TV ‘voice of rugby’ dies

TELEVISION’S ‘Voice of Rugby’, Scot, Bill McLaren, has died. He was aged 86 and passed away this morning, at 10.30am.

Said the Scottish Rugby Union, in a statement: “Bill McLaren never played rugby for Scotland but such was his vast enthusiasm, encyclopaedic knowledge, attention to detail and sheer undiluted enthusiasm, that he did more to excite the world about rugby through his BBC TV and radio commentaries than had he worn the thistle in scrum, ruck, maul or tackle.

“His warm Border brogue, his colourful turn of descriptive phrase – we all have our favourites whether ‘a bit of argy-bargy’ or ‘it’s a try by Hika the hooker from Ngongotaha’ – and his impartiality: could you even detect a waver in his voice when his son-in-law, Alan Lawson, scored two tries in a Scotland win against England at Murrayfield in 1976?

“To his vast TV fan club he was the Voice. But there was much more to Bill – he was the PE teacher in Hawick who first instilled a love of the game and its values in thousands of young players – players who went on to represent Scotland and the British Lions such as Jim Renwick and Tony Stanger.”

The statement continues: “There was Bill the journalist, initially at the Hawick Express and then at the Glasgow Herald, always prepared to analyse a game fairly in terms a layman could understand; and always prepared to offer an encouraging or supportive word to young journalists making their first tentative steps in a competitive profession.

“Above all there was Bill the family man and proud Borderer. It may sound clichéd but he absolutely worshipped his wife Bette – The Goddess he called her – and was never happier than when spending time with his daughters Janey and Linda and their families.”

His first international commentary was on radio alongside Rex Alston and GV Wynne-jones – Scotland v Wales in 1953. His last international TV commentary, fittingly, was Wales v Scotland at Cardiff some 49 years later. That occasion was marked by the crowd at the Millennium Stadium giving him a warm ovation and Scotland players, Gregor Townsend and Chris Paterson, presenting him with a specially-embroidered jersey.

He was awarded the MBE, OBE and CBE and within the game itself he was awarded the Freedom of Scottish Rugby in 2000 and became the first non-international player to be inducted into the International Rugby Board’s Hall of Fame in 2001.