John Gibson: A right load of balls with Bill

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When you’ve led a sheltered, virtually monastic life, venturing from here to the Borders requires lengthy, serious contemplation.

So I’m psyching myself up for an imminent trip to Hawick to inspect at close quarters the brand new bust in bronze of Bill McLaren.

A dip into the Gibpress File brings back fond memories of encounters with Bill, revered then as “the voice of rugby” and television’s “living legend”.

We talked sweeties, I remember, and, yes, it was a load of balls. Bill characteristically his sweet tooth, seldom caught without a supply of Hawick Balls, his favourite confection. They’d kept his voice readily identifiable.

“I still keep a big tin of them in the house and I take a wee bag on my TV assignments. I once handed David Campese, the Aussie wing and one of my all-time favourite players, a Hawick Ball and told him ‘suck that and it’ll put a yard on your speed. Campese held it between his fingers and asked ‘will I pass a bloody drug test with this inside me?’”

“Having covered a match in Paris I was at Colombes Stadium at 6pm and back in Bette’s loving arms by ten.” He and wife Bette were love birds and Bill revealed: “Bette has had three love affairs, one, with Glenn Miller and his entire orchestra, two, Frank Sinatra and three, with me. In that order.”

As they headed for Murrayfield, Bette whispered conspiratorially to me: “Bil does hilarious impressions of Rikki Fulton doing the weather forecast and of Chic Murray.”

“Wha’s like them? Damn few and they’re aw’ deid.” is what they used to sat in Leith and, I daresay, in Hawick, too.

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