When the three-metre-long "neon cow" was dismantled and taken down, Sammy Yip could no longer conceal his sadness as he bade farewell to the sign he designed nearly 40 years ago. "It's sad, but I'm glad it has found a good home," said the 84-year-old restaurateur. "I'm happy that my sign will go to the museum in West Kowloon. At least I can go there and have a look at it from time to time. I have deep emotional attachment to this neon cow." The iconic sign for Sammy's Kitchen in Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun, was taken down yesterday after the Buildings Department ruled it was an illegal structure, even though it had hung there for 37 years. But instead of being dumped in a landfill, the sign was rescued by M+, the visual culture museum to be opened in the West Kowloon Cultural District in 2019. It is the first neon sign to be acquired for the museum's growing collection. Aric Chen, design and architecture curator at M+, said the sign is the latest addition to the M+ collection, which now has about 4,500 pieces, including some 1,000 design and architecture works. Chen said neon signs played an important role in Hong Kong's cultural context and were particularly important to M+. "Hong Kong is synonymous with neon to the extreme. It is impossible to separate Hong Kong from neon," he said. I have deep emotional attachment to this neon cow Samm y Yip The story of the sign goes back to 1978 when Yip moved his restaurant from nearby Centre Street to its current address. Yip, who worked for Hong Kong's five-star hotels before opening Sammy's Kitchen in 1970, decided to design a neon sign for the restaurant's new premises. "I wanted to create a sign that would make our restaurant stand out. We were the first to bring Western hotel dining to the community, so I drew the shape of an Angus cow," said Yip. The result was a neon sign three metres long and 2.4 metres tall. It cost Yip HK$30,000 to make the sign - a flat located opposite the restaurant cost the same to buy back then. "We were living in Tin Wan housing estate, but it never occurred to our family to buy a flat," said Yip's daughter Iry, who now helps run the restaurant. "People back then had the entrepreneurial spirit. They would rather take risks and put money into building a business than buying property." Watch: Sammy's Kitchen sign removed after 37 years In 2012, the Buildings Department asked Sammy's Kitchen to remove the neon sign, which the department said was an illegal structure which could cause danger because the building was old. The restaurant will continue to operate at its current address, using an LED sign that is one-third the size of the original. However, the Yip family prefers the original as neon offers much better light quality. "Times have changed and there's nothing we can do about it, even though we will lose a lot of good things amid the changes," said Iry Yip. A Buildings Department spokesman confirmed that West Kowloon had approached the department about the feasibility of collecting neon signs before removal, and discussions were continuing.