Bill McLaren – OBE, CBE, MBE

William Pollock McLaren, better known as Bill, was born on October 16th, 1923. In his early life he attended Trinity Primary School.  Bill had many fond memories of his childhood years, one in particular when he was in his garden playing with his beloved rugby ball. He was about to score a winning penalty goal for Scotland’ when the ball flew into a window followed by an awful shattering crack. Bill straight away knew trouble was going to follow- his punishment was an extra spoonful a day of the dreaded cod-liver-oil. Bill had learned his lesson, so he decided to make paper balls to practice with although they weren’t exactly built to last as long as the real deal. He also remembered a really good moment in his life- the first time he was taken to see an international, England v Scotland at Twickenham. He thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the excitement that filled the atmosphere. Later on in his life, he became a rugby player for Hawick RFC, later going on to trials for Scotland. Sadly, when he was on the verge of getting an international cap, Bill was struck by tuberculosis. This was disastrous at the time, as he was near death but he was determined not to let it ruin his love of rugby.

He studied Physical Education in Aberdeen, before going on to teach P.E in all the Hawick schools. Some of his Hawick pupils went on to become famous internationalists for example Jim Renwick, Colin Deans and Tony Stanger. His international commentating debut came in 1953, when he covered a game for  BBC Radio on which Scotland lost 12-0 to Wales. Six years later Bill switched to television broadcasting. In 1992, Bill was awarded an OBE, for his services. This was followed by an CBE in 1995 and an MBE in the 2003 Honours List. Bill’s final commentary was in 2002 at a Wales v Scotland game, Scotland winning 27-22. At the match, the crowds sung ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’for Bill. One Welsh supporter even held a banner, claiming ‘Bill McLaren is Welsh’. Some other notable events in Bill’s life would include his time serving with the Royal Artillery in Italy during World War Two including the Battle of Monte Cassino which was followed by the sight of 1,500 corpses in an Italian graveyard- This experience never really left Bill. In 1947 he met Bette, going on to marry her in 1951. Sadly, on January 19th, 2010 Bill passed away. Just under a week later, his funeral took place at Teviot Church, Hawick. Crowds lined the streets to say farewell to ‘The Voice of Rugby’. The Bill McLaren Foundation is a Hawick based charity, set up in Bill’s name to develop the sport of rugby, to encourage sport in young people and to set up the Bill McLaren Centre for World Rugby, an educative centre which will include the Bill’s famous “big sheets” archive. In February 2013 a bust has been unveiled in Wilton Lodge Park in his beloved home town of Hawick to commemorate this rugby legend.

by Hannah Simpson