Support grows for statue in honour of Bill McLaren

HE WAS the "voice of rugby" who could now stand sentinel over generations of young players. A memorial statue of Bill McLaren, the celebrated BBC commentator who died on Tuesday, could be erected in the Hawick park where as a PE teacher he coached hundreds of young children.

• Hawick RC secretary John Thorburn pays tribute to the 'voice of rugby', Bill McLaren. A statue of McLaren in Hawick has been suggested as a tribute. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

As the Borders town prepares for the largest funeral in a generation when McLaren is laid to rest on Monday, fans and friends are already planning to erect an array of memorials, which may include a life-sized statue in Wilton Park, where he introduced young players to the oval ball game.

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The idea of a memorial statue has gathered the support of former internationalists Gavin Hastings and John Beattie. Hastings said: "It would be lovely to see a statue of Bill with maybe a microphone in hand. That would, I'm sure, be very apt. He was totally beloved of Hawick."

Beattie added: "I think Bill was the kind of person who would be against that. It was at odds with how he thought of things – but, arguably, who is the person who has made Hawick known around the world? It's Bill McLaren."

The idea for a statue in Wilton Park has been put forward by Bruce Aitchison, the Watsonians coach, who is also pursuing a posthumous knighthood after receiving more than 5,000 signatures supporting the commentator's nomination prior to his death.

Aitchison said: "A statue is the least of what will happen. I have no doubt that something will happen. With the number of different committees, there will probably be something at the Wilton Park where he coached for so many weekend mornings for so many years.

"Dads that he coached can start to bring their kids up there. They could point him out and give their own anecdotes. Everybody here has a Bill McLaren story to tell."

The McLaren family had already begun work on a legacy project prior to his death. Yesterday, Linda Lawson, his daughter, said the plans were still at an early stage, but she hoped they would build on her father's love of the game.

She said: "The amount of media coverage and tributes Dad's death has received has been quite incredible, and the family are all quite taken aback.

"What we would like to see is his legacy live on in some shape or form, and I am pleased that we did have the chance to discuss this idea with my dad before he passed away. He has so much memorabilia collected from his time working in rugby, including the famous big sheets that he used to research games, and we would like people to see that and hope it might help to inspire others."

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A source within the Scottish Borders Council said a permanent memorial would be considered at a later date.

There will be a minute's applause for McLaren at Murrayfield on Saturday prior to kick-off in the Edinburgh Rugby v Stade Francais Heineken Cup fixture and Scottish Rugby has been informed that many clubs throughout the country plan to stage a similar tribute prior to their games this weekend, including at Mansfield Park before Hawick play Biggar in a Scottish Hydro Premier Division 2 match.

Yesterday, the flag at Hawick Town Hall was lowered to half-mast in honour of McLaren and will remain so until after the funeral on Monday.

The funeral will take place at Teviot Church, followed by a burial at Hawick's Wellogate Cemetery. A memorial service is being organised for next month to allow the rugby world at large to pay their respects.

Related articles:

Readers' memories of Bill McLaren

Coach's tribute to McLaren