Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Bill McLaren, the 'voice of rugby', dies aged 86

Rugby commentating legend Bill McLaren

Bill McLaren's career spanned six decades and saw him earn the respect of players and fans alike

Commentator Bill McLaren, known popularly as the "voice of rugby", has died at the age of 86.

Mr McLaren, from Hawick, retired in 2002 and was appointed OBE, CBE and MBE for services to the sport.

He began commentating on BBC radio in 1953 and moved on to television six years later.

He went on to earn the respect of players, fans and spectators by being the best-researched commentator rugby had ever seen.

He died at 1030 GMT in the community hospital in Hawick in the Scottish Borders.

Bill McLaren

Former Scotland rugby captain Gavin Hastings, who worked with him, said: "First 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."

Former England captain Bill Beaumont also recognised the importance of McLaren's contribution to the sport.

"Bill McLaren is synonymous with what is good about the game," he said.

"Every player respected Bill, they respected his judgement.

"To sit alongside him you just admired the professionalism and homework that he put into his commentaries and also his passion for the game."

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said: "The world of sport and broadcasting has lost a true legend with the passing of Bill McLaren.

"He thoroughly deserved the title "voice of rugby" and was a fantastic ambassador for Scotland and his native Hawick right around the world."

BBC Scotland Director Ken MacQuarrie described McLaren as one of the "true broadcasting greats".

'Loyal friend'

He said: "A tremendously modest man, Bill was the ultimate professional who always went out of his way to help the many colleagues who worked alongside him over the years.

"He also worked tirelessly to support youngsters keen to learn more about the game he loved, especially in his home town.

McLaren's greatest commentaries

"To those who knew him closest though, Bill was known as a wonderfully loyal friend and a devoted family man and our thoughts are with them at this time."

Hawick Rugby Club secretary John Thorburn also joined the tributes to their former player and loyal supporter.

He said: "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."


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