Farewell to BBC legend Bill McLaren 'the proud, beautiful voice of rugby'

RUGBY figures last night celebrated the life of broadcaster Bill McLaren, the most distinctive voice the sport has produced, following his death in his hometown Hawick yesterday at the age of 86.

• Bill McLaren, who died yesterday at the age of 86, pictured on top of Moat Hill overlooking his beloved Hawick. Picture: Ian Rutherford

McLaren, who served the BBC as a passionate, knowledgeable and unerringly unbiased commentator for almost 50 years, suffered with ill health in recent years and passed away peacefully at Hawick Community Hospital at 10.30am. His funeral will be held at the town's Teviot Church on Monday.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Players and coaches past and present mourned his loss and paid tribute to the enormously popular Borderer, who was a stand-off for Hawick prior to serving in the Second World War and a PE teacher before he picked up a microphone.

Former British Lion Jim Renwick, another one of Hawick's favourite sons, said: "I came across him first when I was in Primary 6, when we started getting rugby. Bill was my first coach I suppose. He was a fair man and he had time for everyone, not just the good players.

"I was still visiting him until quite recently. He was always pleased to see you and was happy to blether about rugby. He put rugby on the map for a lot of people. I think people understood how fair he was as a commentator and just loved that voice of his."

Fellow Lions and former Scotland internationals Finlay Calder and John Jeffrey also hold nothing but fond memories of McLaren. Calder said: "He was the Voice of Rugby, and it was a beautiful voice as well, so easy to listen to. I think that was a huge part of his appeal."

Jeffrey told The Scotsman: "All the players loved him. Even the players from other countries always wanted to know if he was at a game. I don't know if any other commentator has ever had that."

Scotland legend Gavin Hastings, who McLaren commentated on before later working alongside, said: "Bill was a very proud and passionate Scot but such was his professionalism that you would never really have known that.

"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."

Scotland attack coach and former international Gregor Townsend said: "If you were lucky, Bill would give you a Hawick Ball (the famous minty sweets he carried with him in a tin]. I'm a Gala man but Bill would always say to me I was his wife's favourite when he handed over the sweeties."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

McLaren's popularity spanned the generations and Scotland's current co-captain Chris Cusiter said: "When I was growing up, he was the voice of rugby. He was the guy you heard and you recognised instantly. He was unparalleled."

Chris Paterson, Scotland's most capped player, added: "I grew up listening to him. Later on, I had to pinch myself when I played in games that he commentated on."

England manager Martin Johnson said: "He was the iconic voice of rugby who many of us grew up with and he will be sadly missed."

Former Scotland and British and Irish Lions player and coach Sir Ian McGeechan said: "I don't think anyone could ever estimate just what his value has been to the game and what he has done."

Related articles:

Scot, gentleman, legend: McLaren is mourned across the world

Bill McLaren's story in pictures

David Ferguson: The boy from the streets of Hawick who became a rugby giant

Allan Massie: Listening to Bill was like attending a match with a very knowledgable friend

Legendary 'Voice of Rugby' was a family man above all

Legends of Scottish Rugby pay tribute