Hundreds gather for funeral of Bill McLaren

HUNDREDS of people gathered today for the funeral of veteran rugby commentator Bill McLaren.

McLaren, who was known as the "voice of rugby" and retired in 2002 after almost 50 years as a broadcaster, died in hospital last week, aged 86.

He received an MBE, OBE and CBE for services to the sport and combined his work as a broadcaster with that of a PE teacher until 1987.

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The service was held at the Teviot Church in his home town of Hawick.

Only family and friends were allowed into the church but the service was broadcast to the public outside over a PA system.

Mourners began queuing outside before the 650-seat church opened, and then filed in past Mr McLaren's grandchildren who were handing out Hawick balls, his favourite sweets, at the door.

Former Scotland rugby player Colin Deans, Scotland player Chris Paterson and BBC rugby pundit John Beattie were among those attending.

Mr McLaren's wife Bette, daughter Linda Lawson and her husband Alan arrived by car shortly before the service started.

Mr McLaren's coffin was carried into the church to the sound of Highland Cathedral, played by piper Cameron Renwick, the nephew of former Scotland centre Jim Renwick.

As the service led by the Reverend Neil Combe got under way, between 200 and 300 people gathered on the streets outside to listen to the tributes to the broadcaster.

After the congregation sang The Lord's My Shepherd, Gregor Lawson, one of the grandsons, gave a tribute on behalf of the whole family.

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He said: "We cannot believe how many people are here. It is so important for us to be united with so many other people who love Bill McLaren as much as we do.

"We're here to lay to rest a great man. A great Hawick man, a great rugby man and a great family man."

Mr Lawson thanked people for the support given to the family in recent days and said they had been "blown away" by the kindness shown to them.