotland with objections to the proposal.
Mr McKenzie said: “Saving the pub from demolition is just the first stage.
“We are now getting help to set up a trust to raise money and attract funding to rebuild the Windmill Bar.”
Some were amazed by the level of hype surrounding the derelict building and campaigners were accused of being locked in a “sentimental time warp”.
The campaign gathered pace however and Historic Scotland dangled a carrot by suggesting the property be marketed at a “realistically low” price for two months.
No offers were submitted and in August the category B listed building which stood at the corner of Ann Street for 200 years was pulled down to make way for a Discovery Homes housing development.
The Duke was not the only ‘celebrity’ associated with the pub.
Actor and comedian Robin Williams also visited the pub several times during appearances at the Edinburgh Festival in the early 1970s before he was famous.
He stayed in cheap digs in Ann Street which were nearly falling down and impressed regulars with his impressions including his Scottish accent which he then used in Mrs Doubtfire.
Williams, who died in 2014, described the Hilltown pub as a rough diamond, but full of characters.
First Glasgow, the ancient, all pomp and thanksgiving,
Then followed the new Cumbernauld,
From there ‘cross the glen to the ramparts of Stirling,
Then into the station at Perth we were hauled,
But the sight the most glorious in store for us to see
Was the friendly old Windmill in Hilltown, Dundee.
I recall very well the pub on the hill,
Which now I see was the old Windmill,
It wasn’t the crowd coming out the door,
That caught my eye at quarter past four,
T’was the Ann Street windows that attracted my stare,
I wondered if anyone could be living up there,
Then seeing the smiles on your customers’ faces,
I reckoned your pub was one of those places,
Where the noise of good cheer drives off all dull stares,
And makes it impossible to live up those stairs.
There’ll be many a kindness that’ll long be remembered,
From the days of the Queen’s Jubilee,
But none of the functions no matter how ordered,
Will quite match the verse from the Windmill, Dundee.