Former rugby union commentator Bill McLaren dies at age 86

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bill McLaren in 2000.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

Rugby union commentator Bill McLaren died yesterday aged 86. The British Broadcasting Corporation made the announcement that he had died at 1030 GMT in Hawick, in the Scottish Borders — his chosen home town.

McLaren started rugby commentating on a BBC radio station in 1953 while he was a reporter with The Hawick Express, a newspaper. He later moved to television commentary in 1959. He was awarded an MBE, an OBE and a CBE and retired in 2002. People have now paid tribute to the man who became known as the "voice of rugby". In a video shown on BBC News Online, HRH The Princess Royal can be quoted as saying that "[e]ven if you didn't think that you understood anything about rugby, somehow Bill McLaren gave you the confidence to listen to what he was saying. And he was always the same. He was clear, he was interesting and always unbiased."

Some of Bill McLaren's famous quotes, or what The Daily Telegraph render "McLaren-isms", include McLaren saying that "[h]e kicked that ball like it were three pounds o’ haggis", "[m]y goodness, that wee ball’s gone so high there’ll be snow on it when it comes down" and "[h]e’s like a demented ferret up a wee drainpipe".

Gavin Hastings, who was the former rugby captain for Scotland, said that "[f]irst and foremost, 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 a wonderful commentator and he just brought the world of rugby into so many people's homes." John Thorbun, who is the secretary for Hawick Rugby Club, stated: "We're devastated, obviously — we've got a room named after him at the rugby club. It was very close to his heart, Hawick Rugby Club. He's a huge loss to rugby worldwide."