The man that oo ca' Bill: A tribute to Bill McLaren

In the course o life's long journey, coontless myriads oo meet, Maist ir destined ti bide strangers, nameless faces in the street,But there's some whae make an impact, in a verra spaicial way,And a'll tell ee now aboot yin, if ee'll hear what a've ti say'The Voice O Rugby', kent ti millions, whae've never met um, never will,But here in Hawick, hei's yin o us, the man that oo ca' Bill.

Hei was born and bred doon Weensland, William Pollock was the name

Hei was gien when hei was christened, schule sports champion hei became

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A muckle strappin player, hei proodly wore the famous green,

Rightly got a Scottish trial, and a cap wad hev been gien

But for gaun to fight Mussolini, whae hei bate needless ti say,

But contracted tuberculosis, meanin hei could nae longer play

The rugby game si dear ti um, which obviously hei rued,

But became a journalist insteid, under John Murray Hood

And hei it was that pushed um, in a new direction still

And thus rugby commentating acquired, the man that oo ca' Bill.

When a was a wee laddie, ti St Mary's schule a made ma way,

No the snooty yin at Melrose, yon yin up the Caf Brae

Then movin on ti Trinity, ma first glimpse a did see

O the big man in the tracksuit, whae'd gone on ti teach PE

Hei taught oo rugby, cricket, roonders, country dancin, softba', gym

And a dinna mind telling ee, a was gliffed stiff for him

Some o ma pals hei belted, they say they can feel eet still,

Naw hei wasni ti be messed wi, the man that oo ca' Bill.

Ti watch um rin a sports day, was a marvel ti be seen

Hei'd get throwe fifty-odd events, in yin sports efternune

The Olympics takes a fortnight, a often thought if they'd juist send

Bill oot ti organise thum, hei'd hev thum by in a weekend

Hei started on the radio, in nineteen fifty twae

Movin on ti television, and his inimitable way

Developed as the years went on, for hei hed fund his niche,

Wi his maist distinctive turn o phrase and rugged Border speech.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Armstrong burrows like a mole", "a lamp-post in the lineout, Weir"

"Leaps like a salmon up a cauld", "Townsend jouks into the clear"

"There's Peter Wright, the blacksmith, having a word in the ref's ear,

"He's saying 'It's very wet today, and cold for this time of year',"

"It's long enough, it's high enough, it's straight enough, it's through",

"The groundsman's cousin keeps the seals at Edinburgh Zoo"

"Like a baggy up a Border burn, look at Laidlaw glide",

"They'll be dancin' in the clubrooms down at Jethart's Riverside".

There's been marvellous commentators, in every sporting field,

But Arlott, Longhurst, Maskell, a' ti yin man hev ti yield.

For thoroughness o homework, and impartiality,

There's never been yin ti touch um, a'm suire ee'll a' agree

Whae else could stey unbiased, when their son-in-law ti be,

Was scorin 'neath the posts, against oor auldest enemy?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Or when Hawick's ain Tony Stanger, scored the try that won um fame

Breakin every English heart in yon magic Grand Slam game

Yet not a trace o over-excitement, was noticed in Bill's voice

Though inwardly his soul did sing and his hert it did rejoice

Never unjustly critical, derisive or unkind,

whenever it was possible, something positive hei'd find

Some commentators hev gone on owre long, till they were owre the hill,

Naebody could say the same, aboot the man that oo ca' Bill.

Hei was asked ti anchor Grandstand, and ti London to move doon,

But that wad hev meant leavin, oor bonnie Border toon

So hei chose ti bide amongst oo, and frae Hawick hei wadna budge

Choosin insteid o this ti spend, Seturday mornins up the ludge

Lairnin hunders o Hawick rugby boys, the basics o the game

That wad lead a few ti Murrayfield, and international fame

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Deans and Renwick, Heg and Cranston, first honed their rugby skill,

On cauld damp mornins at Wulton Park, wi the man that oo ca' Bill.

Real privileged ti watch great games, finest players o the day

And bonus for a canny Scot, hei's never hed ti pay

Gerald Davies, Andy Irvine, Mike Gibson, Serge Blanco,

Hei picked his favourite team yince, and yin thing a'll never know

How hei came ti choose Rob Andrew, no Phil Bennet or Barry John,

And hei'd nae room for Jim Renwick, a'd argee wi um owre yon

And nearly a' the team hei picked, came frae where'er they bade,

Ti pay tribute ti this spaicial man, sic an impression hei hez made

Or could eet be, aw, suirely no, it wasni Bill at a',

They were juist wantin a chance ti get, another Hawick ba'!

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Naw, they a' recognised the sheer, professionalism and skill,

O this master communicator, the man that oo ca' Bill.

Some folk get gey big-heided, allow their ego ti extend,

Fa' in love wi thumsel early, remain faithful ti the end

But Bill's that unassumin, hei's no been spoiled be his fame

His feet's still firmly on the grund, and hei treats juist the same

Royalty, politicians, blazers frae the SRU,

And unkent ordinary folk, the likes o me and you.

Hei's always shunned the limelight, and yince his commentary was dune

Hei'd be heidin streight on hame ti Hawick, be the nearest train or plane

For hei hez a floo'er hei ca's his ain, the sweetest in the vale

And it's for Bette's dear sake, hei hurries back ti bonnie Teviotdale

For she has been his soulmate, his anchor doon the years,

Frae Hillend Drive ti Hillersden, throwe the sunshine and the tears,

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And where maist often wull ee find thum – golfin up the Vertish Hill

The wuman whaese behind the man, and the man that oo ca' Bill.

And now that ee've hung up eer mike, she's got work for ee ti dae,

She'll hev ee at the hooverin, and at the dustin tae,

But on a simmer's evening, as the gloaming sterts ti fa'

Ee'll maybe get the chance ti sit, and think back owre eet a'

And as ee div ee wull reflect, wi gratitude and pride

On ho ee're held in sic respect, a' owre the world wide

For folk frae Auckland ti the Cape, and a' bit in atween

Frae Lansdowne Road ti Stradey Park, Milntoon and Myreslawgreen

Was wish ti drink a toast wi me, for it is suirely plain,

that rugby union football will not see your like again.

And now life's golden sun gone doon, ahint Wulton Burn Hill

Oo're a' fair prood that oo hev kent

The man that oo ca' Bill