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One of the oldest buildings in Dundee was gutted in a dramatic fire last night which also threatened the future of the adjoining Windmill Bar on the Hilltown – the “friendly pub on the hill” immortalised in verse by the Duke of Edinburgh.
Firemen were called to the scene just after five o’clock as the blaze ripped through the empty Ann Street building.
The alarm was raised by customers of the neighbouring Highwayman Bar who noticed flames at the window of the unoccupied ground floor shop opposite.
Within minutes the blaze had taken hold and by the time the fire services arrived flames were already licking round the roof.
Passers-by on their way home from work who stopped to survey the floodlight scene spoke of hearing explosions from inside the building.
The Hilltown was closed for a short time, with policemen on duty both on the Hilltown itself and on Constitution to divert traffic away from the area.
At the height of the blaze, four fire crews used water jets and a turntable ladder to fight the flames. Firemen had to be ordered to withdraw from the four storey building shortly before 6 p.m. as cracks had appeared in the walls and it was feared the structure was in danger of collapse.
One of the people who raised the alarm, Mr William Johnston (24), of Laing Place, last night told “The Courier” he had been enjoying a quiet drink in the Highwayman when his attention was attracted by a glow in the shop window.
“I saw the fire on the ground floor and then the windows shattered with the heat. There was glass all over the road” he said.
“By the time the fire engines arrived it had started on the roof – it must have gone straight up through the empty building.
“Thank heavens the building was unoccupied because the fire spread so quickly no one in the building would have stood a chance”.
Though fire officers prevented the blaze from spreading to the Windmill Bar next door, owner Mr Robert Costello explained it has sustained smoke and water damage and was likely to be closed until this could be rectified. There is also the possibility that the bar has also been affected structurally.
“Just to be on the safe side, the city engineers have advised me not to open the Windmill until it has been checked by their department tomorrow morning” he said.
“The Windmill has actually been on the market for the past couple of weeks but obviously, I will now have to review my plans.
Mr Costello went on to say the gutted building, which he also owns, was due to be granted listed status.
Concern that future expansion of NCR’s operations in Dundee might be adversely affected by a dearth of modern, readily-available factory space was voiced yesterday by unions inside the company locally (writes our Industrial Reporter).
Now the unions are calling for an “urgent” review of the whole situation surrounding available factory space in Dundee.
The call – made in a joint statement issued yesterday afternoon – follows the announcement earlier this week of a double expansion by NCR, half of which will include the leasing of a 21,000sq ft factory in the Dunfermline area as a base for the development and manufacture of new “interactive video” product for use in the financial and retail sectors.
For their part, NCR management have said the location of the new venture in Fife was dictated by the immediate availability of premises which could be occupied quickly.
The company, in negotiation with the Scottish Development Agency, had looked at possible factories in several locations including Dundee, Perth and Livingstone.
The premises at the Bellknowes Industrial Estate, Inverkeithing, fitted the bill as the company needed to get things moving rapidly.
The new product is scheduled to be available early in 1989. Yesterday personnel resources director Alan Murdoch stressed it was unlikely a similar combination of circumstances could arise again.
Future expansion would likely follow a longer “lead time” than was available on this occasion, allowing for a greater flexibility in the final choice of location.
A heating and sheltered housing conversion project costing £543,747 has been given the g0-ahead, Dundee District Council’s housing convener John Henderson told residents in the Action ’88 St Mary’s Group yesterday.
Councillor Henderson announced the go-ahead when he net members of the action group in St Mary’s and visited the area with them.
The project will involve the installation of central heating of the tenants’ choice, double glazed aluminium windows and new front doors in 78 houses in St Columba Gardens, St Kilda Road and St Giles Terrace.
A sheltered housing communal lounge is already under way at St Columba Gardens.
In addition 30 of the houses will be converted to sheltered housing with an alarm call system. Close doors will also be fitted when appropriate.
