Bill McLaren – a true gent among sporting giants

LIKE so many thousands of others I was saddened to read about Bill McLaren's death in The Scotsman last week.

In the eight years or so that I was general manager at Heriot's rugby club I met many famous international players and their coaches but my favourite rugby celebrity was Bill McLaren. It was just simply an honour to have known him.

Goldenacre was often used as a training venue for international sides prior to a test match at Murrayfield. During the 1999 World Cup, Samoa, amongst other sides, trained at my club. Usually sports journalists were allowed about half an hour to observe the teams going through their paces and after that it was understood that the writers would leave the ground and the squad would get on with the real session 'in camera'.

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The coach for Samoa on that occasion was the famous All Black winger, Brian Williams. He was not happy at the slow pace the sports writers were making and started to chase them out.

Bill McLaren was, of course, there trying to make sure that he had all the names of the squad written down correctly and had been speaking to some of the Samoan back room boys to get the correct pronunciation of the names.

Bill was not, I am sure, interested in spying on the session but merely making sure that his BBC radio commentary would do justice to the players.

I was amazed at the way this icon of world rugby was being unceremoniously shooed out of the ground. I ran after Bill and asked him, quite improperly, if he would like to come up to my office at the end of the stand and watch the remainder of the Samoan session.

Thanking me very kindly for the offer and, quite properly, turning me down he explained that it just would not be fair of him to break the rules. Typical of the man, I thought.

I met Bill on a number of occasions at Goldenacre. Famous though he was throughout the rugby world he had no airs and graces. He was a lovely, quiet, mild mannered sporting gentleman; even on the occasions that we beat Hawick!




Isle of Skye

Capital schools were prepared for cold snap

Looking at the semi-finalists of the Under-18 Scottish Schools Cup on Saturday (Stewart's-Melville College; George Watson's College; Edinburgh Academy and Merchiston Castle], it's pretty sad that there's not a Glasgow side in the mix. In fact they are all from Edinburgh. In the west, the Gulf Stream heats us up a bit so perhaps the boys from the capital were better prepared for the cold snap? When I was at Hutchie, we'd have won that. And we'd have beaten St Als in the final!



The semi-final match reports can be found on Page 16 of today's sports section.

Heads should be rolling at 'discredited' SFA

When is a ban not a ban? When it is issued by the Scottish Football Association!

If ever there was an embarrassment to the Scottish nation it must be this organisation which has lost any respect it had for the way it conducts its business. The recent shambles of throwing Dunfermline out of the Scottish Cup and then seeing them reinstated must be the final straw for its chief executive and board.

This farce, coupled with the recent 'Boozegate' saga and the likely reinstatement to the national squad of messrs McGregor and Ferguson after a "life ban" beggars belief. How chief executive Gordon Smith can respond to this latest fiasco by stating: "I'm surprised by the Appeals decision" is incredible!

If Gordon Smith and his cohorts had any semblance of decency they would resign with immediate effect. In saying that I'm sure they would be reinstated on appeal!


Boswall road