Tributes paid to rugby commentator Bill McLaren

FIGURES from the rugby world and beyond have paid tribute to commentator Bill McLaren, who died today aged 86.

• Bill McLaren pictured with Gavin Hastings in 1999

Scotland legend Gavin Hastings, who worked with McLaren, said fairness was a cornerstone of his work.

"First and foremost, Bill was a very proud and passionate Scot but such was his professionalism that you never really have known that.

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"He always remained very unbiased in his commentary and I think that that was unquestionably one of his endearing qualities. He was just such a gentleman as well."

Hastings spoke with fondness when he recalled his time working with the legendary commentator.

"I will always remember I had the good fortune to be along side him in the commentary box on a number of occasions.

"One of the times that I will always remember being there, he said, 'Now son, if you want to speak, just tug away at my coat'.

"I was keen to say something so I kept tugging away at his coat for what seemed like about five minutes before he allowed me to speak.

"It was just the sort of passion of the man that he got so much into the game and that was just the way he was.

"He will be sadly missed. He was a wonderful commentator and he just brought the world of rugby into so many people's homes."

Hastings relished every time he worked with McLaren.

He said: "He was a wonderful man. He was a real family man.

"He was known as the 'voice of rugby' and that probably will be his legacy."

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BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie said: "Bill McLaren was one of the true broadcasting greats whose voice was synonymous with rugby both here in Scotland and throughout the world.

"His knowledge and passion for the game was second to none and his commentaries helped make international rugby matches a major part of the sporting calendar every year for our audiences.

"A tremendously modest man, Bill was the ultimate professional who always went out of his way to help the many colleagues who worked alongside him over the years.

"He also worked tirelessly to support youngsters keen to learn more about the game he loved, especially in his home town.

"To those who knew him closest though, Bill was known as a wonderfully loyal friend and a devoted family man and our thoughts are with them at this time."

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "The world of sport and broadcasting has lost a true legend with the passing of Bill McLaren.

"He thoroughly deserved the title 'voice of rugby' and was a fantastic ambassador for Scotland and his native Hawick right around the world. His contribution to the sport of rugby cannot be overstated.

"His famously descriptive commentaries brought a joy and understanding of the game to rugby fans and less-knowledgeable viewers that few others have ever managed. My thoughts are with his family at this sad time."

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Hawick club secretary John Thorburn said McLaren's passing was a "massive loss".

"We're devastated, obviously. We've got a room named after him at the rugby club.

"It was very close to his heart, Hawick rugby club.

"He's a huge loss to rugby worldwide."

Following his retirement, McLaren would still attend Hawick matches, though ill health prevented him continuing to do so more recently.

"It was a big part of his life," Thorburn added.