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Billy Wilkins
from our Windsor People series

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For more information about the flags and flag staff at Windsor Castle see Raising The Flag

The Round Tower

Billy Wilkins - Flag-staff Beeswaxer!

The flag-staff atop the Round Tower is a wooden staff some 75 feet long, one third of which is embedded in the masonry of the Round Tower. Every so often it needs maintenance and the last man known to have undertaken this task was Billy Wilkins, sometime fireman of this Borough, who from time to time was to be seen perched upon a 3 foot long board seat and suspended by the single line used to hoist the flag each day. Billy Wilkins is remembered by retired fellow fireman, Phill Wells.

When I joined Windsor Fire Brigade in the early nineteen fifties, Billy Wilkins was a member of the Fire Brigade Old Comrades Association. I was later to become an honary member of the same organisation. Every two or three years or so, Billy would come into the clubroom and say "I'll be up the pole next week! Look out for me!" and sure enough he was.
He would attach a stronger line to the one used to haul the flag aloft and up he would go, beeswaxing from the top downwards. This would take several days and people all over the town could be seen gazing upwards and pointing at the Flag Tower on the Round Tower.
As I recall he was at that time in his early 60s and 'fit as a fiddle.' Billy could sink a pint or two but I don't think he needed any 'Dutch Courage' the man was totally fearless. A great character, was Billy. There are not enough of them about. He was a Windsor man and may have relatives in the area.
In those days the Windsor Constitutional Club was between the Westminster Bank and the General Post Office in the High Street. It was a tall building and half way up the stairs was a section of the flagpole with a silver plate bearing the date and an inscription saying it was Douglas Fir from Canada, I'm not sure so many years later, but I think it was the 'Button' from the top of the pole! Windsor Constitutional Club still exists but has moved to Sheet Street. Have they still the flagpole section?

[Editor's Note: The flagpole was replaced in 1892. Although the flag staff may have been replaced again in the 1900s, it is possible that this 'button' Phill remembers dates from that time].

For more information about the flags and flag staff at Windsor Castle see Raising The Flag


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