Councillor Henderson said, “This contract is substantial investment in the St Mary’s area and is part of the ongoing process of upgrading houses to meet tenants’ needs and aspirations, not only here but across the city”.
Councillor Gowans added, “I very much welcome this announcement. A project costing more that half a million pounds is good news particularly at a time when the council is facing severe cash restraints.
It will be warmly received by the tenants concerned who can look forward to a much greater degree of comfort in their homes”.
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The Café Club in Dundee this weekend will be the setting for the end of Jih, a group which has been an important and prominent feature on the city’s music scene for several years.
Whilst many well known local faces have come and gone from the Jih line-up, the one constant factor has been singer/songwriter Grant McNally.
Jih released L.P. “Shadow to Fall” and three singles – “Big Blue Ocean”, “The Gift” and “Take Me To The Girl”- during their career, all of which were well received but never managed to make that extra jump to commercial success.
This was, to understate things, a great shame – as is the end of the group. However, although Grant has no definite plans for the moment, it is unlikely that he will be musically idle for long.
Jih can be seen for the last time tomorrow and Saturday night at the Café Club. Entry is free.
1. Orinoco Flow – Enya
2. Je Ne Seis Pas Pourquoi – Kyle Minogue
3. Girl, You Know It’s True – Milli Vanilli
4. Stand Up For Your Love Rights - Yazz
5. Kiss – Tom Jones with the Art of Noise
6. One Moment in Time – Whitney Houston
7. We Call it Acieed – D. Mob
8. She Make My Day – Robert Palmer
9. Wee Rule – The Wee Papa Girl Rappers
10. A Little Respect - Erasure
On the issue of allegations by Hearts Chairman Wallace Mercer that manager Jim McLean revealed a confidential £500,000 bid by Dundee United for Hearts midfielder Gary Mackay, manager McLean said yesterday, “A statement will be issued by Dundee United tomorrow.
A letter from Mr Mercer will be discussed by the directors, following which comment will be made”
He didn’t enlarge, preferring to go on to talk about tomorrow nights game against Hibs at Easter Road.
A goal three minutes from time gave Aberdeen a second round spot in the BP Youth Cup at the expense of a Dundee side that made them battle all the way.
The visitors opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Jess netted with an angled 10 yard shot.
Booth put the Dons two up in the 14th minute, firing home from the edge of the box.
Dundee pulled one back on the half hour mark when Davidson outpaced the Dons’ defence to give keeper Watt no chance from 18 yards.
Dundee drew level in the 39th minute when Campbell raced on to a Kerr pass to shoot past the Dons keeper from eight yards.
Dundee took the lead in the 58th minute when McMartin hooked the ball home from close range after Dons keeper Watt had blocked a Buchanan shot.
Andrew drew level in the 78th minute when Booth took advantage of a defensive lapse to score with an 18-yard drive.
Collins was booked for a challenge on McAnespie in the 80th minute.
With three minutes left Jess grabbed the winner for the visitors when he netted from a tight angle.
Thousand of Scottish teachers are on strike today. They are sacrificing a day’s pay, but don’t seek your sympathy. Just support. Support for Scottish education. Scottish education is a t risk from political dogma. The Government is imposing unwanted and unnecessary changes. School Boards, rejected by parents, will give power to a few at the expense of the majority. Compulsory testing of primary children in English and Maths will distort what is taught. Needless distress will be caused to many parents and children. Schools will be encouraged to opt out. Equal opportunities for children will be lost.
Paradoxically in taking today’s action teachers are putting children first. They are not campaigning for better pay or conditions for themselves. Teachers care too much to allow political dogma decides what happens to children’s education. Teachers want the best for the children they teach. All of them. That means working together with parents and the wider community. In a partnership. Sharing ideas. Seeing where change is needed. Building on success. Agreeing the best way forward.
Make the government listen. For the children’s sake.
Educational Institute of Soctland.